On Cora’s, Doing My Best to Remain Sunny, and Failing.

I’m a breakfast person.  Always have been, always will be.  I keep it healthy during the week (cereal, nuts, fruit and veg smoothies), and hit up the hollandaise/syrup covered meals on weekends.

In addition to loving breakfast, I am also a positive person.  I like to look on the bright side, and always try to see my smoothie glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.

While dim sum places abound in Richmond, restaurants serving western-style brunch are harder to come by.  The newly-opened Cora’s restaurant off the Steveston Highway is all about breakfast, however, so some friends and I decided to give it a try.

This chain restaurant has a phenomenal story behind it:  back in 1987, Cora Tsouflidou was left alone to support her 3 kids after her husband left.  She purchased a snack bar in the Ville St. Laurent district of Montreal, and in 25 years grew the small neighbourhood diner into an enterprise of over 100 restaurants across Canada.  She’s an impressive and inspirational businesswoman.

I shall start with the sunny side up: with its bright yellow walls and primary colour decorative scheme, this place practically screams “we’re friendly, we’re wholesome, and we’re loved by children!”  They offer plenty of options for picky eaters (including boxed cereal), balloons, and lots of beautifully presented fresh fruit.  My breakfast cocktail smoothie was good.

And now, sigh, to the overdone, hard-boiled egg side of things:  while we’ve established Cora’s is kid-friendly, if you’re an adult looking for a good meal, you may want to reconsider.

The menu offers both ‘light options’ (fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, etc), as well as sweet and savoury breakfast classics like waffles, crepes, pancakes, omelettes, and eggs benedict, as well as soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch.  Prices range from about $8 – $14 a plate, with a clear policy of upselling:

“I’ll have the berry waffles please.”  (“Would you like bacon with that?”)

“I’ll have the brie and mushroom eggs benedict, please.” (“Would you like to add cheese to the potatoes?”)

“I’ll have the 10 star skillet, please.” (“Would you like to add an extra egg to that?”)

“I’ll have the apple cheddar crepe, please.” (Nothing else offered, thank goodness).

This up-selling wasn’t our friendly server’s fault – she was just doing her clearly-defined job.  She was warm and attentive, but that didn’t make up for the food.

To cut to the point, our plates were simply not worth the $11-$13 they charged for each of them.  Perhaps I’d consider those prices worthy if their eggs were free- range and the fruit organic, but they weren’t.  They were just expensive.

My Berry Morning Call French Toast ($11.49) was spiced nicely, but at least four slices of the ciabatta hadn’t been dipped in batter, so instead of soaking up eggy goodness, they just stayed stale.  Stale bread for $11.49.

Melanie’s Brie and Mushroom Eggs Benny ($12.95) was lukewarm, with tough English muffins, nearly cold potatoes, and powdered hollandaise.

Amos’ meaty 10 Star Skillet ($12.95 and served in a casserole dish, not a skillet) was the best of the bunch, though it’s hard to mess up meat, potatoes, peppers, onions, cheese, and egg.  It was also a bit cool when it arrived at the table.

The first three dishes weren’t very good, but they were passable.  Stephanie’s Apple Cheddar Crepe ($10.75) was actually dreadful.

The crepe – probably mixed from industrial batter – acted as nothing more than a bland wrapper for the fillings.  Those fillings were a miniscule amount of mild cheddar and a grated apple that became a watery, flavourless mush inside the hot crepe.  Because there was so little cheese to bind it together, it completely fell apart as she tried to eat it, and it wasn’t filling AT ALL.  The apples should have been peeled, cut into wedges, sautéed in butter and spices, then smothered in a generous helping of white cheddar.  THAT would have been an apple cheddar crepe.  Oh the negativity!  I hate myself right now!

