Restaurant: Gene Cafe
Last visited: September 19, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Main Street/Mount Pleasant)
Address: 2404 Main Street
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food/Drinks: 4.5 (based on coffees)
- Locally owned and operated
- Popular to locals
- Specializes in coffee
- For real coffee drinkers
- Very simple menu
- Very “Main Street”
- Attracts hipsters
- Small selection of food
- Free wi-fi
- Open daily 7:30am-7pm
**Recommendations: It depends what you like, but the latte, cappuccino and ginger cocoa were all great.
How cute is this tear drop shaped cafe? Ok so it’s definitely a place for “Main Street” locals *ahem* hipster alert… but what do you expect? It’s located near The Foundation Lounge (another hipster joint) in the tail end of a building facing a super busy intersection. The building is also home to Budgie’s Burritos and The Wallflower Modern Diner. Although it’s very visible, it’s also very narrow and very easily missed unless you’re looking for it. It’s a bit of a hidden gem it what looks like a run down building, but the unusual architecture is enough to draw you in.
It’s always busy with people studying, reading and using their free wi-fi while others sit on the benches outside to “get fresh air”… or people watch. How much fresh air can one get with the high volume of traffic that goes on in this intersection? It’s a bit intimidating going in, but I felt much more comfortable after putting on my glasses without lenses 😉
The layout is simple yet random with small tables tucked in every corner (for people who want privacy), small tables facing the street (for people who want privacy and want to get dizzy by the busy traffic), a bar (for people who want to people watch), and a communal table (for bigger groups or for those who like to chit chat with randoms).
I was looking for Matcha Latte and then realized I was in the wrong part of town. It’s one of those real cafes, with a simple menu, that specializes in coffee for real coffee drinkers. My immediate reaction was to draw comparisons to my favourite coffee places Elysian Coffee and 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Cafe. Those cafes are a bit more posh and sophisticated in style and atmosphere, but the coffee at Gene Cafe was just as good or at least almost as good.
Looking at the menu I contemplated the Polish Pillow, which sounded like a sick joke or a home made fluffy Polish cookie… but it was neither. My assumptions were a bit more exciting as I discovered the Polish Pillow was actually a very sweet drink made from instant coffee.
Gene Cafe also offers a small selection of baked goods and breakfasts, and by small selection I mean they offer 2 kinds of cookies, 1 loaf, and 1 made in house breakfast egg wrap. They may have a 2-3 more items, but this was basically it when I was there. All in all it was a fun place and I would come again, but next time with my laptop and vintage frock.
On the table:
- A very good latte! It was hot, strong, creamy and slightly bitter, but not burnt at all. It had a naturally sweet taste, but I still like Elysian Coffee and 49th Parallel better though.
- I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine and it was stronger than I though. About an hour later I was pretty wide awake and full of energy.
- It had a very thick top layer of frothy foam and it’s not as milky or creamy as the latte obviously. Again, the beans are strong in flavour, but not burnt.
- It was served nice and hot and it was stronger than the latte.
- I liked this a lot! Ginger is really growing on me because I used to know like it as much. It’s a surprisingly light drink that’s not that sweet at all. Hot chocolate is sweeter.
- I could taste the ginger more than chocolate. The ginger is aromatic and the taste gets stronger as you drink it because it wasn’t that obvious with the first sip. It lingers a little bit of heat at the end, but it’s not spicy.
- I think the chocolate they used was real chocolate too because it left a creamy melted chocolate smear on the spoon.
- It brought back memories of the steamed ginger organic soy milk I enjoyed so much from Life Cafe Organic Restaurant & Bar in Hong Kong.
- Bake sale cookie. It was a medium sized dome shaped cookie. Not bad, but not great.
- I think they were home made, but they weren’t as good as they looked and it could have been out sourced and that wouldn’t surprise me either.
- It was almost like an cake cookie with a soft texture, but it wasn’t that chewy. It has an oatmeal cookie texture so it’s a bit dry and crumbles more than expected.
- I could taste cinnamon and there were tons of pecan pieces throughout but I could have used more banana taste.
Always loved this location. Never came in, was always passin’ thru…however will check it out. Nice lookin’ drinks.
i have passed this place so many times…and thought it too tiny and hip to enter!
its really fun to read about vancouver restaurants, even if i dont always agree with your assessment (i think i have lower standards..)
That was a hilarious description lol.. I can’t help but notice that the chairs in the first picture look exactly like the ones that were in my elementary school class rooms
I’ve got a lot of love and respect for Cafe Gene and the owner. From what I’ve heard he’s worked really hard to get that place the way it is . He also loves coffee and it shows. I am by no means a hipster, so when I do go I usually sit outside and people watch with few friends. In the late summer evenings the views down main street are spectacular!
Bow – let me know what you think
amanda – thanks for commenting! You don’t have low standards I’m sure lol… just a different set of taste bud 🙂
nic – oh my… you are SO right! I didn’t even notice lol
A.J. – lol so you’re one of the people watchers!! It is a cute lil place!
I’m glad you weren’t put off by the coffee at Gene, which I’ve thought might be too strong for North American tastes, accustomed as they are to brewed java and Starsux sweetsyrup. I love what they serve, although we usually make our own strong cappucinos at home on an elaborate Italian espresso maker that was so good (and expensive) that we brought it up here with us from Australia. (Had to buy a 3,000-watt transformer to make it work, too.) Gene is the only place we’ve found that makes coffee as good as what you find everywhere in Australia, where a wave of post-WW II immigrants taught them to drink something other than tea. We’ve even started buying the brand of coffee they use, which comes from a roaster called Casa del Caffee which is in East Van. That’s how much we like the place.
Bukko Canukko – wow! Okay, well YOU are a real coffee drinker! I’m not a coffee connoisseur, but I do appreciate a nice strong cup once in a while. Thanks so much for sharing! It’s good to know that this place rates high for someone with high coffee standards like yourself. what do you think of the coffee at Creme de la Crumb on Granville Street? They import their in from Seattle.
On my first visit to Gene, a couple years ago, I had the best cappuccino ever. The foam was dense rather than airy, the coffee bursting with flavor, the liquid slightly viscous. It was unlike any cappuccino I’d ever had before. I don’t know if my subsequent cappuccinos have been as memorable but I still like this place a lot.
The baked goods are good but might be too “healthy” tasting for some. To me they taste home-baked. This is not Starbucks in terms of both the coffee and the baked goods!
@YogaSpy – definitely NOT Starbucks… in fact… I think it’s the answer to Starbucks… they’re almost the exact opposite I’d say. I can understand if sometimes you want an “unhealthy” tasting baked good with your coffee… hopefully they can get more traffic and offer more goodies.
Yeah. Its the hipster meca of main st.