A cafe for every occasion on Carrall Street

These four cafes make Carrall Street a perfect location to explore Vancouver's diverse cafes

Cafes hold a special place in cities. They’re a convenient meeting location, a place to hunker down and work, a space to spend a few slow, easy minutes grabbing a coffee before continuing with a busy day. 

Parisian cafes, Dunkin Donuts, you can tell a lot about a people and a city by the cafes. I’ll never forget the level of precision, craft and care during a coffee tasting in a Japanese cafe, the meticulous attention, and how it came to symbolize so much of my trip.

Vancouver is no different. From the consistent quality of 49th Parallel donuts, to creative matcha beverages at Matchstick, or even a quick visit to JJ Bean, if you spend enough time at these places, you come away with a deeper understanding of Vancouver.

One stretch of blocks downtown on Carrall Street exemplifies Vancouver's cafe culture. It’s a combination of high-quality coffee shops, bakeries, and cafes that are hard to find elsewhere in the city. If even one of these places was a block away from your home, you’d call yourself lucky. 

Nelson the Seagull

Nestled into a vast space at 315 Carrall, Nelson the Seagull typifies what a perfect neighbourhood cafe should be.

As you enter the space, you’re confronted by its size. Large for a coffee shop, there are numerous tables, usually full, but it still has a feeling of walking into your friend's home, casual, laid black, but nicely put together. On any given day, the tables are filled with people working and chatting. Don’t dawdle if you want to get a spot, because even early on a Saturday morning while picking up bread, it was usually full. 

Di Beppe

If there’s one place I’ve been to more than any other in Vancouver, it’s Di Beppe, located at 8 W Cordova St. off Carrall. 

Part cafe, part restaurant, 100 percent Italian, the popular spot is owned by the team at Kitchen Table, responsible for Ask for Luigi and Bacaro amongst others. It’s a mainstay of the neighbourhood, and for good reason. 

Aiyaohno Cafe

Aiyaohno Cafe

Aiyaohno Cafe front. Vancity Lookout/Geoff Sharpe

You can’t have a cafe tour near Chinatown without an Asian-influenced spot. The neighbourhood, sadly, has fewer than you’d think. 

Luckily the newer kid on the block, Aiyaohno Cafe at 425 Carrall St., is here to fill the void.

Nestled inside the BC Electric Railway Building, the place can be hard to get into, requiring a code to enter. I say this because it can make for a weird first experience. I also lead with it because the tiny inconvenience is a small price to pay to discover what this husband and wife team is cooking up. 

Kozak Ukrainian Restaurant

Kozak Eatery

Kozak Eatery baked goods. Vancity Lookout/Geoff Sharpe

Across the street from Di Beppe sits a place that I’m lucky wasn’t around for much of the time I lived in Chinatown, or I’d have a much lighter bank account and a bigger waistline. 

Kozak is a Ukrainian restaurant serving up authentic and creative national dishes. But next to it is the cafe. And what a cafe it is.

Tiny in comparison to the rest of the cafes, this is a grab-and-go spot packed like sardines with every type of Ukrainian takeaway food you can imagine.

Borscht? Check. Perogies. Oh yeah, with meat, potato and other flavours. Cabbage rolls. Yup. Babka? Tak (Ukrainian for yes).