Café Medina
By Megan Jones

Fortuitous Encounters

Despite Vancouver’s unpredictable weather, there’s always a queue of people gathered outside the doors at Café Medina. Any day of the week, the acclaimed downtown restaurant brims with excited chatter, clinking mimosa glasses and the aroma of fine-ground espresso. “It’s my mandate to provide an enlightened dining experience,” says Robbie Kane, Medina’s experienced owner who cut his teeth in high-profile Toronto establishments before noticing a gap in Vancouver’s brunch market.

The first iteration of Medina opened in Crosstown in 2008. Drawn to the café’s eclectic brunch plates and classic Belgian waffles to go, Robbie’s clientele quickly outgrew the small café. Medina’s spacious new home opened in 2014 on nearby Richards Street.

It was at the former location that Robbie met the most important customer of his life. “A few weeks after we added our sign, a woman came in off the street saying her name was Medina,” Robbie recalls. She returned one month later and offered her table to someone else in line, sparking a conversation with the owner. One thing led to another, and “now I’m married to Medina,” Robbie says with a smile.

It’s my mandate to provide an enlightened dining experience to all of my customers, whether it’s excellent food, service or atmosphere, or a combination of all three. - Robbie Kane, owner
Cafe Medina owner Robbie Kane

Unexpected Sweet and Savoury Fare

Serendipitous connections are commonplace at Medina, where one-of-a-kind plates attract customers from all walks of life. Celebrated executive chef Jonathan Chovancek, who also met his future wife at the café, creates dishes that break the rules of traditional brunch menus. “We’re not your average bacon and eggs spot,” says Robbie. “But we do have a couple of signature dishes that people keep coming back for.”

The Mediterranean-inspired dishes include Le Peameal, a bacon-and-egg sandwich with caramelized lemon aioli; Asado, AAA flatiron beef served with a fried egg and sides; and Fricassée, fried eggs with braised short ribs and sides such as grilled focaccia. For patrons with a sweeter tooth, Medina’s infamous waffles come with a choice of 10 toppings, from simple maple syrup to intriguing concoctions such as white chocolate pistachio rosewater and fig orange marmalade.

Cafe Medina breakfast skillet

An Inspiring Space

Medina is renowned for its elegant, atypical interior. At the café’s rear, an open-concept kitchen allows Jonathan to witness patrons’ first mouth-watering bites. Elaborate flower arrangements adorn the polished wood bar, while a quaint coffee-and-waffle counter evokes “the cozy, European-inspired atmosphere” of the original location.

“It’s not your average room,” says Robbie, whose brother, a production designer, helped outfit the space. The siblings’ thoughtful, personal approach to the design resulted in warm lighting, distressed walls and focal points rescued from film sets including an antique typewriter and a retro lighted “BAR” sign.

“In this space, people want to stay and connect with each other,” explains Robbie, a firm believer in the magic of chance encounters. In such a chic restaurant, where flavourful, ornate meals are designed to be lingered over, it’s understandable that some customers even stay long enough to meet their future spouses.

Close menu