Vancouver can rightly call itself a coffee town. Not thanks to our many chain outlets — Starbucks as well as home-grown mediocrities Waves and Blenz — but to the artesianal coffeehouses of our city that have dedicated themselves to quality. This care often extends to the bricks-and-mortar storefronts, some of which approach design statements. Old or new, there’s always an intriguing café to visit and savour in Vancouver.
I’ll start with a stalwart: Cafe Prado on Commercial Drive. Using local 49th Parallel to avoid the guesswork, Prado’s espresso champions serve top shots in a casual, minimalist interior that begs you to hang out with a paperback. It’s cool without reaching hipster levels of obnoxiousness, neighbourly without being too homey. It’s the perfect third space, provided there aren’t too many Macbooks, which somehow there seldom are.
In addition to the street-facing benches, Prado recently installed a parklet that makes their stellar location even better. You have to put up with the traffic, but the inimitable people-watching makes up for it.
A second location has opened in Gastown, with another expansion in the works at Fraser and 26th. The downtown cafe has adopted a shabby-chic-meets-loft feel to reflect its colder surroundings. I’m curious what variation the Kensington-Cedar Cottage spot will take — perhaps a future feature on the Coffeehouses of Vancouver. Until then, it’s hard to imagine topping the original.