The early bird gets the worm? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been much of a morning person. I might choose to crawl out of bed a little earlier to get at a breakfast menu though. And I’m not just talking about a savoury indulgence at the golden arches.

For me, a “Hong Kong style” breakfast at a cha chaan teng is far more desirable. One of the best known Hong Kong style cafes in Richmond is Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant (8531 Park Road), located on Park Road around the corner from the Richmond Centre shopping mall.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

In many ways, Happy Date is everything that Copa Cafe Richmond is not. Happy Date isn’t new and shiny anymore; it has been at this location for well over 20 years. You won’t find any faux leather seats or Mediterranean-inspired artwork here. Instead, what you get is a no nonsense, no frills, unpretentious space with decent food served in a matter of fact kind of way.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Happy Date is the kind of place you could have visited in the 80s or 90s and not much would have changed since then. One modern update, and one that is more than welcome by residents and visitors alike, is the inclusion of free Wi-Fi. It’s also not cash only, as would have been the case for many a Hong Kong style cafe back in the day.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

What is a “Hong Kong style” breakfast anyway?

In effect, like everything else at a cha chaan teng, you get another marriage of east meets west, though the crossover point is much more clearly defined.

On one side of the menu (shown above) is the western breakfast, while the “Asian” breakfast is offered on the other side of the menu. This kind of separation is typical of breakfast at a Hong Kong style cafe, so be sure to look at all the various laminated menus available to you before making a decision on what to eat. Breakfast at Happy Date is served from 6:30 am to 11:30 am daily.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

For our “western” breakfast, we combined the “OG Selection” with a Noodle in Soup for $7.95. I’m not entirely positive if the wording for the “OG Selection” was chosen with tongue planted firmly in a 90s gangsta rap cheek, but it certainly gave me a bit of chuckle when I saw it.

For the OG Selection, we opted for sliced ham with two eggs, served with a a butter bun (pictured above). Other meat options include pork sausage, luncheon meat or crispy bacon. In place of the butter bun, you can opt for toast or hash brown instead, or you can pay extra for one of the other buns from the bakery.

The butter bun arrived soft and plump with a nice, sticky glaze to the top, along with a side of margarine to slather in the middle. Don’t expect a ham steak, as the sliced ham is quite thin and comes as a rather modest portion.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

For the noodle in soup portion of the “western” breakfast, we ordered satay beef with vermicelli. Several meat and noodle combinations are available here too, like shredded ham with macaroni (one of my personal favourites), or minced beef with parsley on rice noodle.

Regardless of which Hong Kong style cafe I visit, I always order the combination with both the meat and eggs, and the bowl of noodles. I find that any one half isn’t quite enough and combining the two is usually only a couple dollars more. The shallow bowl of noodles isn’t substantial and it’s served in a basic stock, but it completes the “western style” Hong Kong breakfast experience.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

From the Asian or Chinese side of the breakfast menu, we ordered the congee set with sliced fish congee. I like my congee a little more on the runny side and the consistency at Happy Date is spot on. You can save a little money by opting for the plain congee instead, but having some fish, beef, chicken or pork in there is worth the extra cost.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

The bowl of congee was accompanied with our choice of side dish. The chives steamed rice roll (total set price of $8.25) is the same kind of rice roll you may find in the refrigerated section of your local “Asian” supermarket. Chives and dried shrimp add both flavor and texture to the rice rolls, which are served with soy, hoisin and peanut sauces. Mix, match and dip to taste.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

A point of confusion among the uninitiated is that a Hong Kong style “pineapple bun” does not actually contain any pineapple at all. The name simply refers to the pattern scored into the top of the bun. Happy Date is much more descriptive, in this sense, since it refers to these as “crispy top buns” instead.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Perhaps one of the most unique menu items that you’ll find at Happy Date is the assortment of Specialty Crispy Top Bun sandwiches. In place of regular bread, a pineapple bun is sliced in half. The B.L.T. Crispy Top Bun ($6.75, pictured above) is one of the simplest of the bunch. For something more substantial, you might choose the pork chop sandwich or the one stuffwith corned beef, egg and cheese.

The crispy top is even more crumbly than I’m used to, making this a little more challenging to eat as a proper sandwich. It’s a unique idea, but I’m not sure it’s something I would order again. For about the same amount of money, I’d rather get the more traditional western breakfast with a noodle in soup.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

The “Western” breakfast set and the crispy top bun sandwich is accompanied by a complimentary beverage, while the “Asian” breakfast does not. Shown here are a hot milk tea and a hot lemon tea.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Happy Date (which is listed as “Happy Day” in some directories and social networks for some reason; the bill also said “Happy Day” on it) isn’t exactly the kind of place you take someone to impress them on a first date. Instead, it’s the kind of place you go for some comforting food at a fantastic price.

Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Service is as fast and friendly. There are no extra bells and whistles here and that’s exactly what I want with this kind of breakfast. It hits the spot in so many ways.

If you’re looking to step into the past for a Hong Kong-style breakfast from the early 90s, but with the modern convenience of Wi-Fi and credit card payment, Happy Date is the reassuring hole-in-the-wall for you. Just stick with Lido for your pineapple buns.