Under Review

Under Review: Lion’s Den Cafe (Restaurant)

Kait Olsen

For 23 years the Lions Den Cafe has been sitting cozily just off Fraser st. on East 15th. A brightly decorated sign with yellow letters announces the cafe’s name and its all day breakfast to passers by, acting like a small beacon. As we walked in we were immediately greeted by one of the owners and a couple regulars sitting inside. The cafe has a comfortable atmosphere, with family photos and community keepsakes hung along the walls. The taxidermied lion looking out onto the street made the space all the better. It felt like going to a relative’s home and looking through all the photos documenting their lives. Despite the warm atmosphere it was quite cold within the small cafe. I recommend ordering a coffee along with your food or bringing a warm jacket. 

We stood awkwardly in the entrance for a couple minutes before being let know we could sit anywhere and grab a menu. The short wait wasn’t due to purposeful neglect though, the only employee of the cafe was an older woman who manages both kitchen and service. Later on we learned that one of the owners, her husband, had suffered a stroke and was unable to help out with the labour of the restaurant. Despite all this, the quality of our meal and experience did not suffer. 

The menu boasts many Japanese and Caribbean comfort dishes, including curries, sandwiches and patties. I ordered a chicken curry served with rice and beans as well as a classic breakfast. When ordering a curry you can choose between a small and large size, and to me the small would have been enough to split with a friend. The generous portion sizes were surprising for how reasonable the prices were, a nice treat. The curry was delicious, it left nothing to be desired. The perfect level of spice, salt and heat swam around soft vegetables and juicy chicken. The breakfast though not exceptional, was a perfect classic. Coming with pan fried and seared potatoes, nicely cooked eggs and either sausage or bacon. We went with over-easy eggs and sausages, and the breakfast held up. It is served till the restaurant closes which is perfect for hangovers and slow days. Throughout our meal we bounced between talking to the people next to us and each other. The slower service and amiable nature of the cafe encourages you to take your time with the meal, slowing down to enjoy your company and the homey atmosphere. Despite how nice our experience was, it was clear the woman working was overwhelmed with the customers and having to care for her husband. I’d encourage people to order takeout if you’re wanting to try the Lions Den Cafe. It’ll allow you to support the business while taking a bit off the shoulders of the owners. 

I had no expectations when coming to the cafe, and I was pleasantly surprised with the food, cleanliness and accessibility of the restaurant. I would recommend the cafe to anyone looking to try some home cooked japaribbean food for a good price.