G-W Portraits: Vivienne McMaster


Each time I do a G-W Portraits interview, I’m struck by the way in which each participant brings something new to the three simple questions I ask them. Vivienne McMaster brings a photographer’s eye and a transformative perspective to her answers. She spoke about the “evidence of community” that can be found all around Grandview-Woodland, on sidewalks and in community book exchanges, in gardens and on the verges.

Vivienne’s work can be found at Be Your Own Beloved, along with links to her e-courses, workshops, e-books, and more.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits


G-W Portraits: Tara Sawatsky & Kevin Sauvé


Grandview-Woodland is home to a number of non-profits and many community activists, cultural workers, and civic sector employees make their home here, too.

Tara Sawatsky and Kevin Sauvé live in a housing co-operative in the Commercial Drive area, do great work, and love Grandview-Woodland.

We spoke on a windy December day (apologies for the sound quality), then headed off to a co-op holiday potluck.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

Have you checked out my 2015 holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways here and enter until December 17th.

G-W Portraits: Ange Gleeson


So many people I know have moved away from this neighbourhood, only to return as soon as life lets them. Consciously choosing this neighbourhood is something that has come up over and over again in the short time I’ve been doing these interviews, so I wasn’t surprised to hear this from Ange Gleeson, too.

She’s one of the people that makes this neighbourhood shine, with a humourous anecdote always at the ready.

We did the interview near Britannia library and before we got started, Ange was chatting with passersby and even sharing the cookies I brought her. It was a reminder of how engaged people are in this neighbourhood. We talk to one another here.

You can find the rest of the interviews in this series here: G-W Portraits

Eastside Coffee Culture

A friend and neighbour of mine likes to text me when she’s in the mood for a cup of coffee. She knows I like to explore the neighbourhood’s cafés as much as she does and we both work on flexible schedules. So, once or twice a month, we head out for coffee and treats. Our neighbourhood is at the intersection of Grandview-Woodland and Hastings-Sunrise (also known as Vancouver East Village, by some). As I’ve mentioned before, there are strong Italian and Portuguese roots in the area, so there’s been a long history of coffee shops in this neighbourhood, especially along Commercial Drive.

There are only a few of the old cafés left, as people retire or move on, but there is still a vibrant coffee culture in the neighbourhood.

These days, old school means Cafe Calabria, Continental, or Turks, all of which were thought of as newcomers when I first moved to Commercial Drive, in my university days.

I have an especial fondness for Continental, as it continues to be the site of the kind of in depth political and philosophical conversations that students, activists, and long-time Drive residents love – and it still serves great coffee. I used to live around the corner from Continental and I had a really good chocolate cake recipe that called for exactly one cup of strong coffee. I’d get an Americano to go, bring it home, and make the cake. It was always a hit. Now, I like to visit for a shot of nostalgia with their excellent coffee.


 Turks is the place my Dad wants to drop by, almost every time he comes to visit. Their coffee is consistently good and their patrons are half longtime Drive conversationalists and half laptop-toting students. Locally roasted, award-winning coffee, generous hours, and treats from local favourites like Livia Sweets keep Turks busy from morning till night.

In the last few years, there has been a new wave of coffee shops and cafés appearing along Commercial Drive and East Hastings. These are the ones my neighbour and I like to try on our adventures. They’re not all coffee-focused, but they all serve a commendable cup.

Here are a few of the most notable ones:

Commercial Drive

Bump n Grind

Bump n Grind serves a variety of coffees from excellent small roasters like Victoria’s Bow & Arrows. They bake some great treats in house and source gluten-free and vegan treats from a local producer. It’s a welcoming space that’s always busy.


Moja is the new kid on the block and I end up there often, because they’re open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. They’ve created a beautiful, airy space from an old storefront and they get their pastries from Thomas Hass. They’re passionate about sourcing and roasting their coffee and about three-quarters of the time, the coffee there is excellent. (I think the inconsistency is down to the newness of this location.)



Prado is part of the 49th Parallel family, another excellent local roaster. They serve great food, too, but just try to get a seat. Their bright, open space attracts a crowd all day long. It’s a good thing that they’ve got a parklet in front for sunny days. (Full disclosure, the photo above is from their Gastown location. Also, it’s tea.)

East Hastings


This is one of my favourite places in the neighbourhood, but I don’t go there as often as I’d like because it’s usually very busy. Everything they present is beautiful and delicious, from the tiniest cookie to a full meal. They use coffee from Handworks Coffee Studio, which is hand-brewed Matsuya-Style. Go for the coffee, but be forewarned – you’ll also be charmed by the tiny, perfect baked goods they serve alongside.

