Old & nouveau old

Commercial Drive’s ethics, organics & lesbians

Commercial Drive brings back memories of furnishing my first apartment and learning what the word vegan meant.

Famous for its Sapphic overtones (it’s still a lesbian mecca after all these years, despite some migration to less expensive areas like New West), strong coffee, organic veggies, secondhand shopping and eclectic tastes, the Drive boasts a unique soul in a sometimes soul-light city.

Like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, Commercial Drive between Broadway and Venables is where the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s meld into one, creating an air of endless possibilities for young and old alike. Here are a few suggestions for coffee, food, shopping and shows.

Peg General Store
1003 Commercial Dr

The centrepiece of my living room is the kidney-shaped coffee table I found for $20 at Peg General Store. Crammed but not cluttered, The Peg always manages to offer fun, functional furniture and folk art that borders on tacky, without ever crossing the line, at amazing prices.

Café Deux Soleils
2096 Commercial Dr

With its ivy-painted exterior and vegetarian menu, Café Deux Soleils has a crunchy granola-ness about it that always reminds me of a Joni Mitchell song. A great place to get together with friends for brunch or a comedy show, Café Deux Soleils has been building community for more than 20 years, with no signs of stopping.

1212 Commercial Dr

Maybe it’s the nueva Latina cuisine or the pitchers of sangria, but whenever I manage to get a table at Havana, I always feel like one of the Beautiful People. The restaurant has a vibrant energy, sexy wait staff and a panoramic view of downtown Vancouver. The small theatre and art space is a great place for local performers to strut their stuff. Whatever the occasion, Havana will have you singing “Babalu.”

Attic Treasures
944 Commercial Dr

Walking into Attic Treasures gives me the same sense of glee I used to get opening the Sears Christmas Wish Book when I was a kid. This carefully curated store is a collection of mint-condition vintage furniture and art that ranges in price from a pair of $20 salt-and-pepper shakers to a $2,000 teak-framed couch. Whether you’re looking to reinvent your apartment or just trying to reconnect with your childhood home, this is the place for you.

Café Calabria
1745 Commercial Dr

If my immigrant parents ever opened up a coffee shop, it would look like Café Calabria. The plaster statues and mirrored walls elicit memories of watching gladiator movies on a Sunday afternoon, but the coffee and espresso is definitely of this time. And yes, that is one the proprietors wearing a loincloth in one of the movie stills above the front window.


896 Commercial Dr

As a man, I would have never entered Womyns’Ware if my best friend’s oldest friend didn’t own the place. Now that I have, I feel like I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes for years by dildos shaped like pornstars’ penises. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you care what goes inside your body, Womyns’Ware is worth the visit and the money. The staff is knowledgeable, and the store is nice to walk around. Womyns’Ware isn’t just a store; it’s an education in pleasure.

The Cultch
1895 Venables St

It still kind of looks like a house from the outside, but once you step through its doors, The Cultch teleports you to a world of theatre and dance that lingers with you long after you’ve left. The beautifully renovated theatre feels larger than it is, mounting ambitious and provocative productions that defy
its humble exterior.

Storm Crow Tavern
1305 Commercial Dr

The Storm Crow is my new favourite place to hang out with my Eastside pals, have a drink, a snack and lose at Scrabble. The food is good, the drinks are great, and the staff is irreverent. Decorated with ray guns, action figures and movie memorabilia, this is where I’ll run when the zombie apocalypse strikes.

Tony Correia is a Vancouver-based writer who has been contributing to Xtra since 2004. He is the author of the books, Foodsluts at Doll & Penny's CafeSame LoveTrue to You, and Prom Kings.

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Culture, News, Vancouver

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