Imagine coming into a medium-large city that is completely devoid of chain cafes. This was Halifax, Nova Scotia.
There are Starbucks, but they are nowhere to be found in the downtown.
How is that for refreshing?
Truth be told, there is no chain anything in historic Halifax. As I said in my previous chapter on this old city, Halifax seems to cater to the original and to the homegrown.
While I was planning the visit, reading Frommers guides and various websites, I knew that there were cafes to be had of all types. None of my reading indicated how many there were. I think what shocks me the most was the expectation that I would find marginal bean and questionable shots of espresso, not unlike the downright awful dreck that the bulk of the nations capital, Ottawa, had to offer.
The first sips of drip coffee and espresso Americano were downright tasty with all signs indicating fresh roasted coffee properly prepared.
Image above right-- Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Halifax. It is retro? Is it art-deco? Is it post or pre-industrial? I could not figure it out. It was, most definitely, leading edge design. There is a World class art and design school in Halifax, so that might explain a few things. Oh, yea.. They have awesome coffee and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.
So the coffee was good. What about the trappings: surroundings, environment, equipment and food stuffs? There is no question that there are some coffee smart people here. There is also locally roasted coffee in Sackville, but I did not get out there. From my research, there are several sources of fresh beans and it was all being used. Some of the Cafes we were in, like Cafe Ristretto at Bishop's Landing, were totally leading edge with free wireless internet and the cushiest of creature comfort furnishing to recline in while sipping and surfing.
Looking back, Halifax claims that it is one of the most tech savvy spots in Canada. There was free secure wireless internet everywhere. We brought our Mac laptop and the hotel had high speed broadband so there was no need to go mooch for it. It was everywhere. Cafes, laundromats, bookstores and so on - all had WiFi.
Summing up the Cafe lineup: Steve-e-reno's for breakfast granola, fruit and yoghurt every morning, Uncommon Grounds for the latest in chic cafe design, Cafe Ristretto for afternoon Americanos and Cafe Perk's for coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches. There were many, many other choices that I did not get to. Oh, there was one bad one but I don't "do bad" so I will not mention this particular caffeinated offender.
Restaurant's visited included Economy Shoe Shop(several times), Sweet Basil bistro, The Old Triangle Irish Pub(Oh so Irish!), The Press Gang(best damn fish cakes I have ever had anywhere!--sorry mom!), Salty's for waterfront fish and chips, Alexander Keith's Brewery and Cafe Perk's for a few roast beef sandwiches over lunch.
Before we knew it, we were done in Halifax. Next stop, Toronto, Ontario!
Colin Newell lives and works in Victoria, B.C. Canada and is the editor/creator of the CoffeeCrew.Com website.