Author: Shirley & Mike Wong
“Now where did you find her.”
-INXS (from “Beautiful Girl”)
You see, vegan and gluten free can sound limiting – and maybe a concept that’s hard to grasp – to some traditional meat-eaters. But that’s changing with a growing movement. Simply meaning, more people want to eat healthy and delicious food in an appealing space.
And Vancouver cafés are getting very good at filling this void. You’ll find they’re dialing down the hippy-dippy, and turning up the idea that eating conscientiously can be sophisticated, approachable, and dare we say, stylishly aspirational.
If you’re a regular at Lonsdale’s Buddha-Full, you’ve likely endured a long lunchtime lineup to their tiny café. But if you haven’t tried, consider visiting their bigger location on the other side of the North Shore. (Note: They also recently introduced ordering online where you can “skip the line” at both locations.)
On Stop 119 of our Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee, we hop in a car, drive over Second Narrows Bridge, take the turnoff to Dollarton Highway, continue along Main St (which turns into Dollarton Hwy) and turn left into the Northwoods Village shopping complex. It’s a trip that takes just a handful of minutes.
This new complex looks similar to an upscale outdoor outlet. Buddha-Full occupies the farthest left corner of this plaza.
We step in and our jaws drop just a little. Buddha-Full is a huge, airy space with high ceilings. Look out the large windows. Besides the spacious parking lot, enjoy a serene tree-populated view.
What’s neat is there are lots of natural, outdoor elements in their decor. There’s the two wood-slat tree swings hanging from the ceiling that a little girl and her mom are testing out. And there’s unique tree-stump stools, plus endless greenery populating this space.
Keep walking all the way to the back, past the counter at the front, and you’ll find even more seating. Recommended if you like to do work in a more private space.
But if you’re feeling social, Buddha-Full has a few spindly bar stools at the counter (with thoughtful little purse/backpack hooks underneath).
We take a look at their big wall menu (also posted online) which has a heavy emphasis on beverages (smoothies, juices, health shots, kombucha and hot drinks). For food, there’s toasts, wraps, sandwiches/paninis, samosas, soups, salads, acai bowls and buddha bowls.
Kudos to Buddha-Full for developing a dog-friendly (vet-approved) menu item: the K9 Smoothie Bowl made of kale, almond butter, blueberry, strawberry, banana and alkalized H2O. Although the necessity of specialized water is questionable – our canine indulges in the finest quality tap water – the concept is smart.
Many Vancouverites will spend a lot to invest in their health: that’s no different for dog owners who will fork out what’s necessary to make sure their pooch is happy and lives a long, quality life.
If you’d like something sweet, their selection changes so you won’t find baked goods on the menu. Just see what’s in their display case. Today it’s bars (seed, sunbutter, energy, almond) and cookies (chocolate, peanut butter). Their cinnamon buns, which aren’t there today, are also very popular.
We order an Avocado & Toast with Sunflower & Sunflower Sprouts ($8.95) and Peanut Butter Cookie ($4.50). I opt for a Go Coconuts smoothie ($10, 10 oz) made with coconut water, coconut cream, pineapple and dates. It’s offered as 10 or 12 ounce.
Mike asks for an Americano ($3.50, 12 oz). When he asks what coffee they use, the staffer looks at him blankly and says Americano. He tries again and asks what brand of coffee, and she checks with the barista. We’re told it’s Moja Coffee espresso. In the retail area, they have bags of Moja’s Organic Espresso Imara, so our conclusion is that’s the profile they brew here.
We’re glad to see they support a local coffee, and frankly, Moja dominates the North Shore. If you haven’t tried, Moja’s North Van roastery is actually minutes from here.
We take a seat at a table the far end of the café. I wisely offer the banquet to Mike and I perch on the skinny tree stool. Likely heading off a situation where his tall frame teeters off.
Because we’re out of earshot from the counter, Mike heads back to the front to wait for our order. He comes back with two disposable cups: one with coffee (paper cup) and the other with the smoothie (plastic). It’s odd since they have ceramic cups displayed on their espresso machine. Our impression: the barista didn’t get the message that we were eating in.
Mike says his coffee is pretty good, with cocoa and nutty flavours. My smoothie is very nice, creamy and thick with an intense coconut and pineapple taste. It’s also very large, so I later end up taking it home.
Also mystifying: the peanut butter cookie comes in a paper bag instead of a plate. This is another staff miscommunication since other diners gets food served in bowls.
The cookie is hefty, thick and looks delicious with a cracked surface. It’s moist and super dense inside – something that would fill you up after working out. Mike says the sticky texture reminds him of Clif bars.
The avo toast is the stunner and arrives on a wooden board. The avocado is mashed to creaminess, topped with thin slices of radishes, a generous sprinkling of sunflower sprouts. Little piles of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes let you control how much seasoning you want.
The bread has been toasted and we agree it’s very good. The radishes add a fresh crunch. Still, Mike is not a fan of the sprouts. I think they’re pretty good, but they aren’t your average micro greens. The leaves and stems are thicker, so you don’t get as delicate a mouth feel.
As we’re leaving, we hover at the station where you empty your plates. There’s one bin labelled garbage and another recycling. I have a handful of paper napkins, search for a container that takes compost, but there isn’t any. Aspirations aside, I can’t forget the small things are what I remember most.
VANCOUVER BARISTA REVIEW
Name of coffee: Moja Coffee Roasters’ Organic Espresso Imara
Location of roaster: North Vancouver, B.C.
Brewing method: Americano
Roaster’s tasting notes: “Our signature blend brings the ultimate balance between chocolate, caramel and crema.”
Mike’s comments: Cocoa, sweet and nutty with a low acidic taste.
- Eye candy space with generous variety of indoor and outdoor seating.
- Good selection of food, which overall was flavourful and fresh.
- If you’re near Second Narrows Bridge, this location is remarkably convenient.
- Prices on the high side.
- Service was strictly transactional. Staff under delivered on basic knowledge of their coffee.
Seating availability: 5/5
OVERALL RATING by VANCOUVER BARISTA: 4.13/5
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Want to visit?
102-2120 Dollarton Hwy (North Vancouver). Find them at the farthest left corner of the Northwoods Village shopping complex.
Operating hours here.