Hot spotsVancouver's 12 best wifi cafés and restaurants

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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

Cafés

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Update: Closed. Rats. Thanks to our commenter for the update.
  3. Waves
    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.
  4. Wicked
    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.
  5. Calhouns
    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.
  6. 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!
  7. 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.

    Restaurants

    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:
  8. 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.
  9. Steamworks
    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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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).

Comments

Jean says

July 27, 2009 - 5:50pm

Good list, though I must disagree your #1 choice. I can't count the number of times I've been in Take 5 (either at Hastings and Granville, or in Pacific Centre) when the wi-fi didn't work at all, or took several reboots to get going, only to fail after about 20 minutes. Great fare/java, but it sucks when you have to go use someone's "linksys" (or, in one case, the Trees Coffee wi-fi from across the street!) to finish your work.

Morgan says

July 27, 2009 - 6:15pm

West End girl that I am, I've got to represent and give it up for Melriches on Davie. (Why am I talking like this? Ahem.) Yummy food, great coffee, fun servers, variety of seating (you can people watch at one of the window stools, cozy up in one of the booths or get down to business at one of the tables. Oh, or sit out front or back). They don't have as many outlets as one might want but they make up for it with local colour. And booze.

Kevin says

July 27, 2009 - 10:18pm

Waves!?!

Alexandra Samuel says

July 28, 2009 - 11:30am

Jean, thanks for pointing out that I needed to clarify something: the numbers weren't meant to imply a ranking, since I find that what is "best" depends on the day, mood, circumstance, etc. But I'm surprised to hear about your Take 5 wifi woes -- I've rarely had an issue at the locations I frequent (usually West 4th or Granville).

Morgan, I'll check out Melriches -- I liked their now-defunct Yaletown location so glad to hear they are going strong on Davie.

And Kevin, I will admit that Waves is far from perfect (don't get me started on this morning's playlist). But I feel about Waves the way I do about Milestones, Chapters, and H&M: they're all kind of mass market-y and unloveable, but they are all incredibly useful and thus, inevitable.

 

Muskie says

July 29, 2009 - 8:34am

Our Town's wifi is far from reliable and I've never seen anyone running Unbuntu.  I gave up on them and go to, wait for it, Waves around the corner.  The best reason to go to Our Town is draft beer!  There used to be a cafe out by UBC that had beer and other tasty treats that I used to use as a student.

Say what you want about Waves, their wifi is usually solid and some have two networks and they have lots of plugins for the wifi crowd, they're also all over Main Street where I spend a lot of time.

John McLachlan says

August 4, 2009 - 6:38pm

I've really been enjoying "The BUZZ" in Harrison Galleries at Homer and Smithe.

Coffee's good, the owner's great and you get to sit with art all around you.

Rob Cottingham says

August 4, 2009 - 10:01pm

I'll second that. The owner's wonderful and the space is terrific.

Marc-Oliver Gern says

August 6, 2009 - 4:31pm

I love Gene at Main and PRADO at Commercial Drive.

Anonymous says

August 11, 2009 - 2:23pm

I found this great little Cafe in Gastown. Its called Smart Mouth Cafe (formally Luna Cafe)

It's on Water St. between Abbott and Cambie.

The staff are friendly, but give you attitude.  Its a cosy little place...with great food and exceptional coffee. I am very picky when it comes to espresso. This is now where I go for my morning macchiato.

I suggest checking them out the next time you are in Gastown!

 

 

117 Water Street

Randall says

August 16, 2009 - 2:01pm

Thanks for including the words "Ubuntu" and "hipster" in the same breath ;)

By the way, Ubuntu Vancouver LoCo is looking for a coffee shop (or two) that want to host upcoming meetings. Have any suggestions?

Coffee Rob says

September 29, 2009 - 6:02pm

Waves is just Blenz with a different Name. I have not had one good experience in Waves and their wireless can get bogged down easily.

 

The Blenz in Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver isn't much better in terms of quality but for me it is all about location location location.

Take 5 Cafe on Granville is a great place for wifi and a latte for $2 is decent price for the quality.

Anonymous says

September 1, 2010 - 12:51pm

Great list. Just a heads up, Cito Expresso at Marinaside is now closed :( Was a great spot.

Anonymous says

August 9, 2011 - 8:23am

My East Vancouver favourite: Libby's cafe just off Victoria, at the south west corner of Trout Lake park.

Reliable wifi. Password is the cafe's telephone number (on front of menu)

Homemade soups, pasteries, thai curries. Full range of espresso drinks.

Quiet apart from the lunchtime crowd, a local hidden gem.

Darran Edmundson says

August 15, 2012 - 5:55pm
I second Libby's. I worked out of there for a week while my daughter went to hockey camp at the rink across the street. Very homey, and decent internet.

Darran Edmundson says

August 15, 2012 - 5:53pm
I don't understand cafe operator's attitudes towards wifi. Ten years ago wifi access was a perk. Now, in 2012, solid wifi with sufficient bandwidth is a necessity. I'm sitting in Blenz at Robson and Cardero getting less than 1 Mbit/sec download and 0.25 Mbit/sec upload. And this is just after I asked them to restart the system. I.e., I'm likely the only one connected at the moment. That's barely enough connectivity to hold a Skype chat. I spend between $3-5k a year while working from cafes. If anyone knows of a vibrant cafe in the west end with good internet access, please post.

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