Like going to the dentist, taking your car in for service may not be the most pleasant of experiences. You recognize that it’s in your own best interest and the staff can be perfectly friendly, but you know that it’s going to take some time out of your busy day and you’re going to be hit with a bill at the end of it. Maybe some bacon or sausage or a runny egg can make things feel a little better.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

A gem of an institution that’s been hiding in plain sight for as long as I can remember, Fender’s Restaurant (100-13340 Smallwood Place) is located right inside the Richmond Auto Mall, across the way from OpenRoad Toyota, right after Applewood Nissan. If you know that your car is probably going to take a couple of hours and you don’t want to bother with the complimentary shuttle to leave the complex, Fender’s is pretty much the only spot within walking distance where you can grab a bite to eat.

It’s perhaps not all that surprising that most of the customers you’ll encounter at Fender’s fall under a couple of main categories. They could be customers of the car dealers, either leaving their vehicle for service or interested in purchasing a new vehicle; or they could be people who work at these dealerships. That’s about it. Well, you might get a few locals too.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Open seven days a week, Fender’s Restaurant is your typical greasy spoon and it hasn’t changed very much over the years. There’s a newer flat screen TV up on the ledge and that’s about it. Like Happy Date Bakery and Restaurant, Fender’s isn’t trying to impress you with anything. It is what it is and it’s comfortable in its own dated, yet inviting skin.

If you’re there for lunch, you can choose between standard diner classics like burgers and roast turkey dinner, as well as some Chinese food, like fried rice and chow mein. If you’ve been to any Chinese-owned or Chinese-run “western” diner in the last 30 years, you’ll know what to expect here.

We made our way to Fender’s one sunny Saturday morning for breakfast and it was like taking a step into the nostalgic past.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

The French toast special ($8.95) consists of three slices of extra thick toast, plus your choice of coffee or tea. It was served with some powdered sugar on top with one slice each of apple and watermelon on the side, along with a small ramekin of table syrup.

I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the grilled banana as depicted in the picture on the menu, but I suppose it’s also my fault for not pointing this out to our very friendly and accommodating server. Otherwise, the French toast was simple and satisfying, just as I would have had it in my childhood.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

For me, breakfast can feel a little incomplete without some sort of pork product. That’s why I also ordered a side of sausage ($4.25 for three links), which is the same price as a side of bacon or ham.

The standard breakfast sausages were grilled perfectly with just enough of a char on the outside. The meat inside was nice and juicy, though the skin was understandably quite greasy. This is certainly not the breakfast food for someone on a diet.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

One area on the breakfast menu where Fender’s exercises a little more contemporary creativity is with its Benedicts. You can still get the standard Eggs Benedict with ham and two poached eggs atop an English muffin with Hollandaise sauce and a side of pan-fried potatoes, but there are some other, more interesting options too.

The Lox Benedict ($13.50) with smoked salmon tosses in a dash of west coast flair to this humble diner classic. Other Benedicts include smoked meat, roast turkey, roast beef or even grilled chicken, if you’re looking for something more substantial and hearty.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

We had asked for the eggs to be poached medium, but as you can see in the photo above, they were probably closer to being poached soft. This is hardly a deal breaker, as I much prefer they err on the side of being poached too soft than being poached too hard.

I liked that the yolks were a beautifully vibrant orange and the hash browns were real chunks of pan-fried potato, not just frozen tater tots or lazy smashed potatoes. The smoked salmon (lox) may be of the frozen variety, though, as the “fishy” flavour was particularly pronounced.

Fender's Restaurant

Photo credit: Michael Kwan

Fender’s may not be reinventing the wheel — terrible car-related pun completely intended — but it does deliver the classic dishes you want reliably and quickly, if not necessarily all that cheaply. The prices are a little higher than I’ve come to expect from a run of the mill greasy spoon diner, and I suspect this has to do with the captive audience, so to speak, of its auto mall clientele. Its location is its greatest asset.

While we were there, I overheard a conversation between the waitress and one of her regulars. She asked him if he needed to see the menu. He said, “No, not unless there’s something new.”

Her reply?

“Oh no, of course not. Nothing’s new here.”

And that’s exactly how customers want it and that’s exactly why they keep coming back. Fender’s represents a simpler time with simpler joys, like a hot cup of coffee and a couple of runny egg yolks. The total bill — including coffee and tea (not pictured), tax and gratuity — came to just over $36.