In my search for the perfect Internet café I’ve tried more than my share of Vancouver’s wifi-enabled cafés and restaurants. Just like Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, its wifi cafés and restaurants range from the scruffily hip to the chicly modern.
In this post I round up (and map!) the best of the good-to-great. Every place on this list has reliable Internet service, at least a few accessible power outlets, and decent coffee; on every other key café ingredient they vary widely.
Clarification Those variations mean that what’s best depends on what you’re looking for (and where), so the numerical order of this list does not represent a ranking (i.e. #1 is not necessarily my fave — it depends on the day). Thanks Jean for pointing out that clarification was needed!
What’s not on the list: Multinational juggernaut Starbucks and local juggernaut Blenz. They’re both useful in a pinch, and an inevitable part of any wifi-seeker’s life. But Starbucks is doomed by its 2-hour cap on wifi, weird smell (when did all Starbucks cafés acquire that horrible odor?) and relentless, universal Starbucksiness. Blenz is borderline acceptable, but I have yet to walk into one that didn’t have the aesthetic of a grey McDonalds.
You can find location details, including phone numbers, by viewing the Google Map.
What makes for greatness? Find out here.
View Vancouver’s best wifi cafés and restaurants in a larger map
A great Internet café is a miraculous intersection of technical reliability, caffeination competence and aesthetic magic. While I’ve yet to find a café that scores 10 out of 10 on all the criteria that make for a great Internet café, I do have a set of local favorites that are part of my regular circuit.
- Take 5
429 Granville Street (at Hastings), 2278 West Fourth (at Vine) and several other locations
My favorite local café chain offers consistently good coffee, a small but tasty assortment of snacks and meals, and comfortable seating.
Best for: Meeting interesting people while you loiter for hours over your coffee.
Limitations: The dreaded washroom key; the Georgia and Nicola locations are barely more than counters with a few chairs.
- Cito Espresso
116 Davie Street (at Marinaside)
A bright cafe with good coffee and a Europe-by-way-of-Ikea aesthetic.
Best for: Punctuating your laptop work time with relaxing strolls along the adjacent marinaside.
Limitations: A very small menu means you’ll likely go elsewhere when it’s time to eat.
1095 West Broadway (at Oak), 492 West Hastings (at Richards) and several other locations
A local chain of roomy cafés with a limited menu of pre-fab pastries and sandwiches, reliably set up for laptop luggers.
Best for: Working as long as you need to with reliable access to wifi and power — while you’re plugged into your essential iPod.
Limitations: Recent highlights from the Waves music system: a pan-pipe version of “Send in the Clowns” and a string-heavy instrumental of “Fly Me To the Moon”. No, I’m not kidding.
1399 West 7th Ave (at Hemlock); 861 Hornby Street (Robson)
This small cafe features great fair trade coffee and a top-quality assortment of breakfast pastries, granola and snacks.
Best for: Feeling like you are a total hipster not in spite of your computer but because of it.
Limitations: The small number of tables and chairs at the Hemlock café means you can’t count on getting a seat.
3035 West Broadway (at Bayswater)
A large, homespun cafe full of pine tables where university students and indie workers with laptops mix with the mommy-and-stroller crowd.
Best for: Cheap eats from the varied counter-service menu while you work all day — or all night.
Limitations: Few outlets plus many laptops mean perpetual jockeying for power; lots of kids can be distracting.
- Our Town Café
245 E. Broadway (at Kingsway)
A sunny cafe where Main Street hipsters lounge in vintage chairs and chat over laptops running Ubuntu.
Best for: People watching while you munch on gluten-free baked goods and try to work.
Limitations: The only café on this list that doesn’t have its own web presence!
- Agro Café
1207 Hamilton Street (at Davie); 1363 Railspur Alley (Granville Island)
The Yaletown location is a spare, immaculate postage stamp with just a handful of tables, lounge chairs and patio seats; the Granville Island location is just as good, but much roomier.
Best for: Doing creative work that’s inspired by top-quality coffee and a chic minimalist aesthetic.
Limitations: With just one bathroom perched dead centre of the café, your pit stop feels not unlike peeing in someone else’s lap.
If you’re looking for a real meal, and not just a place to perch while you work, you’ll want a hotspot that features more than an assortment of pastries and the odd sandwich. Here are a few of our favorite places for a working meal:
- Elixir Bistro
350 Davie Street (at Hamilton)
A French bistro in the chic Opus Hotel where you can enjoy a breakfast, lunch or dinner so delicious that you’d go there even if you didn’t have your laptop.
Best for: Bribing yourself with good food so that you’ll work on something you’ve been avoiding.
Limitations: Your meal won’t be cheap (at least $25 per person), and you’ll have to ask the Opus Hotel’s front desk for wifi access (which expires after two hours) unless you sit near the perimeter and hope to hit the Agro or Starbucks hot spots across the street.
375 Water Street, Vancouver (at the foot of Seymour)
Steamworks is a large pub with a varied menu: you’re not going to have the best meal of your life, but it’s big enough that you can usually count on a table, and the menu has something to appeal to just about anyone.
Best for: Lunch meetings that might require access to online sources.
Limitations: Internet access is through Fatport, so you have to buy access by the hour unless you have a standing plan.
- The Templeton
1087 Granville St. – 604-685-4612
A healthful diner where you can enjoy a tasty (if not spectacular) assortment of staples like eggs, scrambled tofu and (beef or veggie) burgers.
Best for: Powering up your work with a real breakfast.
Limitations: The small number of booths inhibits lingering over your laptop, and the one tiny bathroom in the middle of the kitchen means you won’t linger there, either.
- Joeys Broadway
1424 West Broadway (at Granville)
A large-scale “casual upscale” chain restaurant along the lines of Milestone’s and Earl’s, Joey’s has a better atmosphere and (if you’re nice) free wifi. If you can tear yourself away from a power outlet they have a fantastic patio upstairs.
Best for: Convincing yourself it’s a real date even though you both have your computers out. It helps to avail yourself of their drink specials.
Limitations: You’ll have to ask the hostess to seat you near an outlet (there’s just a handful) and to give you the password for their wifi.
- Goldfish Pacific Kitchen
1118 Mainland Street (at Helmcken)
This terrific Asian fusion restaurant not only has great food, terrific service, a buzzing crowd and a lovely patio, but also offers wifi.
Best for: A memorable meal while you work on the patio or enclose your entire team in one of two private rooms.
Limitations: This is a serious restaurant, so you’ll pay for the privilege of working here — if you can get in during the dinner rush. Don’t count on finding a table near an outlet, though the staff will do their best to accommodate you.
Have I missed your favorite work-and-watering hole? Let me know in the comments below, or via Twitter (@SocialSignal).