Jolt of caffeine: 13 new independent cafés open in Toronto

Jolt of caffeine: 13 new independent cafés open in Toronto

Brew colours: coffee houses are sprouting up everywhere this recession (Photo by Iain Farrell) 

While McDonald’s, Tim Hortons and Starbucks duke it out across North America in their giveaway coffee war, a new batch of independent brewers has emerged in Toronto. Since our last roundup six months ago, at least 13 new cafés have opened up. Here, organized by neighbourhood, is our survey of the city’s hot new fuel-up joints.

Leslieville
The east end’s coffee house culture continues to thrive with the addition of Te Aro, opened by New Zealander Andy Wilkins and his wife, Jessie. Unlike most independent cafés—essentially elegant holes in the wall—Te Aro gussied up a car garage, placed their giant roaster among the tables and converted the large driveway into a spacious patio. Cream: The Urban Dairy, which opened in mid-July, is differentiating itself from the rest with an emphasis on milk products (house-made ice cream is a big draw). Co-owner Danielle Thomas says they wanted to open a place where families could come after dinner. Soon, Cream will be getting competition from the yet-to-open Lil’ Bean’ n’ Green. Designed as a socializing hub for parents, the new café will offer loads of space for stroller parking. Up in South Riverdale, the Sideshow Café is located at the Centre of Gravity circus training studio (the vintage acrobat and elephant décor reflects this). The venue strives to be more than just a coffeehouse, with poetry readings on Mondays and acoustic sets on Wednesdays.

Annex and environs
Like Cream (above), Scoop and Bean is also getting into the ice cream niche, with selections from the Kawartha Dairy Company along with its caffeinated options. Just around the corner from long-time hangout Grapefruit Moon, “S&B” also offers cavity-inducing fare for vegans and celiac suffers. The Illy coffee slingers at B Espresso Bar—a favourite of office dwellers in the Church and Queen area—have recently thrown open the doors of their second location at the renovated Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor. One of the most eagerly anticipated cafés is from Sam James, the barista champ formerly of Manic Coffee and Hank’s. His Sam James Coffee Bar, slated to open on Harbord on August 8, will introduce siphon coffee—a method popular in Asian countries that produces a lighter taste. He describes the place as having a “polished, Italian feel” rather than the ubiquitous “shabby chic with exposed brick” aesthetic.

Lansdowne
The once-derelict strip of Lansdowne Avenue between Dupont and College is rapidly following the gentrification examples set by Ossington and Queen West. The owners former managers of the Tranzac Club opened Holy Oak at Bloor and Lansdowne; a little farther north, the Starving Artist offers a large deck, waffles and one of the strongest coffees in the city. And then there’s the Naco Gallery Café near Lansdowne and College. “We’re trying to be more than a coffee shop,” says Naco owner Julian Calleros. “We’re the only café we know of that also does dance parties. We want to reach out to the community and act as a cultural hub.”

Trinity Bellwoods
Peter Primiani—formerly half of DJ duo Peter and Tyrone—opened the Communal Mule on Dundas Street West in June, but he hasn’t completely retired his turntables: he often spins while pulling shots. Ezra’s Pound quietly expanded with another spot at near Trinity Bellwoods Park that serves breakfast and lunch; the Dark Horse is garnering both positive and negative press after opening a second location on Spadina.

• Te Aro, 983 Queen St. E., 416-465-2006, te-aro.ca

• Cream: The Urban Dairy, 1298 Queen St. E., 416-463-0110

• Lil’ Bean ‘n’ Green, 1133 Queen St. E., lilbeanandgreen.com

• Sideshow Café, 1300 Gerrard St. E., 416-938-6030

• Scoop and Bean, 2 Follis Ave., 647-342-7770

• B Espresso, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-866-2111

• Sam James Coffee Bar, 297 Harbord St., 647-341-2572

• Holy Oak, 1241 Bloor St. W., 647-345-2803

• Starving Artist, 584 Lansdowne Ave., 647-342-5058, starvingartistbar.com

• Naco Gallery Café, 1665 Dundas St. W., 647-347-6499

• The Communal Mule, 984 Dundas St. W., 416-653-2084

• Ezra’s Pound, 913 Dundas St. W., 647-346-8488, ezraspound.com

• Dark Horse, 215 Spadina Ave., 416-979-1200, darkhorseespresso.com