One of my favourite Vancouver buildings – the old flat-iron at 1398 Kingsway (at Knight St.) in the Cedar Cottage swathe of East Van – is getting a new lease on life this winter. The good folks at Pallet Coffee Roasters have taken it over, and there was much rejoicing.
For the past several years the 1,400 sqft space housed Our Town Cafe, a pretty standard (if a little kitschy) cafe that was decorated in such a way as to faithfully mimic the diner in the famous 1942 “Nighthawks” painting by Edward Hopper. (Fans of the brand shouldn’t fret, as the original Our Town at Broadway & Kingsway doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.)
The incoming operation will see the same coffee-first cafe concept as Pallet’s original location and roastery in Hastings-Sunrise, which is to say it will focus on excellent coffee backed up by sandwiches and assorted pastries. The difference will be in the experience. The original Pallet is tucked away from Hastings and marked by an industrial feel. This is a more historical space overlooking bustling thoroughfare with walls that could tell a story or three. (Word is the building was built right on top a now long gone river that meandered down to the wetlands east of False Creek. As the story goes, the original owners used to fish in the basement.)
I’m a big fan of Pallet and have followed their progress as a company since well before their launch in 2014. I hadn’t met Ben Rugg, their Director of Coffee – formerly of Auckland’s Coffee Lab – until this week, but that he’s the real deal has repeatedly been made evident by many, many cups (his Toarco and Yirgacheffee Konga roasts are both on rotation at home). To see his work take on another location is encouraging, and to see it out here at Kingsway and Knight is very welcome.
The space was in that unattractive stasis between previous tenant and new that I looked in on the construction site. No workers were clanging away. All was quiet. Pallet only recently took possession and are looking to finish the job before the holidays. The 50 seater will launch with high ledge seating along the window frontage, a raised platform at the apex (enough for a quiet four-top), a long banquette and a large service island with espresso and pour-over stations as well a trio of seats for the keeners. In all, it has great bones; flat-irons are rare treasures!