Think about the perfect neighborhood café. Welcoming, casual, bright, characterful. Where you can grab a locally roasted coffee in the morning, dream-inducing hearty sandwich for lunch or satisfying, locally sourced lazy weekend brunch. There would be a patio, of course, music in the air and regional artists on the wall. How cool would it be to have a little store inside also, filled with a tight selection of locally sourced, small production foodstuffs and books from area authors. Of course, location is everything, so the perfect neighborhood café would have to be easily accessible via foot and car, at a crossroads connecting communities as well as people.
Turns out Penticton, BC has the perfect neighborhood café. At the foot of the busy Naramata Bench wine route and the edge of Penticton’s hopping core The Bench serves up more than healthy, fresh and from-scratch cooking daily. It’s a community hub, where you’re as likely to bump into a local as you are a visiting wine tourist from London or a triathlete from Hawaii.
Much of what’s on the shelves or served up is locally produced, organic and artisan, and the friendly, young and energetic staff are always eager to help. I confess I have dreamed about their sandwiches (the MOJO Panini: fennel-crusted Fraser Valley pork loin, lemon-cumin aioli, spicy capicollo ham, banana peppers and organic gouda), and woken up early to arrive for weekday 7am coffee (to stay is perfect temperature, but if you get it to go prepare yourself for nuclear hot).
With Penticton halving the Okanagan Valley, The Bench attracts folks heading south from Kelowna or Summerland, or driving north from Oliver or Osoyoos, and if you haven’t time to stay or want to share Bench bounty, they have a full catering and take-away menu so you can call and order ahead.
“Keeping it local and making it fresh!” is their motto. When I’m in the Okanagan, my motto is: “let’s stay near The Bench.”