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It's the month of looooooooove so we figured we'd turn this week's Vancouver Weekend into a cheat-sheet of sorts for anyone scrambling to put together some last minute Valentine's Day plans.
Whether you're trying to find the ideal gift or planning a romantic date night out, here are our go-tos around the city when love is in the air.
Cheescake Etc., 2141 Granville Street
Before we get to how enduringly adorable Cheesecake Etc. is, a question: how exactly have they managed to do it? Back in 1979, after two decades years of travelling the world as a jazz musician, Mike Sims and his wife Edith settled in Vancouver, where their love of music never waned. In love with the idea of recreating the magic of old Paris cafés, where Mike began his career at the piano, they opened Cheescake Etc. on Granville. The concept was ridiculously simple—music and a menu that’s the next best thing to sitting streetside on Rue Montorgueil in Paris. The star attraction is, as one might guess, the cheesecake, coming in three flavours (matcha, chocolate, and original) with a variety of toppings on offer, options including fruit (strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry), and sauces (chocolate, caramel, peanut butter cream).
Pair that with a hazlenut latte or Shanghai fog tea, and your night doesn’t get any more perfect. Except that it does, that having everything to do with a vibe where candles are the most important lighting source, the soundtrack often comes courtesy of live jazz performers, and everything is intimate enough that it all somehow seems exra-special and romantic. Back in the day, Mike Sims was often at the piano, riffing on everything from “Take 5” to “Linus and Lucy” from A Charlie Brown Christmas. While he’s passed on, Cheesecake Etc. (which has no liquor licence) somehow endures, open only from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly and run by the Sims family. How do they do it? The answer, clearly, is magic. -Mike Usinger
Rio Theatre, 1660 E Broadway
The Rio’s always a great choice for any kind of night, but if you’re looking for Valentine’s Day date ideas, the theatre has an excellent lineup of inspired flicks running through the weekend and into next week.
There’s the Tarantino-penned, Tony Scott-directed True Romance, starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. Baz Luhrmann’s spectacular adaptation of Romeo + Juliet, starring Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (and featuring one of the greatest-ever soundtracks, in my opinion—Garbage, Butthole Surfers, the Cardigans, Radiohead…). In the Mood for Love, Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece starring Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, which is also accompanied by a notable soundtrack including Nat King Cole. And High Fidelity, which stars John Cusack in the Nick Hornby novel adaptation of a cynical record shop owner who lists his top five breakups. (Great soundtrack too, of course). Check out the Rio’s calendar here. -Yasmine Shemesh
The Bunny Cafe, 1696 Venables Street
It’s the year of the rabbit (or the cat, in the Vietnamese lunar calendar) so why not head to a cozy animal cafe for a laid-back date afternoon?
While there are a few cat cafes to choose from in town, the aptly-named Bunny Cafe is the only one offering leporine lounging. Book an hour-long slot and you’ll find yourself enchanted by cute little balls of fuzz hopping around an airy, cozy cafe. Grab a vanilla oat latte or housemade soft-serve ice cream from the totally vegan menu, and settle in for an abundance of cuteness. If you fall head over heels for a couple of the little critters, all the rabbits are adoptable—so there’s the chance your valentine date could turn into a full-fledged love story. Look at their little faces and tell me you’re not tempted. -V.S. Wells
Cream Mint Florist, 2541 Main Street
If you’re looking for a bouquet that has a little more pizazz than the bunch of wilted flowers sitting outside the local No Frills, this is the place to go. Cream Mint Florist on Main Street is nothing but attentive to detail. They’ve got fresh flowers, dried flowers, preserved flowers, flowers by the stem, flowers by the bunch, cards, vases; you name it, they’ve got it. Walking into the shop, you’ll even find a basketful of mini Valentine’s Day cards that are free with a purchase.
Is literally everything in the store a bit on the pricier side? Yeah, sure. Is it worth spending a bit more on this, the most romantic day of the year? Absolutely. Because between you me, whoever you gift a bouquet to this February 14 will be able to tell the difference—no shade to the No Frills flowers (any showing of love is valid, and all that), but they’ve got nothing on Cream Mint Florist. -Chandler Walter
Running every week, Vancouver Weekend spotlights Straight-approved places around the city worth discovering.