I’ve been to Chambar Belgian Restaurant on Beatty Street on more than one occasion and I’ve been happy with my experience there every time. However, I had never been to the sister restaurant next door until we went there for our Valentine’s Day brunch yesterday. It’s called Cafe Medina and whereas Chambar specializes in dinner, Cafe Medina is where you go for breakfast and lunch.
They effectively share the same kitchen as Chambar and I imagine there is some crossover in staff as well. There is a main front room for Cafe Medina where you’ll find the waffles and the coffee machines, but the rear dining room that is used for Chambar is also used as overflow seating for Cafe Medina as well. For breakfast, you get some fresh takes on the usual “meat and eggs” formula that you’d find at places like Red Wagon Cafe or Chez Cora. There’s definitely some international influence here that sets Medina apart from the crowd.
We arrived shortly after 10am on a Thursday and the place was packed. I’ve been told that the weekend brunch lineups can get to 30 minutes or more, but is it really worth the wait?
We got started with a couple of coffees. They don’t do brewed coffee at Medina, relying exclusively on espresso-based beverages. The $4.40 price is for the 16 oz. large, but you can get an 8 oz. small or a 12 oz. medium if you prefer. They have some unique flavor syrups for their lattes and mochas, as evidenced above. The coffee is sourced from 49th Parallel and it’s delicious.
Aside from the coffee, Cafe Medina is best known for its Belgian waffles. These do not appear to be made to order, as they already had a stack of them in the window, but they do get warmed and topped with some powdered icing sugar. It may not look like much, but these waffles are great. They’re nice and crispy on the outside, with a great soft chewiness on the inside. The waffles themselves are $3.15 each and then you pay $1 for each dish of dipping sauce.
Even though they weren’t made fresh, I’d have to say that these waffles are superior to what I had at Miura or anywhere else for that matter. They are definitely on the pricier side and the $1 dish of sauce is more than enough for a single waffle. The sauces are quite unique too, departing from the usual fare. The waffles are worth the money if you’re going to come here for breakfast.
I told you the breakfast was a little different than the usual bacon and eggs. The fricasse is served in a hot pan along with some grilled foccacia bread. The braised short ribs were a touch on the dry side, but everything was very flavorful.
The tagine entree at Chambar is positively fantastic, but the breakfast variant at Cafe Medina isn’t quite as breathtaking. It’s still very good and that merguez sausage has a nice bite to it. The eggs were poached beautifully and there is plenty of chickpeas and tomato in that stew. I took some home afterwards to use as the basis for a makeshift sloppy Joe.
The Final Word
While the tagine and fricasse were fine, I didn’t feel that they were really the stars of the show, nor did they really warrant the slightly higher price tags compared to similar “fancy” breakfast joints. The waffles and coffee, on the other hand, were outstanding and they’re really the reason why you’d want to come here for breakfast or brunch.
All said, our meal for two came to $60 after taxes and tips. That’s a lot of money for breakfast and I’m not sure I would do it again. That said, if you’re not as hungry and you can split one main and a waffle or two with a dining mate, the bill is a little more palatable. I’d recommend Cafe Medina as the occasional treat, as would be the case for Valentine’s Day, but it wouldn’t be my first choice for a regular breakfast joint.
Special thanks to Joseph Planta for the generous gift card that funded the majority of this meal.