There’s nothing like getting out of the city on a weekday when most people are bustling around doing business or locked away in cubicles. It beats trying to escape on a weekend when everyone else has the same idea. On this particular Wednesday, me and two friends decided to head out of town to Mystic Beach.
The first stop along the way was Shirley Delicious, a café with loads of personality packed into an A-frame cabin. The structure is something you would expect to see in the alpine only this cabin is nestled halfway along the stretch between Victoria and Port Renfrew in the small forested oceanside community of “Shirley”.
If you’re venturing out past Sooke, you must add this café to your itinerary. It wakes you up and gets you groovin’ and not just because of the caffeine!
Busy Place — Good Sign
I was surprised that even on a weekday morning this place was bustling, but really I shouldn’t be. The upbeat vibe and character of this rustic café is permanently etched into my memory. I’m sure it is for others too.
This place attracts people of all ages. While we were here, the patrons ranged from young adults to retired folks. It’s a busy place — a good sign of a well-run establishment that has a great atmosphere and delicious food and coffee!
It’s All About the Experience
I stop at Shirley Delicious on any road trip to this neck of the woods. Each time, I am pleasantly rewarded with friendly faces, vibrant energy, and good music. I immediately feel lighter when I walk through the door and it isn’t just about the salted caramel latte that I’m about to enjoy. It’s also about the experience.
Phillip is one of three partners at Shirley Delicious. His jovial spirit and upbeat energy are infectious and instantly get me smiling.
“It’s always smells and music that bring back good memories,” he said. He was kicking back in a lawn chair basking in the sun while I perched myself under a picnic table umbrella.
I understood what he meant. This day, I was instantly transported back to my teen days. Billy Ocean’s Caribbean Queen played loud enough to make me groove in the line up while being wrapped in the comforting aroma of freshly brewed coffee beans.
Phillip says that even the granny’s groove in the lineup. He laughed and exclaimed, “I want to be like them when I’m that age…still groovin’ and smiling!”
Phillip and the rest of the Shirley Delicious crew create this inviting atmosphere that make people want to groove. It’s important to Phillip that the people who enter are welcomed like family, get a personable experience and feel like they’re on vacation.
The music and the good vibe is always on. It makes waiting for the tasty goods worth it.
One Saturday, while waiting in line to place my order, Sheena shouted out to all of us eagerly awaiting coffee drinkers, “If you can name the band that sings this song, your order is on us!” My friend, Claudia, and I quickly consulted our phones, but even Siri couldn’t get this one.
I asked Victoria Lynn, who prepared my salted caramel latte, which radio station they tuned into. Instead, she whipped out a tablet and showed me a Spotify playlist called 20th Century Road Trip. Even the name of it was fitting for our day’s adventure! Victoria Lynn pointed out that her fav was Luscious Indy. Check out their playlists on Spotify to get an idea of the musical vibe inside this café.
Phillip’s goal, which he has certainly achieved, was to offer all of what you could get in a city café plus a unique vacation vibe and experience out in the woods.
You can get sandwiches, soups, baked goods, and any kind of espresso beverage you can imagine. Some flavours, like the salted caramel mix are actually made in-house!
The breakfast burrito and brekkie bun are top sellers. Sandwiches are made fresh. If you have food restrictions they can even prepare gluten free. Just ask!
The three of us enjoyed the mouth-savouring pecan squares and a white chocolate drizzled muffin along with our hot, creamy lattes.
Everything was immensely enjoyed!
Indoor & Outdoor Seating
There are many places to sit and enjoy the place ranging from a rustic nook with lots of cushions to small cosy tables for two and a room with seating for larger groups. You can also enjoy visiting outside at one of the several outdoor seating areas.
The Shirley Delicious Coffee Blend
Phillip is proud of his Shirley Delicious coffee, an organic blend of dark chocolate, brown sugar and crème brûlée with a creamy mouthfeel. It took a few weeks of testing to get it perfect, but he finally succeeded and realized that he had something marketable.
They’ve also branded their espresso, a blend of dark chocolate, wild berries, tamarind, and bourbon with a velvety finish.
Agro Roasters in Vancouver blends the two brands for him. I can certainly vouch for it. My salted caramel latte was to-die-for and I’ve got my own bag of fresh beans that I grind up for my morning coffee.
The Evolution of a Unique Cafe
I smiled and had an ah ha moment when I found out the vision behind Shirley Delicious was created by a Salt Springarian. I just visited Salt Spring Island for the first time only a couple of weeks ago and was quite impressed by the vibe there. But there is much more to the Salt Spring – Shirley Delicious connection that makes me believe that this café was meant to be for Phillip and his Shirley Delicious family.
Phillip, the founder of Shirley Delicious, had previously spent many years living on Salt Spring Island until he realized that if he didn’t leave and shake things up a little he might become too comfortable. As nice as that sounds to some, it didn’t fit his plans. He packed up and moved to French Beach, an ocean-side community, where he purchased a 600 square foot shack from someone who also used to live on Saltspring Island. Then he began woofing on a farm located right across the road from the little A-framed cabin in Shirley.
At the time, an English woman owned the cabin. She had operated a café out of it for one spring-summer season. She wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserved so she reluctantly put it on the market where it sat for three long years.
The wheels began turning in Phillip’s head. He consulted with a real estate agent and proposed an idea that had been brewing (no pun intended). He didn’t have the money to buy the place outright so he suggested that he rent the café for a year to see if he could bring his vibrant vision to life. The English woman was thrilled with Phillip’s idea and happily dropped the keys into his palm.
Shirley Delicious began taking shape. Phillip recruited two of his friends from Salt Spring Island, Sheena and Lou, who both jumped at the opportunity to partner with him on the business.
Last but not least, the President of Agro Roasters, who Phillip gets his beans from, used to be Director of Coffee at Salt Spring Coffee!
How Shirley Delicious Got It’s Name
The excitement of the business venture spread throughout the local community. One young man, a 16-year-old firefighter, jokingly said, “I sure hope you’re going to call it “Shirley Delicious.”
Phillip, ecstatic at the brilliant suggestion, drafted a letter in good business fashion to the young man thanking him and awarding him $100 to spend at Shirley Delicious each month for as long as it was in business. “That was 6 years, 1 month and 23 days ago (on International Women’s Day),” Phillip recounted with a big smile. The young man is now 22 years old and lives in Victoria. Even still he comes in each month with friends to spend his credit.
A Local & International Attraction
Shirley Delicious’ charm attracts both local and international (mostly German, Dutch and Swiss) vacationers on their way to popular wilderness destinations like the Juan de Fuca Trail and world-renown West Coast Trail as well as the popular Mystic and Botanical beaches. In the winter, Shirley Delicious also draws the local die-hard surfers on their way to Jordan Beach and Sombrio Beach where they ride the wild west coast waves.
Shirley Delicious is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm all year round. On your next drive-through stop in and grab a hot beverage, baked snack or hot soup and sandwich. You can even order fresh sandwiches to go. Just throw it in your backpack for a yummy picnic lunch!