Port Alberni’s SteamPunk Café brings new energy to a town in revival mode

SP ExteriorIn a town that is transitioning from an industrial heritage to an outdoors and retirement mecca, Kevin Wright and his SteamPunk  Café and Coffee House have hit a home run.

Located exactly in the centre of Port Alberni’s old uptown business district, the café is attracting a varied and interesting clientele that speaks to the diversity of its residents.  The fact that the place offers not just home-made goods but also caters to current dietary trends (gluten-free, vegan) doesn’t hurt either.

Not your average café interior.....

Not your average café interior…..

The SteamPunk was designed to become what Kevin terms the ‘social nexus’ of the uptown area, and judging from our recent experiences there that seems to be exactly what is happening.  The unique décor has an industrial flavour to it – it wouldn’t be difficult to believe you were walking into some sort of factory or mill, thanks to Kevin’s artistic and construction talents.  There is old ‘stuff’ all over the place – vintage typewriters, factory signs, memorabilia from days gone by when Port Alberni was a thriving forestry, mill and fishing town. It is the sort of environment that pays tribute to the past while looking to the future.

Home-made beef barley soup and a ham and cheese Panini make for a filling and delicious lunch

Home-made beef barley soup and a ham and cheese Panini make for a filling and delicious lunch

There is a lot of other quirky stuff too, including a unique method of garnering tips for the friendly, efficient staff.  Every day at the order counter there are ‘decision of the day’ jars set up with a question above them – patrons can cast their vote by dropping tips into the jar of their choice.

One of the creative and beautiful coffee drinks

One of the creative and beautiful coffee drinks

The food is typical café food with a happy difference – everything is made in-house. Chef Alison, who has 27 years in the food industry and some serious culinary ‘chops’ begins her workday at 4:30 a.m. and by the time the doors open the home-made soups, scones, muffins and other tempting tidbits are waiting for the first customers. There is a wide range of paninis and wraps that can either be consumed on-site or taken ‘out’, several unique and healthy salads and, of course, artful and tasty coffee concoctions.  Alison is given free rein in the kitchen, and it shows in the creative and flavoursome offerings that show up at the front end.

The SteamPunk Classic Panini - a flavourful medley to roasted vegetables, cheese ... and bacon!

The SteamPunk Classic Panini – a flavourful medley of roasted vegetables, cheese … and bacon!

There is also a unique and beautifully-constructed deck in front of the café for al fresco dining in fine weather.  It has taken up a couple of parking spots and is the first such deck that city hall has allowed in the hundred-year history of the town.  There are industrial touches out there too in the form of some large, brightly-painted gears that add to the overall charm of the place.

At the moment Kevin is in the process of adding a book shop that will connect to the coffee house in a space next door. The book shop will feature new and first and second editions only, will include more of Kevin’s interesting décor and  will no doubt prove to be a valued and unique attraction.  His hope is that comfy seating, good coffee and interesting books will bring in more of the new ‘emigrants’ who are fleeing the cities for Port Alberni’s friendly, inexpensive and spectacular environs.  In the meantime though, it’s great to see that there is life in the old girl yet thanks to a vibrant and enthusiastic business community committed to re-invigorating a town that has so much to offer.

Further information on the Steampunk  Café and Coffee House can be found on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/steampunkcafeportalberni

 Price rating: $-$$

The SteamPunk Café and Coffee House is located at:

            3025A Third Avenue, Port Alberni

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. : 49.233655  Long.: -124.807388

N 49 14.019  W 124 48.443

 

Shirley

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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