By Kristi Alexandra
If there’s one thing to be known about Burnaby’s Mountain Heights area, it’s that the local eateries are deeply tied to a sense of community. Chez Meme, a resident favourite breakfast and lunch haunt, is no exception.
Isabelle and Ross Spence moved into the neighbourhood eight years ago, opening up the intimate seven-table bistro. The couple hoped to serve up comforting breakfasts and fresh lunches while still maintaining some leisure time in their lives.
Enter Chez Meme, the baguette bistro serving up breakfast, lunch, and a full wine menu from 8 am to 3 pm, Monday to Friday.
“We used to own a creperie in downtown Vancouver, and we were open every day, so we had no life,” Isabelle tells WestCoastFood. “We just had two children, so we decided to sell [the creperie] and try to have a nice lifestyle. We wanted to still have a restaurant but to just do breakfast and lunch.”
The timing was just right, and the response from the neighbourhood has kept them busy ever since. But why breakfast and baguettes?
“We know how much people on the west coast love breakfast,” she says emphatically, “all day long.”
As a born-and-raised West Coaster, I know she’s not wrong.
Isabelle serves and chats with all of the bistro’s customers, staying true the the haunt’s French roots by peppering her conversations with ouis, d’accords, and bon appetits.
The residents seem to love being regulars here, and Isabelle assures me that the feeling is mutual.
“Here, it’s laid back and has a community feeling. We have people who come back just to say hi because they live in the neighbourhood,” she says. “I’m from a small city in France, so for me, it was really nice to find that here.”
But it’s not just the comforting, European hospitality that keeps diners coming back. It is, without a doubt, the perfectly crusty but perfectly soft baguettes, handmade sides, and homey atmosphere that has Chez Meme always buzzing with patrons.
Kick off your breakfast with a Baguette Willy (an open baguette with scrambled eggs, black forest ham, and a bechamel cheese sauce) with homemade smashed potatoes, or a Pain Au Chocolat. Lunch timers can sit down with a classic cordon bleu or From’ton baguette, and a French onion or soupe du Jour to dip. The simple French fare and family-style service will make you feel like you’ve been whisked off to the simple life in the French countryside.
And it’s a feeling perfectly captured by Isabelle’s own childhood.
“My grandparents had a farm, and I named the restaurant after that: Chez Meme. ‘Meme’ is my grandma, and the idea was that every time my parents were like, ‘Let’s go Chez Meme,’ we knew we were going to have so much good food on the table. My grandma always cooked, and she’d make the chickens she had, and cook with vegetables from her own garden.”
It’s easy to understand why, when you walk into Chez Meme, you feel like you’re having lunch with family. With just a few tables and some spots lined up along the window, the little baguette bistro is not a place to be shy about grabbing a latte and a baguette by oneself – especially when the taste is so transcendent. The shop takes only one reservation every 45 minutes to an hour, so the tables are saved mostly for walk-ins.
“Because we make the baguette all day long, it’s always fresh,” Isabelle says, proudly. And there’s no reason not to take your lunch with libations.
“People come and when they do the brunch, they can come and have a mimosa or a wine with lunch. I mean, come on, we’re French!” she says with a laugh. “A little rose with your lunch is great. It makes you go home happy.”
And “happy” is absolutely the feeling you’ll have upon leaving this Mountain Heights cafe, with a belly full of baguette (and some wine, too).
Chez Meme Baguette Bistro
4016 Hastings Street