The Ovaltine Cafe 251 E. Hastings

I think the greatest commentary I’ve heard on today’s society came from the mouth of Tom Waits. While playing at an Allen Ginsberg tribute concert, Waits described his first major label tour and the fancy hotels they put him up in. He finished by saying, “It’s getting harder and harder to find a bad cup of coffee.” A-freakin-men brother. When I need to explain “ubiquitous” to my students, I ask them how many Starbucks (et al) they’ve seen in Vancouver. Well Tom, I’ve found it for you and I couldn’t be happier. Mr. Waits, I give you The Ovaltine Cafe:

Now the idea of a crappy cup of coffee may not be everyone’s idea of a day out. Nor, for some, is strolling through that part of Vancouver, which is a shame. When the sun is up and shining there is nowhere in this city that I won’t go. I go a lot of places more for romance than for any other purpose.

Months ago I photoshopped a picture of Kerouac and Ginsberg and friends to include me. It wasn’t claiming my right to be included; it was expressing my near-lifelong desire to be so.

The first thing I thought of when I walked through the door of The Ovaltine was the picture above. It hearkens back to the day when Hipsters where Angelheaded, not douche bags.  The decor hasn’t been changed, ever, one could guess. There are patches worn into the concrete where thousands of feet have scuffed back and forth during a cup of coffee. According to my guide, Jane, the bathrooms almost never work. The centre island’s display case isn’t filled with food, but a collection of trinkets from everywhere. I looks like the display cases in the kind of pawn shop/second hand store that still sells 8-tracks.

I love this place. I wouldn’t bring someone here on a first date, but if you’re out and about and [re]discovering your city like I’m, this is where you either plan your day, or discuss it when it’s done. Plus, it’s located right across the street from the newly-renovated Rickshaw Theatre. So, if you’re down for a show and a brilliantly lousy cup of coffee, The Ovaltine is your place.

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