While Vancouver does not have Portland’s renown for coffee, our northern neighbor has a burgeoning group of cafés and roasters that care about serving you good coffee. Nor’West, River Maiden (and its sister café, Dripster), Paper Tiger (under new management) and Lava Java(technically in Ridgefield) all call the Vancouver area home. Sophisticated Vantuckians do not have to settle for over-roasted, over-syruped coffees unless they choose to.
The scene continues to improve, too. A new shop called Torque Coffee Roasters recently opened downtown, close to the Convention Center. En route to Vancouver for a Monday morning meeting, I left PDX early to check it out. With a little help from my GPS, I found the café without too much trouble.
Pulling up to the slate gray building, a long row of parking meters greeted me (welcome to Vancouver). I don’t like to pay for parking (who does?), but I accept it as a fact of life in most cities. The problem was that Vancouver’s meters are coin-operated, and I didn’t have any spare change. I could take the chance and park without paying, or I could find somewhere else to park.
Hmmm. . . It was a pretty dead morning in the “‘Couve." Who was really going to care if I parked there for an hour without paying?
Two voices argued inside my head – one good (“you can’t park and not pay—it’s illegal and you’ll get caught”) and one bad (“go for it, you’ll get away with it”).
In the end, the “good side” won the argument. I decided to look for another spot, ending up a block south of the café, where a few 2-hour parking spaces along the street were open. The short walk to the café was pleasant.
Inside, I ordered my customary espresso. Torque currently serves Coava coffee, so Vancouver residents can now try some of Portland’s best single-origins without leaving town.
Ryan Bisson, the barista on duty, served me a Nicaraguan single-origin that was juicy. It tasted like almonds and cherries (amaretto-ish, if you will). It was bright but heavy, as if he had slipped something a little stronger into the cup than just coffee.
In its previous incarnation, Torque Coffee must have been an auto shop. The space is so large that the coffee bar at its center sits like an island in the middle of a large lake. Right now, the room is lined with “swanky retro furniture” and a quite a bit of open space, but it will soon become more crowded. Torque has plans to roast its own coffee in the future (the roaster was supposed to arrive this week), and the back of the café is reserved for a cold brew/bottling station.
Several minutes after I sat down, Bisson, who had been straightening up some tables outside the café, poked his head in the door and shouted, “Everyone okay with the meters?”
The parking monitor was passing through, handing out parking tickets. I chuckled. It always feels good to find out you made the right choice. My earlier decision to park down the street had paid off and I could enjoy my coffee in peace.
Torque Coffee is a nice addition to Downtown Vancouver. While the Vancouver coffee scene still has a ways to go before it reaches Portland-like status, it is becoming more developed all of the time. With its eager parking enforcement, Vancouver is becoming more like Portland in other ways too. It won’t be too long before Portlandians can cross the Columbia and feel quite at home.
Address: 501 Columbia Street, Vancouver, WA 98860 (map)
Hours: Monday-Sunday 7am-7pm
Recommendation? Take some quarters with you