Out and about, I stopped by Grand Central recently. That’s Grand Central, the Vancouver shopping center, and not Grand Central, the kick-ass Portland bakery. I was in Vancouver for a meeting and needed to do some printing beforehand at the FedEx Office store. After I got my printing done, I had an hour before the meeting, so it was time to look for coffee (free time=coffee time). As I was about to pull out of the parking lot, I saw a sign for Thatcher’s Coffee.
Hmm, I thought. Do I stop in and check out another new place, or should I head up the street to my regular stop?
Most of the time when I stop in Vancouver for coffee, I go to Paper Tiger. Zachary Gray and his team have great coffee, and the location is close to where I work. Thus, I do not have a lot of incentive to go someplace else.
Furthermore, I tend to be biased against shopping center cafés—they often lack the character that smaller shops have, and the coffee can be a disappointment. Shopping centers have high rents, and café owners face the temptation to cut corners on the coffee to improve margins.
Notwithstanding, I remembered that sometimes you can be surprised by the quality of coffee you find in unexpected locations.
Ultimately, I decided to stop and try the café—the allure of exploring a new place was just too much to resist.
When I opened the door to the cafe, an aroma of caramelized butter and sugar hit me. It was clear Thatcher’s was a popular place—the café was full of people and quite loud—but my impression was that any place that smelled like a cinnamon roll was probably not a “coffee place.”
Dismissing my chances of getting good coffee, I was just about to leave when I glanced over at the back wall and noticed a familiar sight. Several brown paper coffee bags with orange and white labels sat on a shelf. Was that Ristretto Roasters coffee? Indeed it was. The familiar double-R logo stood out across the room.
Well, then. Maybe I should stay.
I took my hand off the door and stepped into line.
Waiting in line gave me the opportunity to look around the café. The café had a very light, bright feel, especially in the morning. Fifteen feet of glass windows rise up towards the ceiling on the south side of the cafe, allowing the morning sunlight to pour into the café. As the café noises echo around off of the high ceilings, smooth concrete floors and exposed wood paneling, the sound grows, magnifying the morning din of the café.
The source of the sugary smell turned out to the large trays of homemade granola that had just come out of the oven. Their aroma filled the café, from one end to another, overpowering the smell of coffee.
One interesting feature of the café is that it sits in the flight path of the Vancouver airport. From my seat, I looked up once and saw a bright yellow Cessna swooping in toward the café, or so it appeared. The plane looked like it was going to land on the roof, it was so low. If you had small kids with you at the café, the passing airplanes would keep them entertained.
The dark chocolate notes stood out as I slurped and sipped my way to the bottom of the Beaumont Blend espresso. You could tell that the barista treated the coffee with respect.
Overall, my visit to Thatcher’s turned out better than I thought it would. The café might not be the “coffee place” that Ristretto’s Portland cafés are, but you can still enjoy your coffee and, if you are so inclined, eat some homemade granola to satisfy your morning hunger.
The bottom line? Thatcher’s makes a good stop if you are already at Grand Central.
Leaving the Grand Central parking lot, I met a Stumptown delivery van coming in. I thought to myself, is there a Stumptown café here too?
Maybe Grand Central is just a Portland shopping center masquerading as a Vancouver one, but I’ll have to figure that out another time.
Address: 104 Grand Blvd., Ste 100 Vancouver, WA 98661 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-6pm
Coffee: Ristretto Roasters
Recommendations? Get there early for a seat