Main Street Gossip


The only consistent thing about Main Street in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver is that it’s always changing. Restaurants come and go, antique shops close down to make way for more modern ware/wear, and heritage buildings get taken over by the more financially viable, if unattractive, “Cash Money”.  Stay tuned for all the details on what’s new in our ever evolving neighbourhood!

The Gossip – Coffee and Baked Goods
Since we moved to Mount Pleasant a year and a half ago, we have seen various establishments go under, or get torn down and redeveloped, usually into more appealing venues. And often, the focus is on coffee and baked goods. And with the success of so many of these places so close together, it is obvious that Vancouverites covet their coffee and sugary treats.
Within about a year, and within seven blocks of one another, six different places opened to serve caffeinated drinks and sweet fare.  One of my top choices, Forty Ninth Parallel, is a gourmet coffee roaster with delectable donuts to boot (try the peanut butter and jelly, they are to die for). This place is always bustling with customers, so be ready to wait in line on the weekends, and to clamor for a seat. They often play their music loud, so if you’re looking for a quieter place to work, try another venue such as Gene Café or JJ Bean at 14thand Main.
French Made Baking, located on Kingsway between 8th and Broadway, is another new bakery worth a pit stop. Owned and operated by men and women who are authentically French, it is small and unassuming; and the sign does little to communicate the charm within. They specialize in the now trendy macaron, but also boast other sinful treats, such as the real pain au chocolat, layers of delicious pastry surrounding little surprises of dark chocolate. Their café au lait also merits a taste – it is rich and creamy, and begs for regular croissant dipping. Be prepared, however, for the strange hours French Made Baking keep: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. throughout the week.
Only a few stores down the block from the French bakery is La Petite Cuillère, which in many ways is an homage to typical British tea houses. Despite the oddity that an English tea house has a French name, and the French bakery an English one, La Petite Cuillere is recommended for its savoury lunches and sweet dessert offerings. Try the quiche and salad, or the pesto chicken wrap (a great to-go option), along with one of their many inspired tea options. One of the most memorable things about this place is the women who run it: they are two sisters with their mother, and they all exude kindness and positivity.
Across the street and connected to the Mount Pleasant Community Centre is the newly refurbished Pleasant Beans, a good place to stop for JJ Bean coffee after one of the many activities on offer at the centre. The coffee shop often has homemade granola bars (yum!), and also make grilled cheese (for the kiddies, but who’s kidding who, we adults love them too).
I have yet to try newest additions The Last Crumb, a mere block and a bit from Forty Ninth Parallel and JJ Bean, or Bonchaz Bakery at the corner of Main and Broadway. Although Bonchaz may be next on my list, as they offer a free muffin with coffee before 11 a.m., or so local legend claims. Let me know if you’ve tried either, and what you think!

 

Check in soon for the latest gossip on restaurants, breweries, and clothing stores in Mount Pleasant!

New Donut in Town


Despite the saturated coffee market along Main St. in Vancouver, another café seemed to magically appear overnight in early June: the Forty Ninth Parallel. Located at the corner of 13th Ave. and Main, it was kept a well-hidden secret via temporary walls and scaffolding plastered in graffiti and concert advertisements.
And what an attractive surprise once it was revealed.
The building pays homage to wood and industry, and has an authentic, robust atmosphere, circa fur trading posts in the 19thcentury. Dark woods mingle with black metal and rust-coloured brick. The ceilings are high with wire light fixtures that dangle from above. One of the eating areas is a long, communal table fitted with seats that swing out on metal arms from underneath. From here, you can watch the pastry chefs hard at work making delicious treats behind tall glass that boasts the name “Lucky’s”, established in 2010. The space is generous, yet cozy.
 Things have come full circle, as people become drawn to spaces with a genuine rather than synthetic, or even cheap, feel.
It opened its doors the second weekend in June, and by 9 a.m. Saturday morning, the place was buzzing with customers. Despite the popularity of places such as JJ Bean (located just a block away) and Our Town, people in the Mount Pleasant community were clearly thirsty for something new. Or maybe it was merely the new scene, where hipsters come to be seen; yet, the place was filled with all types of people – the young, the old, families, couples, and singles working on their next novel.
Six months later and the place is still abuzz with animated people sharing stories over rich-tasting coffees, often accompanied by a to-die-for peanut butter and jelly donut, or curiously delicious apple bacon fritter. These are not your typical Tim Horton variety donuts. Forty Ninth Parallel coffee may be expensive, but it is bold and makes no excuses – and they have a feature scone or donut every day that can be paired with a drip coffee for $4. Not terrible considering a specialty beverage at Starbuck’s (whose beans aren’t nearly as sophisticated) runs closer to $5. And to top it all off, the coffee at 49th Parallel is Fair Trade, making it more justifiable as a daily purchase.
The original 49th Parallel (sans Lucky’s Donuts) is located on 4th Ave. in Kitsilano, but is soon moving to a larger location down the street at the corner of Yew and 4th Ave., in what used to be Kitsilano Coffee. This new space will include a Lucky’s Donuts of its own for shoppers, strollers, and runners in Lulu Lemon pants to enjoy.Stay tuned for more information on its grand opening!

