No self-respecting Lower Mainland blogger would forget to mention The Round-up Café, a little walk-by-fast-and-you-miss-it diner a block or two from the Whalley Skytrain.
It first opened in 1949, when Louis St. Laurent was prime minister for Canada and Nisga’a Chief Frank Calder was elected to the B.C. Legislature. Postwar prosperity was beginning to assert itself. Bacon was 50 cents a pound. A pound! Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation, and seedless watermelon, Jolly Ranchers and instant pudding were invented. The Round-Up Café must have done well, because it was still going strong ten years later when it was bought by Orest and Goldie Springenatic. Orest was Ukrainian and an avid baseball enthusiast, two things that figure heavily in the café, with its perogies, Ukrainian sausage, borsch and cabbage rolls, and the myriad of baseball pictures on the wall from Surrey’s past. Outside it boasts one of the few old neon signs left in Surrey, a cowboy on a bucking bronc, that makes me feel like all the good things from the past are not yet quite gone, and gives me hope.
I hadn’t been to the Round-Up in many years, though I do recall that their breakfasts were really good. This time, however, we decided to do lunch and check out a couple of the non-Ukrainian offerings on the menu. The first thing we noticed was that the diner is nice and clean, and stepping in through its doors is like stepping back in time. I was disappointed to notice the jukeboxes gone from the booth tables (like I said, it’s been many years), but other than that it retains its small-town, simpler-times feel.
Not much can really be said about the food. It’s good, standard fare, satisfying and of average value. The water tastes a little funny, like it’s been poured from a tap, but other than that the food is fine. I had the club sandwich on whole-wheat, my sister had the Reuben sandwich on rye and my brother-in-law had the Bases Loaded burger with cheese, mushroom, onion and bacon. Service is good--the waitress was friendly and allowed us time to decide what to have without making us feel rushed. The order arrived at our table in ten minutes. They’re a bit chintzy on the pickle; one thin slice on the side. This wouldn’t bother most people but I carry pickle-related baggage from my childhood and so I noticed. It wasn’t the best food in the world but we’re not talking thirty dollars a plate, either. I’ve had worse for more money.
It’s easy to see why the Round-Up Café has lasted 63 years. It isn’t the best flavor or the best of anything, really.
It’s just plain good.