By contributor Shaleeta Harper
The Vault Café stands out as the bohemian hub of Nanaimo.
It’s easily spotted where Victoria Cres., Wallace St., and Albert St. intersect downtown, with outdoor patio seating made up of cozy armchairs and vintage ashtrays. In dry weather, the atmosphere is lively outside with animated conversations and the occasional acoustic guitar.
The interior is eclectic—rustic urban meets shabby-chic. Grand arched windows frame the avocado green walls, which are covered in local artwork and oddities like many pairs of antlers. A painted piano is available for patrons that are inclined to play (and they often do). Retro (board) games lay around, waiting to be deciphered. A 1920s walnut buffet with iced water and glasses sits near the centre of the room so you don’t need to bug the staff for a free cup of water.
The Vault Café frequently hosts events like classic movie nights, open mic, live music, and literary events. They’re open to hosting activities on any available evening, so if you want to write a book of poems on the urban chic, consider holding your launch there.
The scene at The Vault Café is so vibrant that it isn’t ideal as a study hole. Come here to enjoy the local arts or to brood in the corner with pen and paper, but don’t expect the calm quiet you need to memorize biology vocabulary.
Being awesome often comes at a cost. The menu leans towards counter-gourmet, with the prices to show for it, and they serve local products where possible. A bagel with cream cheese, salmon lox, capers, and red onion was $9; it was high-priced, but with a thoughtful blend of flavour and texture. The menu is as eclectic as the décor: pizza, mac ’n’ cheese, and open faced sandwiches with things like pesto and garlic cream sauce. They also offer daily baked goods, which are more affordable when you’re just looking for a snack. A slice of homemade apple pie is $4, which is actually cheaper than what many restaurants charge for pie from a box.
The beverages are only slightly more expensive than other high-end cafés, but don’t tread over the $5 mark. I tried the lavender latte. The drink was a layered experience—a delicate lavender flavour from a homemade syrup resting on a very bold and creamy latte. It takes a moment to adjust to the unusual blend of flavours, but I enjoyed it.
Unlike other cafés, The Vault is licensed to sell alcohol, so it really is an all-in-one bohemian establishment. Several local craft beers are available on tap with more choices behind the bar.
Whether you’re into meeting people, experiencing new local talent, or just soaking up some of the funkiest atmosphere in town, The Vault Café is a great choice.