It’s no secret that the coffee culture in Toronto has been booming for quite some time now, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Very few local industries, except maybe condominiums, rival the growth of cafés downtown. You can’t swing a cat in this city without hitting an independent coffee shop serving up great drinks, snacks, and cozy, cool interiors.
Beyond the vital role of keeping us well caffeinated, these neighbourhood espresso bars function as little community hubs where you can bump into your neighbour, read a book, have a business meeting or join the laptop mafia of the self-employed, typing away on their MacBooks. At any hour of the day there is just as much creative buzz slinging around these places as lattes. Although most people have their ‘locals’ that they are loyal to, no matter where you are in the city you can hit up an independent espresso bar and experience the vibe of that particular Toronto neighbourhood.
As a downtown Toronto realtor I am all over the city all the time, and I wanted to share with you some of the places that keep me coming back for more. Each one is unique, independent, and doing it’s own part in contributing to Toronto’s coffee mania. So here they are, in no particular order, my 10 Faves. If I missed your favorite i’d love to hear about it!
The Good Neighbour – This place is a true gem. Great service, great atmosphere, with a fireplace AND a patio. It was introduced to me just a few months ago, and (as if The Good Neighbour isn’t reason enough) I now find myself looking for reasons to make my way over to this neck of the woods. A little off the beaten path, but if you’re in the Junction, Roncy or High Park, consider yourself lucky. For everyone else, it’s worth the trip!
238 Annette St.
Smock – Espresso bar, cafe, and most importantly, kids workshop. This wonderful place opened last month, with the big idea that parents would love a place to go where they could keep their kids occupied and enjoy their coffee and snack. For a small fee ($8) you can unload your little one at the craft table, where a ‘facilitator’ will help them create the craft of the day, while you quietly enjoy your coffee and your kids have a blast. Brilliant.
287 Roncesvalles Avenue
La Merceria – Half espresso bar, half home decor shop. This place is like a dream. Beautifully displayed household items like linens, kitchenware, glasses, soaps etc. You will most likely leave here with more than coffee. It’s truly unique. Check out their design blog daily pleasures.
506 Adelaide St. West
Sam James Coffee Bar – A cool little hole in the wall, and the perfect place to grab a coffee if you bike along Harbord St in the morning. In fact, they love their cyclist commuters so much that they host a ‘Bike Lane Appreciation Day’ in the spring with other vendors from the strip. But beware, they take their cycling seriously, “This event is for cyclists only, so no diss if you roll up in your Jeep and can’t get a free cob of corn and a cappuccino, but you should really just get a bike, its Toronto man!”
297 Harbord St
Balzac’s – Industrial chic meets French bistro in a distillery district warehouse. Aren’t you curious? Great place to grab a snack and a coffee while wandering through the distillery district.
55 Mill St. (The Distillery District)
Nadege – Sleek French bakery on the edge of Trinity Bellwoods Park, with a great patio perfect for hipster watching. Decadent treats all made on site in an open kitchen. All their staff seem to have a lovely Parisian accent…maybe it’s a job requirement? Try to get there in the morning when their croissants are warm!
780 Queen St. West
Cafe Pamenar – This place is super cool and has a really nice terrace out back that is so quiet you can’t believe you’re in the middle of Kensington Market! Great place to rest after some shopping in the market or China Town. They also occasionally have Urban Planning lectures. Love it.
307 Augusta Ave. (Kensington Market)
The Rooster – This place is rustic, charming, and has probably the best view of the downtown core of any coffee shop in the city. You can grab a coffee, enjoy the view, and even take a stroll through the Park and along the Don Valley trail.
479 Broadview Ave.
The White Squirrel – Named for the mystical little creature often spotted in Trinity Bellwoods Park, this place sits directly across from the park with several other great little shops. I love their flat white and they have the best ginger cookies around. Also, they have Greg’s ice cream in the summer. Need I say more?
907 Queen St. West
Crafted – This is my local. Great atmosphere and friendly service. They also have a back patio, a communal table, and bar seating at the front with a garage door that opens so you can watch all the Ossington action as you enjoy your coffee. These guys are like the mad scientists of the coffee world, with all sorts of weird and wonderful methods for brewing, including a “cold drip coffee” that takes 6 hours to filter through a crazy looking contraption that looks like it should be in a science lab.
135 Ossington Ave.
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