As a coffee lover I’ve always believed that coffee should be the primary focus of a café. If the coffee is good, I can forgive pretty much anything. That said, the places that I most frequent are those that have went the extra mile to make not only a superior product but also a great atmosphere.
At times I often relate to George Costanza when he said, “If it were socially acceptable I would drape myself in velvet!” There is a certain charm to dirty, unpretentious, hole-in-the-wall cafes that I find quite appealing, but I can understand why those with an appreciation for interior design and branding do not.
I recently read an article that featured 20 of the most beautiful cafes in the world (see here). The list of 20 does not include any cafes from Vancouver, which makes me wonder if our microcosm of delicious coffee joints has been overlooked or if we just don’t make the cut.
Here is a list of some of what I think are the most beautiful and stylish cafes in Vancouver (In no particular order):
Thomas Haas- there are few Vancouverites who are unfamiliar with the Thomas Haas brand because of how polished and well executed his chocolates are. The same can be said for both his cafes. Limited seating keeps both cafes quite open to allow the lineup of customers to peruse the glass case full of pastry, and wander the store to pick up any gift items from the shelves. A candy wall allows children to expose tasty treats that have been secretly left for them to discover.
Revolver - Where to start? First take a beautiful Gastown brick building, then add some design by Craig Stangetta, and some of the best coffee in town. Revolver has the same minimalist old world appeal that many of Stangetta’s designs subscribe to. Wood, Metal, and lack of clutter make this a very nice place to be. The map of the world done completely in nails is particularly cool.
Photo Credit: Mie Hansen
MatchStick- Minimalist and open, Matchstick uses its space to make customers feel at home. The primary seating is a large communal table surrounded by cute forest- green chairs that match the espresso machine. Customers can walk to the back of the store where coffee is being roasted, or watch the baristas from a standing bar located right across from the counter. The cool factor increases with the large bank vault door that had been left behind from previous tenants (BMO?).
49thParallel/ Lucky’s Doughnuts – Forgive my bias when it comes to this café because I work there everyday. The store front and large parts of the café have been done in reclaimed brick from the Woodward’s building and reclaimed wood has a strong presence throughout. Custom-built communal tables, a fireplace, and a wide selection of seating give Lucky’s a little something for everyone.
JJ Bean Alberni- The posh interior of the JJ café on Alberni Street is a radical departure from the typical laid back, warm cafes that JJ Bean is known for. At times the modern styling, light-coloured wood and highly stylized white chairs make you feel like you’re in a showroom and not a café. A departure from JJ’s typical style, but in my opinion their most successful.
Caffe Artigiano Hastings- High Ceilings, brick walls make this breakfast joint one of Artigianos best. There is little departure from the typical rustic Italian feel of the other cafes, but the beautiful space and Vespa scooter centerpiece that matches the espresso machine in colour make this location particularly successful.
Caffe Citadella- An old character home located at 7th and Ash that has been converted into a café. Credit Dejan Bozic, part owner and former designer, with the attention to detail throughout the café. Multiple patios and beautiful landscaping make this the perfect summer spot. There are two levels of seating and even a patio for two on the second level overlooking the garden. Perfect spot for a coffee date. Photo Credit: Raul Pacheco-Vega