Stepping into O’Neill’s in downtown Abbotsford feels like traveling back in time. The small lunch counter-style restaurant, with its delicious sandwiches and featured hot meal and soup of the day specials, feels like a throwback to the 1950’s, when times were simpler and food was hearty. One thing the 1950’s didn’t have, though, is Verne O’Neill’s patented sweet potato bun.
As I bite into The O’Neill, the restaurant’s flagship sandwich, I am thinking one thing only: “What the hell is this bun made of?” It’s light, flaky, delicious and… orange? Verne O’Neill bakes the buns himself every day using his secret recipe, featuring sweet potatoes in place of flour and using honey as a sweetener. They really are fantastic. So much so that I am devoting this entire paragraph to talking about the bun. It’s just that good. The O’Neill is a breakfast sandwich consisting of a good-sized egg, a slice of cheese, a thick slice of black forest ham and mayo, but it is the bun that sets it apart. Anyone can sell ham and eggs, but apparently no one else can bake this bun, and Verne would be wise to keep the recipe a secret.
The O’Neill can be upgraded by adding beef or chicken in generous portions, turning the $3.99 breakfast sandwich into a $4.99 tower of protein. The beef that is served at O’Neill’s comes from organic free range cattle, and the bun contains no sugar or preservatives.
O’Neill’s also serves a hot meal of the day at a very reasonable $4.99, which can be lasagna, chili, meat pie or jambalaya. The soup of the day comes in an 8oz cup for $1.99 or 16oz bowl for $3.50, and ranges from seafood bisque or corn chowder to the delicious-sounding tomato and roasted red pepper. All soups are served with a thick piece of home-baked bread. The hot meal and soup specials are made daily, so you can only have the item that is available that day, but that is part of the charm of the eatery. You never know what the specials are on any given day unless you call ahead, which adds some excitement to the experience of eating at O’Neill’s.
Students living in residence who crave a delicious home-cooked meal would be well advised to head down to the restaurant, but it also makes an excellent pit-stop for those UFV students traveling from Chilliwack, Mission and beyond. Calling ahead is a good idea for quick pickup of food, as O’Neill’s offers a variety of take-out options. As we all know, options for good food on and near campus are somewhat limited, but this can also be said for Abbotsford in general. In a world of franchises cranking out bland, small portions at ever-increasingly exorbitant prices, it is very rare to find the real deal when it comes to high-quality, affordable food. O’Neill’s is the real deal.