Coming Home Cafe is zany, colourful and lovingly retro

The Coming Home Cafe
The Coming Home Cafe

A cash-only diner with serve-yourself coffee ready to pour from a hot plate, the Coming Home Cafe may be low on frills but it doesn’t skimp on the flourishes. Homey meals like mac ‘n cheese are spiced up with gourmet additions like chorizo, and on that hot plate coffee is Kicking Horse Coffee – quality stuff. Inside, the decor is the kind of thrift-store chic you’d see in an art-school major’s first college flat. It’s zany, colourful and lovingly retro.

I’ve heard a lot of people rave about the Coming Home Cafe, but I’m not often around that part of Sixth. Until recently I’d only stopped by for a brief coffee on the patio, but after seeing a bunch of people mention the cafe on Twitter and in the comments on various posts, I made a point of coming by again.

I’m using Coming Home’s free wifi to write this post now on my second visit this week. Last time I had the divine pulled pork sandwiches (flavourful, topped with coleslaw on a just-crispy-enough bun). Today though, I’m trying the mac ‘n cheese special mentioned above. The nostalgic classic is decadently creamy and cheesy, and that chorizo gives it a nice touch of spice. The prices seemed a mite high at first glance until I tasted the quality ingredients – and saw the note on the board that all prices include HST. Mains range between about $6-8 for the most part, and the coffee starts at $2.75 (but includes a free refill with meal).

I haven’t tried the all-day breakfast yet, but the menu looks great, and I would expect the quality would be as good as lunch. There are also a few nice options like gluten-free bread and options like adding tofu or sauerkraut when you build your own breakfast.

As an aside, if I ever write a post on remarkable bathrooms of New West, the Coming Home Cafe would make the list. Their washroom is a cheeky corner featuring decoupaged paper with bathroom trivia and a few hilarious diagrams. It’s not the fanciest washroom in New West, but it’s definitely memorable!

I have only three quibbles with the restaurant: like most mom-n-pop stores in New West, it’s closed on Mondays (annoying to discover when you’re standing outside the door, as I did on my first attempt to revisit this place), there’s no debit or credit card processing (if you bring out the plastic you’re directed to the G&F Financial cash machine across the street) and the music is terrible. The fiercely poppy mix is not at all my cup of tea (though some of it is so bad it edges towards ironic goodness). The first two points can be overcome with a little planning, and the last can be endured (and I suppose could be a plus for fans of autotune and MC Hammer / Black Eyed Peas mashups).

It’s a short walk from the centre of Uptown, but The Coming Home Cafe is worth going a little out of your way. The food is excellent, the service is friendly and the atmosphere is creative and fun.

Coming Home Café on Urbanspoon

Classic charcuterie with a touch of the exotic at Quantum Deli & Bistro

Setting a new standard for café quality in New Westminster, Quantum Deli and Bistro brings a little slice of Yaletown to our Downtown area (cat-sized dogs not included).

Quantum Deli & Bistro, at 41 Sixth St. in New Westminster
Quantum Deli & Bistro, at 41 Sixth St. in New Westminster

Quantum offers a killer cup of coffee, gorgeous decor, free wifi and a touch of the exotic with its homey paninis and soups. Look for unusual fare like za’atar alongside the egg salad sandwiches, and ma’amoul (date-stuffed sugarless cookies … oh so yummy) next to the shortbread.

Every table is set with a small, modern arrangement from Queen’s Park Florist. The menus are displayed on digital screens. Quantum is probably one of the only New Westminster eateries to be written up in an interior design magazine (Or so the owner mentioned last time we were in. I didn’t catch the name of the publication, unfortunately).

I maintain that ordering decaf is the best way to tell if a restaurant’s coffee is up to snuff. Decaffeinated coffee is almost always terrible, and only quality beans make it worth drinking. Quantum serves 49th Parallel coffee, which my coffee snob friends tell me is the good stuff (not like my taste buds couldn’t tell).

Quantum also sells sliced deli meats, cheese, olives, roasted red peppers and dolmades at or below grocery store prices.  They carry sandwich cheese favourites like Havarti and Edam, but there were also some I’d never heard of before. After sampling a few cheeses, we walked away with some mellow Kashkaval and salty Nabelsi. It’s worth noting that Quantum also provides meat & cheese party platters, also at grocery store prices (while offering far better quality food).

All in all, I’m very impressed, and I plan to be back.

Quantum Deli & Bistro is at 41 Sixth St. Next time you’re in the area, instead of waiting in line at the Starbucks on Columbia, duck around the corner and give Quantum a try instead.

What New Westminster inspires me to eat

Photo: Juli Shannon via Flickr
Photo: Juli Shannon via Flickr

Lately I’ve been thinking about how my surroundings inspire my food choices. Reading my way through the Canada Reads books inspired a date with bacon ice cream, a rise in my comfort food intake, and delight in a layered chocolate torte! But what about where we live? What effect does our city have on our food choices?

My career started in downtown Vancouver in a tall building surrounded by sushi and Asian fusion restaurants. Lunch of choice: sushi most days. It’s clean (no chance of soup slippage on your suit), and is fast to eat. Plus, it looks fashionable! It’s a nice ensemble of different colours and shapes wrapped in a black suit of seaweed – somewhat resembling my corporate ensemble.

Or, a loopy salad for the days you need a break from soy sauce. I say loopy because salad bars abound in Vancouver and the kinds of toppings you can put on your salad make bacon ice cream sound quite normal.

So what happened when I started working in New Westminster?

The first thing I noticed about New Westminster is how much it is a “home.” The inclusive community included an array of late afternoon pies, and local and family run restaurants and cafes. Suddenly I found my lunch of choice shifting towards paninis, real hearty foods, and it-looks -like-your-mother-made-it concoctions.

Sometimes I look at paninis filled with freshly colourful vegetables and wonder: how am I going to eat this? Luckily we have panini presses, and although the vegetables add height, it is great to know that as much as possible they are locally sourced and put together with high quality ingredients.

Some of my favourite haunts are La Rustica and La Lorraine providing a perfect ambiance for office meetings and business lunches. The quiet atmosphere combined with an assortment of freshly made pastas, seafood, and sauces might just be what you need to seal that all important deal.   For a working lunch that’s in a relaxing atmosphere I like The Hide Out Cafe. Computer stations and wireless Internet make sure that you stay connected, while delicious paninis and soups and relaxing music make your connectivity stress free.

You may not have to look far to find what the answer to your lunch cravings — just look at your city.

What are your thoughts? How do you think your city is influencing your food choices?