Sophie’s Cosmic Café seems to be (well, it seems to me) one of those places in Vancouver that everyone is told to visit at least once. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but with all its funky décor that speaks of decades and generations past, you’d think it’s at least held its ground on W 4th St. for quite some time. Actually, I’d visited it well over a year ago for brunch with Emme, and after that just pushed it to the back of my mind, labeled as just a place for breakfast or brunch. While Sophie’s definitely does breakfast dishes well (though I’m saying that based on the brunch I had there in the summer of ’09), it has quite an extensive dinner menu as well. And this time ’round, it was for dinner that I visited Sophie’s with my two good friends – M and N, I’ll say, until they ask for ‘code names’, heh.
I’d been waiting in Sophie’s for about ten minutes, wondering when M and N were going to show up, when… M and I realised we were both in the restaurant, just at different tables — we hadn’t seen each other. Hah! Good thing we texted each other… or I wonder how long we would have both been sitting alone, “waiting”? Anyway, N arrived last and after a bit of catching up and initial greetings, M and I were starving and cut the chatter so we could order. Burgers are supposedly one of the specialties of Sophie’s (and by looking at the place and considering the fact that it’s supposed to be like a “diner”, you would suspect that the burgers, fries, and milkshakes have to be good – just because of the “diner” image) so all three of us ordered different ones.
M is the most adventurous of the three of us, and ordered a bacon burger with mushrooms (called the 7 oz Cosmic Workout Burger, I believe), topped with smoked cheddar (by recommendation of the outstanding waitress we had!) and with fries and a salad on the side. (I can’t remember the cost, but all of the burgers at Sophie’s seemed to be in the range of $11 – $14.) The bacon was crispy but not too greasy, the smoked cheddar was indeed very good, and the mushrooms flavourful. I have to say, to pull off a burger with bacon without overdoing it on the grease is pretty impressive, and M really enjoyed her burger.
M also quite liked the fries, which were somehow just right. Not too thick nor too thin, and also not horribly oily or greasy in any way. They were the perfect crispness – not soggy nor too crunchy – and fluffy and tasty. There was no need to add salt, and M happily finished them off (and let me steal her salad, which was, I imagine, much less appealing than a batch of delicious-looking fries).
N got the BC Wild Salmon Burger ($12.95), which I actually wanted to eat, to be perfectly honest, but… for the sake of trying to include variety in blogging, I passed on it in favour of something else. Anyway! Looks like it was a fantastic choice, since the lovely salmon fillet that came with the burger was grilled to perfection and glistened with freshness and smelled heavenly. (I love fish, so please excuse me if you find it absurd for a fish to smell “heavenly”.)
And I can honestly say that I will definitely order the salmon burger the next time I visit Sophie’s. Not only did it look great, but N happily nodded when I grated her for answers about the dish – “Is it good? Is it good?!” Yes, it’s delicious. Truly grilled to perfect, so that the salmon melts in your mouth when you bite into it – no stiffness or chewiness in this salmon. Also, the aioli sauce is very flavourful and really complements the salmon nicely. The lemon is a nice touch, and although it may seem cliché, I really do think that adding a bit of dill would only do the burger more justice and make it even more wonderful. To be quite to-the-point, it was good.
N asked for salad on the side to balance out the meal and keep it relatively light, and the veggies were of course fresh and tasty as well. She passed the cucumber and tomato onto me, and I had my own salad, so I can vouch that all salads are of consistent quality. The cucumber was crunchy and crisp, and the tomatoes juicy and ripe. The mixed greens were fresh, as was the carrot. Really, though, it is what it is – a side salad and nothing more. The vinaigrette was a little more on the oily side, though, and could’ve done with been more vinegary.
I asked for the Chicken Breast Burger ($12.95), and also got a salad to go on the side. You have a couple of options for how you want your chicken breast to be cooked — grilled plain, or Cajun-styled. According to the waitress, the Cajun-style chicken breast is really spicy, so I passed on it and just got my chicken breast grilled – plain and simple.
The chicken was delicious. Like the salmon, it was grilled to perfection. It had lovely grill marks on it and was full of flavour without being overly greasy. I topped it with a little Dijon mustard and the entire burger was fantastic. I did notice, however, that all of our burgers were lacking pickles that night… I love pickles, and I had been to Sophie’s once before this and had a burger, and hey, that burger came with a pickle. Where were the pickles?! Very sad. [Note: The BC Wild Salmon Burger pictures were from an earlier trip to Sophie’s. The night I went out with my friends M and N, none of us had pickles with our burgers.]
Aside from the lack of pickles, the only other complaint I have is about the burger buns. Yes, they are very tasty, but they’re also very flimsy and not very fluffy. Even after you assemble your burger, it’s quite hard to hold it together since the bun is kind of floppy. I’m not sure I would demand bigger burger buns, but perhaps ones that are slightly firmer while still being fluffy and soft… if that’s possible. (White Spot has good burger buns! Not to compare the two, but…)
Anyway, my complaints are small and my satisfaction great. M and N were also, I believe, quite happy with their meals and also comfortably full afterwards. The prices may seem a bit steep, but the portions are generous and the food quality is pretty much guaranteed to be consistent. It is good food. Maybe not gourmet fare, and the dishes don’t contain any real “complex” flavour combinations, but everything was tasty and the meals were filling and a pleasure to eat.
The service at Sophie’s was great – and it has been like that on the few occasions that I have been there. The waitresses are all very personable and friendly, yet quick and efficient workers. For such a busy restaurant, they do a good job of keeping things moving and keeping customers satisfied. It may be a bit difficult to flag them down when they’re really busy, but something like that can’t be held against them, I believe. Only once have I actually had to wait ten minutes to get a refill on water, and even then it was on a very busy evening. Otherwise, great service.
The ambiance is what makes Sophie’s special, since the dining room is heavily decorated with all sorts of paraphernalia from the past, and it seems that every time you visit, you can find something new or spot something that didn’t quite catch your eye before. The fun décor and cozy atmosphere make for an enjoyable dining experience, in my honest opinion — whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Sophie’s Cosmic Café is a great place to visit whether you’re with friends or family, as there seems to be something on the menu for everyone and good food is abundant. Even vegetarian items have a place on the menu, although I would definitely encourage everyone to give the burgers a try – chicken, salmon, beef, or otherwise. They all seem great to me! We didn’t buy dessert (just a little too pricey for our tastes – and we were already stuffed!) so I can’t comment, but there were quite a few people sipping milkshakes – if that says anything at all to you!