Going out for breakfast just feels like a fall activity. I don’t know if it aligns with prepping our bodies for the upcoming chill of winter, but when the temperature drops to around 10 degrees, and the leaves fall to the sidewalks, littering a bright mosaic of colours, our bodies seem to demand eggs, greasy meat and a heavy carb — or, at least mine does.
In 2015, the team that once lead the Community Edition went on a quest to compile a list of Waterloo Region’s best greasy spoons. When introducing the list, former publisher Bryn Ossington wrote: “When everything we eat needs to be Instagramed and Pintrested, your neighbourhood greasy spoon remains the fixture of common sense dining. They aren’t here for the “foodies” or food tourists. The greasy spoon exists for the regulars and the practical diners who are looking to eat food, drink coffee and carry on with their day.”
And that still rings true. So, we decided to revamp this list, as there are new faces on the team, restaurants opening and closing, as well as business owners changing. Our criteria was simple: The restaurant chosen must be independently owned, have a distinct breakfast menu, serve breakfast every day and it must be in the Region. And thus, Waterloo Region’s Best Greasy Spoons Round 2 was born.
I’ll be honest, I never went to Harmony Lunch before Fat Sparrow Group took it over last year — but I was familiar with its reputation. After 86 years of business, the Benningers swooped in and rescued Harmony Lunch from closing its doors forever, and ultimately, maintained and upheld a little piece of KW history. Despite the change of hands, this greasy spoon still has the “all in the family” feel. You seat yourself and the menus are printed on coloured paper. It’s accessible, it’s bright, it’s simple, yet Instagram-able. I also believe it’s the only breakfast place uptown that makes the dream of adding a milkshake to your breakfast order a legitimate reality.
While Harmony has always been known for their pork burgers, I think more attention needs to be put on their breakfast. The menu is small, but has exactly what you need. Every component of their “Lil Breakfast” is well thought out; the eggs are always cooked perfectly and complemented with some sort of tasty seasoning. The bacon is thick-cut with little to no fat. Instead of homefries, Harmony offers a potato pancake, which acts as a base to the dish. When you finally get to the potato pancake, it’s absorbed all that bacon grease and runny yolk — if that doesn’t remind you of your grandma, then I don’t know what does.
– Beth Bowles
Tucked into a plaza on Louisa St., Bud’s Restaurant welcomes customers by way of a fallen sign with washed print reading “Magic #2” along with the hours of operation. With portraits of menu items pressed onto their front window, a self-pour coffee station, and mismatched tableware, Bud’s quickly became the neighbourhood’s go-to greasy spoon.
However, as the owners scoop shredded potatoes out of a white bin beside the steaming stove top and you reach down to filter through the crumpled newspapers below the register, you begin to feel as if you’re right at home.
To my dismay, as I pulled up to their storefront to reacquaint my palate with all things greasy, I was greeted with a notice of vacation until Oct. 22. Conclusively, I’ve learned that only the owners of an authentic greasy spoon can shut the doors for over a month at a time because they know that their regulars will be awaiting their return with empty stomachs.
Until Oct. 23, Bud’s.
– Brit Kovacs
On Queen Street between King and Charles lies my go to breakfast spot. Darlise Cafe is the latest culinary endeavour for husband and wife team Darryl and Liz Howie (get it? Darryl + Liz = Darlise), who made a name for themselves running the Rum Runner Pub in the basement of the Walper Hotel. Now, instead of pouring drinks into the early hours of the morning, Darryl and Liz are up bright and early to serve some of the best breakfast in the Region. Darlise has all your standard breakfast options, healthy or not.
If you have self control, you can settle for the oatmeal or yogurt parfait. If not, indulge in one of their six off menu Benedicts. I’m not an benny fan myself but I’m told by people with more refined taste than I that they are the best in town. If you’re like me, you’re sticking with one of their fluffy omelettes that comes folded and bursting with filling. Or, just taking whatever is on special that morning.
At Darlise, you really can’t go wrong. The coffee is bottomless and unlike most places it tastes great. Most breakfasts come with toast and weekly made in house jams. If there is anything wrong with Darlise, it’s that what once seemed like DTK’s best kept secret is now everyone’s go to breakfast spot.
– Bryn Ossington
When you come in the door of Checkerboard, you’re usually greeted with a “sit where you like!” and a question of whether you need a menu or not. I kind of love this extra casualness, and the idea that a lot of the people who walk in already know what they want.
