We’re spoiled. Coffee in our very own hood has never been better, thanks to the recent opening of not one, not two, but three stellar spots for a cuppa and a (flaky, buttery) croissant. Here, a trio of new coffee shops, each offering something special, to check out next time you’re on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. —Noa Nichol
caffè la tana. Bedecked with deep green marble, antique shelving and custom woodwork, classic tiled flooring and hand-drawn wallpaper, Caffè La Tana is styled after the Italian alimentari: a small, neighbourhood gathering place serving pastries and simple meals, brewing strong Ital-ian-style espresso and stocking locally sourced organic produce and fine imported Italian meats, cheeses and dry goods. In addition to groceries and coffee, an exposed "pasta fresca" table shows off fresh pastas—hand-cut everyday egg noodles, special seasonal stuffed pasta and lesser-known harder-to-find shapes like trofie, tajarin and orecchiette—made on the prem-ises daily and available uncooked for purchase or prepped in-house for lunch. Additionally, small meals like "eggs in purgatory," panettone French toast and bombolini with vanilla cream are available all day. Looking ahead, La Tana will host evening events centred around Italian wines and cicchetti—we can't wait!
livia sweets. Very obviously built with love, Livia Sweets is the brain child of Claire Livia Las-sam, a Vancouver pastry chef who wanted to get out of restaurants and into her own dream. This part bakery, part café, part breakfast/lunch spot and soon-to-be Happy Hour locale (you can already order Prosecco, Lambrusco or an Aperol Spritz at the counter) makes all its goodies, from cinnamon brioche twists to tahini cookies to cheddar and rosemary cloud biscuits to poppy seed challah, daily fresh in-house. Also, light morning and midday meals (there's olive oil granola with yoghurt and jam and a blood orange, radicchio and pistachio panzanella, but Lassam herself eats "far too much of" the creamy carbonara). Need a coffee fix? Try a cortado (espresso mixed with a roughly equal amount of warm milk ) served in unique handle-free mugs made specially for Livia Sweets by also-local G Ceramic & Co.
the bench bakehouse. Rather than collect souvenirs, Tracy and Matt Steele picked up pastry ideas as they travelled through Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. And, lucky for us, the resulting goods are now available at the couple's newly opened bakery and café in Commercial Drive's Il Mercato Mall. The Bench Bakehouse is a cosy nook (yes, there are actual benches to sit on) featuring an open-concept kitchen and a case full of croissants, kouign-amann cakes, cookie sandwiches and fly-off-the-shelves passionfruit melting moments. Also: scratch-made sour-dough breads (we recommend the caramelized onion edition, available every second day) and sandwiches (one meat and one vegan, daily). Definitely a good place to be given the bench.