‘Skillfully layered flavours’ at Atlas Café

The Atlas menus have evolved as a result of listening to customers and the clientele changed too

THE FRIENDLY FACE that Atlas patrons rarely see belongs to chef Jon Frazier.

THE FRIENDLY FACE that Atlas patrons rarely see belongs to chef Jon Frazier.

Some people are carnivores. Others are vegetarians.

Count Atlas Café co-owner Sandra Viney as a selectetarian.

“When you have that plethora of beautiful halibut, tuna … how can you not sample?” rhetorically asks the former strict vegetarian as I and my lunch guest eagerly awaited our food on a recent sunny afternoon.

An excellent question, to which Scott and I had no answer at our table.

Viney and Trent McIntyre have operated the Atlas in downtown Courtenay since 1995.

“I saw there was a need,” Viney says in her inimitable Aussie accent. “There wasn’t such a plethora of wonderful coffee shops and cafés as we do have now.”

The Atlas carved out such a niche in the local restaurant scene that they bought out a next-door neighbour in 2000 and expanded their square footage, adding a liquor licence and bar at the same time. They’ve also added a patio in the rear that is a pleasant escape on a warm day.

“The landlord loved it because it cleaned up his backyard,” Viney laughs.

The Atlas menus have evolved as a result of listening to customers, says Viney, adding that the clientele changed, too.

More than a decade ago, women frequented the Atlas but not men — until fresh sheets appeared and so did men dining on lamb, steak and such.

Well, Scott and I were hungry men at the Atlas, so we dived right in.

I opened with a chicken Caesar salad. Well, actually, I opened with a glass of delectable chardonnay, but the salad was right behind, and complemented the wine wonderfully.

Scott began with a spinach salad, which he seemed to enjoy enormously.

At the urging of server Kristen Schultz, I opted for enchiladas as my main course. I don’t eat much beef these days but, after this beef practically melted in my mouth, I’m wondering why I don’t sample it more often.

Chef Jon Frazier is a genius, I was reminded when I decided where I would make my opening foray into a mouth-watering presentation of enchiladas, Atlas style.

The different colours made it look like a piece of art and I hesitated because it looked so perfect. Hesitated for a long second or two, at most.

Although I was sorely tempted by the enticing red sauce, I began with a taste of the cream sauce oozing from under the nearest enchilada.

It was as creamy as I expected, but then a second — more pungent — wave of flavour reached my tongue, and then another.

Frazier had layered the flavours so skillfully that the smoky chipotle never overwhelmed an otherwise delicate cream sauce, but complemented it. Even the chardonnay held up.

I don’t remember much else, aside from Schultz’s friendly and helpful yet not too-attentive service, and the sensation of a totally satisfying meal.

Scott also appreciated his main course — sundried tomato-breaded true cod, tzatziki sauce, basmati rice, spinach greens and pesto dressing.

No doubt we shall return, and should really check out the Atlas sister establishment, the Avenue in Comox.

In case you’re wondering, Viney says the name of the Atlas derives from the international flair of the dishes, to which Viney says the cafe adds a “spin” to traditional presentation.

The Atlas Café, recently named by BC Living magazine readers as the best café on Vancouver Island, is open Mondays to Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. They’re closed on most public holidays.You can phone the café, located at 250 Sixth St. in downtown Courtenay, at 250-338-9838. Visit the website at atlascafe.ca.

They take reservations for parties of six or more.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One of the rescues at CATS - Cat Advocates Teaching & Saving Society’s new location on Knight Road in Comox. Photo by Erin Halushak
Feline rescue organization growing into new space

Cat Advocates Teaching & Saving Society opens new facility on Knight Road

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Neighbours have reached out to media on several occasions with complaints about the property

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Tentative COVID-19 vaccine site chosen in the Comox Valley

B.C. is moving into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 mass immunization plan

Cumberland is considering downtown densification proposals, and with that comes questions around parking, among other things. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Water bottling ban, parking key changes for Cumberland zoning

Bylaw on amendments still need adoption following March 2 hearing

Arzeena Hamir, working her booth at the Comox Valley Farmers Market. LUSH Valley was recognized last month as a partner of the year by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets. Photo by Bill Jorgensen
LUSH Valley recognized for collaboration with Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

They won Partner of the Year award by the BC Association of Farmers’ Markets

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

The Courtenay Fire Department hopes to start a new recruit training program in mid-2021, pending Provincial Health Orders. Scott Stanfield photo
Courtenay Fire Department gets creative

Due to public health orders resulting from COVID, the Courtenay Fire Department… Continue reading

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read