We spent many days over the last month revisiting our favourite Vancouver bakeries and cafes to pick out worthy loaves for this map (which we encourage you to use on any and all future bread missions). Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Try: Levain Noir ($6.50) | This standout from this French cafe/bakery in the Fraserhood is available Wednesday through Sunday. It has a deep, molasses-y flavour that pairs well with cheese and holds up to most soups. But take special note: If you happen to be on site when their Multigrain & Dried Fruit loaf ($6) makes an appearance (some weekends only) you’d be a fool not to leave without one of those too. This is one of the only bakeries in the city that offers half-loaves that are priced by weight – ideal for single bread-eating households or indecisive/disagreeable ones.
Try: Cheese Twist ($6.75) | You’ll find this unassuming, still new-ish bakery tucked inside the Mercato just off of Commercial Drive. Their sourdough cheese “twist” is a loaf braided with cheddar cheese and olives or caramelized onions (depending on the day).
Try: Focaccia ($3.50-8) | Beyond Bread’s relationship with Brassneck might at first seem a bit “odd couple” (the brewery is one of their biggest accounts), but if you love bread and beer then this yeasty bond needs no explanation. In addition to baguettes and country loaves, Brassneck also stocks slices of focaccia, oily herbed and salted bread sponges. Of course, you can also snag the stuff from their Kitsilano bakery but there’s something charming about buying bread and beer on one tab, don’t you think?
Try: Sourdough ($6) | Their Kerrisdale location might be a bit of a destination for some, but Bigsby does do an amazing straight-up sourdough that can also be grabbed at Le Marche St. George if you get there early enough in the day (deliveries usually arrive around 10am).
Try: Country loaf ($8) | The proliferation of Fife’s staple loaf at small/specialty grocers like Caffe La Tana, HOTRO and the August Market is no happy accident. They take a stubborn, slow approach to their craft using only sustainably grown and organic Canadian grains, and the city’s bread-heads have taken delicious note.
Try: Pullman Loaf ($6-12) | After gaining wild popularity as a sporadic pop-up project, the local fresh milled flour and bean supplier finally opened its fully-fledged brick and mortar bakery this past summer. Probably the most people-pleasing bread of the bunch is their Pullman Loaf – a slightly sweet pull-apart pan loaf that is almost as enjoyable to rip up with your hands as it is to eat.
Try: Baguette ($3) | Livia’s bread window/wall is inarguably the most appealing in the biz. It’s also mighty tasty. Their chewy sourdough spindles are honed to near-deadly points – all the better to impale your hunger on! – and are almost as much fun to unravel as they are to stuff in your face. The cafe’s Italian loaf ($8) is also flaky and fluffy perfection, and the Specialty Sourdough ($8) has taken on some dreamy incarnations like Pumpkin Seed Polenta & Parmesan and Potato Rosemary, but is a potential heartbreaker since its flavour rotates daily.
Try: Matchstick Rustic Country Loaf ($8) | When Matchstick’s sourdough program – developed by local cook/baker Annabelle Choi – kicked off several years ago, it was still a somewhat anomalous concept for Vancouver cafes. Although that’s changed enormously since, they’re still keeping it tight and sticking to just three solid to-go options – rustic country, seeded country and miche loaves (custom order only), baked daily at their Chinatown location.
Try: Chocolate Sourdough ($10) | No joke, Nelson’s most decadent loaf is laced with cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate wafers. The price makes it a bit of a splurge but this a worthy indulgence.
Try: Disfunctionale ($7.50) | Decision-making at Purebread is never easy, but maybe this will help slightly: Made with spent grain – a brewing byproduct from a local brewery – this loaf is chewy, slightly malty and eco-friendly!
Try: Spinach Sourdough ($7.50) | Although procuring Ritchie’s more unusual breads requires a bit of logistical magic (she has an irregular Farmers Market schedule and occasionally does pop-ups) you can get her Country Loaf and other goodies from the new Prototype Cafe in Strathcona. If you do luck out, get the spinach sourdough. The small addition of rye flour adds an extra earthiness to the herbal and slightly sweet flavour of the dough. If you didn’t know it was loaded with spinach, then you’d probably think it tasted like sorcery…
Try: Italian Loaf ($11) | Savary Island’s Italian Loaf comes doused with a generous amount of oil and a decent sprinkling of rock salt so no additions are needed. On the opposite end of the bread scale – but all equally delicious – Savary’s Raisin Rye ($11) is super-raisiny and cake-like, and the Irish Soda Bread ($10.50) begs for a big bowl of soup. Can’t decide? Half loaves make it manageable to take home a sampling of all.
Try: Porridge Loaf ($7.50) | There are a couple of bakeries I know of currently making their own interpretations of this style, but Small Victory’s wholesome hot cereal-inspired bread is the best among them. Their porridge loaf embodies the best parts of oatmeal without the sloppiness, including subtle flavours of nutmeg and cinnamon, plus a perfect ratio of walnuts-to-bread. Bonus: the nuts give off little purple halos that make for especially pretty slices.
Try: Green Olive with Sage & Black Pepper Fougasse ($5.95) | Terra Breads is a Vancouver institution, but for some reason this loaf doesn’t seem to ever get its due. The green olive flavour also comes in more plebeian shapes, but this extra crusty, chewy version is way tastier. “Fougasse” means “lattice” in Italian, and here it translates into a two-foot-long ladder shaped thing twinkling with rock salt. Basically, it’s an enormous pretzel. On the sweeter side, their Fig & Anise sourdough loaf ($5.95) is a fruit-and-spice epiphany. Also, that Walnut loaf!
Try: House Sourdough | A strong and innovative pastry selection has always been the MO at this cafe, but the introduction of a bread program might just clinch their status as a fantastic all-rounder in Kits. The house sourdough – made with 10% Anita’s whole wheat flour, 76% hydration and an 8-year-old starter – is a good introduction. Other experimentations have included fig & walnut and olive loaves, plus baguettes. So far, in-house pastry chef/baker Lucy Kirby’s rotating selection of sourdough loaves is available weekends-only.
Try: Sesame & Oat Loaf ($7) | Myra Maston helms the bready side of things at this Fraserhood laboratory of deliciousness. The toasted sesame encrusted exterior of her sesame and oat loaf adds extra depth and ‘umami’ to the perfectly springy and moist sourdough inside. This is by far the best bread bargain in all of Vancouver.