Spoiled For Choice

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The neighbourhood I live in is in transition. There’s a threat of tall buildings and generic chain stores on the horizon. So, today I thought I’d focus on some of the businesses that make my neighbourhood great.

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Food

This is a good place to start, because I just found out that Bosa Foods is taking over the space at Commercial and Parker that Dream Designs left behind. Bosa has been tucked away at the corner of Victoria and Turner since 1957, but the family is redeveloping the block and will be reopening with a bigger space. In the meantime, it’s good to keep them close to their original location and great to learn that an empty storefront will be filled by a business with roots in this community. It looks like the restaurant space beside it is ready to take on a new incarnation, too. If it becomes a sit down Italian deli, the neighbourhood will be in heaven.

Our first stop for groceries is always East End Food Co-op. They concentrate on organic and fair trade products as much as they can, while also trying to support local farmers in the produce aisle.

Donald’s is another of our stops, though less frequently, as both of their locations are on the outer edges of our neighbourhood. They’ve become famous for their produce and prices, while stocking a wide variety of organic and special diet products.

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There are also too many fresh markets along Commercial and East Hastings to list here. I can find just about any produce, spice, or condiment I can think of – which came in really handy for tracking down French Fridays ingredients.

And there are more and more great delis, butchers, and fishmongers in the neighbourhood. Some are longtime favourites, like Bosa, while others are welcome newcomers.

La Grotta del Formaggio has cheese, deli meats, and incredible sandwiches.

If I’m looking for meat, I can go to Pasture to Plate for organic beef, chicken, pork or turkey. If I’m searching for something farther afield, I check Rio Friendly Meats or Windsor Meat Co.

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And then, there’s Gourmet Warehouse. It’s a dangerous place to be if you like to cook. South China Seas is smaller, but just as dangerous.

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Things

Let’s start with Tiny Finery. They stock beautifully crafted local goods – jewellery, letterpress cards, ceramics, bath products. I especially love that they promote the artists and makers they buy from, both in store and on their website.

Doctor Vigari has furnished our home with many pieces of art over the years. They have a collection of art and jewellery that’s carefully curated and eclectic. It’s good that they moved a little farther down the Drive from us, so that we can better avoid impulse purchases.

LaLa’s does retro and kitch, but it’s mixed liberally with chic.

The Found and the Freed casts a wider net than most antique stores. There’s nothing stodgy about the goods they collect.

There are two yarn stores in the neighbourhood, which makes me happy: Baaad Anna’s and Wool Is Not Enough. I’m on a yarn diet, but I know if I want to break that fast I can find what I need at one or the other of these stores. You’ll want to visit both, because they stock quite different (but equally fine) yarns.

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Books, Records, Video

Yup, you read that right. My neighbourhood still has book, record, and video stores.

Audiopile and Highlife Records are both going strong on the Drive, while newcomer Horses Records and Books is carving out its own niche on East Hastings.

I don’t like to brag, but we have so many bookstores in the neighbourhood that I’m only going to tell you about my favourites. People’s Co-op Bookstore is as much a community space as it is a bookstore. Pulp Fiction has a carefully chosen mix of new and used books – whether you’re into pulp and sci fi or the most literate of new books, you’ll be happy here. Canterbury Tales has a solid selection of used books, with a few new ones, too.

And we can’t forget Black Dog Video. The video rental business is a hard one these days, but it’s so nice to have a video store in the neighbourhood that has a broad catalogue. I’m not ready to give up my viewing choices to streaming services exclusively. There’s too much to see that would get left out.

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It’s becoming clear to me that I need to do a neighbourhood series. We’ve had coffee and, now, retail. How about bakeries next? Restaurants are a huge category around here – that would be more than one post. Definitely one on the breweries and distilleries in the neighbourhood. What else? Let me know in the comments.

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


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

 

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

Basho


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.

FFWD – Tzatziki

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The neighbourhood next to mine is called Hastings-Sunrise, though it’s also been branded The East Village by its business association. It’s only a few blocks away, but it’s in the opposite direction from my regular shopping route, so I don’t get over there as often as I’d like. This afternoon, I decided to get out of my usual routine and head east rather than south. My first stop was Black Rook Bakehouse, which I’ve been meaning to check out since it opened. They’ve got gorgeous pies, cakes, and cookies, along with breads and savoury pot pies, but I settled on a slice of chocolate-threaded banana bread, for an after-errands treat. The lovely shopkeeper threw in a loaf of potato bread, since they were about to close for the long weekend. I’ll be back for some more of that, on my own dime next time. Next, I stopped in at Donald’s Market, for some late-season strawberries and some gluten-free oatmeal. (There are going to be basil-blackberry crumbles all summer long, I think, so I need to be well-stocked with oatmeal.)

You’re probably wondering right about now what all this has to do with this week’s recipe, aren’t you? My next stop is the segueway. Rio Friendly Meats lives up to its name, or rather, its staff does. They stock an array of house-made sausages, along with great cuts of meat. It was the chicken breasts marinating in Greek spices that I came for, though. I thought they’d go perfectly with this week’s Tzatziki, and I was right.

We ate quite late tonight, so I don’t have any photos for you, but I served the oven-roasted chicken with a dollop of tzatziki and a salad on the side (which included the first of the yellow zucchinis from my garden). The tzatziki was also wonderful as a dip for vegetables and rice crackers this afternoon. Tomorrow, the leftovers are going to stand in for cottage cheese in a Greek-style version of last week’s Dieter’s Tartine on that amazing potato bread (for me) and some Udi’s gluten-free bread (for Kevin).

I’m not sure why I haven’t been making my own tzatziki up until now, but I’ll be making up for that omission in future. At a quarter of the recipe, it’s just right for us for two or three days of Greek-inspired eating.

And as for Hastings-Sunrise, I hardly did it justice with my three paltry stops today. If you’re interested in what the neighbourhood has to offer, the folks at Vancouver East Village have done a wonderful job of covering all its businesses and amenities.

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You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Tzatziki