Quality European Simplicity Done Local at Café Orso on Vancouver’s North Shore - West Coast Food

By Brittany Tiplady

What comes to mind when you think of the North Shore’s Deep Cove? Hikes up Quarry Rock amongst a bustling crowd, paddleboarders gliding across the Burrard Inlet, kayaking, lush terrain, stunning mountainous views and a sweet small town-esque vibe.

Heading west from the quay to the picturesque Indian Arm is Deep Cove, and at the centre of this cozy waterfront community is the beloved and highly acclaimed Cafe Orso, a local staple with big Italian influence that serves European-inspired food sourced locally. This brainchild of owner Jonathan Hayward and his wife Lori Steeves was conceived when they were on a European vacation enjoying an apres-hike coffee and cheese board.

“We were [over] mediocracy in this affluent, high-end neighborhood of Deep Cove. And a lot of people in this area were expressing the need for a good coffee shop. So, we came up with the concept, and here we are,” said Hayward.

Photo by Jonathan Hayward

Hayward, an active Deep Cove resident and award-winning national news photographer with the Canadian Press, decided to open his own ideal spot and in May 2015, Cafe Orso was born.

Simple and warm, the cafe is adorned with subtle woodsy accents, featuring a sensational grizzly bear photo shot by Hayward himself. It’s the perfect nook for a latte on a rainy day, or a mid-summer lunch after hitting up Quarry Rock.

The menu, as promised, delivers European-inspired fare bound to please any palate, curated carefully from local vendors that do it just right. The dough for the Liege waffles is sourced from Damien’s Waffles in Steveston (after Hayward did his diligent research in Belgium), BC cheeses, bread fresh from Nelson the Seagull, coffee from 49th Parallel, curried apple coconut preserve from Vista D’Oro in Langley, beer from Deep Cove Craft, house baked croissants from Chez Christophe, and the list goes on.

Photo by Jonathan Hayward

During our interview, Hayward served me the two stars of the menu, starting with the tomato melt: Nelson the Seagull bread, melted aged cheddar, vine-ripened tomatoes, blueberry balsamic drizzle, and arugula. It was a divine marriage of simplicity and comfort.

“If you’re going to put three simple things together, put the best things on the plate that you can find,” he comments.  “It’s not rocket science. And that’s what our whole premise is, [modeling] our menu around the food you see in Europe, where food is simple but really, really good.”

Next up, is the Hayward’s personal favourite, the ploughman’s lunch: an open-faced grilled cheese sandwich served with a daily meat selection from Two Rivers, half of a perfectly sliced avocado, and a side of the aforementioned curried apple coconut preserve from Vista D’Oro (my new obsession that is also paired with the sliced avocado toast on the menu), served on a beautiful wood board, charcuterie style.

An added bonus is that Cafe Orso is fully licensed; if you opt for the more traditional charcuterie board, stop in-during happy hour and add a glass of wine for five dollars.

Quality and detail are everything to the folks behind Cafe Orso. Whether you are dining in, or stopping by for a quick coffee to go, visiting Cafe Orso is a Vancouver-must. Plus, the baristas might make a little bear in your latte art, and if that’s not reason enough to visit I don’t know what is.

Café Orso
4316 Gallant Ave
North Vancouver, BC

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