THE YETI CAFÉ: GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH THE FAMILIAR
PHOTOS AND STORY BY CHRIS TIESSEN
‘Sometimes,’ I suggest to Cai Sepulis, my TOQUE Partner and breakfast companion, ‘familiarity feels so good.’ I push a morsel of perfectly fried egg onto my fork with my knife and continue: ‘And this place conveys it.’ I deliver the egg to my mouth. Morning sunlight catches my utensil. I blink. Smile. Take another bite. Enjoy. And add: ‘I think I could hang out here all day.’ Cai takes a swig of her coffee – caffeinated, with milk – and nods. ‘Ya,’ she says, ‘I could get up for this every morning. Feels like the good life.’ At the Yeti Café. In downtown Kitchener.
It’s true, you know: that certain places evoke a particular sense of intimacy, comfort and cordiality – even if you don’t frequent them often. It’s in their laid-back vibes. No-nonsense menus. Eclectic interior designs. Kind (yet ever so slightly distracted) staff. These sorts of places leave you with the overwhelming feeling they’ve been assembled from the ground up, assorted and miscellaneous, piece by piece. They reveal an urge to endure as some sort of eclectic art installation as much as a destination for food, drink, and good times. Places like The Common Café in downtown Guelph, for instance. The Lost & Found Café in downtown Elora. City Café Bakery on Strange Street in Kitchener. Mulberry Coffeehouse in Hamilton. The Jane Bond in Uptown Waterloo.
‘That’s what this place reminds me of,’ I tell Cai as it comes to me. ‘The Yeti’s like The Jane Bond – but for early mornings.’ (The only early mornings you’ll enjoy at the late night Uptown staple, on the other hand, is last call.) Cai feigns a smile – perhaps not entirely convinced by my association between this spot and my long-time favourite haunt. And yet I see it. Clear as day. In the place’s bohemian chic vibe. Its 1950s-style diner tables and chairs. Year-round Christmas lights. Gaudily painted walls. Mismatched mugs and dishes and cutlery. Heck, even the cafe’s logo – a silhouette of the abominable snowman, or yeti, loafing about – echoes The Jane Bond’s own silhouetted emblem.
And the food, too. Tasty, large-portioned, eclectic diner fare done right. Like my ‘Brekkie’ – a dish featuring the aforementioned (perfectly) prepared eggs with toast, delectable fried halloumi, regular and sweet potatoes, sausage, and fresh fruit. Kiwi. Blackberries and strawberries. Watermelon, grapefruit and oranges. And Cai’s ‘Collard Wrap’ – house-roasted turkey, sweet potato, fried egg, tomato, slaw and greens with chipotle aioli wrapped tight (and held with rubber bands, no less) inside a large, crunchy collard leaf.
With a mouthful of halloumi, I look up from my plate and notice Joel Gingerich – an owner at Kitchener’s Smile Tiger Coffee Roasters – entering with a friend for morning coffee and grub. He sees us and saunters over for a chat. I ask what’s brought him here. ‘Every town’s got that one glorious breakfast destination,’ says Joel. ‘And in Kitchener, The Yeti’s the spot.’ Strong words, indeed, from a proprietor of one of the region’s favourite morning hangouts. As Joel makes his way back to the front counter (which boasts an imposing espresso machine, coffee grinder, baked goods on display, dog-eared customer loyalty cards, and an old copy of TOQUE to boot) to place his order, I push my chair back and survey the cozy single-roomed space. Across from me a young couple with a newborn chats over coffees and food. Under the large front window, two women enjoy the sunshine and each other’s company. Near the counter, friends check out the café’s bulletin board. Just outside, a couple souls eke out the last sunny autumn days on The Yeti’s sprawling patio.
I drag a piece of sweet potato through runny yolk and lift it to my mouth. I don’t know any of these folks, I think to myself – yet it’s a familiar scene.
And, sometimes, familiarity breeds contentment.