Caffe Beano – What Makes a Place Legend?

Legendary coffeehouse, Caffe Beano, in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline community, continues to thrive against all odds. A place with great coffee, colourful patrons, and big hearts.

March 27, 2021, 7:45 pm MST / Updated April 11, 2021
Report by Patty Moore

Located steps south of the bustling sidewalks and bumper-to-bumper traffic on 17th avenue, is one my favourite coffee shops: Caffe Beano. Established in 1990, it’s one of Calgary’s few independently-owned coffee shops to survive the growing invasion of large chains and ever-present challenges of being a local business (CBC News, 2015; Calgary Herald, 2021).

Caffe Beano March 2021. Photo by Patty Moore.

A Year-Round Spectacle

An outdoor crowd throughout the year. Photo by Patty Moore (2021).

Caffe Beano draws a warm, bubbling eclectic crowd from every walk of life — sun, rain, wind, or freezing Winter. Here, all are welcome and everyone belongs. While the freshly brewed, organic coffee and home-baked treats are delicious, this isn’t why most of us visit or return. Caffe Beano is a place for conversation and people watching.

Masks Mandatory. Photo by Patty Moore (2021).

My recent visit to Caffe Beano was sunny and warm, Saturday afternoon in late March. When I arrived, there was a small lineup outside the door. The front windows and sidewalk were dotted with signs of pride, soft apologies, and heart-felt reminders: LEAF CaféBe local. Sorry NO PETS INSIDE! MASKS MANDATORY. Only a few of us obliged.

Twists of Excitement

To my left, on the street corner, a young woman in black with long hair and bright white sneakers, sang and played her guitar to busy walkers.

Everyone is busy. Photo by Patty Moore (2021).

In a flash behind me, down the street, a fight broke out between an angry pedestrian and barely visible driver who forgot to look where he was going. The pedestrian, a hip version of David Letterman sporting a thick white beard, New Balance sneakers, and black toque, stormed briskly towards the halted SUV. Profanities were exchanged, and then as quickly disappeared.

Moments later, a tall unbrushed and unshaven young man in worn overalls and rubber boots, sauntered by with his furry Shepherd mix (a mini-me to his walker), warmly saying goodbye on the phone, “I’ll see you soon, grandma.” Call over, he yawned and blurted loudly, “I’m tired. I’m Covid tired!” I suppose in unison with us all.

A Parade of Sights and Sounds

Dress for all occasions. Photo by Patty Moore (2021).

Between ruptures of excitement, Caffe Beano’s outdoor patio was relaxed and chatty. Customers mingled with smiles or wordlessly flipped through a paper or magazine they shared with someone else. Everyone was lightly bundled or unzipped, all decked out for Spring – ballcaps, toques, puffy coats, jean jackets, sweaters and hoodies, and shoes for all seasons (boots, hikers, sneakers, sandals!).

To my right, two stylish, silver-haired women huddled together on a wooden bench, legs crossed, holding their steaming cups, talking excitedly with bursts of laughter. The more vibrant of the two wore a wool purple coat, orange velour tights, a gold-yellow purse, and smart, darker purple shoes with socks to match. Before leaving, she made an unsurprisingly bold move towards Caffe Beano’s glass entranceway. Swinging the door open, she nodded at her friend to go inside, then assured the patient lineup, which I was standing in, “We’re not buying anything. We’re just going in.” Umm…

After grabbing myself a black coffee, I sat back outside and watched. In short clips, parents shuffled past holding or pushing their kids in strollers. Teens and twenty-somethings shifted about in high-chirping packs. Couples, young and old, sat close, speaking quietly, saying little, or exchanging glances. People stood up for their seats, then hesitated, and sat back down.

Hope and Survival

Spending time at Caffe Beano echoes signs of hope and survival. Here we are and here we remain. After 30 years, it continues to serve a colourful, devoted crowd amid altering states of the unimaginable: a devastating flood (City of Calgary, 2013), years of construction (City of Calgary, 2017-present), worsening economic downturn that continues to sink surrounding spaces now boarded up or for lease (CBC News, 2020), and a global pandemic with two destabilizing lockdowns (Calgary Herald, 2021).

“There is no you. There are no others. There is only one.” Photo by Patty Moore (2021).

The heart of a place, like Caffe Beano, is its essence and the breath and bones of those who build and save it. It’s the precious, the ordinary, and perhaps the little stuff too close to appreciate until gone, like friendly faces, talking with strangers, or quick goodbye hugs.

How to help places you love survive a pandemic:

Restaurants Canada, #RestaurantsAreFamily
Support Local, City of Calgary, #SupportLocalYYC
How to help local restaurants stay afloat during the pandemic, TODAY (2020)

Photo Information:
Photographs by Patty Moore ©2021

Patty Moore

Writer, editor, and instructional designer. Love spotty kittens, cool pups, and all-things music, books, art, and wine.

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