Spoons Diner: an ‘Off the Wall’ brunch experience

Spoons Diner: an ‘Off the Wall’ brunch experience

You might know Spoons for their generous portions, “The Prusa”, or the frequently changing funky features. When you first walk into Spoons Diner, you’ll see vibrant, loud oranges and greens, friendly staff, and the old-school furniture seating a full house of customers. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of their piled-up portions online or read about the 4.5-star reviews, either way, it’s one of the most popular Brunch places in Victoria. 

The ‘savoury vegetarian’ Prusa

The story

In 2008, Dani was prepared to manage Floyd’s second location on Douglas Street. When Petr Prusa, Floyd’s Diner owner, gave Dani the opportunity to start her own business, she was ready to introduce something unique to Victoria that allowed her to represent what she’s learned working in the food industry.  “Petr knows he’s one of my favourite people in life because without him I wouldn’t be where I am now.” Dani expresses and shares how Spoons initiated, gave people jobs they enjoy, and installed in Dani a purpose to create a unique, comfortable, and welcoming eating experience in Victoria.  

The identity

When it was time to create a new restaurant identity, Dani had to adapt to what she was given. “The upholstery was avocado green and orange so I took a deep breath and decided those would be my branded colours.” Dani decided to create the identity and went with the “superhero elements” which included “bright, graphic colours” and the “nostalgic childhood feel. Both, psychologically, make people feel happy”. Growing on its self-made, animated, child-like identity, Dani decided to paint the walls an intense orange and green colour to continue her restaurant’s lively, energetic atmosphere. 

The name ‘Spoons’ came from Dani’s desire to emulate a “greasy spoon” restaurant. She decided to serve basic, classic brunch foods that avoided the fancy, uptight, organic trends. “A lot of restaurants, in my opinion, feel cold and somewhat elitist” Dani states, as she explains her desire to have the restaurant feel casual, relaxed, and comfortable. 

Spoons Diner serves brunch comfort foods, and a lot of it. “More is more” was Dani’s motto when she created the menu. While Dani acknowledges that a large menu may lead to expensive spending or unnecessary complications for the chefs, she reveals, “The key is to keep the number of ingredients on a menu down and simply use them in different ways.” This idea is presented by the repeated specific ingredients made into various menu items, for example, bell peppers are used in each hash, eggs are in a majority of the meals, and the “breakfast potatoes” and fries are served with almost every main. Dani writes, “Every ingredient brought in must be used in at least 2-3 dishes (if not more).” 

The Jam Session Hash $18.50

Dedicated to ‘the regulars

Dani encourages customers to become regulars by serving temporary specials, both weekly and monthly. The weekly specials are made based on what the chef decides to make with the ingredients that go on special from the suppliers. The monthly specials are what Dani named the “Community Support Feature” in 2021, where 100% of the profits are donated to a local organization. “These features are always something sweet. Because profit margins on sweet dishes is larger, it ensures we’re able to donate more to these organizations than if we offered a savory dish.” Dani reveals. 

The monthly “Community Feature”: Chocolate brownie French toast

An unusual dish you might bump into on the menu is called The Prusa, a dish named after Petr Prusa. This dish was adapted from “The Mahoney” from the Floyds Diner menu, which follows the same description: “whatever the kitchen feels like making for you… never something from the menu.” This menu item is for the regulars to experience a new, unique, and exciting meal every time! In fact, if you ask the server what’s inside, they won’t even know. 

“It’s a fun, creative dish that requires imagination, understanding of food flavours (knowing what tastes good together)” Dani explains. When hiring a Spoons Diner cook who will be expected to create Prusa’s, Dani makes sure that the cooks have had prior cooking experience, know safe food practices, and understand food costing. “Making something amazing at a specific cost is what separates the great cooks from the rest.” Dani reveals. 

London Fog Pancakes (Sweet Prusa) $18

Dani invites everyone and anyone to eat at Spoons, and acknowledges the different types of customers; from ‘picky’ or ‘normal’ eaters to someone who wants something creative, inventive, and exciting. She wants Spoons Diner to facilitate exciting, unique food experiences. “If you only offer interesting, out-of-the-box dishes, you’ll alienate those with more conservative menu preferences. If you only offer boring items you can find in every other breakfast joint, you’ll bore the hell out of people” Dani states. When Dani created the core menu, she made sure to include brunch basics, like “The Greasy Spoon (eggs, bacon, toast)”, while other menu items “are kind of wacky.”, putting an innovative twist on basics is how Spoons calls for customer’s attention. Some examples are the most popular dishes, which are any of the nine egg benedict variations and their famous ginormous “hangover cure” hashes. “You may or may not like what Spoons is, but you’ll never say we’re boring. I think this risk has paid off. People like this loud, in-your-face brand.”

Buffalo Bill (weekly special) $19

Staff is what keeps the customers coming back

“Hiring the right people is essential, ” Dani states as she reveals why her diner became so popular. When opening, she knew she wanted her staff to be comfortable and know they enjoy their job at Spoons Diner. “Often guests come and tell me how much they love eating at Spoons because the staff obviously like their jobs,” Dani reveals. Dani acknowledges that the fast-paced and high-stress restaurant environment can easily lead to burnout. On top of that, dealing with the unavoidable lines of “hangry, un-caffeinated people” have created negative associations with working with the public in the food industry. Dani decided “the toxic workplace” that had followed the norm 14 years ago was the opposite of what she wanted her restaurant to model. “Simply introducing the concepts of ‘respectful communication’ and power dynamics with new staff during their orientation was considered radically modern and refreshing.” Dani writes. 

Dani wants her staff to feel comfortable and purposeful without filtering out their individuality. When Dani hires workers, she focuses on people who have the “right personality”, allowing them to express themselves without the restaurant’s identity overpowering their uniqueness/individuality. This moral is represented when Dani decided she didn’t want her staff wearing uniforms. “I decided that staff’s comfort and the non-corporate look was more in line with Spoons values.” Dani doesn’t limit her staff to looking a certain way. She states, “everyone and their hamster has tattoos and piercings now”, sharing how she wants her staff to relate to and represent her customers, therefore wouldn’t turn down any unique, expressive appearance. “After all, staff are what’s representing a business and no business wants to risk alienating guests.” When the staff expresses their comfort, this expands to the customer’s comfort. “People are people all with their own quirks, histories of trauma, timetables, preferences, etc.” Dani acknowledges, as her values are to be as wholesome, accepting, inviting, and comforting when working with and inviting diversified people. 

“It’s about exuding an energy that makes people feel welcome, makes people feel like they’re part of something.” Dani reminds me as she explains how the comfort of Spoons Diner is created by encouraging people to be themselves, without conformities to try to fit into. Spoons Diner wants unique people to experience unique food served by unique staff. By valuing staff for their individuality and interior, Dani has created the interior of Spoons to be full of genuinely happy people. It’s obvious that through the menu, staff, and interior design, Spoons Diner invites people to be eccentric, loud, expressive, and on top of everything; themselves. A sense of comfort is the feeling that gives the restaurant its identity. Dani emphasizes, “How a place makes you feel is what makes it stand out.”

Spoons Diner

2915 Douglas St.

Written by

Annika Olson

Intern at Tasting Victoria