I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
I had previously made an exception for Kelly O’Brians due to it being a chain. I established an exemption that if the chain was limited to British Columbia and was less than a dozen locations, I’d include it in this blog. De Dutch doesn’t fall into that category. Though limited to BC, with over twenty locations peppered through mostly Vancouver, I’d hardly call it a humble franchise, though paling to the cyberpunk level of monopoly held by Yum! Incorporated (owners of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, among others). Despite being a chain, DeDutch fails to resemble one. There’s a corner-cafe look to it, wedged under a Best Western with few signs to establish its presence. I’d driven by it numerous times before without any knowledge of its existence.
It’s very yellow, with a natural wood motif divided by checkerboards of white and blue tiles. The menu was the first indication of its parent business, presented in that all too familiar nylon-fringed stain proof plastic coated picture saturated pages made popular by Denny’s and IHOP, which is somewhat of a criticism if I can by ignorant enough to mention it. There’s a definitive Denny’s texture to DeDutch’s presentation, a requirement of any family restaurant, especially ones that make their money primarily from breakfast and lunch services. I’m starting to understand why so many other locations in this blog have been spartan at lunch time. They flood into places like this. It’s not like I have anything against Denny’s or IHOP, I just do. I avoid patronizing them whenever possible. It’s always been my opinion that Denny’s isn’t as much a decision as it is a settlement. Just below Boston Pizza, Denny’s is curmudgeonly accepted when no one can decide any other option. Boston Pizza is the agreement amongst most of my friends, reserving Denny’s for those named Tucker or Dale. The only exception to this rule is when you absolutely, positively must eat four pounds of breakfast food at 3:00 am.
De Dutch’s claim to fame is the popularization of the pannekoek, a cousin of the pancake, a throwback to a time where you ate and then farmed. In praise of the Dutch, what most people don’t know, is that a large number of dishes we assume to be “North American” were carried over from the Netherlands by pilgrims hundreds of years ago. The pannekoek slots somewhere between the pancake and the crepe in thickness, but closer to a large pizza in size, occupying my entire plate with overhangs. The distinction with each plate is the topping; I opted for the hash, placing a casserole dish of hash browns, cheddar cheese, and turkey bacon onto the cake. There’s no wrong way to eat a pannekoek, but there’s apparently a right way, directing me to spread the dish over the pannekoek and roll it up like its crepe cousin.
The concept of introducing some measure of culture in a breakfast restaurant is not unheard of. A restaurant would inject some ethnic characteristics like taking an insulin shot. But in truth, what is it that sets DeDutch from being a vaguely artistic IHOP? Not much. The food, though good, lacks any punch. The hash casserole tastes exactly like it would at any other family restaurant if it wasn’t resting on a bed of bread. With that criticism out of the way, I understand that DeDutch has balanced the proportion of culture and American ignorance properly. To function as a family restaurant that has any hope in succeeding in this era dominated by American juggernauts, De Dutch must mimic its competition to some degree. It must present itself in a way comfortable to the average patron. They can’t go full Dutch, else they’d alienate those people thinking themselves the better person for choosing De Dutch over Denny’s. And they’re right. DeDutch is not that much better than Denny’s…but it is.
I never have a desire to eat out for breakfast. A miniature casserole of hash browns and meat over an extra large pancake that I can make in my own kitchen in ten minutes is not worth $12.50. Should one compare the prices of DeDutch with that of IHOP or Denny’s? Absolutely. If you are mimicking their menu and attempting to attract the same clientele, you must weather the storm of comparison, and when levelled against IHOP, DeDutch wouldn’t survive charging what they do.
I know DeDutch is popular with some people, but for me, it falls into that cavernous abyss of generic family eateries that I’d go to once and never return. Slapping a windmill on your menu does not make you any better than your competition.