Trying To Recall Cafe Wim

I don’t know why I woke up and asked myself what it was I liked to order at the long shut Cafe Wim on Sussex near the market in Ottawa in the mid-90s. I was awake the best part of an hour involuntarily trying to remember. There are enough references on the internet but I can’t find a picture of the large Dutch flag flapping out front facing the HQ of Revenue Canada. I think it might have just been the pot…no, basin of cafe au lait, open faced sandwishes on rye with thin onion, the college lassies in black and bulky sweaters reading and smoking, pre-wi-fi, the mismatched furniture and the staff who exuded accusations of poserism as they themselves posed. In the back there was the semi-abandoned odd dark split levels of Expo-67-meets-Holland furnishings, beyond that a patio. I was there the weekend before the last Quebec Referendum. It was like this but this is not it. It was a stage on a Saturday afternoon before ending at Irene’s.

2 thoughts on “Trying To Recall Cafe Wim”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Douglas – September 21, 2006 9:07 AM
    The service at Wim was aggressively laid back. A half-hour wait was not at all unusual, and then you’d get Phoebe’s twin sister. One waitress asked me if I’d like a glass for my beer, then brought one directly from the dishwasher. It was about 100 degrees. Mmm, hot beer!

    Alan – September 21, 2006 9:50 AM
    I think I witnessed that tragic moment. I was trying to recall something I really liked on the menu there but I am drawing a complete blank. I can’t recall if it was a particular beer, a sandwich or a dessert. I suspect, given my Aalsmeer phase, it was the Dutchiness as much as anything. No salty licorice, as I recall however. Nothing is Dutchier than salty salty licorice.

    portland – September 21, 2006 11:12 AM
    nice space but how goofy were we, and anybody that ever went in there, to put up with that service. it was just awful. hipster dufuses, all of us.

    Alan – September 21, 2006 11:39 AM
    Your beret was the best.

    gr – September 21, 2006 1:11 PM
    Beret? Was there also a matching goatee and dark pair of Ray Bans?

    portland – September 21, 2006 1:47 PM
    and lederhosen. if thats how you spell lederhosen. the ladies sure dug us.

    Alan – September 21, 2006 2:03 PM
    That when we was kings. Kings in lederhosen and berets.

    cm – September 21, 2006 2:05 PM
    Now there’s a picture.

    gr – September 21, 2006 2:24 PM
    I have to ask our resident grammarian and spellster CM: how do you write ‘dufuses’ or ‘doofusses’ or what?

    I had the thing going with the ladies myself, back then, sporting a monster ‘stache a la Tom Selleck and Freddy Mercury, sans lederhosen.

    Did you guys see that thing Flea had up the other day with the dirndl for 100 grand? (speaking of German outfits)

    cm – September 21, 2006 3:44 PM
    Singular, doofus. Plural, doofi.

    portland – September 21, 2006 9:18 PM
    we were dufuses. entirely different.

    salwilliam – October 29, 2008 9:15 AM
    Greatest hangout ever for poor high high school students! We’d order an average of $0.73 worth of food or drink per kid, and hang out for hours and hours. The DeLaSalle gang and the Lycee Claudel gang, that’s how I remember Wim. What an awesome time and place, I get all nostalgic just thinking on my memories.

    Iris ten Holder – February 27, 2009 12:09 PM
    If this thread is still alive,

    Iris ten Holder – September 19, 2009 6:50 PM
    Relive it all in Wim’s book:
    Cafe WIM, A Touch of Dutch on Sussex Drive.
    Book Launch on September 21 in Ottawa.
    Hardcover edition: $45.00
    Spiral edition:
    Softcover edition: $24.95.
    Richly illustrated with Wim’s drawings and photos.
    Order by email or from the web site.

    S – November 3, 2009 8:47 PM
    I’m surprised and delighted to know that Wim and Iris are still around even if the cafe isn’t.

    What a place, we were slackers before they called us slackers.

    Remember the first time they brought in beer on tap?
    I think they said the staff could have some at a discounted price (or maybe just to try it) but when they keg was empty they had sold something like 6 beers. They were a little upset, they had wanted to see if they would sell enough to make it worth having it and now they were going to have to get another one.

    Iris ten Holder – October 25, 2010 3:59 PM
    Thanks for adding some more memories.

    Invitation: Wim ten Holder will sign copies of his book: Cafe Wim, a Touch of Dutch on Sussex Drive

    Where: Social Restaurant and Lounge
    537 Sussex Drive
    Between George and York Streets

    When: 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

    There is construction on Sussex Drive. Park on either George or York and enter through front door on Sussex or the back door via Clarendon Court.

    Cafe Wim was a popular gathering spot for Ottawa intellectuals, politicians, and anyone else searching for healthy Dutch food. Owner Wim ten Holder brought his love of freedom, chess, peace, languages, and many other fascinating topics to the table, and his reminiscences make for great reading.

    Stefan – June 5, 2011 5:37 AM
    Ah Cafe Wim,

    My first waitering job. Such beautiful chaos. The place had such charm that people just kept coming back for more service a la gypsy. I love it and miss it so. I dream of becoming rich and turning the place back to its god given nature…. Thus making it an institution.


    ChapterOne – August 9, 2012 5:21 PM
    I used to go there to have a coffee and play chess – run into customers from my bookstore – they didn’t mind that their customers stayed for hours while only ording a coffee – sometimes I’d take my daughter there for hot chocolate after skating on the canal – I miss it – and now I work right across the street!

    Steve – January 24, 2013 2:44 PM
    Wow.. that brings back memories. I use to hang out with friends before we would head out to GiGi’s or Manhattan project… Wim was always are meet spot… some names…Kat, Zoe, Kevin, John, K.C., Chris, Liam, Mike, Roxanne and many more I can’t remember all the names…

    Jean-Francois – June 3, 2013 8:43 PM
    I used to be a Wim patrons. I went there with my friends to play chess. The only place where we could play chess and eat. It was a fun place. It a shame that is closed. So much memories.

    Paul – June 23, 2013 10:43 AM
    Ah, Wims! Winter evenings inside playing chess. Summer evenings out back looking onto Clarendon court, arguing and reading books. Everyone remembers their first bohemian cafe like a first love affair. A few years ago I went back and it wasn’t there anymore. Ottawa is not the same for me because of it.

  2. When I first got a job at Cafe Wim, it was to fund a trip to Europe. Little did I know I would find my tribe – a fantastic place to work and hang-out, some great memories! I now live in Europe, but the days of the split Friday night/Saturday morning shift, with a trip across the river to the clubs in Hull in between, are some of the best times I’ve ever had!

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