Cedar’s COCO Cafe – great place, great food

COCO Cafe soup and panini

COCO Cafe’s signature coconut curry vegetable soup is to die for; the Jack Point panini is no slouch either

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.

Lounge area at COCO Cafe
Casual comfort is the byword at COCO Cafe – it’s like being in someone’s living room

            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.

COCO Cafe main dining area

The main dining area is bright and cheerful

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!

wheelchair-mYou can find further information about COCO Café at


 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: $ – $$

COCO Cafe on Urbanspoon


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers. In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.
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