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10 Characteristics of a Hipster Restaurant

I wrote a post called 10 Things to Look for When Dining Vietnamese and 10 Characteristics of a Hippie Restaurant and this is the hipster version of it. I want to say it was “by popular demand”, but there was no demand. I just felt like doing it and I hope you find it entertaining even if you don’t think it’s true. I know hipsters hate being called “hipsters” and I know I’m stereotyping… but it’s for fun and there is a degree of truth to it, but don’t take this too seriously. I apologize ahead of time if I offend some people… anyway here goes!

Traif in Manhattan, New York

1. No signs.

All signs, and as contradicting as it sounds, no signs, is the first sign that points to hipster. It used to be vintage or restored signs, but now it’s just no sign. It’s no longer cool to be “loud” with big signage, although small signage with tiny and barely visible font seems to be the new way to market. Or it could be just more affordable too.

Narrow Artist Lounge in Vancouver, BC

2. It’s in a random, hidden, or off the beaten track location.

If it’s a posh, hip and trendy area, a hipster restaurant shouldn’t be there, but quite often it is. A “real” hipster restaurant likely settled in a popular area before it got popular, or they have already moved to secluded areas, lofts and basements that are less known and more affordable. Even if it is in a popular area it will keep to itself and away from the “hype”. Being discrete and sometimes shady looking is key.

House Guest in Vancouver, BC

3. The hours are random, the website is broken or ambiguous, and they don’t pick up their phone.

I don’t get it. Apparently it’s no longer cool to pick up your phone and a full inbox is all you’ll get if it’s not an endless ring. Operating a business doesn’t really require set business hours or an informational website either. “Work when you want” is not a far-fetched mentality. Closing hours and “official closing hours” are blurred because they often close when they want, or when things get boring.

Nelson the Seagull in Vancouver, BC

4. The clientele and staff are hard to tell apart, and you kind of feel like you need a membership to eat there.

With vintage second hand clothing, new clothes that are made to look old, and old clothes that can cost more than new clothes, everyone is more or less rocking the same thing. Uniforms? What uniforms? The staff wear what they’re comfortable in. As for the customers, instead of fake eyelashes and purses, it’ll be fake glasses and messenger bags. The guys may sport facial hair that seem professionally styled and groomed, and they too are carrying messenger bags. As intimate as the space may seem, you may feel unwelcome if you’re not part of the culture.

Nelson the Seagull in Vancouver, BC

5. If it’s not a DJ it’s a record player.

There is usually music playing and the tracks are nothing you would hear on the radio… unless you’re listening to AM radio. There may be the occasional Beatles and timeless forgotten classics, but otherwise everything else will be some new “unknown” band, or something off PitchForkMedia. If it’s not vinyl they’re playing then it’s going to be an in house DJ, who plays occasional hip hop, and on special nights they might feature a live independent band that most people (non-hipsters) may not have heard of.

Pine States Biscuits in Portland, Oregon

6. The guy baking has tattoos and is really into the baking.

There is an emphasis on home made and usually baking… and the passion may stem from baking brownies. The cookies should always be homemade and if you’re lucky, the place will make their own biscuits. The kitchen looks like a home style kitchen and the bakers are usually sporting a bandana or some funky hat.

The Fat Radish in Manhattan, New York

7. If the decor isn’t earthy and artsy with a handcrafted wooden table, then it’s retro or funky Japanese.

Are you inside or outside? Long wooden communal tables, memorabilia and random mismatched furniture are common at hipster hangouts. Artwork by unknown artists and a handcrafted communal wooden table in some part of the room is common. It’s either white and minimalistic or dark and gloomy. Most likely there will be some black and white or sepia tone photographs somewhere. If it’s not the nature route or “root” (ha!), then it’s the retro route or funky Japanese route.

Gene Cafe in Vancouver, BC

8. It seems a bit more like a hang out than a restaurant.

There’s free wi-fi and maybe some retro old school boardgames lying around. The food isn’t necessarily secondary, but it’s really about atmosphere and eating together… at the wooden communal table. If you’re alone, then you’re using a lap top, reading a book, scribbling in a notebook, drawing in a sketchbook, playing on your iphone or listening to music on your ipod… or knitting.

Cafe Myriade in Montreal, Quebec

9. They’re proud of their coffee and hand grind/roast their own coffee beans.

Coffee is a huge focus and they take pride in hand roasting their own coffee beans. It should be fair trade and organic too and I wouldn’t say the word “decaf” too loudly.

Apothéke in Manhattan, New York

10. Drinks are either exotic and expensive or really cheap.

When it comes to drinks it’s a bit black and white. Some hipster places will feature the most amazing and original drinks that sound like food made by professional mixologists who are dedicated to their craft. On the other hand hipsters can find these places too pretentious and prefer drinks for really cheap.

Le Bremner in Montreal, Quebec

11. It’s throwback comfort food with a twist.

Okay so I have 11 things, it’s okay to not follow the rules when I’m writing about hipster stuff anyways. The food is almost always homemade and an ode to comfort food. Yes, there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan hipsters, but they’re bordering on “hippie-hipster” (see 10 Characteristics of a Hippie Restaurant). Diets aren’t cool so hipsters will never admit to being on one. The “bad for you food” is eaten in small amounts and it’s how they stay so slim for those tighter fitting pants.

