I used to live around Main and 12th, and everyday when I walked downtown for work, I would always pass Finch's Tea & Coffee House, this quaint and quirky looking coffee shop; however, I wasn't curious enough to visit until I saw the review from Vancouver Slop. A few months ago I visited for the first time and had an okay experience, partially because of the long line up and the longer wait.
Today I decided to pay another visit during my lunch hour. The restaurant is located on Pender and Homer, right below a backpacker hostel. It's not in the best neighborhood, but rest assured, you are transported to another place as soon as you step inside. There are many windows so the space gets flooded with natural light. The decor is sort of grandmother chic, with long diaphanous white curtains along the windows, lovingly worn plank hardwood floors, old books and curios, hanging plants, and small vases of carnations at every table. The room has a very worn quality--torn plaster in the corners exposing red brick, peeling ceiling tiles--but even that lends the place a certain coziness and charm. The restuarant is very small, with about 7 or 8 tables, and seats around 25 people. The best seats in the house are the intimate tables for two on the raised stages along two wall windows. I suspect you would have a memorable people-watching experience from that perspective.
Another charming element are the chalkboard menus inside ornate gold frames, and the loose tea in old-fashioned glass jars. The menu itself is relatively small, with coffee, tea, a breakfast dish or two, salads, soup of the day, and an extensive selection of baguette sandwiches. Many of their ingredients are organic.
I purposely left for lunch early so I could sit at a table, but unfortunately, all the tables were already filled by the time I arrived at 11:15, so I had to settle for takeout. My choice was the "Baked Blue Brie, Walnuts and Proscuitto" sandwich ($7.95). It was a really long wait, of around 20 minutes (!). This is perhaps the only downside to this place, the horribly interminable wait. There are a few reasons for this: many people do the smart thing and call their orders in, and the staff is busy preparing sandwiches that you hope are yours but end up not being yours at all. Another reason is that the people who make the sandwiches are very deliberate and serious in their sandwich making. They assemble the sandwich very slowly--even mindfully and meditatively, and this takes time. Today I saw one sandwich maker carefully pluck out each individual stalk of dill, one at a time, instead of tearing at the bunch like most people would do. Each element must be placed just so, and so on. It was kind of inspiring.
Finally my sandwhich was ready, and it was so nicely wrapped in butcher paper and tied with twine (the eat-in sandwiches come cradled in the same butcher paper, unwrapped). It's simple and beautiful. I also picked up a few cookies ($2.25 each) for myself and co-workers.
The sandwich was warm, though the melted cheese was a bit squished by the wrapping. Feeling the bread, I thought I might cut the roof of my mouth on the crust because it seemed so hard, but this was not the case. Oh the bread! It was the best baguette I've had in the city-- brown crunchy crust but still soft and chewy inside. So good. The combination of Proscuitto and warm Brie was delicious and indulgent, and the walnuts gave the sandwich a nutty crunch. The addition of black pepper gave it a subtle kick. They were very generous with the meat (the Proscuitto was sliced paper-thin and thickly squished into the bread) and cheese, so after a while I felt it was getting a bit too salty. It worked, however, and was definitely memorable and delicious.
My co-workers nearly sainted me when I distributed the cookies. They loved them, and so did I, though I'm not too into cookies. The cookie was crunchy on the ouside but soft on the inside, and the dark-chocolate bits were melty.
I would definitely come back to try their other sandwiches, despite the long wait and relatively high price. How can one resist? Each ingredient is top quality (and they are clearly and rightfully proud of their ingredients), and the food is prepared with painstaking care and time.
You know what they say, "All good things come to those who wait...."