Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nelson Cafe Competition

Like most ski towns, Nelson has a good selection of pubs and cafes for people to meet-up before and after their trip to the hills. While I don't ski or snowboard, I do love drinking, so I have been scouring the beverage scene. Below is an analysis of the popular coffeeshops in the city centre.

Yes, Sidewinders serves coffee, but this is the only good thing about the business. I went to Sidewinders because there are always people inside, and because there are only so many coffeeshops in Nelson, but I won't be back. The service was terrible. Not only did the girl serving appear as though somebody had just drowned her goldfish, she was also speaking to her co-worker non-stop and barely acknowledged my existence (or the existence of my cash, which was paying her wage). The baked goods on offer looked bland and glutinous, and this is coming from someone who might actually sacrifice an earlobe or pinky for an outstanding cinnamon bun. The decor was also bland and unwelcoming. Most of the chairs and tables were rigid and ergonomically detrimental, and the four comfortable chairs in the window stood you could be comfortable while you were consuming your coffee, but you would have to balance your mug in your lap. The tragic thing about Sidewinders is that their Kicking Horse coffee is pretty good. Skip this doozy and grab your cuppa at Oso Negro or The Dominion.

Oso Negro
This is definitely the best cafe in town. They import beans from around the world and roast them right here, up at Nelson Brewing Company actually. The brother of a co-worker works there and I was able to see the roasting in situ. Not only do they roast locally and have a clean, open, comfortable cafe with awesome pastries...their coffee is also good. Just because a place roasts their own beans doesn't mean they know how to roast them properly and consistently (see: Vancouver's Continental Coffee on Commercial). While it doesn't make for sexy blog writing, I must mention how great the customer service is too. When employees demonstrate good customer service skills - such as eye contact, politeness, attention to detail - it reflects well on the product being sold. As a customer, you can tell that the baristas take pride in the product at Oso, and that the cashiers are happy to be working there. This place is the shizz, and everyone in town knows it. It is always packed and has been around forever. While it is tempting to go there every day, I try to support some of the other good cafes, such as The Dominion. Spread the cash. 

The Dominion
I live for kickass independent cafes. While this statement may seem hyperbolic, you must understand that one of my hobbies and true joys in life is finding and patronising independent coffeeshops. I love everything about them: drinking coffee, sitting, reading, surfing the web, consuming homemade baked goods, casually meeting with friends and acquaintances...everything good in life! Nelson has some great cafes, and Dominion meets many of my needs as a coffee-addicted cafe junky. The decor is domestic and warm, the coffee is wonderful, they offer a decent selection of muffins and cakes made in-house, and they are an independent business. If you have looked at any of my other reviews, you will know that two things really irritate me: poor customer service and establishments that do not accept plastic. The servers at Dominion are adequate but slightly inattentive, and the cafe is cash only. Seriously guys, pay the 0.02% service charge and get a darn-tootin' debit machine. This is the Nineties, man!

Nelson: Where You Can Grab a 
Coffee in Your PJ Bottoms

John Ward Fine Coffee
Located right in the centre of town, just up from Touchstones Museum on Baker, John Ward Coffee offers beverages that reflect the decor of the business. The interior has been decorated like a mid-century milk bar, with white-washed furniture, retro checkered flooring, and antique appointments. The layout is clean and uncluttered, and the items on offer are appropriately limited. John Ward focuses on creating classic coffee selections - cappuccino, espresso, macchiato - and does not offer fraps or chocolate-chip mint concoctions. They have fairly good baked goods, but they are overpriced, hence my three-star rating. I have tried their coconut chocolate cookies and a few squares, but it seems wrong paying the same amount for my cookie as my coffee. A solid cafe though, overall.

The Vienna
Is it a bad thing when you are in a cafe but it feels as though you are in a hippie's rumpus room from 1978? I don't know if it's a "bad" thing, but I do not actively seek the "hippie rumpus room" ambience when craving a bold cappuccino or a quiet space in which to read and concentrate. I don't really mind The Vienna, but only because I view this space as a bookstore with a cafe, rather than a coffeeshop located incestuously close to an autonomous book shop. With plastic tablecloths, dirty blue carpeting, and an incohesive layout, the decor of this cafe does not reflect the goods that they serve. Their coffee and baked goods are above average, but this is not a place that you would choose to spend a great deal of time in. You may sit down for a drink after buying a new book at the neighbour's shop (Packrat Annie's), but you would not select this business over Oso Negro or the Dominion, which is just across the road.

Rumpus Room or Respectable Business?

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "Nelson restaurants", "Oso Negro Nelson", "Kootenays attractions"

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