**If you’re restaurant has even half of these characteristics and you deny being a “hipster restaurant”, that almost makes you even more of one! And if you’ve heard or visited all of these restaurants and have said “that restaurant isn’t even that hipster, or hipster anymore”, you are likely one too.




{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 erin February 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

um… is this ONLY about houseXguest? ;) hilarious.

2 Loxy February 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

12. It serves PBR, ironically.

3 Mijune February 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

@Erin – It was inspiration ;)

@Loxy – YES! Pabst Blue Ribbon! And the servers/customers may speak in lingo that I might not understand lol

4 Michael Kwan February 6, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I’m pretty sure I just dined at a hipster(-ish) restaurant for Dine Out. Post coming tomorrow on the blog. :)

5 ThatShawnConner February 6, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hilarious! Would like to have seen a pic of Prado (Commercial Dr.) up there but now they have a sign so maybe they don’t qualify. Union on Union definitely does thought!

6 LotusRapper February 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

LOLLLLL !!!

Mijune, now I feel like a “hip-”ster, as in almost old ’nuff to break my hip one of these days, undoubtedly slipping on some spilled Pabst at a hipster resto, hahaha.

Love the pic of Gene Cafe with the guy on his iPhone and on his laptop :-D

7 Mimi February 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Very good~

8 Jacinthe February 6, 2012 at 11:33 pm

So. True. I just ate at Model Milk tonight in Calgary…it’s definitely hipster! I do love it though. :)

9 Mijune February 7, 2012 at 3:06 am

@Michael Kwan – can’t wait to read about the undiscovered gem!! Hipsters will hate you for making it popular ;)

@ThatShawnConner – Prado I’ve heard of and Union I haven’t… so you’re definitely on the right track because I’m not even hipster lol. Given that I’m a foodie I should know about both though… I’m going to search Union on Union now! thanks Shawn!

@LR – lol so glad you enjoyed it! Totally meant to be for fun, but I’m loving how everyone can relate!!

10 Mijune February 7, 2012 at 3:08 am

@ThatShawnConner – oh wait are you talking about The Union Bar in Chinatown!? If it’s The Union Bar then I’ve heard of that one! :)

11 serdar tonkas February 7, 2012 at 3:49 am

I think I have such a place in Amsterdam…

Didn’t know I had a hipster place ;-)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vandaag-Amsterdam/168345039883353

12 Michelle chin February 7, 2012 at 4:46 am

Almost every cafe in melbourne is hipster then! Haha. You’ve nailed all 10 traits. :D

13 Linda February 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

hahahahaha i couldn’t stop laughing when i read this and i totally agree!!

14 Kristy February 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm

You forgot that all chefs & cooks have massive beards, and don’t wear beard nets. (i.e. Red Wagon Cafe). Even the baker in your post has a damn beard.

#nasty

15 Mijune February 8, 2012 at 4:38 am

@serdar tonkas – I lived in Utrecht!!! Yes! Hipster place :) hahah thanks for the repost on FB!! :)

@Michelle chin – I would think so! Melbourne is the Vancouver of Australia! :)

@Linda – so happy to make you laugh :)

@Kristy – Hi Kristy! lol re: tip #4 – the staff and customers look the same. I mention the facial hair in there ;)

16 aggy February 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Re: #2

If it’s located in Blood Alley then it’s definitely hipster (Salt Tasting Room & Judas Goat Taberna anyone?).

17 tofu-chemisto February 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

How’s about the newly open Matchstick on Fraser & Kingsway area… Hipster parents mixed with local CBC personality ( weekends are great for hipster parent bingo)

18 Haywire February 18, 2012 at 12:03 pm

These are just signs of good, comfortable restaurant.

Restaurants in Blood Alley are way mainstream now. Five years old…

Fraser Kingsway is the new hot with all the new un-signed / secret restaurants (no I’m not naming names) but Matchstick is fun too.

Chinatown’s underground hipster studio restaurants feel a lot like Sugar Refinery did back in the early ninety’s. The kids just wear different clothes now, but the music’s the same — must the be 20-year loop kicking in.

19 Mijune February 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm

@haywire – i agree with you completely!

20 William August 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

I’ve recently frequented a cafe a few times in a town that I’ve moved to in Scotland. I’ve always referred to it as a hipster cafe. Now after reading this, I’ve been proved absolutely right!!

Well done!

21 Mikie Steve January 8, 2014 at 9:31 am

You missed:

-The menu is a chalk board painted on the wall behind a counter

- Credit cards are processed by an iPad with receipts emailed.

LOL, brought a smile to my face.

22 Mijune January 9, 2014 at 1:32 am

@Milkie- ha.. thanks ;)

23 LotusRapper January 9, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Since I’ve been going to Matchstick so often in the past 3-4 months, I realized I should have bought stocks in some flannel shirt company. Seems to be the shirt-de rigueur of hipsters !

24 octaviana January 19, 2014 at 12:48 am

haha…great observation

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