If you think North Vancouver’s Douce Diner is just the cutest little breakfast and lunch spot out there – and there are many who do, judging by the number of times it has been featured in films and commercials – then you may want to check out how it looks in the moonlight.
That’s the new plan in place from owner and chef Dawn Doucette, who is opening up her postcard-perfect Pemberton Avenue diner for nighttime parties, a campaign she is calling Douce After Dark.
The diner, which currently closes at 3 p.m. every day, is now available to be booked every evening for private parties, cooking classes, fancy soirees or family meals – whatever guests are looking for. And Doucette, the bubbly owner and chef who can be found carousing with guests as often as she is found cooking up meals, is definitely a major part of the Douce After Dark package.
“I do love to talk to guests,” she said with a laugh as we chatted at the diner while a nearby toddler made funny faces in our general direction. “I get in trouble sometimes when I’m trying to be helpful to the staff – I’ll sit with the guests and talk to them, but we’ve got a lineup at the door!”
Doucette radiates genuine charm, and her passion for hosting is no surprise given her familial background. She’s the granddaughter of Leroy Earl “Bus” Fuller, the legendary North Shore restaurateur who founded the Earls and Joey chains.
Fuller, who died in 2019, was always ready to offer advice as Doucette was setting up Douce Diner, and after it opened he was often found sitting at the counter, enjoying a slice of toast and a vanilla milkshake.
“There he is,” she said with a laugh as my eyes drifted to a Bus Fuller bobblehead doll – complete with Superman tights and the Earls logo emblazoned on his chest – sitting on a top shelf full of kooky knickknacks.
“He was quite the visionary,” said Doucette. “He always had advice.… He always saw things that perhaps I’d overlooked.”
Restaurant success, however, was not gifted to Doucette. She’s been honing her hostess game since she was a child on the Prairies, and has toiled in the food business for close to 30 years.
“I grew up with a French Canadian household in rural Saskatchewan,” she said. “It was always Sunday night suppers at my grandparents’ house. All the veggies came from the garden, my grandmother baked.”
She watched, and learned.
“In my late teens I liked hosting parties,” she said.
Doucette moved back to B.C. when she was in her late teens, then came culinary arts studies in California and a move to Ontario to open up her own restaurant. She eventually settled back in B.C., and over the past several years has poured her heart and soul into Douce.
The diner has garnered acclaim for its well-executed comfort food. I had a sloppy, spicy, deeply satisfying Panko Crust Chicken Sammy on my recent visit, and finished it off with one of those famed milkshakes, made with real malt and served in a chilled parfait glass.
The Douce After Dark menus can be customized, with savoury options ranging from Spicy Ahi Tuna Tostada, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, and Fried Chicken Biscuits. Sweet treats like lemon meringue tarts or mini oreo cookie sandwiches are available for dessert, while bar service can be tailored to accommodate all tastes.
While the food at Douce is lauded, the service has garnered just as much praise, if not more. Doucette’s charm is seemingly shared by all the staff. On my recent visited I casually remarked to a busy but cheerful server that Doucette seemed like a cool person to work for, and she nearly teared up as she described what a difference Doucette had made in her life.
I don’t want this to sound too hokey – this isn’t Disneyland we’re talking about here – but the whole diner, from the staff to the décor to the ingredients in the food, gives off an unmistakable vibe that is sincere, genuine, and fun. In short, Douce seems like a pretty sweet place to hold a party, and Doucette a fun person to party with.
“We bring a little personality,” Doucette said with a smile. “We do have a lot of passion, and I just want people to be welcomed.”
For more information about Douce After Dark, contact Dawn Doucette by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 778-998-0726.