The Southern Okanagan has it all – beautiful weather, warm lakes, majestic mountains, dreamy vineyards….
And artisan cafés!
There was a time when I could drive from Kelowna to Osoyoos without stopping, but with the taste of the coffee and vitals provided by these three fabulous artisan cafés weighing on my mind, I am inclined to pull over to indulge my taste buds. Here’s why I like them so much:
The Bench Market
My all-time favourite artisan café is The Bench Market in Penticton. Stewart Glynes became the head chef there in 2009 and four years later, he and his wife Heather took over as owners.
They are frequently on the road sourcing quality products and are huge supporters of regional food artisans, so if you are looking for any of the best artisan food products in the region, you’ll likely find it here. For instance, The Bench Market prepares coffee that is locally roasted by Backyard Beans, which source their beans from farms that are certified organic, UTZ-certified, fair-trade, and fall within the guidelines of the Rainforest Alliance.
Although I almost always buy the daily muffin at The Bench, others rave about the granola and yogurt, take-and-bake pizza, and deli salads.
• The Bench Market is located at 368 Vancouver Ave in Penticton. To get there from Highway 97 and Eckhardt Ave, go west on Eckhardt, turn left (north) at Ellis St, and turn right at the roundabout onto Vancouver Ave. It’s right at the top of the hill on the right.
• The Bench Market is very popular, so if you would like a seat inside, it’s best to go when they open at 7:00am during the week or 8:00am on the weekends. The regular hours are 7:00am – 5:00pm (M-F) and 8:00am – 5:00pm (weekends and holidays).
• There is free parking all along Vancouver Ave.
True Grain Bread
True Grain is a recent addition to my favourite artisan café list. Desperate for a good cup of coffee, I pulled into downtown Summerland and noticed that True Grain also sells Backyard Beans coffee (yippee!), so I knew it would be a hit.
True Grain Bread was founded in 2004 by Jonathan Knight in the seaside village of Cowichan Bay. His vision was one of local, fresh, organic, handcrafted bread. While the store in Cowichan Bay has been open for years, the shop in Summerland has only been around since 2012. Part of their philosophy is “to connect the farmer to the miller to the baker to the community”. As a result, since April this year, all baked goods are being made with BC farmed and milled organic flour.
This is a fabulous artisan café, and you don’t need to take my word for it. EAT Magazine named True Grain the Best New Restaurant/Shop/Café in the Okanagan in 2012.
• True Grain Bread is located at 10108 Main Street in Summerland. To get there from Highway 97, go west (away from Okanagan Lake) on Prairie Valley Road; at the roundabout, turn right on Rosedale Ave, and then make an immediate left onto Main St. True Grain is a couple of blocks ahead on the right. There is plenty of free parking on Main Street.
• True Grain is closed Sunday and Monday, but is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm
• The service here is particularly great; the employees really love what they do.
Bliss Bakery Bistro
If you love your coffee out on the patio in the sunshine, while listening to the soft murmur of Okanagan Lake waves and within sight of Rattlesnake Island, home of the famous sea monster, Ogopogo, then you will love Peachland’s Bliss Bakery Bistro.
Bliss uses coffee beans from Cherry Hill Coffee, another fabulous local food artisan, which has been hand-roasting coffee in Kelowna since 1986. Like the best artisan cafés, Bliss uses fresh, locally-grown ingredients in its food, augmented by wild and exotic ingredients, such as Fijian vanilla, Saigon cinnamon, and Belgian chocolate.
Bliss offers seasonal specials based on the tasty foods that are locally in season. For example, in the fall, they offered pumpkin roulade, spicy squash soup, hearty minestrone soup, and turkey/cranberry/brie panini. Yum!
• Bliss Bakery Bistro has several locations in the Okanagan, but the one in Peachland is located at 4200 Beach Avenue. To get there from Highway 97, turn toward Okanagan Lake at 13th Street and it is two blocks up on your right. There is plenty of free parking along Beach Avenue.
• I’m partial to the Bliss pastries, but they are more famous for their soups, which they make daily from scratch.
• The coffee and food are terrific, but don’t expect the best service from the front counter staff. I have been here a few times now and they’ve forgotten to prepare my order twice.