West Elm on the West Coast


Anyone who enjoys design porn as much as I do will likely have already heard this by now, but West Elm has opened its doors on South Granville in Vancouver! Located between 13th and 14th Ave., their showroom is a decorative feast for the eyes. http://www.westelm.com/customer-service/store-locations/vancouver/
West Elm décor, furniture and fabrics have graced the pages of Canada’s House and Home magazine for years – interesting, modern pieces at affordable prices – but until now, the only Canadian store was located in Toronto (unfortunately many of the items/ads in House and Home are located in Toronto, but this is changing as Vancouver asserts itself more in the design world). West Elm is another store in the string of recent retail migrants from south of the border, including Anthropologie (on South Granville) and Nordstrom’s (arriving 2015 in the old Sears downtown).
West Elm is sister store to the more formal Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma; however, it is by far the cooler, older sister with a rebellious streak, who travels the world in her artistic pursuits. In fact, one of West Elm’s recent deco lines harks from designers in South Africa, who use vibrant colour palettes and joyful patterns.
From furniture for the living room and bedroom, to lighting, drapes, rugs and decorative wares, West Elm has a great selection of styles that strike a balance between modern industrial and traditional marbles and woods. These things are often combined to create unique pieces, such as the Wood Tiled 3-Drawer Dresser, seen below.

 

The cost of items seems to be on par or cheaper than many other furniture stores in Vancouver.  You can find table lamps from $69-$200, bed sheets at $79 for a queen set, and side tables for $200-$300. The rugs come in several desirable patterns and colours, and you can pick your size. Most of the largest rugs (8 x 10) range from $500-$900.
Even if you’re not in the market to redecorate or refurnish your place, West Elm is worth checking out.  You never know what you might find/need/want once you get there. And don’t forget – the Interior Design Show West is September 27-30at the Vancouver Convention Centre. http://idswest.com/Every year, the West Coast is making more and more of its mark in the design world, and rightly so!

