Downtown Nanaimo has another winner in ‘new-old’ Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe


Butter chicken rice bowl

The butter chicken rice bowl is one of many generous – and excellent – offerings on the lunch menu

There are many factors that make you feel really good about eating at Gabriel’s Gourmet Café in downtown Nanaimo, not least of which is the food itself.

            The young team at Gabriel’s has recently ‘moved house’ from a tiny hole-in-the-wall takeout on Commercial  to bigger digs just down the street, allowing patrons to sit down and enjoy their meal rather than heading out the door with their food.  The new premises are four times the size of the old place, capable of seating upwards of 50 diners. And a good thing, too – we arrived at 12:30 on a recent Saturday to a fairly empty venue, but within minutes the place was packed, there were lineups to order and all the tables were occupied. So, there’s the first of many feel-good aspects about this place – Gabriel’s almost-five year tenure in Nanaimo and the recent expansion is obviously a roaring success. We are always happy to see young chefs of varied disciplines thriving in their own restaurants, adding to the vibrancy of the dining scene on the Island.

Interior, Gabriel's Gourment Cafe

Simple, clean lines set the aesthetic for the interior at the new Gabriel’s venue


            Gabriel’s new location has a pretty austere aesthetic, but there are unique twists to be found in that aspect as well. The tables, countertops and benches are constructed from recycled bowling lane alley wood. The wall art reflects the ‘green’ theme as well. Light fixtures are constructed of bare bulbs encased in clear glass Mason jars. All of which contributes to a lively, casual atmosphere and adds to the second thing we liked about the place – a conscious effort to reduce, re-use and recycle.

            Third on our list of ‘likes’ is the fact that Gabriel’s  sources as much as possible in the way of ingredients from local farmers who raise their animals and their produce in an ethical manner on small scale farms. What’s not to love about that?

            There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on the menu and many ‘alternative’ foods such as tofu, chick pea and quinoa have pride of place there. (Advantage number four, for those who are counting).           

House Salad, Gabriel's Gourmet Cafe

The House Salad is a generous and colorful combination, served with whole grain bread and kale butter

And last but certainly not least, the food is good, generously portioned and very reasonably priced.  Three of us enjoyed substantial lunches with coffee and at the end of it all the bill came to $37.25 (before tip). My husband declared his butter chicken rice bowl the best he had ever consumed.  Our friend enjoyed a colourful and ample house salad topped with a wildflower honey vinaigrette and I enjoyed a curry chicken wrap that came overflowing with apple tomato chutney, brown rice, green onions and cilantro – a nice combination to keep the taste buds humming and my stomach happy, but not over-stuffed. The meals were accompanied by a small loaf of whole-grain bread with kale butter for sharing.

            Gabriel’s also serves up breakfast (featuring, of course, protein from ethically-raised animals on small scale farms).  Next trip I want to sample the ‘You ask we might make it’ omelette. All of the menu items are numbered, making for simple, efficient ordering.  – a good thing if the place’s current popularity is any indication.            

Wall art, Gabriel's Gourment Cafe

Not your average wall art, but certainly keeping in sync with the ‘green’ theme at the cafe

Next time you are looking for something a little different but definitely good, do yourself a favour and head out to Gabriel’s Gourmet Café – there are so many great reasons to do so.

            Gabriel’s doesn’t currently have a web site (they are working on it) but can be found on Facebook under Gabriel’s Gourmet Café.  The new location is at 39A Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo. You can phone them for operating hours at (250) 714-0271.

            wheelchair-m Price rating: $

            GPS co-ordinates are:

            Lat.49.16502615384974  Long. -123.93688868465574

            N 49 09.902 W 123 56.213  

Gabriel's 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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