John’s Family Diner
Address: 1365 Wellington St. W, Ottawa
Hours: 6am – 2pm (M – F); closed Sat & Sun
Maybe you’ve never been to John’s Family Diner, but if you’ve ever been through Wellington Village, you’ve seen the mural of the founder and namesake of this old school diner that’s been in the neighbourhood for nearly 50 years.
On my first time there, my wife and I stopped in for lunch while running some errands in the trifecta of hip neighbourhoods along Richmond/Wellington West. The diner was half full of mostly regulars as they chatted amongst themselves and with co-owner/son of John, Tony.
I was feeling like hearty breakfast food and was intrigued by the sausage eggs Benedict, especially as their sausage is made in-house – a rarity for diners these days.
My wife was feeling more standard lunch fare and went with the large Greek salad, with added chicken. It wasn’t all healthy eatin’ though, as she tacked on an order of fries to liven up the meal a bit.
Having come at the back end of lunch, everyone else in the restaurant was already eating, and our food came out in the blink of an eye.
The broad sausage patty in my egg’s Benny was spread over the two halves of an English muffin that was so airy, it looked like a crumpet! More pockets for hollandaise retention = a good thing.
As for what the meat was like, it had more of an Italian sausage flavour than that of your standard breakfast sausage, with predominant notes of fennel. It had a pleasant texture too, not like the dense pucks that come out of freezer boxes.
The poached eggs were cooked medium. I wasn’t given an option, but if you’re particular about your eggs or looking for that perfect runny yolk pic, you’re gonna want to speak up.
I’d give a passing grade to the hollandaise, which while rich and creamy, it didn’t have the levels of butteriness balanced out by lemony acidity that makes a truly great hollandaise.
The home fries were house-made, with a nice mix of crunchy bits and tender chunks of potato.
I appreciated the default side of beans for their old school factor, even if they were likely just out of an ungodly large food service can.
My wife’s salad may not win any awards for originality, but it was hefty and well executed. The grilled chicken breast had some nice colour from the flat top and didn’t have a hint of dryness.
Her fries were long and hand-cut, with a generous portion for a side order. Golden brown and crisp, there was more effort put into these than at most of John’s competitors.
My second time at John’s Family Diner saw me there solo for lunch.
It seemed fitting that I try a diner classic and a sandwich that John’s has a whole section of their menu dedicated to – the club sandwich. Several different iterations have a variety of proteins swapped in for the default turkey, including roast beef, smoked meat, egg salad and even tuna. I wanted to see how they did the original though, and went with the Classic Club, with the fries upgraded to onion rings for a couple dollars more.
All things told, it was a solid club – a good toasting on the bread; crisp, fairly thick bacon; and the turkey wasn’t noticeably the pre-cooked frozen crap, although it still wasn’t a stand-out. It could have used a little more mayo, but it certainly wasn’t dry.
The onion rings were battered, not breaded, and I was not disappointed by the crisp, deep-fried hoops, although they certainly didn’t do my breath any favours.
John’s Family Diner is slinging comfort food classics in an easy-going environment cut from the template for diners of yore. It may not be perfect, but the neighbourhood, and Ottawa itself, is better with them around.