YEG Coffee Shop Freelancing, Part II
Welcome back for part two in our series, in which I set up shop, make websites, and write glorious copy while drinking glorious coffee.
Last time out I was hanging around shops on the west side of downtown, although my Remedy Cafe bit included their southside location too. We’ll keep the party going downtown and south-central again this round.
Note: I'm having some trouble with my phone camera so the photos are... less than ideal this time out. Frustrating, but no time to redo 'em.
Super serious criteria reminder
Nothing new, same as last time. But, if YOU’RE new, here’s a refresher:
Vibe: What’s it like to hang out here for a few hours? How’s the lighting, decor, noise volume, friendliness, music, and overall feel of the place?
Drink: Based on the quality of coffee-based beverages and any signature other drinks (eg. chai lattes).
Food: I don’t always have a snack when I stop in to work, but, anytime you’re somewhere for a few hours, having access to delicious things is a plus.
Value: Bang for one’s buck when it comes to food and drink. When you’re frequently spending a few hours in these establishments, it’s something to keep in mind. This is more related to the dollar you’re paying for the quality one gets, rather than quantity.
Workspace: How comfortable is it to set up shop here? Are there decent-sized tables and plenty of them? How about access to outlets? Are the chairs comfortable, or is a test of wills to sit there for more than an hour?
Good Earth Coffeehouse
8623 112 St location (they have many)
Weekdays: 6:30 am - 10:00 pm
Weekends: 7:30 am - 9:00 pm
Good Earth is quickly becoming western Canada’s Starbucks. With seven locations in the Edmonton area, a buttload more in Calgary, and at least one franchise in every other province from BC to Quebec, they’ve gone national. And with good reason! Serving up food other than baking or sandwiches in an espresso bar was pretty revolutionary in 1991 Calgary. While my partner was recovering from surgery at the University Hospital, I thought I’d pay them a visit.
Getting there: Parking is at a premium nearby, but there IS some free two-hour parking just south on 86 avenue. That said, with two LRT stations and ample bus stops within walking distance, getting to Good Earth isn’t hard.
Good Earth feels like it started in the 90s, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It nails the spacious-yet-warm vibe, and the tall tables and leather couches are coffee shop standards. This location is always somewhat busy due to its location, but it never feels crowded either.
I dig Good Earth’s americano; very dark and rich. I do like my bright espresso, but, there's something comforting and familiar about a richer one. They also have a nice tea list, and offer a ton of cold drinks to complement the hot standards. Having Alley Kat bottles on hand is something I can appreciate as well.
Good Earth’s steel-cut oats make for a filling and delicious breakfast. This location also shares space with The Greenhouse, who makes a mean salad and some pretty inventive wraps. If you’re in the mood for lunch with your coffee, Good Earth (and The Greenhouse) is worth a look.
Good Earth is a little on the high side for prices, but the quality is there in their hot drinks. I’ve been told their costs reflect their use of direct trade coffee and energy efficient practices, so there’s that to appreciate. Still, stopping in for a tea is a cost-effective way to spend one’s evening.
Good Earth is quite spacious and, as I mention, it never feels too crowded. Some plugins are available as well. As usual, the high tables aren’t the largest but they work. It does quiet down a bit at night, which make it a great spot if you need to do some reading along with your typing. I appreciate that they’re open til 10:00 pm as well.
I like this Good Earth location. The food, via Greenhouse, is solid, the drinks are above average and it’s a great space to work for a while. If one can’t commute or find free parking, it can make for a pricer trip, though. Still, Good Earth is a nice place to relax in a busy area of town.
Go for: An early morning power hour or an evening of reflective blogging
Stay for: If you ride it out til lunch, a jerk chicken salad from The Greenhouse
Mill Creek Cafe
9562 82 Ave, Edmonton
Monday - Friday: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Mill Creek Cafe fancies itself “Edmonton’s friendliest home-grown cafe”, and they just might be right. It certainly has an established presence, being a fixture of east Whyte for many years now. The corner of 95 and Whyte is a bit of a hidden gem of an area, and Mill Creek Cafe is a big part of that.
Getting there: Ample parking in the nearby residential. But hey, since you’re so close to the Mill Creek Ravine trails, might as well take your bike here.
Mill Creek Cafe feels like a throwback to coffee shops and Whyte Avenue in the late 90s, early 2000s in the best way possible. Self-serve coffee, good soundtrack, open ceiling (visible rafters and ventilation, painted black… always takes me back to an earlier time in my life for some reason), and not as well-heeled design-wise as some of the newer shops in the city. And I dig it. While it definitely feels a little more restaurant-ish than most of the shops I’ve visited, it’s still a great spot to set up shop for a few hours.
I’ll be honest, Mill Creek’s coffee is a bit hit or miss. I’ve had a nice, rich cup, and occasionally a less-than-hot one. That said, their espresso drinks are quite good and their chai latte is solid as well. There’s a good beer selection in the fridge too.
