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The Best Kept Secret in Vancouver on South Granville

April 10, 2010

“Cheesecake helps to keep the blues away”
From “Cheesecake” CD by Michael Sims, musician and co-owner of Cheesecake, etc., at 2141 Granville

Cheesecake etc., 2141 Granville Street, on South GranvilleCheesecake etc., is one of those places that no focus group could ever dream up, yet it’s one of the most successful coffeehouses in a city overrun with them. It’s neither trendy nor glitzy, but it works. The reasons have as much to do with the place as the unique people who have combined their passions for music and cheesecake and created a Vancouver institution.

If you happen be looking for an after hours place on a Saturday night, this is one of the few coffeehouses open until 1 am. After midnight on a Saturday, the Cheesecake joint is jumping—mostly with the young and the hip. There’s a bunch of people waiting to get in, and the servers are running while serving scrumptious looking blocks of cheesecake drizzled with crimson strawberry sauce. It’s dark, the tables are tiny, the chairs likewise. Owner Michael Sims is following his bliss on the keyboards, and singing tunes from his CD or anything else that feels right. It’s an ambience right out of the ‘sixties, when things were groovy, man. It’s a little mystifying why it attracts this hip, Asian crowd, though. They don’t serve alcohol or soft drinks. “We aren’t in many of the local guidebooks, but we’re famous in Hong Kong. We’ve become a tourist destination; the Capilano Bridge of restaurants,” jokes Sims.

How this happened is an interesting story. What really put them on the map was a joint CBC/Hong Kong Pearl TV feature on Vancouver, broadcast to 14 million viewers. “They came with a bus, a full crew and six actors and had me talking in Cantonese in no time, and playing my ‘Vancouver’ song,” recalls Michael.

Michael and Edith started Cheesecake etc. in 1979 because Rock ‘n Roll was pushing out their Jazz lounge act. So after touring all over the world, they came to Vancouver and decided to open a coffeehouse. Edith says it was more about having a place to perform than the cheesecake. But that doesn’t mean the food issue was not taken seriously. She is the foodie in the family, and makes sure that the original recipe for the cheesecake remains a secret. All she’ll admit to is that only the purest ingredients are used when they bake some 200 cheesecakes on the premises every week.

The Sims can look back on a quarter century of serving up jazz with the city’s best cheesecake, and they are still having fun. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it,” says Sims. Their son Daniel is the operations manager, making this yet another of South Granville’s successful family businesses.

They haven’t changed the décor or the menu much during that time and even Tigers, the ‘overflow room’ next door has retained its warm African look. Why mess with a good thing. This space is larger, with high ceilings and a fireplace. But the menu is the same, and again, there is the all-important keyboard and sound system. Edith says that this room caters to all manner of groups, ranging from weddings to book launches and poetry readings.

Both rooms pioneered a smoke free atmosphere back in 1981, when this was unheard of and greeted with dire predictions. “I was tired of cleaning up ash trays and smelling of smoke, so I asked Edith to give me a smoke free room for a birthday present,” Michael remembers. The predictions of disaster never materialised, but “Edith made me add ‘please’ to the NO SMOKING sign, so I did,” says Michael.

They may not be trendy, but they prove that things that are genuine—like a passion for good music and great cheesecake– never go out of style. They’ve even had offers to franchise it. But it’s clear—you can’t franchise something that comes from the heart.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. sunshinelady permalink
    June 2, 2010 4:31 pm

    Well done. You maintain a nice blog. Thank you for posting.

    • June 3, 2010 6:23 pm

      Thank you! Please tell us if there are things you would like to see here. We are still learning and can use all the help we can get!

  2. Yossi Zohar permalink
    December 31, 2013 11:58 pm

    Undaubtedly Cheescake Etc. serves the best cheescake in the world. Mike and Edith are blessed with musical talents wonderfull personality and love in their hearts.
    This us the best place to spend an unforgettible late evening in Vancouver.
    Yossi & Nili, Haifa.

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