Why brunch-time happy hour is a growing trend in Vancouver

While not everyone digs AM drinks, a Caesar or a Mimosa does spark joy for many Vancouver brunch-goers

Brunch at the Rumpus Room. Rumpus Room photo

Sometimes, what separates brunch from breakfast is the addition of some adult beverages. While not everyone digs AM drinks, a Caesar or a Mimosa does spark joy for many Vancouver brunch-goers.

Happy hour, on the other hand, is a construct in its infancy in B.C., where the practice of offering and promoting discounted drinks during off-peak hours has only been allowed by the powers that be since mid-2014. Restaurants have largely embraced the trend, using it as a way to add on service hours ahead of dinner, or bridge the gap to offset lulls.

Now restaurants acclaimed for their brunch are getting in on the action and are running brunch happy hours, showcasing classic daytime drinks as well as signature cocktail options.

Caesars at Tuc Craft Kitchen. Tuc Craft Kitchen photo

Gastown’s Tuc Craft Kitchen is known for brunch staples like their fried chicken and waffles, is among the local independent eateries embracing the brunch happy hour trend.

“We’ve always been known for our brunch at Tuc, but we wanted to introduce a new morning Happy Hour this year to make mornings that much happier and encourage guests to get to know our incredible cocktail program,” says co-owner Colin Ross.

Tuc offers $5 mimosas and Caesars, but you can sub out a spirit for a friendly $1 additional cost. They also offer a spirited “DIY Mimosa” option (a bottle of Villa Conchi Cava and fresh squeezed organic OJ) which Ross says is “perfect for groups who want to share a round of drinks.”

Over on Main Street, the Rumpus Room is an all-day joint with a playful weekend brunch that runs the gamut from Vegan Hash to a Fat Elvis (a grilled peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich topped with Frosted Flakes).

While diners can tuck into their Green Eggs & Ham (pesto hollandaise and prosciutto) or Bears Tubing (gummy bears floating on glittery doughnuts) Saturdays and Sundays until darn near dinner time, they’ve recently launched a Brunch Happy Hour from 10 am to noon, aimed at kick-starting the restaurant’s customer intake from the get-go on weekend mornings, while still drawing in the usual crowds of late sleepers who tend to get there after noon.

Brunch Happy Hour offerings at Rumpus Room include one-ounce Caesars for $4 (regularly $7) and Mimosas for a mere $3 – half-off their regular price. You can also get “adult coffees,” which are spiked with your choice of Bailey’s, Kahlua, or whiskey for $4. They’re also putting some food on special for earlier risers: the “Big Rump Breaky” is priced at $8 (reg $11.50) is a classic eggs, meat, and toast platter, and a plant-based version, the “Big Rump Vegan Breaky” is also priced at $8.

Downtown, there are few restaurants as beloved for their breakfast and brunch than Cafe Medina, where fans regularly submit to line-ups to get their fill of waffles, tagine, cassoulet, and fricassées. They also have a much-celebrated cocktail program, headed up by bar manager Marc Slingsby-Jones.

“Vancouver gets a lot of flack for having archaic liquor laws but while our friends in Ontario can’t sell alcohol until 11am places in Vancouver like Cafe Medina can start serving drinks at 9 am so why not celebrate and reward those who drag themselves out of bed early?” says Slingsby-Jones.

Slingsby-Jones says Cafe Medina took a “go big or go home” approach to discounting beverages for the breakfast crowd, and as a result, all of their cocktails ($8), beer ($5), and mimosas ($6) are included in happy hour pricing, which is offered from 9 to 11 a.m. daily.

Say cheers at Cafe Medina during brunch! Cafe Medina photo

“I’m very proud of all the cocktails on our list and want to encourage Vancouver to branch out, be adventurous and and change their perception of what a brunch cocktail can be,” says Slingsby-Jones. Look for the bold wake-up pow of the Moroccan Maria (tequila, roasted tomato juice, house spice mix, celery bitters, pickle brine, smoked salt, paprika, and sumac rim) or the cozy Souq Hot Toddy (rye, turmeric, ginger, lemon, honey, aleppo, rooibos) along with other inspired craft creations.

Even stalwart chain staples are on the brunch happy hour bandwagon. Earls launched their program in January 2018, calling it “all the motivation you’ll need to get up and get out earlier on weekends.” Available from open until noon, there’s an emphasis on knocking some bucks off your food here, with brunch plates coming in at $1-5 off each before the midday hour strikes.

Enjoy Happy Hour brunch at Earl’s. Earls Restaurants/Facebook photo

Whether you’re there for the grub or there for the drinks, we are absolutely spoiled for choice as-is when it comes to brunch in Vancouver, and this burgeoning trend of brunch happy hours is even more incentive to get out and enjoy some AM eats.

“Vancouver has a serious brunch scene that you don’t see in a lot of other cities. Weekend mornings offer an opportunity to get together with friends and family during a time that other life events are not typically scheduled,” says Tuc’s Ross.

Of course, if you are imbibing, you’re in the right place. “The ‘drinking for enjoyment’ mentality is starting to trickle down into daytime and of course brunch where already the shift from sustenance to dining experience has happened,” adds Medina’s Slingsby-Jones.

“While we still have a ways to go the glass is definitely half full and here’s hoping morning our happy hour continues to drive that change.”

  • Cafe Medina is located at 780 Richards Street. Brunch Happy Hour is offered from 9 to 11 am daily.
  • Earls has several locations in British Columbia. Brunch Happy Hour is available from open to noon weekends.
  • Rumpus Room is located at 2301 Main Street. Brunch Happy Hour is offered from 10 am to noon weekends.
  • Tuc Craft Kitchen is located at 60 West Cordova Street. Brunch Happy Hour is offered Friday 11 am – 2:30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 2:30 pm, and Sunday 10 am to 3 pm.

—Lindsay William-Ross, Vancouver is Awesome

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