One thing I must point out is that Cora’s restaurants are franchises, so quality could easily differ from one location to another.  Even if my French toast had been perfectly cooked, however, I still wouldn’t have considered it a good value.  As hard as they try, in its attempts to feel local and neighbourly, Cora’s feels contrived.  They simply can’t compete with truly local establishments where owners, not corporate policies, are monitoring quality.

Alright, so that’s me being brutally honest.  The lessons I’ve learned from this experience?

– I’m pretty picky when it comes to breakfast.

– There is a niche to be filled in Richmond, and it’s hearty, homestyle brunch joints.  Take note, you ambitious young culinary entrepreneurs!

– Cora’s (or at least this one) focuses strongly on branding, and less strongly on food.

After this review, I feel like I need to provide you with something positive, too.  So here you go, the sweetest kid ever.

ps – I’m open to other brunch suggestions in Richmond!!

 

Cora’s

11380 Steveston Highway #170, Richmond BC

62 Comments

  1. Jeff

    I’ve always felt strangely disgusted by Cora’s. Glad to see an honest and open review of it, Linds!

    Reply
  2. are you gonna eat that

    Spot-on review. Just wanted to add though that as a parent, I like Cora’s for its bountiful fruit sides and extremely kid-friendly servers/atmosphere. Sometimes I’m too tired to find the perfect “great food+kid friendly” especially when it’s 6 am so I don’t mind going to Cora’s.

    Reply
  3. John

    I’d suggest:

    De Dutch
    8031 Leslie Road
    Richmond, BC V6X 1E4
    (604) 270-3633

    OR

    Every Sunday at:

    ABC Country Restaurant
    3580 No. 3 Road
    Richmond, BC V6X2C1

    Reply
  4. Camfina

    We like Banners on No 3 near Williams. Nothing fancy but consistently good.

    Reply
  5. Netty

    I’ll second the abc Country suggestion.

    Though the decor could do with a makeover I recently tried the Spinach Feta Omelette was quite surprised just how tasty it was! I’d love to see a review of some more of their brunch items too or even their burgers.

    http://www.abccountry.ca/

    Reply
  6. Steveston Girl

    A friend who grew up in Montreal always raved about Cora’s. I haven’t been here yet, however, while shopping in the area, two separate parties came out and were saying to each other who horrible it was and too expensive…ditto to your experience.

    Reply
  7. Robyn

    Steveston Cannery Cafe for omelettes & muffins. The place hasn’t changed since it opened in 1984, but it still brings in the crowds.

    Reply
    • Robyn

      I may sound slightly obsessed, but I’ve been thinking about this all day, having grown up in Richmond and all that – living my first 24 years there, my parents, aunts and uncles still living there,etc… and here’s what I’m thinking:

      Most Steveston restaurants do offer diner-style breakfasts and/or weekend brunches (Tapenade Bistro is my family’s go-to place for a special occasion brunch). Shady Island was our go-to place in the 90’s, and the Steveston Hotel/Steveston Cannery Cafe in the 80’s. And there’s always British Home on Chatham Street for buying traditional English style bacon, bangers, meat pies, Scotch eggs, etc. if you need breakfast fixings for a proper English fry-up.

      You’ll also find what you’re looking for in most Richmond hotel restaurants (especially buffet style weekend brunch); this is where you’ll find traditional eggs, pancake, etc. type breakfasts. The Radission, for example, or the Fairmont YVR.

      There are also the chains – Milestones, Earls, Cactus Club, Moxie’s, IHOP, White Spot, ABC Restaurant, etc. But they’re not necessarily unique to Richmond.

      And unless there’s something hidden away somewhere that I don’t know, the reality is that you’re not going to find funky, homestyle independently-run breakfast joints around Richmond in the same way you would along, say… Commercial Drive or Main Street or in the West End. So I probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to find them because as wonderful as Richmond’s dining scene is, unique breakfast spots aren’t its strength.

      But I’m curious… it would be cool to find out over time what style of breakfasts Richmond *does* do well.

      Reply
      • Elle

        They do Asian style breakfasts (ie. dim sum, congee etc.) well!

