If you saw my post from a few days ago you will know that I am going to start writing about our best food experiences over the 23 years that Kathleen and I have been together. Most of them have taken place all around the world so they kind of relate to travel.
To start organizing my memories, I made a list of my favorite dinner, lunch and breakfast experiences. So let’s start at the beginning of the day with breakfast. I love eating breakfast in a restaurant but we seldom do. Even on trips we often have breakfast someplace normal. For instance we spent five days in Barcelona and I am ashamed to say that we ate breakfast every day at a Starbucks a block from our hotel. I know, it’s sad. But in Barcelona there is so much great lunch and dinner food that we needed to watch our caloric intake.
Another reason we don’t have an amazing record with breakfast while on the road is that it is often hard to find a great breakfast place. If you Google “best breakfast in XXXXXX city” you really don’t get great places. I have actually seen Denny’s and IHOP show up as the best restaurant in random US cities. Now I have nothing against you grabbing a Moon over Mihami or a Rooti Tootie Fresh and Fruity, but that’s not for us.
To give you an idea of what I mean, my favorite thing to eat for breakfast is a dish called “Tom’s Favorite Breakfast” served at Lola, a Tom Douglas restaurant in downtown Seattle. The dish changes seasonally but always has octopus in it. So as you can see, I have strange taste when it comes to breakfast.
But this series is less about food than it is about eating experiences. And we have a doozy of a food and travel experience to start with. Sadly, this takes place in a restaurant that is no longer open, Vancouver BC’s Elbow Room. There is talk that it may be revived in another location someday but for now, it is closed.
Kathleen and I first discovered The Elbow Room on our second or third trip to Vancouver sometime in the late 90s. The restaurant first opened in 1983. I had read someplace that if you were looking for an unusual place to have breakfast in Vancouver you had to try The Elbow Room. We went and we loved it. Not because of the food (which was PLENTIFUL and also delicious) but because of the experience.
The Elbow Room was a one-of-a-kind place because just going in the front door, you needed a very thick skin. Let me give you an example. On our first visit, we walked in and the server we encountered pointed at a table. Didn’t seat us, just pointed. A few minutes later he came by with water and asked if we had seen the specials on the chalkboard before we came in. We said we hadn’t and his response was, “Then go back out and read them!” Then he walked away without saying anything else. At this point (because we had heard about the place in advance) we knew we were in for a bumpy but fun ride.
Sure enough when he finally returned to the table, he brought us coffee and took our order. And along the way we had overheard him insulting or being snarky to pretty much everyone else in the place. He was the king of snark. It was truly fun to watch people who came in after us and had no clue what the place was about get insulted and mocked. Some were aghast and others got it in a few minutes.
When our waiter came back with our food we asked for more coffee. He pointed at the pot across the room (almost behind the counter) and said, “Get it yourself!” We had a good laugh over that one…after I got us more coffee. BTW: Not that it matters but every waiter working there has been flamboyantly gay except the one time when we were “served” by one of the owners (he’s the fellow on the left in the linked video below) who was just cantankerous even though he called himself a flaming queen.
The photo at the top of this article (taken during our best experience there ) is proof. The restaurant itself was a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community and even had a musical written about it. I have searched the web to find a copy of the “rules” of The Elbow Room which were printed on the back of the menu. They all pretty much came down to this: if you are thin-skinned and can’t take a joke, you are in the wrong place. You can kind of read them in this shot of their big blackboard. *8 always cracks me up.
If you would like to see what The Elbow Room was all about, Kathleen found this really cool short video. Warning, it has some salty language…but that’s The Elbow Room. You can click here to watch the short film from the National Screen Institute of Canada.
Besides the fun, the food was superb and this was our first of many visits to The Elbow Room. But the best experience didn’t come until June 2017. Our good friends Paul and Gail, from Leeds, England had flown in so that they, us and 14 other Martini Mates could take an Alaskan cruise together. P & G had flown in early and we had picked them up at YVR (airport designation for Vancouver) and went to tour Vancouver for a couple of days before doing the same in Seattle. On our second morning there we told them we had to have breakfast at The Elbow Room. Being the fun friends that they are, they loved it. Even when our waiter (you can see him in the photo above with Paul and I) started referring to Paul (who some may think of as vertically challenged) as Papa Smurf.
I cannot remember a single breakfast when the company has been so good, the service so snarky, funny and truly unique and the food so delicious. It’s one of those times I will remember. Especially since The Elbow Room is now gone. We will miss it.
There are different kinds of humor, some is sarcastic, some introspective. Introspective fit my personality better.—Rita Rudner
Rita would not have done well at The Elbow Room.