Aside from a few chains sporadically peppering Pembina highway, Winnipeg South is sorely lacking coffeehouses. Even a few of the Starbucks locations that used to work as base camps for rogue U of M students cut adrift by busy campus libraries have been lost in recent years.
In the wake of these closures, the first Winnipeg location of Ontario-based franchise Coffee Culture came to Pembina prominence right along the BLUE route to St. Norbert.
First and foremost, the café’s coffee is a rich and smooth blend that works as a solid pick-me-up on weekdays. My friends and I like to splurge on flavoured lattes when we visit, and the butter toffee latte is creamy and ideal for cozying up in the café’s booths during good conversation.
For those who do decide to dine-in rather than take-out, small pieces of biscotti are served with certain lattes and signature drinks.
The café’s iced coffee drinks are refreshing. Unfortunately, the syrups in their flavoured cold drinks tend to collect on the bottom of the cups, adding a grainy, sandy texture to each sip.
Aside from this minor tactile imbalance, the flavouring in Coffee Culture’s specialty drinks is good and does not separate from the rest of the drink. Their frozen ’ccinos — blended iced coffee beverages — are sweet without overwhelming the drinks’ other notes.
Coffee Culture’s selection of food includes a wide variety of baked goods and even a few vegan and gluten-free options.
Their muffins are luscious. I favour pistachio, but the red velvet muffin does not fall far behind.
The café also sells Cheesecake Factory-brand cheesecake at an astronomical $8.95 a slice. That price point is even harder to justify because there are cheesecakes for sale at the Sobeys just across the parking lot from Coffee Culture for a better price.
The cakes are tasty, but the price seems to reflect the brand rather than any outstanding qualities of the cakes themselves.
Coffee Culture has a modest lunch menu too. The Asiago BLT does not dry out when toasted and is a nice savoury palate cleanser to the wider selection of sweets.
The café has a time limit on tables, likely because the place is often packed from its 8:30 a.m. weekday opening time onward. This is unlikely to be a problem for most. Across my frequent visits over the course of two years, I have never been asked to leave even after hunkering down with my laptop for several hours.
But because the clientele Coffee Culture serves ranges from post-secondary students to retirees, families with children and everyone in between, the time limit signifies a bigger problem with the café culture in Winnipeg South.
What sparse indoor public spaces there are in the south end where people can park and socialize are suffocatingly crowded.
The vibe in the café reflects that widespread demand for a place to sit and chat.
It is a loud social spot, with lo-fi hip-hop music that fits its low-key, chill atmosphere for stir-crazy students and working-from-home professionals tired of restlessly pacing around their houses. The message that people ought to move along is at odds with coffeehouse culture and with the choice to open a watering hole on one of the city’s main arterial roads that thousands of students shuttle down daily.
Coffee Culture has a strong menu, but the café’s way of dealing with its own popularity is at odds with its format.
All that is solid melts into espresso.
Coffee Culture is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays with adjusted hours on weekends.