I read a fabulous article a little while ago about coffee shops around the world — and how they’re all starting to look the same. (The article is actually about design and globalization and is very much worth a read).
So many people seem to have this idea about grabbing a coffee — like a local — when they’re travelling. As if any self-respecting tourist — sorry, wanderluster — would dare set foot in a Starbucks abroad! No way. It’s all about hitting up an authentic coffee shop for whatever specialty coffee the locale is known for and watching the world go by.
Except, as the article points out, all these coffee shops look an awful lot alike: latte art, blonde wood, understated leather furniture. Sleek and minimalist. The perfect mix of vintage and modern. Exactly like you would imagine the coolest person in the world’s apartment would look like.
All this to say that Galileo in Britannia Beach — well, it doesn’t look like that. It looks mismatched. Homemade. More like your childhood best friend’s living room than the cool guy apartment. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place you SHOULD be going to if you’re seeking out something … authentically local (sorry for the buzzwords, I couldn’t help myself).
My volunteer swag bag from the Squamish 50 included two tokens for a drip coffee or espresso from Galileo. I’m not a coffee person, but Cedric is, and the tokens seemed like the perfect excuse to finally visit Galileo. I’ve passed by it a million times on the highway, and I know people who make a point of stopping there on their Saturday morning winter pilgrimage from the city to Whistler, so I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.
So, we went. And the first thing I noticed was that it lacked the glossiness of so many coffee shops. It looked… quaint. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was quaint in a good way. They advertised lunch, but two lone shrink-wrapped sandwiches sat in the display case. Upon closer inspection, a hand-written note revealed that there was more food in the back — the display was just for show because it was not actually refrigerated.
The service from the smiley server (this doesn’t seem like the type of place where they insist on being called baristas) quickly made me realize that it was, indeed, the good kind of quaint. She was sincerely friendly, told us that we could exchange our two drip coffee tokens for one free latte, and chatted with us like we were pals.
While we waited for our order, I took in my surroundings. Not a ton of variety in terms of baked goods, but everything looked like it was baked by a loving grandma. Not blonde wood tables, but fun ones with old business cards tucked under the glass tabletop. A basket of toys for kids to play with while they waited. Charming seems like an understatement here.
The final verdict would all came down to the quality of the consumables. This is the kind of place where, if the food and coffee suck, then it’s just shabby and bad. But if the edibles and drinkables shine, then it’s a local gem. And it was the latter.
I would say Cedric is a latte aficionado, and this was one of the better ones he had — maybe because they use their own special Galileo coffee beans, sold on site (and in plenty of other places, including online). The grilled sandwich, stacked with meat and oozing of delicious melting cheese, was thankfully a million times more appetizing than the one on display. My lavender Italian soda was a nice change from the usual coffee shop selection.
If you’re after a polished coffee shop with a lounge vibe, then Galileo is not for you. If you’re looking for a cabin-in-the-woods type of place with divine views and a mean cuppa, then it is.