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What is peanut butter without jelly?

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I wanted to start off by saying a big thank you to our Vancouver food blog readers, tour guests, and foodie community for making this week such an exciting one for Vancouver Foodie Tours. Not only did we receive our 200th TripAdvisor review, but we became the highest-ranking food tour in Vancouver. It is such a humbling and thrilling milestone that brings light to the amazing city that we live in and the incredible people we have met along the way.

This week’s blog post is inspired by this sense of community. What is peanut butter without jelly? What is milk without the cookie? Some things are just better, brighter, stronger, and more powerful, paired together. That’s how we feel being culinary ambassadors for this city. If you’ve toured with us or kept up with our Vancouver food blog, you’ll know we seek to highlight Vancouver’s best grub, but we are equally, if not more so, passionate about the stories behind it. As a relatively small, relatively young, culinary city, I think it’s important for foodies and restauranteurs alike to engage with the community and acknowledge the role that we can play.

A friend and I wandered, rather purposefully, to a cafe in the heart of Gastown. In the last few years, Vancouver’s historic neighbourhood has been the hot-spot for new, hip, high-end restaurants. “The gentrification of Gastown” became a common headline and residents were found protesting outside new businesses on the block. The growing pains have been bittersweet. Some of the most-coveted opportunities to wine and dine are nestled in Gastown, but how are we to feel knowing that many underprivileged Vancouverites call the area home? As I pulled open the oversized door of Nelson the Seagull, a refreshing wave of hope and the scent of freshly baked bread welcomed me inside.

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Nelson the Seagull – What makes it a place to visit in Vancouver?

It’s is a sweet and simple food & bake shop that was made for Gastown.  From its name to its food, Nelson the Seagull struck me as a place to visit in Vancouver for the following:

1) The Name: Nelson the Seagull
There’s air of mystique around the name that’s hard to resist. Two of the three owners, a brother and sister, grew up in South Africa, and have always regarded Nelson Mandela an icon of morality. They wanted to honour Mandela and chose the cafe name in reference to a folk song called, “The Seagull’s Name Was Nelson.” Because of the song’s message about freedom, it became an “underground” anti-apartheid song in South Africa.

2) The Shop
It’s so simple, you’ll be tempted to giggle about it. In contrast to the complex interior designs of some of Vancouver’s cafes and restaurants, the mosaic-tiled room is almost comedic. With so much handmade love expressed through repurposed sewing stools, distressed tables, and the collection of knick-knacks for art, you cannot help but be reminded of the essence of a cafe; it’s just good food, coffee, and a welcoming vibe. That’s really all you need.

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3) The Food
I made my pick off their all-day breakfast menu and I was not disappointed. That sourdough is worthwhile on it’s own. It was made by a guy working on a table, who sliced the avocado and put it all together, kind of like you would in your own kitchen.

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4) The Thought
I found this sign on the counter of Nelson the Seagull and I was once again filled with that sense of community.

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I admire the sensibility of the program and moreover, the absence of pretentiousness around it. Perhaps it is the combination of the cafe experience and atmosphere that gives the idea of suspended coffee an inspiring level of sincerity. Whatever it may be, there’s a chance for people who can’t always afford a coffee to enjoy one in the comfort of Nelson the Seagull.

It’s an interesting time for Gastown and it will continue to be. Though there will always be differing opinions on how things should progress, sometimes it’s the glimmers of hope and humanity that keep the path brightly-lit.

Joyce Chua

About Joyce Chua

I’m fascinated by food and its impact on culture, especially in an increasingly globalized world. I love how Vancouver’s multicultural food scene opens doors to history, culture, and understanding. Here’s to a life of eating and learning!

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