Downtown Winnipeg has recently seen the opening of two new coffee shops. Or to be more precise, one new coffee shop, and an old coffee shop that has relocated. The new shop is Garry Street Coffee, located at 333 Garry Street, and the relocated shop is Human Bean Coffee & Tea, which after leaving both The Forks, and the Millenium Library,has reopened in Cityplace, just across the street from the library.
In some ways the two shops are quite different. Garry Street Coffee is located on the main floor of an older building and next to the Garrick Event Centre. Depending on whether or not it’s sunny outside, the interior can be quite dark and moody. There is limited table and counter space and the vibe is 60s coffee house, even to the magazines that look like they were published in that era(they’re not, they are up to date).
Human Bean Coffee & Tea on the other hand is located on the main floor of Cityplace, a downtown mall. The lighting here is all artificial. However, the enclosed area, which is in the form of an indoor patio, is filled with bright tables and chairs, that give the cafe an open, bright, and cheery aspect. Along with this space, there a couple of giant X and Os games which would particularly be good if you came with children.
However, in spite of this, the two locations have a lot in common. First, they are both locally owned and operated. Garry Street Coffee is owned by Abi Torquato, one of the owners of the Goodwill Social Club. Human Bean is owned by Romalda Wildeman. Both are actively involved in the daily operation of their locations and in dealing with the customers. In Abi’s case he is the sole employee, so far, of Garry Street Coffee.
Second, they have a focus on homemade food. Garry Street Coffee is slowly introducing food into their lineup, but all their baked goods. During one of my visits to Human Bean I had the chance to talk briefly with Wildeman about where their food came from. In their previous incarnation they had done all their own baking. This time around, they are using local bakeries to provide most of their baked goods. However the sandwiches, salads, etc. are being made in their kitchen.
Visiting Garry Street Coffee
My first time I visited Garry Street Coffee, I simply decided to go with an Americano. As I expected it was strong, and robust with a good finish.
My second time I went in, it was during one of those really cold days that we have had to many of recently in Winnipeg. I wanted something that might be a little soothing as well as warming. As much as I enjoy coffee, and a cup of hot coffee can certainly warm me up, sometimes I want something that offers more than just warm temperature.
I went with the hot chocolate that you see at the beginning of the post. This turned out to be a really good idea. The chocolate was not overly rich, but carried a creamy character that left me feeling relaxed as well as warmed, while I drank it.
I had been talking with Abi, he’s a friendly and welcoming presence in the shop, on one of my first couple of visits, and he had laid out a bit of the shop’s plan as far as food is concerned. On my third trip in I noticed that was was a selection of baked goods with a GSC label on them. I missed the obvious explanation, and had to get Abi to tell me that it stood for Garry Street Coffee. I ordered a blueberry scone to go with my Mocha.
I enjoyed my mocha, but it was the Blueberry Scone that really got me. I really like the Blueberry Lavendar scones that Pennyloaf bakery makes. So, I wasn’t quite sure whether this scone would live up to the same level. It most definitely does. This is a straightforward blueberry scone, but the blueberries, were incredibly fresh and bursting with flavour, and the overall scone was exceptionally moist. If this is the standard of the food that’s going to come out of the Garry Street kitchen, I can’t wait for more of it to arrive.
Visiting Human Bean
My first visit to Human Bean, I decided I would try something different to drink. The Americano is my beverage of choice, when I try new coffee shops, however I new I would be back for more than one visit, so I decided on the Caramel Hot Apple Cider. I quite enjoyed this. The cider wasn’t to sweet, and the caramel syrup and whipped cream blended together quite well.
I wanted something light and sweet to eat with it, so I ordered a pecan tart. The pecan tart is full of pecans, and not overly syrupy. I’m a fan of the not overly syrupy type of butter of pecan tart, so I really like this. I also like that fact that it is not tooth cuttingly sweet.
The second trip I made, I was heading over to Holy Trinity to get ready for the noon hour Eucharist. This time I went for my standard 12oz Americano. Human Bean offers sizes from 8oz through to 20oz, but I stuck with my usual.
Again I wanted something sweet, but this time I wanted something a little bit more substantial as well. So, I opted for one of the cream cheese icing topped cinnamon buns. This bun comes with a whole pile of icing. The icing isn’t overly sweet, but there is a lot of it. The cinnamon bun itself was just OK. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled with Tall Grass Prairie and Johnnies, but this isn’t my style of cinnamon bun anymore. Still, it did a great job of filling me up.
On my third visit I went for a meal item. I chose the taco salad. This is made in-store by the cafe. This is a good taco salad. The flavours are really good, There is a nice mixture of vegetables to go along with it, and I appreciate the fact that the ground beef is well drained and there is no hint of grease in it. The only thing I wish were different is that it had some taco chips as part of it, even if it’s only a few little strips.
The service here is friendly and quite good. However, the owner should work with the new staff so they can better answer questions such as: Where do your baked goods come from? The answer I got the first time I asked this question: A bakery, is accurate, but not particularly helpful. Still, I’ll definitely be stopping by here in the future.