Are you tired of regular chain cafés with the same coffee, same cups, and same service—with no moments of surprise? If you are the type of person who enjoys exploring and getting out of his or her coffee comfort zone, check out these three hidden Vancouver cafés. They’re all on Melville Street, between Bute and Thurlow Streets: Time Out Café, Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé and Mangez Mangez Restaurant Café.
Before we actually go visit these three cafés, let’s summarize what we know about coffee culture in Vancouver. We know that Vancouverites, and Canadians in general, like their coffee on the go. There is never enough time to sit and sip this hot energy booster in a quiet setting, especially during business hours. Coffee shops have accepted this reality and follow the “on the go” philosophy by adjusting their premises to suit the “buy and go” business model: the shops are designed “open concept” style, with enough open space to ensure that customers can navigate their way out as quickly and smoothly as possible. Because their bosses might call at any time, the route to the exit must be free of obstacles—sort of a “workquake preparedness” scenario. These exit corridors are like fire lanes—‘no parking’ routes where you cannot stop for even a second, as somebody behind you might be late for a meeting or miss the latest stock market update, with devastating consequences.
Coffee shops – little gas stations
Almost every office building in downtown Vancouver has its coffee shop, usually located at street level. They are like little gas stations. People come, fill up their tanks and leave sipping their coffee, thereby feeding their engines with the brain-cell lubricating liquid. They usually just pay and go; important work in the office needs to be done. Many inventions have probably come to light thank to this coffee–on-the-go work ethic. Corel, the BlackBerry and Imax are not enough—the globe is expecting more hi-tech made in Canada.
Now that we are well-informed about the main facts of Vancouver’s coffee drinking scene, let’s follow the smell of freshly brewed coffee and disappear inside the most hidden cafés in Vancouver. Please see the map above, so you don’t get lost.
Time Out Café
First, hide in Time Out Café at 1150 Melville Street. It is a very cozy ‘on-the-go’ style coffee shop, with the option to spend more time there if you wish. And maybe you should, to honour all the victims of the “coffee on the go” addiction who have to keep moving. Make a statement by dropping into a comfortable sofa or chair and drinking your coffee while you observe others rushing back to work. You can also sit outside, or even better, hide at one of the window seats and monitor life on the other side of the glass.
That brings up another function of coffee shops—watching without being watched. Simply practice your surveillance tactics, or go back in time to your early childhood years, when you enjoyed playing hide and seek. The difference is that now, as an adult, you are allowed to drink coffee. You can observe all these coffee-abstainers outside who clearly lack the juice to reinvent the wheel. By the way, did you know that these people move and think at a much slower pace? Yes, that is how you recognize a coffee-abstainer.
By the way, you can also buy something to eat in Time Out Café, in case you become suddenly hungry during your spiritual moments.
Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé
Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé is hidden near Time Out Café, across the street at 1115 Melville. A sign on the side window says, “The warmth of ROME any time of the day.”
It’s a comfortable Italian- style café with orange chairs inside and outside—the design goes a few extra miles, compared with the chain coffee shops. There you can buy not only your Americano, espresso, cappuccino or latté, but also tasty pastries, sandwiches and alcoholic beverages. You might be tempted to stay longer, rather than just coming and going. Sciué is a compromise between an “on the go” North American coffee shop and a traditional European café.
Mangez Mangez Restaurant Café
This café is hidden at 1100 Melville Street. Some people might not know that Mangez Mangez means Eat Eat in French. This name hints at what you can do here, aside from having your preferred cup of coffee. You can sit in a booth or at bar-height tables, and in the warm summer months you can also sit outside. In front of Mangez Mangez is a nice little park with a “pocket version” of a waterfall—on a hot day, you might feel like you’re in a mini-jungle!
Try sitting in one of these hidden coffee shops—read a book, chat with people, or just observe your surroundings. The spirit of these hidden, unique cafés will help you sort through your thoughts and memories and put them in the right drawers in your head. In that way, these little spots are a sort of memory laundry.
So go and hide yourself. Most probably, nobody will look for you there, as so few know they exist. That’s the beauty of Vancouver’s hidden cafés: they live their lives incognito.