Vancouver Icons: Ovaltine Cafe

Comments 1 by Rebecca Bollwitt

The 72 year old Ovaltine Cafe is one of the most recognizable diners in Vancouver, but not necessarily because of its (reasonably-priced) food or its Yelp reviews. Its iconic neon signs, installed in 1948 and 1943 by Wallace Neon, and old school look make it a prime filming location, from Da Vinci’s Inquest and The X-Files to I, Robot, Fringe, Almost Human, and Supernatural. Located at 251 East Hastings, it’s a neighbourhood institution that serves up $3.95 breakfasts and plenty of memories. As such, The Ovaltine Cafe is today’s Vancouver Icons photo feature:

Ovaltine Cafe (1942)
Photo credit: Heritage Vancouver Society on Flickr

Ovaltine Cafe neon (1942)
Photo credit: Heritage Vancouver Society on Flickr

Ovaltine Cafe
Photo credit: Clayton Perry on Flickr

Historian John Atkin worries about the Ovaltine’s chances for survival with scant customers and low-priced fare. Diminished evening hours mean customers no longer see neon reflected down the long counter, but he doesn’t want the cafe “hipsterized” and serving craft beer. “What I like about it is it sits in the neighbourhood, it’s a reminder of what the neighbourhood was like in its heyday and yet it’s still here and it’s not trying to be anything. It’s just the Ovaltine,” he said. [Source: Vancouver Courier]

Ovaltine Cafe, Vancouver, B.C., Canada Ovaltine Cafe Ovaltine Cafe
Photo credit: Curtis Cronn & Jason V & Susannah Anderson on Flickr

ovaltine cafe Ovaltine Cafe, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Photo credit: joe robertson & Curtis Cronn on Flickr

Chinatown [1996-06-10, #11] I love saturated colour
Photo credit: Ian Alexander Martin & Steph L on Flickr

The Ovaltine
Photo credit: Kenny Louie on Flickr

Previous Vancouver Icons posts: The English Bay Slide, Freezing Water #7, Cleveland Dam, Heritage Hall, School of Theology Building at UBC, Gate to the Northwest Passage, St Paul’s Hospital, Capilano Lake, Stawamus Chief, Nine O’Clock Gun, Malkin Bowl, Search, Vancouver Rowing Club, Echoes, Point Atkinson Lighthouse, English Bay Inukshuk, Hollow Tree, Hotel Europe, Lions Gate Bridge Lions, LightShed, Granville Bridge, 217.5 Arc x 13′, Canoe Bridge, Vancouver Block, Bloedel Conservatory, Centennial Rocket, Canada Place, Old Courthouse/Vancouver Art Gallery, Dominion Building, Science World, Gastown Steam Clock, SFU Burnaby, Commodore Lanes, Siwash Rock, Kitsilano Pool, White Rock Pier, Main Post Office, Planetarium Building, Lord Stanley Statue, Vancouver Library Central Branch, Victory Square, Digital Orca, The Crab Sculpture, Girl in Wetsuit, The Sun Tower, The Hotel Vancouver, The Gassy Jack Statue, The Marine Building, and The Angel of Victory. Should you have a suggestion for the Vancouver Icons series please feel free to leave a note in the comments. It should be a thing, statue, or place that is very visible and recognizable to the public.

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1 Comment  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Dave Thorvald OlsonSaturday, September 6th, 2014 — 12:50pm PDT

    It seems to me there’s a fine line between gentrification and simply serving quality food at an affordable price and supporting local businesses by serving craft beer. For businesses to survive they have to make concessions to the time. No doubt I’m enthusiast of old-timey Vancouver, and gleaming neon and forgotten corners and dive bars but, as someone who has concerns about what goes into his belly I prefer a $5.95 all day breakfast and a few craft beer handles that come from three blocks away and support the local economy, rather than fatty bacon, indifferent pancakes and macro crap beer.

    A few changes could make this a viable vibrant business again and lively up that block. And frankly I’m confused by the fucking term “hipster.” What the fuck is a hipster anyway? Everyone gets pigeonholed as something sometime in their life – whether they want to be or not.

    I’ve been called everything from gringo to haole to gaijin, to hobo, to gutter punk, to Whalley burnout, to dot com, geek, to “what hipsters want to be when they grow up”, to urban gnome, chronic hugger, to deadhead, blah blah blah – we all hide behind labels when we talk about classes of people that we don’t want in the same café as ourselves… yet in another breath, we talk about diversity.

    I just don’t get it. Why do we risk the viability of a restaurant we find interesting just because we don’t want people who aren’t like us – or rather, share the exact same as static sensibility and long-term vision for said restaurant- to go in there?

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