Black Rook Bakehouse

Black Rook Bakehouse expanded into a bigger space several months ago and it’s a cosy, welcoming place to meet a friend or read a book, while indulging in one of their pastries or quiches. They serve AGRO coffee, which is what gets them onto this list, but really, the coffee is just an excuse to have a [S]ingle [O]rigin [B]rownie or a slice of one of their impossibly tall cakes. Then, you’ll find yourself walking out with a bag of croissants or a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Platform 7 Coffee

Platform 7 puts as much care and attention into their coffee as they did designing their space. The concept for the café is a Victorian train station and they get every detail right. One benefit of this design is that the wall of the café is lined with little booths reminiscent of train station seating, which means it’s often easy to find a seat, even when it’s busy. They also have a not-so-secret garden in the back for even more seating in the summer.

All of which is a very good thing, because Platform 7 requires many visits to experience all they have to offer. They serve a range of Stumptown coffees, which you can try at their espresso bar, their brew bar, or cold brewed by the bottle. Their brew bar is especially fun – get a flight of coffees and you can try three different beans prepared the same way, or one prepared using three different methods.

Pallet Coffee Roasters

Pallet Coffee is much more than a café. They source and roast their own beans, make breakfast, lunch, and treats in house, and source their ingredients, tea, and dairy from local suppliers. You could happily spend all day there, though you’d be awfully full and very caffeinated.

There are more, of course, like JJ Bean or Uprising, but I think I’ve given you at least a week’s worth of places to try.

Let me know if you think I’ve made any glaring omissions. Or, if you’re not local, let me know what your best coffee neighbourhood has to offer.

A Tuesday Afternoon

Evidence of spring.

I have a confession to make. I got so caught up in reading everyone’s posts at Tuesdays with Dorie that I forgot all about the post I was supposed to be writing here. So, today I present you with a few photos I took around the neighbourhood this afternoon, along with one I took a couple of weeks ago (and that I think is pretty cool).

Gorgeous tree.

Tree as pattern.

Looking up the Drive.

Grandview Park, from across the street.

Incongruous elephant.

This final one is of Ken Lum’s Monument for East Vancouver, from the back. I ran it through Instagram and really liked the result.

Ken Lum's East Van sign, from the rear.

Creating Community, Car-Free

Jump rope in the street, on the Drive.

It’s often been said that Vancouver lacks a civic centre. We have no town square or any pedestrian malls. For many years, the closest thing to a city gathering place has been the steps and courtyard of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Many protests and celebrations have wound up there over the years, but it doesn’t replace the street-level culture that exists when there is a dedicated public space.

Community groups set up along the street, including No One is Illegal.

Travelling to Europe or Latin America (or even Montréal) shows us what we’re missing here. Even the smallest town in Mexico seems to have a zócalo where cafés line the perimeter and couples promenade in the evenings. For the traveller, it can provide an anchor from which to spin out one’s explorations; for the resident, it’s the centre of public life.

A band sets up in the street.

Vancouver gets a small taste of what this can be like when the annual Car-Free Day closes down streets in several neighbourhoods across the city. Street hockey, dance parties, roller derby and jump rope are just some of the activities folks were able to engage in, once the traffic was re-routed and pedestrians flooded the street.

The Carnival Band promenading through the crowd, down the centre of the street.

This model temporarily assuages the city’s need for an outdoor public life, but it’s not enough. The temporary nature of the squares means that the permanent architecture of city squares can only be approximated. Street parties can also be an able-bodied only affair, with buses re-routed as well as private cars. A permanent city square would be physically accessible, as transit would be built around it, not diverted from it. Vancouver Public Space Network has been arguing for a public square in the city for some time now. They’ve got a number of posts on the subject, which I encourage you to explore.

Smoking grill full of fish, with hungry festival-goers waiting.

This isn’t to say that I don’t love and support Car-Free Day, it’s just that it’s a tantalizing, fleeting experience of what our city should have every day. Beyond the vision of a public square for Vancouver, Car-Free Day also suggests some other interesting possibilities – what about closing Commercial Drive to traffic altogether, while running accessible light rail along its length? The Drive is already famous for its café culture; wouldn’t it be lovely if the city turned the street into a sort of plaza, where people could enjoy our mild weather for much of the year? Extended awnings would of course be necessary in our rainforest climate zone, but that’s no barrier.

Kids collaboratively paint a picture, where cars usually are.

Car-free day every day? I’m in.

A valet bike parking sign.

The Car Free Vancouver booth.