Author: Shirley & Mike Wong
“As if you didn’t know before.”
-Culture Beat (from “Mr. Vain”)
A visit to M.R. Coffee in Kitsilano is absolutely necessary, simply because of the name. But today, the owner is the one that surprises us.
M.R. Coffee himself, looks us straight in the eye and says he recognizes us from our reviews. People, this ain’t fake news.
But if you’re asking, this rarely happens. Our reviews are remembered more than our faces, which is the sweet spot to be.
Anyway, who the heck is behind M.R. Coffee?
Ricky, sporting a ball cap, is actually a very nice guy. He looks vaguely familiar and soon enough, the pieces come together. Though not one to boast, he eventually shares that he worked for Pallet Coffee Roasters for two years. Small world, we remember him working in East Village.
He describes Pallet Coffee as an amazing company that stands out for being “generous and unselfish”. In fact, when the East Van roaster heard one of their former employees was launching a café, they didn’t hesitate to share their knowledge and advice.
Pallet’s operations manager Shane Dehkhodaei, who has a construction background, even helped build this compact space.
Ricky fell in love with coffee in 2009, with his favourite drink being the cortado, and then cappuccino. Opening this business is his longtime dream, that’s finally materialized. While his goal isn’t to make a coffee shop that’s super busy or popular, he would like to create a relaxing space for people to enjoy a drink. Still, he jokingly adds it would be nice to make money.
On Stop 130 of our Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee, we drive down Fir St and turn at West 1st Ave. Their store is tricky to spot. But luckily, M.R. Coffee’s sky blue sandwich board stands out on a corner island, along with a family of other shop signs.
Just a word of caution about street parking. As we stand outside our car, debating the legality of our parking spot, a friendly Purolator courier walks up. He points to our vehicle and tells us he’s seen others ticketed in that same space. Thankful, we end up moving.
We enter M.R. Coffee, where Ricky is the sole staffer this morning. It’s a small, clean space with a galore of feline memorabilia – artwork, tiny figurines. We comment he must be a cat lover. To which he looks up and credits his interior decorator: “That’s my wife.”
But you’ll see M.R. Coffee is still a work in progress, as these are still early days of being open. He points to the large white wall behind us, empty, and says he’s thinking of putting art up there.
The M.R. Coffee beverage menu is simple and straightforward. It’s not huge but there are multiple sizes offered. Plus, prices are smartly where they should be.
For the non-coffee drinkers, they’ll appreciate the handful of tea lattes offered. Although not listed, Ricky can add a shot of vanilla syrup to your drink for extra.
Mike orders an Americano ($2.90) and I have a latte ($4, 12 oz). Ricky’s roaster of choice, of course, is Pallet Coffee. So both drinks will use Pallet’s signature profile, Benchmark, which is currently made of beans from Brazil and Papua New Guinea.
However, the underlying countries may change soon. Ricky says that’s just because Ben Rugg, Pallet’s coffee production supervisor, “enjoys experimenting”.
A counter menu lists daily sandwiches ($8), all healthy: roasted veggie, turkey breast or roast beef. There’s also house salad ($8) or side salad ($2). We pick the bacon and cheese sandwich ($5).
Their selection of baked goods includes: muffins ($2.50), banana loaf ($3.50), raspberry chocolate scone ($3.50), salted almond butter cookie ($2.50) and gluten free brownie ($2.50). Our pick is the gluten free carrot cake ($2.50).
Ricky asks if this is to stay, and if we have some time. We do, but he plates our orders quickly, efficiently. The bacon and cheese sandwich is freshly made, garnished with a side of cherry tomatoes and blueberries. And kudos to this cafe that offers more than just pastries at a fair price.
Also at a good price point is the GF carrot cake. I do wish it was more moist.
Ricky finishes the Americano first. Mike says it’s nice, chocolaty with a slight citrus acidity and well balanced.
Then he starts on my latte. Steaming the milk, then pouring a heart design with a steady hand that can only come from years of experience. Pallet Coffee has consistent, technical latte art.
But Ricky expresses his personality, later showing us a finished latte with a comical cat face. He brings the mug to another customer and she loves the surprise art on her drink.
My latte is creamy with mellow coffee flavour. It’s good and I like the thick milk.
Mike texts a friend of his that works in this area. He wants to let him know about M.R. Coffee and the owner, whose favourite drink is cortado. That happens to be his friend’s favourite drink too.
At the end of our visit, Ricky spots someone outside walking their Labrador retriever. He heads out, carefully balancing a water bowl in hand, and places it in front of the thirsty dog. The young woman thanks him and they exchange some conversation. That’s the thing about Kits: there’s kindness everywhere.
VANCOUVER BARISTA REVIEW
Name of coffee: Pallet Coffee Roasters’ Benchmark
Origin: Brazil & Papua New Guinea
Location of roaster: Vancouver, B.C.
Brewing method: Americano
Roaster’s tasting notes: “With a pulped natural Brazil base to create medium-full body and deliver a smooth cocoa finish – blended with a bold, bright Papua New Guinea to bring a sweet, juicy tropical finish.”
Mike’s comments: Chocolaty with a slight citrus acidity. Well balanced.
- Friendly and coffee-knowledgeable barista who makes proper drinks.
- An owner who cares about making a connection to his customers, one at a time.
- Small, clean and modern cafe in a pleasant neighbourhood.
- No real lows. Interested in seeing how this cafe will develop and evolve.
Seating availability: 3.5/5
OVERALL RATING by VANCOUVER BARISTA: 4.25/5
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Want to visit?
1612 West 1st Ave (at Fir St)
Operating hours here.