        Actually, at some of the Hong Kong style cafes in Richmond, they do throw Western style foods (ie. eggs, bacon and toast) into their breakfast mix. You probably won’t find eggs benny, but you can probably get the staple eggs/meat/toast combo.

        Other brunch places to consider – Flying Beaver has a brunch menu as does Pier 73 (located in the Delta Hotel).

        Reply
  8. Dave Davis

    I think your review is spot on. I live in the neighborhood and have been there three times and have never been totally satisfied–both service and food. The last time a few days ago I had a buckwheat crepe with ham. A plain as wallpaper paste, and dry as the desert crepe with half-round of ham. Both were just lukewarm and not worth the 8+ dollars charged. My friend gave me some of her hot cheese and what ever she ordered to stop in the crepe which made it a little better.

    In the past, I have had shredded pork sandwich or whatever they call it, which darn near choked me from dryness. Fruit is served whether it is ripe or not, and sometimes even overripe. Fruit is often not trimmed properly. Service is hit and miss, mostly miss. I really had high hopes for them, given that I love breakfast and there are no decent breakfast places in the neighborhood, but just like most other franchises, their specialty is mediocrity. I don’t think I will be going back. And I know what I’m talking about because I used to own a restaurant.

    Reply
  9. Casey Hrynkow

    Not a harsh review at all! I can clearly see in the photo of the French toast that there is bread without any egg on it whatsoever! That is just brutal!

    This is a city with an almost unending supply of restaurants, many of them quite good, so one that has so little respect for the quality of food isn’t long for it.

    Reply
  10. Corrina

    Check out Cimona Cafe in Steveston. Great breakfast, and a nice patio right in Steveston.

    Reply
    • GS

      Cimona Cafe get’s my vote, too.
      Great ambience. small town feel.

      Reply
    • Lisa

      I second Cimona’s! Love it there. We usually go for the pasta and homemade soups, but I’m sure they’ll satisfy you for breakfast too.

      http://www.cimona.com/

      Reply
    • Dave Davis

      Cimona’s breakfasts are good, but their coffee is dreadful (I told him once, but they don’t seem to care). I brought in coffee one time from Waves and they asked me to pour into one of their mugs.

      Reply
  11. Rob

    Sounds like a pretty poor experience. Try Tapenade Bistro in Steveston for an outstanding brunch experience. Much more up your alley.

    Reply
  12. Amcol

    Sarah had a similar experience at the Airdrie location recently. They complained regarding cold food and slow service, and got a coupon for a free meal.

    Reply
  13. Nicky B

    Wholeheartedly agree with your assessment…..and also with the suggestion to try the Cannery Cafe as well as the Steveston Hotel.

    Reply
  14. Linda McKnight

    I also recommend Sonoma in Steveston (not sure who’s spelling is more correct)

    Reply
  15. fgdorsemaine

    Happily second Cimona Cafe in Steveston. We have been there many times and never disappointed.

    Reply
  16. Laurette

    I have been to Cora’s in Montreal area & Ottawa & found them decent but pricey. But quality was there. They had good reviews when first opened but seem to have gone downhill. Love that cute video even had me teary eyed LOL

    Reply
  17. Lindsay365

    Thanks for the fantastic suggestions, everyone. I’m so relieved to know there are more options – I will keep up the hunt!

    Reply
  18. Daylene Marshall

    I have been to Cora’s twice and found it to be okay, but not fantastic, although I do like their daily fruit cocktail. I recently moved back to Richmond and the lack of good, independent breakfast places here is disappointing. There are the regular chains – De Dutch, IHOP, etc. but sometimes I just want a good breakfast with local ingredients.

    Please keep searching for a great breakfast in Richmond!

    Reply
  19. C.Lee

    For a different type of breakfast try the Hong Kong style breakfast. It’s not dimsum I suggest trying Lido restaurant and their famous freshly baked pineapple bun. Order it with a slice of butter. They also have egg dishes and congees for breakfast. Lido is just across Aberdeen mall. They are open early for breakfast.

