It was the kind of place where you half expected to see Monica, Ross, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Rachel there for you when the rain starts to pour.
With its comforting, bohemian vibe and community-orientation, Our Town Café had garnered a devoted following perched on a triangular Mount Pleasant block, straddled by Kingsway, Broadway, and Main Street.
After news broke about the East Vancouver coffee house's plans to shut down after 14 years on May 3, 2017, an outcry ensued. It was the latest in a string of closures in the area, and became a focal point for concerns and anxieties about rapid redevelopment that has overtaken the city.
However, owner Dave Holmes contacted the Georgia Straight shortly thereafter to clarify that he was renovating the building and planned to continue on with the café in the future.
A year later, Holmes has kept his word.
Version 2.0 of the neighbourhood hangout had its soft opening on June 15.
General manager Filip Nikolic, a former co-owner of Caffè Cittadella, has since joined the team and chatted with the Straight over a mocha about the changes.
Ultimately, Nikolic explains that their overall objective was to retain and build upon previous elements while updating the venue.
"We wanted to keep this as a community place because it was such a huge part of the community before," he says.
Thanks to Sophie Burke Design, the 36-seat room has undergone a visual decluttering.
While the look is sleeker, it's not sterile or cold, as patterned surfaces, including marble, brick, and wood, impart a sense of presence through varied textures. The use of black accents ground the room, preventing the muted tones from floating off into the ether—or boredom.
"It's a beautiful building and we wanted to keep some of the elements of the building to kind of bring it out by playing around with the textures of the space," he says, noting that structural changes have been minor.
Glass partitions, replacing balustrades, also allow for more light to enter and add to the lightness of the room. The overall serenity of the décor offers a calming contrast to the busy world racing by outside.
The overall layout remains the same. However, in the previous incarnation, tables and seats were spread out across the room. Now, they are aligned in orderly rows off to the side, leaving the central area, anchored by a central display table, clear for better physical and visual flow.
An elevated nook off to the west side features benches that can be removed to create a stage to accomodate live performers as needed. Rest assured, the venue is continuing its tradition of showcasing live musical acts, who are scheduled to appear two to three times per week.
The food menu is starting off simple, but will expand, including a light evening menu, which will include finger foods and charcuterie boards.
As is their namesake, they're prioritizing local businesses, such as daily soup specials from Vancouver Soup Company or meat and cheese from neighbouring Home on the Range Organics. Nikolic says most of their baking is done in-house (although they are outsourcing for gluten-free items) and their ever-popular muffins are back.
Breakfast options consist of avocado toast ($9), with arugula, sweet chili sambal, and organic sourdough; or a breakfast wrap ($8), with egg, roasted potatoes, smoked provolone, and more.
Lunch items ($13.50 each) includes a portobello burger, with battered and breaded mushroom, smoked provolone, chutney, arugula, and tomato on an organic brioche bun; or an oven-roasted chicken sandwich, with chutney, roasted red grape, and arugula slaw on organic focaccia.
Their alcoholic beverage menu has expanded beyond beer to include four cocktails, cider, and wine (red, white, and sparkling).
And then there's the coffee.
Nikolic explains that they've retained Cuppa Joe for their Our Town Classic dark roast, and are using Timbertrain blends for medium roast and a custom espresso. He adds that they'll have a rotation of local featured roasters, starting with Modus Coffee Roasters offering Modus Dom espresso and, for pourovers, Modus Latif and Hiro.
A carryover item that's off-menu, named after original founder, is the Henry, a breve misto with chocolate.
Coffee options (from $2 to $5.50) include everything from cortado to flat white, Americano misto to Spanish latte, and nitro cold brew and iced drinks.
It's all made with their shiny, new equipment, which Nikolic admits makes him feel like a kid.
"We have some really nice toys here," he says of their Marco SP9 pour-over machine and four-group La Marzocco Linea PB.
For tea lovers, tea is supplied by O5 Tea, and there's everything from matcha or chai lattes to kombucha on tap.
Thus far, Nikolic reports that they've been seeing longtime customers returning and have received positive reception. There will be a few more minor changes, including patio seating to come and a grand opening is being planned for the next few weeks though a specific date hasn't been determined yet.
Amid the numerous citywide changes and closures, the return of a familiar haunt—even with a makeover—offers a sense of continuity in an era of uncertainty.
"It's good to be back," Nikolic says.