Review of The Drive Coffee Bar: Our Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee

Author: Shirley & Mike Wong

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
We’re on Commercial Drive to visit a sweet new café so aptly named, The Drive Coffee Bar. It’s Stop 60 on our weekly Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee.

“The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn.”

-Aerosmith (from “Dream On”)

On our first ever café “test drive”, we were on these same blocks, drinking coffee outside on Commercial Drive. Instead of a picturesque experience – like enjoying the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee – we were seated beside a gentleman in a BC Lions jersey, defiantly chain smoking under a clearly marked, non-smoking sign.

A year later, some things haven’t changed. For one, this unique anti-establishment neighbourhood remains Mike’s favourite place to visit. Maybe this strip has slightly gentrified over the years. But beneath the surface? It’s the same reassuringly undiluted, take-it-or-leave-it attitude that’s the never-boring signature of East Van.

On Stop 60 of our weekly Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee, we’re at busy intersection of Commercial and 1st Avenue, visiting The Drive Coffee Bar, a new café that just opened in late 2015. If you’re not familiar with them, they are the same owners of Commercial Drive Coffee. (We recognize their bagged coffee from the coffee aisle of our local London Drugs.)

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Love this wall of framed art that adds personality to this space

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
A bottle of water is thoughtfully put at every table

 

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Barista action behind the counter

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
The authentic feel of an Italian café on The Drive

 

As we pass a small street level patio, we push open the door to a sweet looking coffee shop. The walls of this long narrow café sport colourful work by artist Paul Gent. There’s bright red iron chairs, wooden tables and a little bench at the back. Although it’s early, many seats are taken by locals reading the paper. The Drive Coffee Bar is comfortable and modern at the same time, which isn’t an easy design feat.

As we head for the long counter at the side, a staffer greets us warmly. They serve drip and espresso brewed drinks, with most having a unique option of small, medium or large size.

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
The Drive Coffee Bar is also licensed to serve liquor

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Hipster seating and art by Paul Gent

 

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Clean lines of this plank counter add to the modern feel

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
A decadent tiramisu that’s made by a local bakery on the Drive

 

Mike orders a medium Americano ($3.25) and I have a small latte ($3.75). When he asks what profile they are using, she tells us it’s their regular medium roast. Commercial Drive Coffee carries a few medium roasts, but we think this is the Continental Medium Roast. It would have helped if she brought over a bag of their coffee or told us the name of their profile.

For food, they have a good selection of Italian pastries – torta, tiramisu, cannoli – which is a refreshing change from our norm. Besides that, there’s café standards like cakes, muffins and loaves. For savoury: wraps, sandwiches and breakfast wraps.

We ask for her breakfast recommendation and she suggests something authentically Italian – the tiramisu ($4.99). She mentions that they buy from the Drive’s legendary La Grotta Del Formaggio. We go with her suggestion and add a big chocolate dipped biscotti.

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
A menu that is diverse in beverage sizes

 

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
An enormous chocolate dipped biscotti

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Comfortable surroundings make this a cool hangout

She tells us she’ll bring our drinks to the table. As we take a seat, more locals drop by. We overhear conversation and find the two staffers are consistently friendly and outgoing, always asking how customers are doing.

Our drinks arrive. Mike finds his coffee is not his type: one-note, very dark, with not a lot of dimension. I also find my latte very strong tasting in dark coffee. Mike says this could be because I ordered a small latte with more coffee than normal, proportionate to milk, than one that would be served in a larger cup. The texture of the milk is very good – dense, creamy – although I wish there was more of it in my drink. We agree that in both drinks, the medium roast coffee tastes like a dark roast.

We sink our forks into the tiramisu and it wows us with its creaminess, deep coffee flavour and freshness. The biscotti oddly spongy, with a dry texture.

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
We like the authentic feel of The Drive Coffee Bar

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
A small size latte made with Commercial Drive Coffee’s medium profile

 

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
A sweet selection at the counter

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Unique art and unexpected seating options make this café special

The staffer passes by our table and asks us how we’re doing.

Mike says he’s going to the back of the room to get a closer look at some of the art. He doesn’t come back for several minutes. When he returns, he explains some friendly locals were talking to him about a particular piece of art he was looking at. I don’t think you’ll find another neighbourhood as genuine as this.

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
Recommend you take some seating at the back for a view of the art

VANCOUVER BARISTA REVIEW

Name of coffee: Commercial Drive Coffee Co.’s The Continental Medium Roast

Origin: Brazil

Location of roaster: Vancouver, B.C.

Price: $3.25 (medium)

Brewing method: Americano

Roaster’s tasting notes: none available online

Mike’s comments: Low acidity, a very dark roast, nutty chocolaty taste and some burnt wood notes. Thought it lacked depth of flavour.

The Drive Coffee Bar -Vancouver Barista best new cafes coffee shop reviews
The tiramisu and Americano

Best moments:

  • Local art, Italian atmosphere. Welcoming and eclectic.
  • Friendly and proactive service.
  • Lots of seating.
  • Authentic Italian food made on the Drive is a strong feature.

Low moments:

  • We can’t speak for everybody, but this style of dark coffee wasn’t our personal preference.

Coffee: 3.5/5

Service: 4.75/5

Ambience: 4.75/5

Seating availability: 4.5/5

OVERALL RATING by VANCOUVER BARISTA: 4.38/5

outside


Want to visit?

1670 Commercial Drive

Operating hours here.


The Drive Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2 thoughts on “Review of The Drive Coffee Bar: Our Search for Vancouver’s Best Coffee”

  1. Thank you for the review and nice pictures. Commercial drive is one place where I do not want to see haphazard gentrification. I wish those one-story good old buildings that have nice small cafes will stay there long.

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