In summer of 2017 a new café opened up in what used to be the old Edmonton City Market building, and is now home to a cozy spot for coffee and community.
The Nook Cafe sits across from Canada Place and borders Chinatown, a corner on 101 and 97 Street. This part of the city is taking its time to be revitalized, and for a long while, has been locally perceived as a “sketchy” side of town. Aside from its reputation, the area is one where both community and culture are abundant. Owners Lynsae Moon and her mother Marnie Snitor knew this when they choose the location of the café, and wanted to be a part of encouraging that community to flourish.
“We intentionally chose this spot. We wanted something in a neighborhood that would allow for intersectionality and bring together diverse walks of life,” says Moon.
One of the ways The Nook Cafe does that is through suspended coffee, which is a means of offering customers a free cup whenever needed, and is practiced by many cafés around the world. In downtown Edmonton, The Nook Cafe is currently the only café that offers suspended coffee.
“The suspended coffee program is something that started in Naples, and we learned about it when we were touring different cafés in Vancouver,” says Moon.
One café in particular, says Moon, in Gastown (a district in Vancouver bordering East Hastings) created a space that instead of welcoming only certain clientele, opened its door to everyone.
“It really stood out to me that they weren’t trying to ignore their neighbors or find ways to kind of keep them at arm’s length, they were creating a space to say ‘yeah you’re welcome here too.’”
The Nook Cafe navigates their suspended coffee system with buttons, which customers can grab and use at the till in exchange for a free cup.
“It allows people to take it and use it like currency, so they don’t have to come and ask, they don’t have to justify, they don’t have to count out their change. Some of them are really sweet and just leave all the change, we collect it and just use it to make more buttons,” says Moon.
Suspended coffee, however, isn’t only reserved for those who may be less privileged.
“Sometimes (it’s used) if somebody’s car is towed off the street or if they forget their wallet when they get here or something was going on with their online banking and their debit card is suddenly not working,” says Moon.
The Nook Cafe welcomes students, parents and their children, artists, and everyone in-between. It has a small play area (although is not a play café) and a variety of entertainers pass through on a weekly to monthly basis. The Breath and Poetry club, YEG music, and AWILL (Aspiring Women in Leadership and Legacy), are just a few organizations that meet up to perform or to share their stories. There’s also a comedy night the last Friday of every month which costs only $5 per person upon entry.
Warm lights and vintage tables meet concrete, wooden accents from the building’s warehouse past. The mix of all these things create a space meant to feel just like home. Being cozy is really important, according to Moon, who designed the café with her late grandmother in mind.
“I wanted it to be like my one grandmother’s house. She had over 20 grandchildren, but I still feel like she had time just for me, and there was something about being there,” she says. “It was a place you wanted to stay in and do things like crafts, or read, or cozy up in a blanket.”
Aside from the decor, some of the café’s baked goods also take inspiration from Moon’s grandmother.
With its welcoming atmosphere, eagerness to build community, and delicious food made to warm the heart, The Nook Cafe is an ideal spot to curl up and study during the school season.
A one-of-a-kind recipe from Lynsae’s grandmother, this shortbread cookie melts in your mouth and is perfect for dipping into a warm drink on a cold day.
Lattés at The Nook cafe can be made with a variety of dairy free milk options. Coffee is supplied by Roasti Coffee Co., an Edmonton coffee roaster that specializes in Brazilian, Costa Rican, and Sumatra organic coffee blends.
Photography by Sydney Upright.