I don’t know about you, but in my youth, my go-to for a late night eats, after a rambunctious night of drinking was always Denny’s. They were open late and nothing satisfies like breakfast for dinner, or breakfast in advance to help to haemorrhage what may be a hangover the next day. I have so many fond memories at several Denny’s locations, and that space with its yellow glow is unmistakeable.
So it was interesting to learn that Denny’s has continued to grow as much as I have. They now have their very own test kitchen here in Vancouver, BC. This is the first ever and in Canada. The goal of this specific restaurant is to test run new and creative dishes and see what sticks. Afterall, what is the point of having something on a menu that doesn’t sell and that no one orders.
Each new dish that gets put through the gauntlet and passes the customer taste test will be introduced to the menus at all Denny locations, worldwide. So if you ever wanted to be a food critic or design your own restaurant menu, this may be your chance.
Located on West Broadway at the old home of a Joey’s, this Denny has taken up the lounge-like feel of the space, while incorporating their own trademarks. The washroom is case and point. Hard to describe, other than if feels like you are at the nightclub before you stumble into Denny’s. I advise checking it out for yourself.
We would order an assortment of their classic and new dishes, including several exclusive to the Test Kitchen. One thing from each of their menu categories to get a good feel of the entirety of their offerings.
The following are just my critiques, so be sure to visit and try the food for yourself, so that you can judge for yourself. After trying each dish you can either fill out a traditional postcard check box form of ratings from 1-10 with a space for written comments. Or scan the at the table QR code and cast your judgement online. The same electric stand offering said code also has convenient, at the table charging for android or iPhone.
If you are familiar with Denny’s you know the
Lumberjack slam is a must. This is a classic breakfast staple of two fluffy buttermilk pancakes, a slice of grilled ham, two bacon strips, two sausage links, two eggs, hash browns, and your choice of bread. A hearty way to start the day with all your familiar breakfast friends. No complaints, still my go to.
The Classic Eggs Benedict is a Test Kitchen exclusive and a first for the classic breakfast chain. Here, they are showcasing their chops as they continue to elevate their offerings. Poached eggs and stacked honey ham on a toasted English muffin topped with Hollandaise sauce. Served with seasonal fruit and your choice of seasoned red potatoes or hash browns. We went for the former and got crispy little nuggets, but I preferred and would recommend the shredded hash browns instead. As for the Benny I appreciated how it was smothered in the thick and buttery Hollandaise, and when the silky poached yolk cracked and flowed over, it only added to the dish’s comforting sumptuousness.
I wish the Cinnamon roll pancake was more ornate as it was listed as a “Premium Pancake” on the menu. Served alongside two eggs, hash browns, and two strips of bacon or two sausage links. Presented separately, they need not be eaten together.
The pancake was buttermilk cooked with a cinnamon crumb topping and finished
with a cream cheese icing. It delivered on its promises flavour, but looking at it, it did nothing to entice you into taking multiple bites. This would have been nice as a stack of four mini pancakes, where it would be easier to trade and share, plus be more visually appetizing to dig into.
Now the Crispy chicken wings on the other hand surprised me. I wasn’t expecting something so tasty from a Denny’s. Reality is, I see them as a comfort restaurant, so plates are not in the realm of fine dining. This however I would expect from a bistro. Larger and well breaded, lightly seasoned chicken wings golden-fried until crispy. It came with a choice of dipping sauce and we went for the salt and pepper ranch. So tasty that I licked my fingers clean. I would order this again.
Similarly, I really like the flavour and the topping of their Zesty nachos. It was just sad that all the generous amount of sour cream had the pile of crispy chips on the soggy side. Freshly cooked tortilla chips topped with Pepper Jack queso, cheddar
cheese, seasoned nacho meat, fresh pico de gallo, and sour cream.
The Brisket-it-all-melt is not exclusive to the test kitchen, but is definitely a more elevated dish from their kitchen. Slow-smoked brisket burnt ends, crispy diced bacon, two eggs, white cheddar, diner Q sauce and pickles on grilled artisan bread. I liked the idea, but found the sandwich oily, with the should-be crispy bread absorbing much of it. The meat needed some blotting, but at least the fresh side slaw helped to balance things out.
The Flaming 5 pepper burger is a test kitchen exclusive. Fresh avocado, roasted turkey and bacon with lettuce, tomato and mayo on a filone baguette. Served with wavy-cut fries and coleslaw. Given the moniker, we had high hopes for a tongue scorcher. If given a chilli pepper rating this would be a 0.5 out of 5. Not spicy, but well crafted and tasty as a solid, classic, savoury burger.
Another test kitchen menu item is the Turkey dinner. I am a fan of the classic holiday feast, but would never put in the time to assemble each element to form the platter that was before me today. Therefore it is nice to have the option of it on their menu, 365 days a year. Tender carved Turkey with their fresh vegetable medley or herb glazed corn, crispy or mashed red potatoes, savoury stuffing, gravy, cranberries and dinner bread. It hit you in the nostalgia. This delivered on the comforting portion of the holidays, any day.
From their dinner skillet options is the Brisket kicker bbq skillet. Slow-smoked brisket burnt ends served over a bed of hash breads with fajita vegetables and cheddar cheese. Topped with onion rings and bbq sauce. This was the same fatty and oily burnt ends as in the sandwich above, but with more elements to help soak up the grease. Its overarching flavour was a classic sweet hickory barbecue, thanks to a heavy handed sauce drizzling atop.
In closing, this is not my childhood Denny’s, but in a good way. For a new look at your youth-ful hang out, head to Denny’s Test Kitchen. There, you can help them keep their brand and offerings relevant.
Denny’s Test Kitchen
1759 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6J 1Y2