Food & Drink

Toronto’s 14 new cafés: independent coffee shops continue citywide takeover

Toronto’s 14 new cafés: independent coffee shops continue citywide takeover
(Image: chelseagirl)

By our count, a whopping 22 new indie cafés opened in Toronto in 2009, but it looks like 2010 will be giving the java scene an even bigger jolt. In the four months since our last roundup, 11 new coffee houses have sprung up, and three more are on the way. Below, a list of the latest indie coffee vendors, from Little Italy to Gerrard Street East.

1. Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar opened just in time to shelter the city’s raft of recessionary victims turned freelancers, providing abundant counter space, plenty of outlets and a rentable meeting room in the basement for the office deprived and the Wi-Fi challenged (not to mention people who just want some brew). 968 Queen St. W. (at Givins St.), 416-792-6831,

2. Although “sustainable coffee” might seem like a far-fetched idea, the Green Grind is doing its best to pair environmentalism with a product whose transport from tropical climes creates a lot of CO2. Initiatives include using reclaimed wood and bamboo furniture, biodegradable to-go cups and lids, renewable energy from Bullfrog Power and donating a cut of each sale to 1% for the Environment. 567 College St. (at Manning Ave.),

3. The second Grinder Coffeehouse, opening soon to perk up an otherwise moribund strip of Gerrard Street East in Riverdale, picks up where the first location (in the Upper Beach) leaves off, with a bigger space and an expanded menu that includes in-house-prepared foods, like soups and sandwiches. 1021 Gerrard St. E. (at Marjory Ave.), 416-901-0290,

4. Niche marketing might not be new to cafés (see Cloud, above), but Plan B’s bundling with Flesh Cut Flowers (never mind sharing a name with the morning after pill) is particularly curious.  Though we suppose if Plan A fails, tulips and a macchiato might be in order. 401 Logan Ave. (at Dundas St. E.), 416-465-4443 ex. 23.

5. Walking into Jimmy’s Coffee feels like visiting a quirky friend’s abode, starting with a stroll through the front patio (where departing customers mingle with a chatty barista) and moving inside the chandelier-lit, converted Victorian row house, where hot drinks are served in juice glasses made grippable by knit wool sleeves. 107 Portland St. (at King St. W.), 416-901-2289,

6. After opening just over a year and a half ago in the Beach, Café Florentin is bringing its delectable European baked goods—sweet pies and savoury quiches are among the signatures—to Leslieville this May, testing just how much pastry one area of the city can consume (Upper Crust and Sophie’s are within blocks). 2010 Queen St. E. (at Wheeler Ave.), 647-341-2936,

7. It’s only a few months old, but the Rooster Coffee House already has a lot to squawk about, having rapidly established a loyal following in the neighbourhood for being both charming and accommodating. Patrons treat the space—with its sumptuous leather club chairs, richly coloured walnut tables and commanding views of the city over Riverdale Park—more like a communal living room than a typical grab-and-go coffee joint. 479 Broadview Ave. (at Riverdale Ave.), 416-995-1530.

8. Voulez-Vous, the first café venture from former stewardess Julie Boulet and her husband, Shawn Lacey, sells more than just coffee: the gently used designer furniture that fills the space can be purchased—discounted from the original sale price, of course. 1560 Queen St. E. (at Ashdale Ave.), 416-801-6685,

9. El Almacen is likely the first café in the city to serve the traditional South American drink yerba mate, which comes in a gourd-like vessel with a filter-tipped, metal bombilla straw. Other offerings include empanadas, sandwiches de miga and more typical espresso-based drinks and teas. 1078 Queen St. W. (at Dovercourt Rd.), 416-516-2898.

10. Lou Gigi Xaini’s latest hot spot, after Café 163 and Saving Gigi, is Rockabilly Rock, a 200-square-foot coffee house–cum–museum for classic rock memorabilia, with vintage vinyl covers, classic guitars and trinkets—such as an Elvis figurine and model motorcycles—covering every possible inch of this tiny space. 4 Oakwood Ave. (at Davenport Rd.), 416-555-1212.

11. Lit Espresso opened its first location in Roncesvalles only a year ago, but a new location has already sprung up in Little Italy, carrying over some of the signature details of the first space (a bar made of heavy sawn timbers) but keeping things decidedly more spare (stripped-down cream-coloured walls make for a brighter interior). 810 College St. (at Roxton Rd.), 416-519-1884,

12. The hipness of Dundas and Ossington continues its march west with the quirky Belljar Café, a long-time vision of owner Geoffrey McPeek, who wanted to bring a more arty feel to the west end. Neighbourhood bakeries provide the sweets, and Italy supplies the espresso. 2072 Dundas St. W. (at Howard Park Ave.), 416-535-0777,

13. With a road bike suspended outside over the front door and an array of thin rubber tires painted across the already brightly coloured exterior, Sonic’s agenda is clear: to be the coffee shop of choice for Toronto’s urban cyclists, the kind of place that encourages DIY bike fixing on the premises by providing the tools to do it with. 60 Cecil St. (at Spadina Ave.).

14. Lori Nytko’s Full of Beans Coffee House and Roastery is also worth watching out for; it should be open later this spring, offering beans roasted in-house. 1348 Dundas St. W. (at Rusholme Rd.),


Sign up for Table Talk, our free newsletter with essential food and drink stories.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy.
You may unsubscribe at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


The Latest

The Chase: This condo dweller always wanted a house. When the market cooled, she pounced
Real Estate

The Chase: This condo dweller always wanted a house. When the market cooled, she pounced