Winter in Vancouver

As a recent emigrant to Vancouver from Toronto, I have come to my new city with an ingrained skepticism derivative of the age-old battle of east vs. west. But I did come here with good reason, and climate was certainly one of the major considerations for making the move. The autumn and early winter here have lived up to the reputation that Vancouver is a rainy, cloud-covered city that challenges even the most optimistic attitude, but I have become more accustomed to it (as I was told I would) and am having a minor love affair with my Hunter rain boots (superficial, I know, but we need to find our small comforts amidst the rainy days).
Although I love the snow covered lawns and evergreens of Toronto winters, I am starting to believe that the milder weather here, and the close proximity of snow when you’re missing it (Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain, Hemlock Resort, and Whistler Mountain) are things I could easily become accustomed to. And it isn’t always grey – we’ve recently enjoyed almost a week of clear skies and sunshine, and as long as it isn’t raining, the mild temperatures afford plenty of opportunities to do a variety of outdoor activities. I would still argue that July is the best time to visit Vancouver, but if you chose to visit in the winter, here is a list of my favourite things to do outside this time of year:
1.       Walking
a)      The Endowment Lands near UBC – this extensive forest-covered group of trails are a great option, especially if you think it might rain. There are hundreds upon hundreds of old-growth trees, many of them cloaked in moss. Other groups of trees appear in curious formations that seem to creep along the forest floor, their arms reaching in all directions. And if you pay attention, there are always trees that spark the imagination – like the dead tree that looks remarkably like the mouth of a smiling crocodile.
Enjoying a Bean Bros. coffee along the Spanish Banks
b)      Spanish Banks (West of Tolmie St. on NW Marine Dr.) – if you park in the first parking lot and walk to and from the western tip of the Spanish Banks, you’ve covered almost 2.5 km of this beautiful oceanfront trail. With ample mountain views and opportunities for both people and dog watching, this walk will not disappoint. Be sure to watch the ocean too – if you’re lucky, you’ll see some of the wildlife – like a seal!
View of downtown from Kits Beach
c)       Kits Beach (on the west side of Vancouver) – go to Viva Fine Foods and Bakery (1555 Yew St., between Cornwall and York) to grab a latte and a delectable cookie to make your walk along the beach even sweeter. This walkway is often very busy with both tourists and locals, and with people young and old. Even in late December, you can witness people playing beach volleyball, while smiling kids enjoy a new playground next to The Boathouse Restaurant (previously The Watermark). You can walk all the way to Granville Island taking this ocean side route, but it is a long walk to do in the winter, and you might consider taking public transit for the way back.
Southlands trail on the Fraser River
d)      Southlands (south of SW Marine Dr. on Blenheim) – this little-known nook of Vancouver is as pastoral as the city gets. Chock-full of horse stables, nurseries and farms, there is plenty to see in this area, and there is a lovely trail that follows the banks of the Fraser River if you drive all the way to the end of Blenheim, turn right on Celtic Ave. and then left on Carrington. Here you will find a small parking lot and a trail that goes both east and west from the bridge to Deering Island. At one point on the east trail, you will have to walk on the road (east on Celtic) to catch the trail again. Gleaming new houses and a golf course provide sightseeing on your left, while the Fraser River and the mountains offer views on your right. Sunsets here are breathtaking.
Stay tuned for other great winter activities to do in and around Vancouver!

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Fast Food “Artistry” shifts from sandwich to taco

Eating on the go can be challenging, especially if you lead a healthy lifestyle. The easiest thing for me has always been Subway, a quick service restaurant built on the little-known mandate at the time (in Canada they opened in the glorious 80s) of fresh ingredients. Now, after years of eating there and after a few so-called sandwich “artists” have ruined my veggie patty, it’s time for a change.
A niche market for Mexican food lovers has recently emerged in Canada, where burrito eating has become a bit of a sensation.  In the GTA we have places like Big Fat Burrito in Kensington Market and a number of Burrito Boys in the areas of Port Credit and downtown Toronto, to name a few. They represent a revolution of healthy-minded individuals who love the fresh ingredients and spicy flavours of Mexican food, but have been searching for something better than the sad tortillas from Taco Bell.
On the west coast of Vancouver, healthier options include Burrito Bros. Taco Company in Kitsilano. They make all of their food in-house, and their ingredients come in fresh on a daily basis. Homemade tortilla chips and salsa, both roja (red) and verde (green) are included with every meal, a crispy complement to the juicy burritos. Each one is packed to the brim with veggies, rice and beans, and your choice of protein: beef, chicken or Baja fish.  Impressively, they even have veggie “ground round”, a simulated ground meat that most vegetarians are familiar with, but something I have never seen on any restaurant menu. All of these fresh ingredients are topped with zesty pico de gallo, and burrito sauce, but you can also add your own heat with a variety of hot sauces that are the real Mexican deal.
This place is excellent if you’re on a budget, since most of the dishes range from $7-8, and you can get Red Truck on draft for $4.50 and double Margaritas for $6.25. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a 2 oz. drink anywhere in the city at this price! The atmosphere is casual but colourful in its vibrant Mexican décor, and the wait time for your food is usually only 10 minutes, depending on how busy it is. When the weather permits, they have a great sun-facing patio: a perfect place to enjoy a Corona or Pacifico while chomping down on a spicy burrito.
One of the most impressive things about Burrito Bros. is that they have a Buy 10 Get 1 Free card! They even keep it on file for you (don’t worry, it won’t be too hard to find as they are organized by letter and gender). I haven’t seen something like that on offer since the days of Subway stamps, which was discontinued with no clear explanation. I mean, if privately-owned Burrito Bros. can do it, why can’t they?
Burritos Bros. is located at 2209 West 4th Ave. in Kitsilano, Vancouver. Visit their website at http://petedigiboy.com/burritobros/