Both of my grandmothers passed away two decades ago and I miss them terribly.

Grandmama’s Cafe in Kerrisdale takes care of you the way only a Grandma can. The hands-on owners make sure you have plenty to eat and drink — premium quality at everyday prices — and, over time, learn what satisfies: a favorite table or a favorite meal, so they are ready for your next visit.


This local coffee shop is a family affair. From its homage to the dearly departed to a daughter right out of high school earning her way to the title of Creative Director, Irfan and Sana Hakim have found a way to keep their kids close and engaged while they serve the greater community they now call home.



After moving here from Mumbai, particularly so their children could access excellent education — all three kids are now at UBC: Wahed is at the Sauder School of Business, Ilham is in Life Science, and Danish is in Biotech Engineering — Irfan and Sana knew they wanted to to do something in hospitality, but not something mainstream and commercial. Irfan says his wife Sana was “always inclined to get into hospitality.” So was his mother and mother-in-law.


They thought about opening a cafe and, very excitedly, began making plans. Wahed developed the business plan, Ilham designed the look and feel of everything from the logo to the counter space to the cups and plates, to the take-home boxes. Both Grandmothers gave input into the menu through video conference calls from India. Then came Covid and plans were put on the back burner.


Irfan and Sana began walking around the city, not only because they were eager to find a location, but also to see what cuisines exist in Vancouver coffeeshops and where the gaps may be. While they honoured the fact that each cafe was doing its own thing, they found most to be quite generic: sandwiches, soups and pastries. Being very well travelled, they love cuisines from around the world.



After this period of due diligence, they could not find certain tastes they loved in existing cafes, especially the taste of the Mediterranean and Far East the way they felt it should be: a particular tea from Turkey, made out of pomegranate seeds – organic and healthy; the Butterfly Pea Flower from Thailand that makes blue tea with medicinal properties that help relieve anxiety, reduce stress, help skin and blood cleansing. They knew of these specialties because they come from a different part of the world. They wanted to integrate them into the Vancouver lifestyle.


Consistently walking past their location in Kerrisdale, a space that had been shuttered for over a year and half, they saw the vision where others could not. They showed it to the Grandmother’s and they all began to conceptualize together. Another year and half later, Irfan’s mother passed away, then Sana’s mother passed away two months after that.


While they had a particular name in mind, the kids became nostalgic with both the grandmothers gone. They thought, “We cannot name it after one or the other, so let’s call it Grandmama’s Cafe.” While slightly hesitant, concerned the name would only be seen as an invitation to the elderly in the community, their fears were quickly put to rest when everyone from the youngest to the oldest customers and everyone in between came through their doors, and returned time and again.



In the kitchen, Sana makes everything from scratch; there are no shortcuts or pre-canned sauces. Their soups can be served to six-month old babies because the ingredients are so clean and fresh, no fillers.


At first people found the menu a bit confusing because there is a bit of everything from everywhere: Butter Chicken – influenced by a childhood in India; Chicken Stroganoff – Brazilian or German influence; Mediterranean Chickpea Bowl; Waffles: there are many cultural influences coming together. Ultimately they decided that what tastes good, people will like. They started being known for their waffles, salmon toasts, and samosas.


The bread they procure is very particular, While it is not baked in-house due to kitchen constraints, it is baked locally, to Sana’s exacting specifications, and can be found exclusively at Grandmama’s Cafe. In fact, any goods not made in-house are primarily outsourced to local bakeries and made from recipes by Sana and Ilham. A local French chef makes their waffles for them: they select all the ingredients, even the crystal sugar that they import from France.


Sana makes an old fashion Grandmama’s Chocolate Cake, a recipe handed down from Irfan’s mother. It takes a lot of prep and baking time so it is made once a week – and sells out as soon as it’s offered! Their cheesecake is flown in from New York; some pastries, they fly in from Italy.



Having had a business in Milan, Italy, Irfan knows coffee. Also familiar with Columbian and American roasts, he found them too strong and robust without the subtlety and nuance of the Italian coffees, which don’t need sugar because the coffee itself is roasted a little sweet. They use Umbria Coffee Roasters, based in Seattle with Canada-wide and local representation. They even trained Sana and Ilham to make sure they get the most delicious brews every time.


Locally, they were introduced to Blume when it was a startup company and they wanted to help. They brought in their “superfoods lattes” and are so proud of Blume’s growing success!


My Tumeric Latte  — a best seller — was exceptional. Subtle, sweet. It left me wanting more. The Bang Bang Chicken is tangy and juicy but the dynamite sauce is not spicy — great for younger palates. The Avocado toast with pesto tomatoes and feta is fresh and delicious and comes on Sana’s bread toasted to perfection. In playfully exact replications of the fruit, the Peach Mousse has delicious peach chunks inside and the mousse not overly sweet. Same with the Cherry Mousse with its chocolate cake base, cherry filling and shiny red coating.


One regular, whom I’ll call MT, used to send the cafe postcards every 15 days with well wishes and thanks. Soon that turned into envelopes with $20 bills in order to show support for the growing business. Irfan said to MT, “Sir, we don’t need that! Just come here and enjoy. The day you stop coming, we’ll know we are doing something wrong.”



Now the Cafe has become a delightful obligation — people depend on them. Some in the community who are very ill and cannot come to the cafe, ask for diet-specific meals to be delivered — they are made specially for them by Sana. Special requests for regulars are also honored, if someone has a nut allergy, for example, or is really craving an authentic curry. They put reserved signs on favourite tables when they know regulars will be coming by.


For those who want to cook at home, Grandmama’s Market is now open just around the corner. It opened one year after the cafe because they saw the daily need for pasta and sauces, things that could be made at home, but are authentically from Italy or other global destinations from which these fine foods are procured. Many in this particular community were very well-traveled in their younger days. Now they are limited to what they can get in their local supermarkets or other stores near by. So the Hakim’s bring in chutney from South Africa, mayonnaise from Holland, British, French, and Belgium Chocolates, Marks & Spencer’s delicacies, pasta made in Italy. People are nostalgic for these items. Grandmama’s Market is an amalgamation of products from all over the world and they are always striving to find new products to bring in to satisfy those days of yore in other countries for their customers. Mexican, Asian, Mediterranean, British, European, American.


Opening and running Grandmama’s Cafe and now the Market is a very emotional journey for the Hakim family. The children are always on site eating, talking about menu and design improvements, interviewing potential employees. It has brought the family closer together. They find a piece of their own mothers and grandmothers in all of the customers they serve. They love the idea of continuing to get to know each customer as they come again and again to enjoy the warmth and care evident the moment you enter this special cafe.


Amanda @Fueler

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