That was the initial impression that I had of Bonchaz in Downtown Vancouver when I was told of its existence. Located on West Hastings near Homer Street, Bonchaz Bakery Cafe is exactly that: a bakery and a cafe. We went there for lunch a short while back, mostly because we had purchased a Groupon.
Located a short distance from L’Abbatoir and plenty of other fine eateries, Bonchaz suffers the same kind of fate when it comes to parking: there are spots, but they’re going to cost you. If you happen to work in the area, though, then this far less of a concern.
The entirety of the menu can be found on the colorful chalkboards behind the main counter. There are also a few daily specials, which are usually displayed on a sandwich board outside. In the display case are a variety of baked goods and you get the usual assortment of coffee and other beverages to satisfy your thirst. Our Groupon provided for two soup and sandwich combos, so that’s what we decided to get.
For the soup portion of our meal, we opted for a bowl of the chicken curry soup and a bowl of the vegan chili. For no reason in particular, I generally prefer to have my soup in a ceramic bowl, as these glass bowls felt like they were better suited for condiments and sides.
The chicken curry soup did have a distinct curry taste to it, but it wasn’t really spicy at all. It did have a slightly thicker consistency than most, which made it quite hearty. The same can be said about the vegan chili. I’m a meat person, so I would have preferred chili con carne, but this was just fine.
Continuing with the vegetarianism, what you see here is an avocado and brie sandwich served with balsamic. The brie and avocado both offered a great creaminess that is generally uncommon with most sandwiches. This is decidedly different than what you’d get at, say, Chez Meme Baguette Bistro. I also thought it was interesting that they sliced the bread twice, creating an almost “club house” like profile.
The pulled pork and bacon sandwich was served on a brioche bun with red cabbage. There was certainly a lot of bun here and while the sandwich was perfectly nourishing, it really wasn’t anything to write home about. Most sandwiches are in the $6 to $8 range.
With the possible exception of the avocado and brie sandwich, that statement generally holds true for most of Bonchaz. It’s a nice cafe with a reasonably assorted menu that’s a step above your usual chicken noodle soup with a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread, but it’s not exactly breathtaking either.
The bigger claim to fame, perhaps, are the Bonchaz buns. They come in a handful of varieties, including a flavor of the day. We bought a couple to bring home as an afternoon snack; the one on the left is chocolate truffle and the one on the right, even though it doesn’t look the part, is green tea. At about $1.75 each, they’re not cheap but they’re not terribly expensive either. We also bought some fresh bread for sandwich-making at home too, and you can find these on a table across from the front counter.
Bonchaz is the kind of place that is certainly above average, but it’s not somewhere that I would go out of my way to visit.