Musette Caffè reopens in downtown Vancouver to connect cycling community, caffeine, and history

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      Cycling and caffeine fans can rejoice: a cycling community hub has reopened in a new and improved space. But that's not to say it has erased its past—or its connection to cycling history.

      Musette Caffè inhabited 1262 Burrard Street for four years, until it closed in November as the building was slated for demolition. With an entrance through the alley, it remained a semi-secret spot known mostly through word-of-mouth (or word-of-social-media).

      In an interview at the new premises, owner Thomas Eleizegui chatted with the Georgia Straight over coffee and pork-belly sandwiches about how he's glad his new space is finally open after waiting for over a year. It's a relief for him, as many were confused by the previous location's alley-orientation and had trouble finding it. 

      Craig Takeuchi

      His new spot opened on January 2 at 1325 Burrard Street in a modern 2,200-square-feet, high-ceilinged space that seats up to 56 people. A bonus is that the new location will also have a patio that will seat up to 40 people.

      It's quite the boost from the previous quaint spot which only seated 16 people.

      Although the Burrard cycling lanes have been disrupted by construction work on the Burrard Bridge, that's all expected to clear up by the middle of this year. Nonetheless, being positioned on one of the city's busiest thoroughfare will maximize street presence for the cycling community.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Although transportation by bicycle has been increasingly integrated in contemporary Vancouver from bike lanes to bike-share programs, Eleizegui, who was born in the Philippines and lived in Italy until he moved here in 1984, said he was influenced by Italian cycling culture growing up and he wants to showcase the sport's historical evolution.

      Like the previous location, his passion to increase awareness about and appreciation for cycling history is evident in the paraphernalia displayed about the room. Items range from international cycling jerseys and gear to photographs and even wall-mounted bicycles. (And these items only represent about half of his full collection.)

      As a matter of fact, the new tables are literally pieces of history themselves, as they're made from wood taken from 1938 velodrome tracks from Antwerp, Belgium.

      The design of these booths at Musette Caffé were inspired by Paris Roubaix shower stalls.
      Craig Takeuchi

      Furthermore, there's a visual reference that might escape most people but won't be lost upon avid cyclists.

      Eleizegui designed a row of booths along the north side of the café to resemble the famous shower stations at the Paris Roubaix in France, one of the oldest cycling races in the world. The lighting fixtures are based on the shower structures and each stall features a plaque with the name of a race winner.

      Paris Roublaix shower stalls in France

      Another connection is embedded within the café's name. The word musette refers to the small, lightweight shoulder bags handed out to cyclists during races within feed zones, and they're designed to be easily grabbed without disrupting the cyclist's pace.

      Craig Takeuchi

      And that's a great way to summarize the eatery.

      As they're still in soft-opening mode, the menu is still being developed and revised. (As many details are still being fine-tuned, visit the Musette Caffé website for updates.) But there'll be sandwiches, wraps, soup, salads, pastries, freshly squeezed juice, and eventually brunch items. Unlike their previous location which had about 80 percent of their items brought in, they are now making almost everything in-house in their new kitchen, under the direction of their chef Jennifer Belbeck (from Tableau Bar Bistro).

      Craig Takeuchi

      Of course, for coffee lovers (which is basically everyone in this city), there's a full range of coffees from Pallet Roasters and Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Eleizegui said they also now have a liquor licence and will be serving local craft beer, B.C. wine, and specialty drinks.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Like their previous incarnation, cycling apparel and accessories are also on sale. That includes Musette brand gear and coffee cups (which feature reworked cycling stripes inspired by the Union Cycliste Internationale World Championships).

      Musette Caffé

      While cycling is an activity that offers great independence, spots like Musette offer a physical social space that social technology can't always replace.

      To underline that point, the café will be offering monthly adventure rides, starting in March. Eleizegui emphasized these tours are fitness-oriented rather than sightseeing escapades (although they will make some viewing stops). Accordingly, they're great for anyone, including visitors, who may want to exercise, train, or keep up their fitness regimen in the local outdoors. Rides will include visits to places such as Horseshoe Bay, the Sunshine Coast, the North Shore, Mount Baker, and more.

      Craig Takeuchi

      They've also teamed up with the Loden Hotel to offer luxury bike rentals from Pinarello. Going beyond just cycling, Musette also hosts a running club that meets there every Tuesday. Eleizegui said their next steps will include offering bicycle repairs, which will come later on.

      This is all to say that the café is intended to be a nexus for not only the past and present but also for all people to appreciate the worlds of cycling and caffeine alike.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook