We all have our favourite neighbourhood businesses. There’s the bubble tea shop that you’ll always be faithful to, the tiny cafe that always makes your latte with just the right amount of milk. We fall for some businesses by gradually, by passing by them on the way to work or school, as a force of habit rather than by choice.
But some we love for reasons we know very well; their ambiance, gracious service, appealing prices, overall quality of content, etc. These places stand out because they’re undeniably one-of-a-kind. They’re valuable not because of awards or their size, but simply because nothing else exists quite like them. The Cambie Village is an occasionally eclectic community that proudly houses some of the finest of these businesses, challenging the predictable and drawing together citizens looking for a bite and some inspiration. Here lies some unparalleled local businesses that deserve a stop or two when you’re in the area.
Dutch Wooden Shoe Café
Armed with a delectable all-day breakfast menu, culturally distinctive ornamentation, and some killer hollandaise sauce, this centre of Netherlandian cuisine is more than just another pancake house. When you first enter, the scent swings between homely and buttery. On the inside of the door lies a narrow hallway, bordered by walls bestrewed with dusty photographs and conspicuous Dutch decor ranging from posters to wooden shoes themselves. For a moment or two, the place may seem fairly musty and cluttered.. It is hard, however, to continue on for very long without finding oneself impressed, or at least captivated. The restaurant is a pinwheel of colour, taking those it serves on a trip halfway around the world with every traditional side-dish and classic cross-hatched sector of wall that helps establish its character.
The ethnic vibrance isn’t overwhelming, though- the energy is downright casual. This can occasionally result in some lackadaisical service, but the food is well-worth it, and seldom unsatisfactory, not to mention the notable portions. Offering dishes sweet, savoury, and everything in between, and often for less than ten dollars apiece, the Dutch Wooden Cafe is not your average brunch destination. The plates prepared with fine imported cheeses and meats balance out the nutella-crepe archetypes that the menu catalogues. Subtly adorned on the outside, this small gem is easy enough to pass. But once you’re in, it’s exceptionally difficult not to enjoy.
The Mighty Oak
We all need groceries, and though to a lesser extent, we also require caffeine boosts and the occasional sweet treat. Outside of large-scale chains, however, it’s less than expected to find these things confined so harmoniously to the same space. One can’t help but know that they’ve struck a goldmine when they stride through the doors of the small crossbreed of services that is the Mighty Oak Cafe. The cafe/grocer stands in subtlety on a corner, one block east of Cambie and surrounded by residential blocks. Amidst the trees and quiet yards of the neighbourhood, it attracts locals simply by being something different–and makes them stay with quality of products and independence of spirit.
Supplying the types of edible necessities that one would only really expect at a grocery store, and completely prioritizing sustainable brands while doing so, the Mighty Oak is a lot more than a coffee shop. Pies, ice cream, organic chips, popsicles, and condiments galore greet unsuspecting individuals who only came in for a latte. The baked goods are crafted with intricacy, the beverages with skill that leaves little room for disappointment, and the room itself with an attention to ambiance and tidy, simplistic allure that allows the muddle of edibles to come across as a well-constructed medley of tastes.
Attention to sustainability can be added to the list of what makes this residential stop a fem, as Vancouver’s “City Beet Farm” grows produce just down the block, only to sell their organic fruits and vegetables weekly via the Mighty Oak Cafe. Come down on Sundays from 11 am to 1 pm to see for yourself- or on any other day that you’re in need of some espresso and an atmosphere as tranquil as it is truly authentic.
The Kino Café
There may be different breeds of pubs, and generally, different areas and communities spawn different varieties. Live entertainment can be found in the blink of an eye with the help of a GPS, and it is less than rare for businesses of the restaurant/bar variety to support multiple acts on a regular basis. Though the Kino Cafe has made a sort of name for itself in its community partially due to the thunderous sounds that spill through its windowless gaps in the summer months, it can certainly seem at first like “just another bar.” It is necessary to remember what it is best known for, and for good reason: flamenco.
Flavoured not only by bits and pieces of Mexican cuisine, but by Mexican entertainment and traditional dancing, the Kino unites snackers, partiers, and audiences through the individuality of its entertainment. Sure, they have as much to offer quantity-wise in the food and drink department, and their nacho platters are particularly massive, fresh, and impressive even for the eleven dollars they cost, but when it comes to the quality of what they serve, bar food is bar food, and it’s neither legendary nor disappointing. Their stand-up comedy shows and nights of jazz are lively enough, and weekly presentations of Peruvian music and “Monday: World Music Day” are sufficient evidence of their originality as a site of art and leisure. However, the Flamenco, as performed several times of week by professionals that have come to be favourites in the hearts of regulars, brings everyone together for something relatively off-the-beaten-path- at least in the world of club culture. By day the Kino is family-friendly, and by night it caters to a crowd as colourful as the dresses of those they stage. Rarely are venues of free and casual evening amusement so extraordinarily cultural.
And if for no other reason, check out this hub of activity and appetizers to see where Juno winning artist Kinnie Starr found some of her first gigs- right here in Vancouver at the Kino Cafe.
Vancouver has everything, and food is sold in all shapes, sizes, and contexts. Despite the cult followings that present themselves in special circumstances, it can generally be said that the more miniscule businesses can tend to get less attention than they are worth. These examples are certainly worth a trip.