Dining at Coastal Coffee is outstanding, which is no real surprise. Given that the chef/owner is Mark Giffin, formerly of Bish fame, it's a pretty safe bet that the food at his own place is going to be good.
Everyone's been buzzing about Coastal since it set up shop in June in the former Iqbal's Grocery on Robie. Gone are the smells of Indian spices, the bags of basmati rice and the bottles of curry pastes.
The coffee shop has been overhauled completely. Dark wood floors, an orange and cream banquette down one wall, chic lighting and the seductive aroma of coffee beans give off the new and very pleasing caf<0x00E9> vibe.
A quirky sense of humour is evident in the little framed write-up on the counter, which tells about Giffin and why he's opened the cafe—it's entitled "but enough about you," and I can't help but laugh when I see it. (On Coastal's website, the press clipping section is titled "Hard to be Humble").
Giffin is fulfilling a life-long dream of owning his own place, serving delicious food in unpretentious surroundings. We order our breakfast at the counter and sit down to wait, enjoying hot chocolate ($2.50) and a chai latte ($2.50). There are plenty of the traditional coffee beverages as well—cappuccinos, espressos and lattes.
Before long we get our food. The Emory ($7) is scrambled eggs with asparagus and sundried tomatoes, plus a touch of havarti.
The eggs are fluffy, the thin stems of asparagus chopped small and scattered throughout, and the sundried tomatoes add a lovely taste and texture. A slice of wholewheat toast and a fruit garnish completes the dish, which is served on a crisp and clean white plate. Wildly popular Huevos Rancheros ($8) is a version of the Mexican classic of fried eggs with salsa. This one is served on fried corn tortillas with guacamole and plenty of jack cheddar. It's too early for me to enjoy the salsa, but this would be a great late-night meal. We also decide to share the Steph ($5), which is a fantastic fresh-berry salad served with yogurt and homemade granola.
I decide to pay another visit to Coastal on another day, this time to try out the lunch menu. I choose, and really enjoy, a roast turkey club ($7) that comes with a side salad and addictive homemade potato chips. The daily soup is carrot ginger ($5) and its taste strikes a nice balance between the smooth sweetness of carrot and sharpness of ginger.
And the service here deserves more than a mention in passing, because it's exceptional. Every time I've dropped by, I've been greeted with genuine warmth, thanked for my business, and I've left feeling as though there's a real connection with the waitstaff and the cafe. They're not just employees, they are part of the big picture of great service—sadly, a rarity in town.
Which brings me to my one small quibble. When you place your order at Coastal, you have to pay first, which means if you're paying by debit, the machine asks if you would like to tip.
Now, I don't believe in tipping automatically, so the first time I visit the coffee shop I'm a little put out—after all, why would I leave a tip before I know what the service will be like? So, if you're going to pay with debit, you might want a little cash on hand in order to tip afterwards.
Coastal Coffee 2731 Robie405-4022Tue-Fri 7am-4pmSat 10am-3pmSun 10am-3pmMon closed