Balzac's in Ryerson has finally made its much, much anticipated arrival. Back in 2011, Ryerson began its search for a new café to occupy the ground floor retail space of its new(ish) Image Arts building. The big coffee chains were, of course, considered for the vacancy, but Balzac's ended up beating them all. The announcement was thus made in early September and students were left to wait for its opening.
Now, I know from my years at Ryerson that there are plenty of places to refuel on campus, but coffee options during my day (read: two years ago) were pretty much limited to Timmie's or cafeteria drip. If you had some time to spare you could head up to Bulldog, but the shop was hardly close enough to grab a cup between classes.
Then, early last semester, students were offered respite from the double-double in the form of RISE Espresso on Mutual. And now with Balzac's "unofficial" opening this week, it seems there actually are a few places to grab a decent coffee on campus.
If I haven't yet offended you with my pretentious coffee snobbery, I should say that I do remember being a student, a time wherein paying $2.50 for a cup of coffee would seem like an astronomical premium. Put me back there, and perhaps I would even still opt for the double-double.
But when I dropped in on Balzac's at Ryerson during its unofficial opening, the number of students in the space told me that many were more than happy to fork over the extra dollar. The café was bustling with students and brimming with activity.
Perhaps some of the credit, however, should go to the location. Balzac's has snagged a great spot at foot of the Image arts building on Gould Street, the main road running through the heart of Ryerson's campus.
There are floor-to-ceiling windows, and the space has been decked out with cool marble bars, communal (room for eight or more — perfect for working on group assignments) and bistro tables, and the same custom-made Art Deco tiles that you'll find at the Liberty Village location.
This new Balzac's still has a few kinks to work out, including setting up Wifi, hiring a new manager, and figuring out whether it will use Ryerson's OneCard payment system.
Isaac, who works at the Liberty Village location and is temporarily filling in as manager, tells me the menu is essentially the same with espresso ($2 to $2.50) made from its signature blend (roasted up in Stoney Creek) along with organic hot chocolate ($2.50), loose-leaf teas, and pastries and treats from Circles & Squares and other local bakers.
I grab an iced Americano ($2.65) and head outside (though there's plenty of room inside, this pedestrian-only stretch of Gould is perfect during warmer weather). The drink is bold with hints of fruitiness, but I find it just a little bit bitter on the finish.
Still, I won't compare it to those one-button machine espresso drinks available in abundance around campus. Ryerson's staff and students have already begun to revel in their new coffee option. Better snag a seat now.
Balzac's (Ryerson) is currently open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, though hours may change. Photos by Morris Lum