I love a place where I can order my breakfast by just saying “scrambled, bacon, white,” and Checkerboard gets that breakfast right, with eggs that are the perfect mix of dry, fluffy, and not slimy, and bacon that’s crispy enough to make my wife happy, but not so crispy that I don’t like it. But a basic breakfast is pretty easy to do, so it’s Checkerboard’s homemade hash browns that really make it my favourite. They’re done on the flat top, and are a seasoned, crispy, salty, delight. The bigger pieces are soft on the inside with a crispy fried outside, and there’s always tasty little fried crunchy bits all over. The only problem with Checkerboard’s hash browns is that there’s never enough.
– Jon Johnson
A DISH CALLED WANDA
You have to want to go to A Dish Called Wanda. If you’re not looking for it, you’re likely to miss the shadowed sign that’s sandwiched between Giant Tiger and Young Drivers in a plaza just south of Highland and Westmount. While the massive parking lot is pretty empty on a Sunday morning, A Dish Called Wanda is not. The 15-or-so-table diner services a mix of people — families, seniors, an old man reading the newspaper at the bar with a coffee.
Wanda’s version of the farmer’s or trucker’s breakfast is “the Big Kahuna,” a hearty assortment of all things breakfast including pancakes, delicious thick cut bacon, ham and well-spiced chorizo sausage. The home fries and eggs left us grasping for the salt but they do the job of ensuring you’re full by the end of the meal.
For something decadent, go with the Canadian Benedict. The generous serving of peameal and hollandaise sauce — which Wanda says is homemade — feels different than what you’d get a trendier breakfast place. No smoked salmon or avocado slices here; it’s nice.
The decor isn’t anything to write home about (red walls studded with faux wine barrels) and the coffee, while always quickly refilled, could be a little bolder. But when walking into A Dish Called Wanda, you get a sense that no one is there for fineries — they’re in it for the reasonable breakfast, the come-as-you-are environment, and maybe for the ‘80s movie-inspired name.
– Allison Leonard
At the far corner of Hazel and Albert, Homestyle Diner sits. Family owned and operated, they’re serving food that is as comfort as it comes.
Offering the quintessential homemade breakfast — the Ole Faithfuls section has the classic eggs, meat and home fries. The home fries come with options of extra-crispy and with or without a bacon, onion and pepper topping. I’ve been assured by the omnivores in my life to go with the topping. Also take note that when ordering an eggs benedict (a personal favourite), you can even swap out the home fries for pancakes. If you make it there before 11 a.m. on a weekday, their $6.49 breakfast special is a delicious, delicious steal.
There’s often a mixed crowd eating breakfast which is offered until 4 p.m. every day. There’s the young families, old friends, and the students that probably live just outside of the student bubble and perhaps stumbled across it when heading to the Beer Store in the same plaza. And of course, the after-Church crowd on Sunday mornings, a clear sign of any community staple.
Off the menu, Homestyle is unique in its ever changing seasonally-appropriate decor. Breakfast is comfort food – and being surrounded by rustic wooden signs that say things like “Fall is here” or “Gobble-Up!” is its own unique and special comfort. It feels like you’ve stumbled into a relatives house for a holiday family breakfast.
– Lakyn Barton
When looking for that classic diner breakfast, the people of Cambridge head to Barnacle Bills, located on the outskirts of downtown Galt. Most folks think that it’s only a place for fish and chips, but those who are in the know have been coming here since the ‘70‘s.
Open seven days a week, and serving breakfast everyday, they’re still as busy as ever — slamming out roughly 200 breakfast dishes on a typical Saturday morning. It’s always packed with locals who are known by name to the serving staff — everyone and anyone is welcome. This spot feels inviting and classic, but with an east coast twang that you only get in Galt.
I always sit near the open kitchen where you can really soak up the atmosphere. Every time my family goes, almost everyone gets the old fashioned breakfast: home fries, eggs, toast. But I always choose it served with fried bologna (a Newfoundland classic) instead of your usual bacon, ham, or sausage.
While my mom opts for the pancakes with added blueberries, I tend to prefer a savoury breakfast over a sweet one. But for a place known for their fish and chips, they make a mean pancake. Next time you find yourself in downtown Galt with a hankering for breakfast don’t head out to the business of Hespeler road, when the true gem is Barnacle Bills.
– Natasha Rolleman