    Reply
  20. DCH

    I’ve had friends try Cora’s in Newfoundland, Quebec, all over Ontario, and Alberta – all with mixed experiences. Being a breakfast person, I am willing to pay $14 when I know a fresh, hearty, well cooked meal! Hope your searching finds one in Richmond, sounds like there are a few suggestions to try out. Thanks for your honesty Linds! (and the video, so cute!)

    Reply
  21. Rachel B

    Best Breakfast in Richmond is De Dutch…it’s a chain but it’s always fresh and consistant and yummy.

    Reply
  22. JJ

    I’m glad you reviewed Cora’s – I too am looking for a good breakfast/brunch place in Richmond, reasonably priced, and not a chain. I didn’t realize Cora’s was a franchise! I will try some of the other places that were suggested by people who commented instead(they seem to be mostly in Steveston, which is fine with me) I’m pretty picky about the coffee, though, so they’d better have good coffee!

    Reply
  23. Mary

    OMG That video! I am crying right along with Lily and I’m not even GOING to Disneyland. Sweet family!

    Reply
  24. Lisa

    PS. We loved Lily’s reactions. Priceless!

    Reply
  25. Janice

    You might try Diner No. 1 in Steveston. They serve breakfast during the week and brunch on the weekends. We’ve only had dinner there and the burgers were really good. I’ve heard good things about the breakfast though and there seems to be lots to choose from on the menu. Its a fun atmosphere if you get a booth or table with a street view.
    http://www.dinerone.com/

    Reply
  26. Lulu Lady

    Thanks for your post today, Lindsay. We are often stumped to find a quaint & affordable spot for breakfast in Richmond. Steveston Hotel, Diner No.1, The Cannery & ABC are the main spots that come to mind. Haven’t tried Banners – saw that suggested. We’ll give that a try. Maybe some more restaurants will open up?

    Priceless video! What an adorable kid! I bet they had a blast in Disneyland.

    Reply
  27. Crista

    I am a huge fan of Cimona’s, the people, the food – all of it. It is our go-to place when we have a chance to have a breakfast date. The other place that screams independent, whole food goodness is Alegria which is right in Steveston as well. They do a very simple thing, but they do it beautifully. Super glad for the Cora warning!

    Reply
  28. Shaun

    Diner No. 1 in Steveston does an excellent brunch. The lumberjack pancake and the Canuck omlette in particular are loaded with bacony goodness :-)

    Reply
  29. RICHMOND

    Did you tell restaurants you are 365 days blogger when you visit?

    In my opinion I think you are not critic.You are PR of restaurant in Richmond.Richmond spend a lot of money this project. I hope you will best PR of restaurant in Richmond.

    Reply
    • Casey Hrynkow

      It appears that you are suggesting the Lindsay should go to every restaurant — good or bad — and say nice things about it. What possible good would that do for the readers of this blog? If you read Lindsay’s bio, you should be able to infer that she has more than enough expertise to do exactly what she is doing.

      This process would be a sham if Lindsay was not honest in her evaluations of every restaurant she visits.

      Reply
    • Oz

      Sounds like the owner of Cora’s got an email address…

      Reply
  30. GS

    Went by Cora’s today on my way to buy some fruits and vegetable at Kin’s Market.
    I had a look at the menu, it seemed quite pricey.
    The place was pretty full, though.
    Overall, it had a plastic feeling to it.
    Then I went over to Kin’s market and to my surprise it’s now called Ironwood Market.
    From the looks of it, they have kept the higher prices from Kin’s without the higher quality that Kin’s had.
    Bought “local cherries”, but had to throw most of them away after I came home.
    Caveat emptor!

