It’s hard not to notice Dilly Dally Eats café—whether on foot or driving through the ever-lively intersection of Quinpool Road and Vernon Street in Central Halifax. The brilliant teal paint job and steady stream of customers lined up at the takeout window grab most people’s attention. The Quinpool Road area has a strong neighbourhood vibe, and over the last five years, Dilly Dally has captured the loyalty of those who live and work nearby. And not just because of the potent Java Blend coffee—their tasty food menu has evolved to match expectations of customers who return day after day.

“What we give people here is a wow factor experience,” says co-owner and chef-by-trade Ray Henry. He and his partner Laura Draeger modelled the café after a low-key mom-and-pop operation they visited in Barcelona, Spain. “You’re expecting to go to this little café on the corner to get some kind of regular café food.” Says Henry. But at Dilly Dally, you get a lot more. When I stop by to chat with Henry, I grab a seat near the takeout window. The eclectic interior offers lots to see. The bric-a-brac makes a statement that says this is a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s easy to relax, settle in, and feel comforted as others come and go.

A seasonal “tiny kitchen” menu of hot or prepared food is offered every day from when they open (7 a.m.) to 2:30 p.m. and the café closes for the day at 5 p.m. The menu typically has about seven items, plus daily soups and sandwiches. Each day a variety of freshly baked goods is offered. The breakfast selection succinctly covers the essentials: a breakfast sandwich, basic eggs and toast, something with fruit, a couple of healthy options—but executed unexpectedly. From-scratch accoutrements like house-made herb mayo or honey-braised apricot on the steel-cut oats signal a more sophisticated approach to food than a typical corner coffee shop.

Avocado Toast on Sourdough Bread – $9

“The dish that epitomizes what we do here would have to be our avocado toast,” says Henry. It’s been in the mix for about five years with little change, due to customer demand. And so that’s what Henry orders for me to try. When it arrives, I’m surprised by how aesthetically pleasing the dish is—this is the wow factor Henry described. So pretty, so colourful—it’s a treat for the eyes. Plated on a vintage flower-print dish, a hefty piece of toasted sourdough carries sliced, fanned out avocado, and a sunny-side-up fried egg, generously seasoned with salt and pepper. When I start to poke around with my fork, I see tomato jam underneath, which is beautiful and not too sweet. Pickled zucchini and red onion balance the richness of the avocado and egg yolk nicely. And there are tasty local greens and crunchy razor-thin slices of radish, and a garnish of bright nasturtium flowers. It’s a light-yet-filling brunch dish, and much like the café itself, bright and fun.

6100 Quinpool Road, Halifax