Introducing: Hub, Wallace-Emerson’s new indie coffee shop

Introducing: Hub, Wallace-Emerson’s new indie coffee shop

Toronto’s wealth of new indie cafés has been a boon to community life, but mostly for neighbourhoods south of Bloor. That’s not the case with Hub, which opened last weekend on a residential stretch of Shaw Street near Dupont. The spot has already gained a following from the residents of Dovercourt-Wallace-Emerson-Junction who are thankful they no longer have to hop on their bikes to find a quick lunch, a latte or a cool escape from un-air-conditioned townhouses. At midday on a Wednesday, the place is bustling with moms with strollers and dads giving their daughters piggyback rides.

Owners Lisah Smith, Cyrus Lotfi and Steven Ashton—along with the architect-landlord who lives upstairs—transformed a former convenience store into a coffee lounge in just a month. The interior avoids the pitfall of many shabby-chic renos: spending too much money to look rustic. At Hub, it feels organic, almost like it was done out of necessity. The counters were salvaged from a gas station, the curtains are made from drop cloths, and the wall decorations consist of Smith’s 10-year-old collection of Italian wood plates.

Hub contrasts starkly with Smith’s previous place—a café at a ferry terminal on Vancouver Island, where customers grab and go. Here, people get to sit and appreciate her sandwiches and wraps ($7), such as roast beef and chicken with walnut pesto. The sandwich options change every day, but, as she tells a customer unsure of Wednesday’s featured item, “I can make anything back here.”

Behind the scenes, Ashton churns out such baked goods as black-cherry brownies ($3) and cranberry trail mix muffins ($1.50). In fact, with the exception of the bread, delivered daily from St. John’s Bakery, everything is made in house with an extra emphasis on organic ingredients. “Our eggs are farm-fresh and hormone-free, and our bacon doesn’t have any nitrates,” Smith points out while she makes the “breakfast on a bun” sandwich (egg, lettuce, tomato, mayo, bacon and an unexpected squiggle of hoisin, $4). This is not haute cuisine—it’s more like something a creative foodie friend might make on the weekend. Combine the menu with the location and the name, and Hub is the definition of the neighbourhood coffee house.

Hub, 1028 Shaw St. (at Dupont), 647-347-7789,

(Images: Karon Liu)

UPDATED: July 23 at 9:42 a.m.