    Reply
  31. Courtney

    I second the suggestion of Banners. Although I haven’t been to the one in Richmond, the one on Commercial in Van has been consistently good & cheap. Also, I believe it is a Lower Mainland area ‘chain’ (could be wrong, but the location in Van shows a map with about 6 locations, at least 4 of which are in the Lower Mainland, one might be on the island).

    Reply
  32. Laura

    Mmmmmm tapenade!!!

    Reply
  33. Melanie

    OMG!!!! The hubs an di are both chefs, and coming from calgary we could not believe the total lack of funky independant breaky/lunch joints, like \nellys in \Calgary, where no mugs match and there is funky art on the walls etc. we have often thrown around the idea of opening something like that in richmond, but thought it would never make it with all the dim sum fever. maybe it would?!?

    Reply
    • sarah

      we all liked the funky feeling of nellys…until their $60k fines of health violations 2.5yrs ago.

      Reply
  34. Jerome Teams

    I agree with you Lindsay. The fruit that Cora’s serves is fresh and a nice touch. The eggs and omelettes are quite plain and uninspired. My partner had the french toast when we were there and left half on the plate. Our server, a nice older lady who is in the wrong job, didn’t notice or ask us what we thought.

    The cost to eat at Cora’s is sky high. Definitely poor value for your money.

    Reply
  35. Jan

    I can’t believe they didn’t even dip the French toast in the egg batter properly! That’s just sad! You’re use of the word “dreadful” seems spot on. When I go to Cora’s (or as we call it in Quebec “Chez Cora”), I always get the crepe filled with strawberries and pastry cream, with a side of bacon. The pastry cream is fake, but the strawberries are pretty fresh (though from California). I eat it, and the portion is big so the price somehow seems reasonable, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think it’s more one of those secret foods I crave but I don’t want to admit. Good luck with your hunt for a good breakfast/brunch! I love breakfast, so I can imagine the fact that you haven’t found a good spot must be torture.

    Reply
  36. chrissy

    The Buck n’ Ear Pub in Steveston has never disappointed me for breakfast lunch or dinner…but the full breakfast menu might only be available Sundays???

    Reply
  37. Dory

    Try Gudrun in Steveston. The brunch is good but a bit pricey.

    Reply
  38. Star

    Too funny regarding Cora’s. When I lived out east it was the place to save your chips and then go for a ‘special’ weekend brunch. Even years ago it was pricey (although for a student then). I did try the one at Ironwood thinking it would be a throw-back to my former years. Too bad I had an identical experience to you. Our server was lovely, and I did feel like she knew what was up. However, I was typical Canadian when she asked “How are you enjoying your breakfast” and my answer was “just fine, thanks very much!!!” Hopefully the owner of this franchise takes this post, and ALL the great comments into consideration and rolls out a better plan to serve great, hot food that matches their servers dispositions.

    Reply
  39. groovygirl

    I appreciate the fact that you are honest Lindsay. Isn’t that the point? While I didn’t mind Cora’s I did find them VERY pricey. And for the price I expected more. Lets keep in mind that Cora’s is new at this location, and hopefully they will see and read this blog and make some very necessary changes. Cora’s has a lot of potential and if I was the owner I would really appreciate this honest review. Isn’t it better knowing then not?

    Reply
  40. chris christofi

    Hey Lind’s

    Well you are not wrong one just opened here in Airdrie and let me tell you it’s crap. Went there fathers day and wasn’t to bad, then sarah wanted to take a few friends the following week they shoved us into a booth 5 adults 2 childern and 2 babies I had to put Rozsi under the table and still the waitress managed to spill coffee on her basinet. Food took nearly an 1:15 mins and came out stone cold.
    Anyway maybe an opportunity for me to try my culinary skills there in Richmond won’t mind opening a good little breakfast/coffee/cake shop………. in my dreams hey Sarah would kill me..
    Hope to see you soon

    Reply
  41. Kelly

    I do agree. Very expensive. The servers give great service, but it’s too bad the food doesn’t live up to its price.

