The daytime crowds have long been in love with the hearty modern diner-style fare that was dished up for years in the bustling Red Wagon cafe on Hastings and Garden. Dishes like thick, fluffy pancakes crowned with pulled pork, a "breakfast" banh mi, and that enduring combo of gooey grilled cheese and a warming bowl of tomato soup kept folks coming back to the East Van staple.
Before this starts to sound like a eulogy, take heart: While Red Wagon did indeed close up at 2296 E Hastings, it swiftly resurrected itself just down the street at 2128 E Hastings, in roomier, more updated digs.
The new location has brought owner Brad Miller another renewed opportunity: to bring back what was lost with the 2019 closure of his Bistro Wagon Rouge, his French-fuelled sibling spot down on Powell.
To that end, the new Red Wagon is doing double duty as an all-day breakfast joint as well as an evening bistro, and the kitchen is turning out some stunning dishes - including what happens to be one of Vancouver's finest burgers.
The result is a dinner menu showcasing a thoughtful meld of comfort eats and French fare made with carefully-selected local ingredients. While the trim menu changes regularly based on availability and seasonality (I'm gutted to report the succulent duck confit dish that came with the best lentils I've ever eaten is already no more since my visit) there are a few dishes that are also permanent features, like the beef tartare, heaping bowls of juicy steamed shellfish, and that beautiful burger.
Now about that incredible Bistro Burger...
The burger, which many may recall from the Bistro Wagon Rouge days, boasts a nine-ounce patty made with a beef grind done in-house. The patty is all about height and not width and is cooked to order, though the recommendation is medium-rare in order to keep that meat at its absolute juiciest. The burger is decked out with gruyere, onion jam, and some mayo, and is topped with a kosher dill spear. This is one of those "more napkins, please!" burger, for sure. Pair it with an order of Red Wagon's crispy fries and you've got all you need in the world, though a great next-level option is to pair the burger and fries with a pour of red wine, in my case it was the Cabernet Franc from Syncromesh in Oliver, B.C.
Meg McDowell is handling the wine list for Red Wagon, and has chosen to focus on a tight and rotating selection of pours, working closely with small-batch producers in B.C. and abroad. She's also keen to include "skin contact" and natural wines and some unexpected selections that may be harder to find and that work great with Red Wagon's evening menu.
Aside from wine, the bar at Red Wagon offers local craft brews and ciders as well as standard and specialty cocktails, many showcasing products from Vancouver and around the province.
If you can manage to save room for something sweet after dunking all those slices of Livia sourdough in the broth from a bowl of clams or mussels, and taking down that Bistro Burger, they're doing house-made desserts like cakes and pies like classic chocolate cake, cheesecake with berries, and a noteworthy luxe and creamy peanut butter chocolate pie.
Red Wagon is open for brunch Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant is currently not accepting cash. Take-out is available daytime only.