Nelson is one of the most charming small cities in western Canada with its historic downtown buildings (a legacy of previous mining and logging booms) and steep streets plunging from enveloping forest past colourful two-storey houses to the west arm of Kootenay Lake. And ah, yes, there’s the enduring hippy culture, from the excellent Kootenay Co-op (where you can get organic dishes or picnic supplies to go) to the long-haired stoners wandering through town. With its rich arts culture, it’s not hard to find a number of good places in the compact downtown to eat, sip coffee and watch the fascinating world go by.
For those wishing to spice up their breath, The Outer Clove boasts every type of garlicky dish imaginable, though the pungent flavour is toned down somewhat from the cooking. There are several garlic pasta and chicken dishes, but I can never get past the Yum burger, a garlic-infused and incredibly moist patty accompanied by crispy sweet potato wedges. A vegetarian companion thoroughly enjoyed the Portobello mushroom burger, stuffed with roasted peppers. And of course, there’s the palate-cleansing finale of garlic chocolate cookies.
The Full Circle Café is Nelson’s go-to breakfast joint, if you don’t mind paying a little more for first-class fare. I launch my morning with the Kick Hash ($13), a scrumptious mix of scrambled eggs, buffalo sausage, bacon, banana peppers and melted mozzarella, topped with chipotle hollandaise sauce and served with potatoes and rye bread. My companion’s Nanny Bennies ($12) features goat cheese and a lovely topping of caramelized onions. Unfortunately, we aren’t around for the weekend special of two eggs, a half rack of slow-smoked baby back ribs, pan fries and cornbread, all for a bargain $13. The restaurant is also now smoking much of the chicken breast, brisket and pork shoulder found in its sandwiches.
Full Circle Cafe
101, 402 Baker Street
Monday to Saturday 6:30 am-2:30 pm, Sunday 7 am-2 pm
At Oso Negro Café, the swift-moving lineup goes out the door most mornings at this elegant, brightly lit café. Trendy, yes, but a great place to nurse a java while reading the paper or perusing the Internet. While Oso Negro beans can be found in stores throughout B.C., Alberta and a few points east, the espressos and brewed drinks seem to taste freshest here, a few blocks from the company’s home roasting base. The breakfast offerings are mostly limited to egg sandwiches and fresh-baked muffins.
Oso Negro Cafe
604 Ward Street
Monday to Saturday 7 am-6 pm, Sunday 8 am-4 pm
Note: The rest of this post is courtesy of my friends Nancy and Dennis Stefani, frequent visitors to the Kootenays. Here’s their favourite places for coffee and breakfast snacks in Nelson and Rossland, an hour’s drive away.
If you’re looking for awesome, homemade muffins in Nelson, we recommend the Dominion Café. Although they specialize in raw foods, their traditionally baked muffins are an exquisite treat, especially our favourite—orange, espresso and chocolate. Dominion also offers espresso drinks and teas.
334 Baker Street
Monday to Saturday breakfast and lunch
Another Nelson discovery is Bean Here Now Consciousness Cafe, a unique espresso vendor. Owner Mitch Kushner operates from a mobile trailer, currently located in the old Extra Foods parking lot (corner of Hendryx and Vernon Streets). He calls his fair trade beans feral! The beans are grown and hand picked in the northern coastal mountains of Mexico. Mitch says the single-origin Capulin coffee beans are 100-per-cent sun dried, rather than water bathed, as is the case with the mass-produced commercial process, which de-natures coffee. Monday to Friday 8 am-5 pm, Saturday 10:30 am-5 pm.
The “Red Mountain” ski town of Rossland—home of gold-medal Olympian Nancy Greene Raine— is where you’ll find Alpine Grind Coffee House & Microbakery. The name may refer to the many gnarly mountain bike trails in the area (check out the Seven Summits Alpine Ridge trail ride), or the incredibly steep highway, a 600-metre elevation gain over the nine kilometres from Trail to Rossland. Or maybe it just refers to the more obvious espresso-based drinks.
Alpine Grind provides a friendly atmosphere to savour its various menu offerings: homemade granola, breakfast frittatas, unique cinnamon buns, robust muffins, delicious soups, made-to-order sandwiches, hot entrees and a variety of desserts. Owner John Snelgrove is a coffee aficionado, and his shop is one of the few places in the Kootenays that does latte art.
Alpine Grind Coffee House & Microbakery
2207 Columbia Avenue, Rossland
Weekdays 7 am-5 pm, weekends 8 am-4 pm