Mill Creek Cafe does breakfast and lunch, and they do both quite well. The gravlax omelette is awesome (anything with Boursin cheese is good in my books), as are the breakfast bowls (standard and vegetarian). Lunch-wise, the grilled sandwiches are where it’s at. The grilled turkey with pear and brie is especially tasty, and the roasted veggie is a close second. Mill Creek Cafe is also one of the few places to offer really good latkes (potato pancakes) in Edmonton. If you’ve never had them, they’re definitely worth a try.
Mill Creek Cafe’s drink prices are pretty standard, although I do sometimes lament the lack of free coffee refills on a place with table service. The food is delicious and is a good value for the homemade quality.
As mentioned, Mill Creek Cafe does feel more like a restaurant than a set-up-shop-and-work cafe, but, it hasn’t stopped me from doing so. Or others. The community feel certainly helps. The tables work, and the window bar is a little wider than most. I didn’t notice a ton of outlets, though. While it is often a little too busy on weekends, especially in the morning, it is a little quieter on weekday afternoons. Try then.
Mill Creek Cafe brings me back to a simpler time; I often feel like sitting down with a good book as opposed to working when I’m there. I think I’ll be there for social calls more than working, but, it’s a great spot nonetheless.
Go for: A grilled sandwich at lunch
Stay for: The atmosphere and relative quiet on a weekday afternoon
11807 105 Ave, Edmonton
Monday - Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Weekends: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
You’ve been drinking Iconoclast’s coffee for years via Leva, Culina, Blue Plate Diner and others, but, in 2014, they opened up their own spot. As the area around 105 avenue and Oilver Square has developed, Iconoclast has been thrust into the spotlight a little more. That said, it is still tucked away on a quiet pocket of the avenue, sharing a street with a cemetery. Now is a great time to visit.
Getting there: Iconoclast is located behind Oliver Square, just off 116 street. There is minimal parking lot and street space, but street parking is free for a few hours. Bike infrastructure is getting better in the neighbourhood, though, so biking there is a great option. Their signage is pretty minimal, so, just follow your nose.
Iconoclast eschews the elegant modernism that most shops in the city embody. It’s a warehouse, with a bar constructed of pallets and simple wooden chairs that might be from an elementary school surplus sale. But it works. The ping pong table and ever-present vinyl spinning off to the side add some fun to the starkness. The space does get a little more inviting as you head deeper as well, with some eclectic decor and warmer lighting. The couches help too. The roll-up bay windows also brighten things up, and while it was cold when I stopped in initially, they’re open most days in the summer. With the coffee roaster visible behind the seating area, one gets the impression that Iconoclast is comfortable focusing on what really matters to them: coffee and community.
I had a wonderful americano at Iconoclast; much brighter than what one traditionally associated with espresso around town. That brightness isn’t for everyone, but, once you get an appreciation for it, it becomes difficult to go back to the Starbucks’ of the world. Iconoclast caters to those who really appreciate coffee for coffee. If you’re looking for a variety of syrupy flavours, look elsewhere. This is one for the purists. Which I am, so, it works.
Iconoclast offers some simple baking at this location, baked in house. The Local Omnivore provides some sandwiches for lunch as well, but, I must have just missed these. Getting back to the baking, my blueberry scone was just the right balance between dry and buttery (scones should have SOME dryness to them). Simple, delicious, and worth ordering again. On my second visit, I had an equally well-baked strawberry white chocolate muffin. Two for two.
Iconoclast offers lower-than-average pricing for drinks, and reasonably-priced baked goods as well. The quality you get for the price is fantastic.
Iconoclast’s space is big; I can see them hosting gatherings and events here. Maybe it was the warehouse feel, but, I definitely felt like working when I was here. And at the end of the day, that atmosphere is something I appreciate.
During regular hours it makes a good space to work, although with a few quirks. Depending on where you sit, you may have to deal with a ping pong ball or two coming your way. I certainly didn’t mind. Life is too short to stress over others having fun. The aforementioned chairs aren’t super comfy either, though. They were fine for the 90 minutes or so I was there, but, they won’t be for everyone.
That said, there’s plenty of space to find your own corner. The industrial heaters can be pretty warm in spring/winter, though, so choose your spot wisely. In summer, the big bay doors open up and the space is more inviting and breezy, without getting too much direct sun.
Iconoclast almost feels like a secret society with its minimal signage, warehouse feel, and a crowd that seemed to know each other. It was a unique experience and I certainly enjoyed my time and my drink. I've been back several times since.
Go for: Coffee, duh. You can count on Iconoclast to bring in, and roast, some excellent options.
Stay for: A quiet afternoon of work, but maybe finish the day with a ping pong game if you can find an opponent.
That’s it for this time, but, I want your suggestions! Where else should I be checking out? Let me know what your favourite coffee haunt is, and perhaps you’ll see it here next time.