It always amazes me how you can find some of the best food in the most obscure and unexpected places. When we heard raves about the COCO Café, tucked away in the miniscule rural community of Cedar, just south of Nanaimo, we felt compelled to check it out. The café’s history intrigued us as much as the prospect of a good meal.
The COCO Café is the brainchild of the Cedar Opportunities Co-operative (COCO), a group of families living in the area with children and young adults with developmental disabilities. The group was in search of a project that would offer their young people the opportunity of socialization, employment and full integration into the community. The idea of a coffee shop came to mind and, much to the benefit of all concerned, has proven to be a great success.
The co-operative secured a large, bright space in a small strip mall in Cedar and has converted it to a comfortable and casual spot to enjoy breakfast or lunch. This is not a high-end operation – there are no linen table cloths, no dress codes, no menus (other than on the menu board above the kitchen pass-through). What COCO Café offers patrons is a homey, slightly cluttered (but charming) atmosphere complete with a fireplace, books, magazines and newspapers, comfortable chairs and sofas and lots of natural light. It is an inviting ambiance that encourages visitors to slow down for a bit and linger over something good to eat and/or drink.
And the food? Well, the food is something else again! This is most definitely not your average coffee shop fare. The folks working at the café, supervised by a Red Seal chef, turn out interesting and innovative flavour combinations for their paninis, wraps and sandwiches. Much of the baking is done in-house from scratch and they offer varying feature soups and salads with delicious and intriguing blends of domestic and exotic ingredients. The cinnamon buns sell out on a regular basis, often before 9 a.m. The paninis are crammed full of good stuff to please your taste buds and the signature soup, a gorgeous coconut-curry concoction brimming with vegetables, is among the best I have ever enjoyed anywhere, ever. You can partake of many of their regular features for less than $10, making for a pretty inexpensive dining experience by today’s standards.
There is a kid’s menu, free wireless internet, vegetarian options and, in the fine weather, a dog-friendly outdoor patio area. COCO Cafe also offers catering services.
All-in-all this comfy little spot has much going for it and is well worth a visit. Not only do you get to enjoy some really fine food, you will support a most laudable project. It doesn’t get much better than that!
COCO Café is located at 1840 Cedar Road, Cedar
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.10679 Long. -123.8612983
N 49 06.407 W 123 51.678
Price Rating: $ – $$