It’s 8 a.m. in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, and a line has already formed outside of Jam Cafe. No one seems to mind standing in a surprising early-summer drizzle for a table, even though the wait can stretch to an hour or more — even on rainy weekdays.
Jam Cafe got its start in brunch-loving Victoria in 2012, hopping to the mainland in 2016. Both locations serve similar menus of indulgent diner fare, balancing all-day breakfast favorites with lunch-time sandwiches. Neither location takes reservations, but that doesn’t seem to deter anyone.
Inside the Vancouver location, throwback touches like vintage window frames, suitcases, crates and other memorabilia decorate the walls. The dining room bustles, with servers weaving among the tables and cheerfully delivering massive plates of food to smartphone-ready customers.
Indeed, the meals here are very Instagrammable. Though the plates are outsized, the food is artfully placed: a stack of cinnamon pancakes are encircled with swirls of cream cheese sauce. The naan breakfast burrito is topped with a symmetrically-sliced avocado and bright pink pickled cabbage. Triangles of French toast are carefully stacked, drizzled with Tabasco honey, and topped with buttermilk fried chicken and more pink cabbage.
And they’re filling. Owner Mike Deas-Dawlish told the Vancouver Sun he goes through $1,000 a month in to-go boxes — I inevitably became one of the many customers contributing to that expense category.
Flip over the menu and you’ll find lunch options, available all day, and they’re equally rich. There’s a mac and cheese grilled cheese with tomato jam on sourdough, a buffalo blue cheese fried chicken breast sandwich on brioche and a turkey and bacon sandwich on cranberry sourdough bread.
Complementing the robust food menu is a well-developed drinks selection. Under “Coffee with a Kick,” java seekers can choose boozy additions like vodka and Kahlua, for eight different coffee cocktails. Jam Cafe has two riffs on the classic mimosa, with add-ins like peach and ginger. A handful of breakfast cocktails range from the expected Caesar — a Caesar with bourbon, apple bbq sauce, pickle juice — and a Raspberry Crush with Victoria Gin, house lemonade and raspberry jam.
After stuffing myself to discomfort, I pack up my leftovers and head back out into the rain. Outside, I find the line has grown significantly longer, stretching halfway down the block.