    Reply
  42. Wylie

    Every time I go to Cora’s it disappoints. The one in Coquitlam is pretty good but the Richmond one needs work. This review is bang on!

    I wish there were better brekkie joints in Richmond. Definitely a niche to be filled. There were tons of nice independent brekkie places in the Bay Area when I lived there. I wish Vancouver & Richmond had more! Something like Sophie’s or Joe’s Diner on 4th (used to frequent these places quite a bit).

    In terms of Richmond, I love IHOP even though it’s a franchise. I will try Cimona’s and Banners though.

    Reply
  43. Alison

    Thanks for the review, I must disagree though. In regards to pricing, A berry french toast served to me while I sit down is far better value than you make it out to be. Yes, those are fresh blue berries, black berries and strawberries. Perhaps a little more would in regards to quantity would have made it a bit better. Franchise or not, Cora is superior to the other brands such as De Dutch and IHOP…the menu is more creative and there are a lot of options. I’ve never tried the apple cheddar crepe, but have had a skillet, french toast, waffles…thus far have not been disappointed with food. Service can be hit and miss but I reckon this is the case with so many other places around here. Compared to what else is out there, Cora’s is actually still the best despite this review.

    Reply
    • GS

      Alison,
      I respect your opinion.
      But you talk about fresh blueberries and blackberries.
      They are not in season yet.
      So they must come from (probably) California.
      So they can’t be fresh.

      Reply
    • Oz

      “Still the best”? You’re comparing it to two of the worst breakfast places around. In that competition, yes, Cora is best. But I implore you to widen your perspective and try something else.
      Someone else on this thread suggested Friendly Banners on No. 3 as a good pick. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how anyone could see that place as being good to eat in. It’s embarassingly bad and dated, and the only people who eat there appear to be the over 70’s crowd who, I can only guess, walk from across the road. My family rejected everything we ordered the only time we went there and the server seemed very used to such things happening.

      Reply
  44. Bob Sinclair

    Cora’s is pricey than their competition??? Please on a like basis, compare any two dishes and compare the pricing. I have been going to Cora’s in Toronto since I was 10. Now in my twenties I have moved out to Richmond. I have been pleasantly surprised how close everything is to back home. The owner is always present, greeting his guests and he does a wonderful job of consistency, which is not easy to do. Cora is far and away better than ABC and IHOP. I can’t even believe they are being mentioned in the same breath. Cora provides a vastly better breakfast.

    Reply
    • Neil Dadmund

      Bob, I totally agree that Cora is a lot better than what is being offered now. It’s not a mom and pop operation but why should we frown on that? Bottom line is I still drive to Richmond from Vancouver to eat there and will continue to do so.

      Reply
      • GS

        Please be more specific!,
        Why would you spent $10 on gas to go to Richmond and eat at Cora’s.

        Reply
        • Oz

          Having eaten at Cora, I wouldn’t walk a block to do it again, let alone drive from a part of the city that actually has dozens of great brunch places.

          Reply
    • Oz

      If ABC and iHop are your high markers for a good breakfast, you just haven’t eaten a good breakfast yet. Do yourself a favour and get out of the chains.
      Steveston Hotel breakfast is great. Tapenade brunch is awesome. Gudrun is the pick of the lot. Cimona, The Cannery, all good solid breakfasts from locally owned businesses. And instead of pouring your pancakes from a vat of industrial mix, they actually make the stuff from a recipe.

      Reply
  45. Harleyj

    Thanks for your honesty…that is what we want:)Will you be trying any pub food…O’Hares maybe?

    Reply
  46. Wendy

    People, go try Gudrun! It simply is the best in Richmond for brunch.

    Reply
  47. Leslee

    I agree Wendy, Gudrun is the best.

    Reply
  48. Sarah F

    That video totally made me cry! So sweet. I agree about Cora’s. Love the idea… wish it was better. The fresh fruit on the plate is usually rotten! to bad!

    Reply

Leave a Reply