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2010201120122013 | Click here for March 21, 2013 to present.

dining

photo by Darrol Hofmeister
photo by Darrol Hofmeister

What’s Four Lunch?

Donairs! Grilled sandwiches! Pastries! Tea! That’s what!

by Dave Margoshes

In a recent issue, this corner explored a quartet of new or newish downtown lunch spots. Today, I take a quick look at another downtown eatery so new its ink is barely dry, and go further afield, though still with lunch in mind, casting my eye, and taste buds, on daytime fare offered at three very different places on the north side.
 
In my sights are a British-style tea house, a donair joint and, straying a bit from the strict restaurant path, a brilliant new high-end bakery.
 
First: yet another new place for lunch, and breakfast, in the heart of downtown.

 
 

DELI LLAMA

1852 SCARTH ST., 205-4265
3.5 / 5
 
This cleverly titled eatery (could it be a kissin’ cousin to the Fainting Goat?) opened in mid-February, too late for my recent downtown lunch review. It occupies the space on the Scarth Street Mall most recently home to the uptown bannock shop Enya, and empty for a year or more. As I write, the Deli Llama is doing take-out only, as renovations continue, with an eye to having table service sometime this spring.
 
Like almost every other lunch spot downtown these days, the emphasis here is on grilled sandwiches (call them panini or by any other name). Here, they’ve been dubbed “grilled cheese concepts” and are variations on a theme: grilled cheddar; ham and Swiss with fresh thyme; the Kickin’ Chicken Ranch (chicken breast, cheddar, tomato, hot sauce); the Gobbler (turkey, cream cheese, spinach, tomato); the Kinda Like a Reuben (pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on marble rye — delicious), and so on, all in the $5 to $8 range.
 
There’s also good soups, build-your-own salads and various breakfast items, served till 10:30 a.m., including egg, ham and cheese on bagel or French toast ($5.89) and a witty tribute to Elvis Presley: a peanut butter and banana jam sandwich! On Fridays there’s a Prairie special of perogies, cabbage rolls and sausage for $10.49.
 
Stay tuned for a more detailed report as this interesting place evolves.
 
The Deli Llama is open weekdays only, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 

VINTAGE TEA ROOM

405 BROAD ST., 205-5832
3.5 / 5
 
Neither Karen Howden nor her husband Doug hail from the British Isles, but they share a fascination with things British, so when they decided to open a restaurant (with no previous experience) a tea shop with a “jolly olde England” motif seemed like a natural. The result is the Vintage Tea Room, which serves up tea and a variety of English style “tea” food through the daylight hours.
 
Morning fare is limited to scones and other baked goods, including crumpets and yummy cinnamon buns ($3.25 but plenty big). The perfect English touch can be added in the form of a generous dollop of thick Devon cream for 90 cents.
 
But lunch time, and through the afternoon, the menu expands to include soup, sandwiches, and British pub favourites like meat pies, sausage rolls and Cornish pasties and their Scottish cousins, Forfar bridies, variations on the meat pie theme. Most are priced at $5.50 on their own, but the pies and sandwiches can be paired with either soup or coleslaw for $10, with one exception — Melton Mowbray pork pie, which comes with the slaw, for $11.55. Sounds like a lot, but this is one big pork pie. The pies are made for the Howdens by an Irish-trained butcher and are pretty good, though the pork pie I had suffered from an unusually stiff pastry, which detracted a bit from the dense, tasty filling. The coleslaw, called “Prince Philip Slaw”, is a nice mix of white and red cabbage, shredded carrots and cranberries in a zippy mayo dressing.
 
Sandwiches and soups change daily. On one visit, sandwiches included egg salad, home-cooked chicken breast and a veddy British-sounding concoction of cucumber, cranberry, nut and cream cheese. The soups were chicken noodle, and a very pleasing, honest vegetarian chowder. Another day, the soups were leek and potato and ham and mushroom chowder, both very good.
 
Desserts include assorted pastries, cakes, pies and puddings. My friend and I shared a very nice slice of banana cream pie ($4.25).
 
Everything is served on china.
 
And, of course, a place called the Vintage Tea Room is certainly going to be “serving tea” in various forms. “Cream Tea” — tea with two scones, jam and Devon cream — is $6.75 a person. “Victorian Tea” takes off from that, adding finger sandwiches and pastries, for $15, while “Royal Tea”, as the menu explains, is the latter “taken to a higher level” — silver tea service, fine china “and all the extras” for $20. Reservations are required for the Victorian and Royal teas.
 
The tea room also doubles as a “purveyor of British goods”, meaning a variety of loose and packaged teas, jams, biscuits, teapots and other British-style tchotchkes. Décor is also suitably British, complete with photos of a very young Queen Liz.
 
The Vintage Tea Room is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.
 

DONAIR AND SHAWERMA KING

2739 AVONHURST DR., 789-4444
3 / 5

Going further afield, all the way up Albert Street to the curiously named Towers shopping centre (anyone see a tower?), welcome to Donair and Shawerma King, a new fast food joint serving up the popular Mideastern pita sandwiches. Donairs (spiced beef) and shawermas (chicken) used to be scarce as hen’s teeth in these parts, until Pita Cravings began serving them up a few years ago at an out-of-the-way outlet (where they also bake pitas that supply the city) on Park Street, then opened a downtown location (now called Pita Queen) on the Scarth Street Mall.
 
D&S King brings these spicy sandwiches to a new audience.
 
The pitas, filled with shaved meat and various trimmings and sauces, come in 6-inch, 9-inch and 12-inch sizes, with prices ranging from $6 for a small donair to $10 for the largest shawerma. Combos, that add a large serving of fries and a drink, are $3 more. Hummus and tasty baklava (only $1.10 for a piece of this rich honey pastry) are also available.
 
These sandwiches are not quite as good as Pita Queen’s, but they’re good. And if lunch time arrives when you’re on the north side, well worth a try.
 
Donair and Shawerma King is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
 

KOKO PATISSERIE

1205 BROAD ST., 352-0220
4 / 5
 
OK, I know I’m straying a bit off my brief here — that is, reviewing restaurants. Bakeries are not restaurants. But I have on occasion given time and space to take-out places, and bakeries are surely that, their product meant to be bought, taken out and eaten. At any rate, I don’t have to justify myself to you, so bug off!
 
All the same, I will offer this justification: the pastries created at Koko Patisserie are not only head and shoulders better than at any other Regina bakery I know of, but are as good as any you’ll find in a city restaurant, and better than most.
 
All the pastries and cookies look mouth-wateringly good, but I can personally vouch for the raspberry cheesecake brownie ($2.95 each) and the fleur de sel caramel and dark chocolate tart ($3.75) — words other than yum! escape me.
 
On weekends, some breads are available as well: French baguette $2.95, herb bread sticks, $4.95 a bundle, rosemary sourdough, $5.95. Pricy, but exceptional. And, Saturdays only, scrumptious caramel apple brioche and rich, flaky pain au chocolat, both $2.95. They run out by mid afternoon, so plan accordingly.
 
Koko is open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays 11 to 5.