Calling all freelancers: seven best work-friendly cafés
For the entry price of a latte, many freelancers are finding sanctuary at coffee shops, where they can plug in, boot up and work uninterrupted. But as Leah McLaren tells us, not all cafés are equally accommodating. Sam James and Manic refuse to offer Wi-Fi, and Zoots tapes over outlets to stop customers from plugging in. For a freelancer, finding a welcoming café can be as important as finding that next contract. We’ve scoured the city for bright, spacious, laptop-friendly spots where great food, strong coffee and plentiful outlets make for a freelancer’s (temporary) paradise. Here, our eight picks.
NACO GALLERY CAFÉ
The eclectic rooms seem to be made for work and pleasure in equal measure; laptop-friendly tables with sturdy chairs mix with a park bench, plush theatre seats and low coffee tables. Friendly staffers are hands-off, and the art-lined walls provide great procrastination options.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: A mole naconda of yellow corn tortilla, black beans, chicken and mole sauce ($7) and a deliciously cheap latte ($3).
NUMBER OF TABLES: Four.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Two.
Naco Gallery Café, 1665 Dundas St. W. (at Margueretta St.), nacogallery.com.
CLOUD FREE AGENT ESPRESSO BAR
White, bright and clean, Cloud is purpose-built for writers, graphic artists and virtual business owners. The creative class is not without hierarchy, though: casual in-and-out workers take to the upper level, paying the price of a latte ($3.50) for a stool at one of two coffee bars or a seat at a bamboo-topped table. More serious patrons fork out more for time in the “creative commons,” a mod-minimalist den decked with video screen, beige leather couch and conference table for collaborative work ($360 gets you a 10-hour block of meeting time).
RECOMMENDED FUEL: Americano ($2) and a granola-topped fruit salad ($5.50).
NUMBER OF TABLES: Three tables, two bars.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Upstairs, two outlets, one power bar; downstairs is “fully wired,” according to a staffer.
Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, 968 Queen St. W. (at Givins St.), facebook.com/CloudEspresso.
This tiny hideout at the north end of Trinity Bellwoods Park fills with so much light that it feels larger than it is. Large, rustic tables and a small, quiet crowd of tuque-topped hipsters (the masses still seem to be up at The Common on College) make this a no-fuss place to work. The space is filled with subtle charms: a rotating lineup of connoisseur coffees (Novo and Counter Culture), soft tunes, vintage movie posters and back issues of Dwell and Monocle. One note of caution: when the espresso machine gets going, the place can get mighty humid.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: A latte made with Harmony organic milk, served in a beer stein ($4).
NUMBER OF TABLES: Four tables, two bars.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Two.
The Communal Mule, 984 Dundas St. W. (at Beatrice St.)
The industrial space is dotted with small tables that are ideal for solitary patrons with laptops, though the prime working area is at the café’s communal table because of its proximity to the power bar. The coffee bar against the glass garage door offers an interesting view of Queen’s street life.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: Warming potato-leek soup and fresh bread ($5.50) and a 12-ounce Americano ($2.50).
NUMBER OF TABLES: Five little tables, one communal table and five patio tables (weather permitting); two bars.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: One power bar.
Te Aro, 983 Queen St. E. (at Heward Ave.), te-aro.myshopify.com.
RED ROCKET COFFEE
Despite being in a semi-basement, Red Rocket is inviting and airy, with lots of table space, exposed brick and wall-to-wall windows. Freshly baked goodies—muffins ($2.45), scones ($2.50) and huge homemade wraps ($6.75)—mean there’s no excuse for going hungry. The crowd is transient (there’s a TTC yard across the road), which means tables turn over quickly.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: One of the best reasons to come here is the jolt-packing signature drink, the Red Rocket ($3.75), which blends espresso, spicy Mayan chocolate and drip coffee.
NUMBER OF TABLES: Seven laptop-friendly tables, one coffee table and a coffee bar.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Four.
Red Rocket Coffee, 1402 Queen St. E. (at Vancouver Ave.), redrocketcoffee.com.
TINTO COFFEE HOUSE
Tinto is a socially conscious Latin American–inspired café with a relaxed atmosphere and enough poppy red tables to welcome spice seekers and laptop luggers alike. Indie Canadian magazines, the selection ranging from Descant to This, can be purchased by those in need of distraction. A three-page menu covers breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacks and dinner.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: A vegan-friendly Oruro sandwich, with tofu, avocado, roasted onions and balsamic vinegar ($9.25).
NUMBER OF TABLES: 23.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Five.
Tinto Coffee House, 89 Roncesvalles Ave. (at Pearson Ave.), tinto.ca.
Setting up here feels like getting cozy in Grandma’s kitchen. The kitsch-filled space—think lava lamps and stuffed toys—is surprisingly conducive to getting things done: outlets are everywhere, and the studious crowd (U of T TAs and the students who hate them) keep blissfully quiet. The space is dimly lit, so grab one of the choice seats by the window.
RECOMMENDED FUEL: A cilantro-heavy quinoa salad is a good brain booster ($2.25), but the ginger-spiced (and gluten-free) chocolate-pear loaf is ultimately more satisfying ($3).
NUMBER OF TABLES: Eight tables, two bars.
NUMBER OF OUTLETS: Nine power bars.
Linux Caffe, 326 Harbord St. (at Grace St.), linuxcaffe.ca.