URBAN FORAGER: Sunny’s Modern Diner
Urban Forager Shelora Sheldan wrote this article for the Penticton Herald, April 15, 2018
A stack o’ brown”, “a cup of joe,” and “two eggs lookin’ at me.” These are just a few phrases that emerged out of diner culture, a language spoken between waitress and cook to expedite short orders at the pass.
The diner was the place to go for gossip and sustenance, a place where the coffee was bottomless, the wait staff sassy and the service snappy – with food, a bit greasy.
The lexicon, like restaurant culture itself, has evolved over time. It’s a language largely forgotten, supplanted by other lingo, menus and locally roasted coffee.
Save for a road trip to small town America, where diner culture is still evident, along with museums that have tracked its history, it’s a culture that’s quickly vanishing.
Welcome instead, a road trip to Kelowna, and the recently opened Sunny’s, a Modern Diner, at 235 Bernard St. in historic downtown.
The newest culinary adventure by RauDZ Creative Concepts, Sunny’s pays tribute to the diner with a breakfast-all-day menu coupled with fun, modern twists by chef Rod Butters, one of the owners, along with Audrey Surrao.
Both are well known restaurant industry veterans, acclaimed for their popular RauDZ Regional Table, and Micro Bar & Bites in Kelowna, and more recently, Terrafina restaurant at Hester Creek Winery along with the release of an award-winning cookbook.
They’ve also appointed noted chef Bernard Casavant as executive director of operations to their team, perhaps hinting at more concepts to come.
Sunny’s is a long, narrow 34-seat space with exposed brick and retro touches such as souvenir pennants, a neon sign and cool, colourful light fixtures repurposed from wooden crates. It’s named for the owner’s Golden Retriever, and the pooch’s happy portrait features prominent on one wall, acting as watchdog over the space.
Grab a perch overlooking the open kitchen where you can watch your meal come to life by “top dog” Robyn Sigurdson, and her troop. Start your day with a bracing cup of java – bottomless by the way and locally custom roasted – along with one of Mom Wright’s rich butterhorns, served warm with a drizzle of icing and walnuts.
The menu delivers hefty sustenance peppered with diner lingo. For example, Door Stops (French toast), Cluck and Grunt (eggs with bacon), and Chicks on a Raft – aka scrambled eggs on toast – are given signature treatments to set them apart.
And modern-day wonders such as breakfast poutine hash, eggs benny with Illichman’s ham, or the green eggs and ham of poached eggs on a giant ham steak with a pumpkin seed pesto, piggy puffs, hash browns and toast, compete with chicken and waffles, and triple stack pancakes.
All suggest that you may want to forgo bikini season this year. (There is a garden bowl, and a simple toasted Mount Royal bagel with halibut pastrami for those of a delicate nature, and most dishes can be made vegetarian).
Sunny’s Chicks on a Raft consists of a toasted baguette slathered with peanut butter – yes, that’s right – topped with creamy scrambled eggs flecked with Illichman’s molasses bacon and sharp cheddar, with a side of hash browns and a grilled tomato garnish. The eggs are free range and the hash browns are made fresh, not frozen, and grilled on the flat top with butter. It’s exquisitely rich and delicious, and that peanut butter is a revelation.
The El Presidente consists of two flour tortillas sandwiching scrambled eggs, cheese, griddle beans and spicy chorizo, topped with avocado, sour cream, tomatoes and a wonderful pickle-y salsa verde that cuts through the richness.
Lunch, served at 11 a.m., rounds out the menu with sandwiches, fish and calamari with chips, burgers – 2 Cows Make ‘em Cry (aka two beef patties with onions) – and the Butcher’s Revenge of a jumbo meatloaf ball on French bread with mushroom gravy and onion rings.
You might want to add a milk shake with sprinkles – you won’t be judged – with adult liqueur-spiked versions available. Happy Hour starts at 7:30 a.m., when they open, where cakes, floats, fruit pies and side orders are the norm and coffee is only a dollar. Add-ons include local Arlo’s honey, custom Illichman’s meats and Love’s maple syrup.
The soundtrack is provided not by an iconic jukebox but by a turntable with vintage vinyl for guests to spin such 60s throwbacks as Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass or Santana.
Sunny’s will open their garage door to a 14-seat patio in the summer, where the hours will extend – they’re only open to 3:30 p.m. at the moment – and the Power Hour commences at 2:30 for fermented grape juice (wine), craft beer and two dollars off their signature Caesars topped with pickles and celery with Cheez Whiz. Dog soup (water) is always free.