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Balzac's Coffee (Toronto Reference Library)

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on August 13, 2012

balzacs coffee toronto reference libraryBalzac's Coffee at the Toronto Reference Library has finally opened, allowing knowledge-seeking scholars to satiate their coffee cravings. Or just people in the area looking for good espresso. Whatever. This arrival has been a coveted one as the library underwent renovations, and Balzac's, in the meantime, went ahead an scooped itself with a new location at Ryerson University.

balzacs toronto reference libraryThough, I should be clear — the main floor of the library did once host its own little coffee shop, but that was more akin to the type of thing you'd find at Wilson Station. Not now. Balzac's has taken over the west-facing streetside space, decking it out with its signature vintage-esque posters, cool tin ceiling and large communal table. The one omission in terms of decor is the custom Art Deco tile floor you'll find at Balzac's Ryerson and Liberty Village locations. Here, it's just a characterless grey ground. But the library had already put it in, I'm told, so Balzac's just decided to go with it.

balzacs toronto reference libraryFounder and co-owner Diana Olsen has remarked that this newest location is perfect fit for Balzac's, especially since she has spent countless hours in the library studying up for her business. And now, I suppose, it's onto the next round of entrepreneurs. Their fuel, now, is Balzac's signature fair trade organic espresso blend roasted in Stoney Creek, and plenty of treats from bakers such as Circles and Squares (with sandwiches to come). Essentially, the concept hasn't changed; it's just a new location.

balzacs toronto reference libraryIn characteristic Balzac's fashion, the tables at this cafe are generously spaced (that's an understatement) with a communal table for 12 or more. But the most coveted seats, arguably, are those lining the window bar; those that look out over Yonge just waiting to devour its sidewalk entertainment. Picture a snowy afternoon, an overdue essay, and one of Balsac's creamy, foam-art-adorned lattes. This cafe already seems to offer that vibe, though thankfully for now, without the snow.

balzacs toronto reference libraryBalzac's is accessible both from the street and inside the library, and visitors are permitted to take their cappucinos ($3.25/$4.00), Americanos ($2.25/$2.75), muffins, squares and more out onto the library's main floor (but keep the books in the library!). When I visit I can't tell if I recognize any of the baristas from Balzac's other locations, but I do note the concentration and precision they execute when handling that Nuova Simonelli. And the beans, as usual, are available to take home.

balzacs toronto reference libraryBalzac's will be open pretty much whenever the library's doors are open (and then some), with the cafe operating from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

balzacs toronto reference libraryPhotos by Gloria Nieto.



J*town / August 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm
Great write-up!

I look forward to checking out this new location. It's a great addition to the library!
Adam / August 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm
I was so excited to see this was finally open and stopped in yesterday. Great service and delicious coffee.

Hilarious that you touched on the floor in the review; I found the same thing. It's a little bland, but I don't think you can expect anything else. It is in a library, after all.
JoeCarter / August 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm
Who ever runs Balzac's is smart. Good locations and smart expansion.
Pk / August 13, 2012 at 01:45 pm
mark genitals / August 13, 2012 at 03:03 pm
Does LazyTO have an editor?! Or, more to the point: does the author even have a basic understanding of english grammar and syntax? Clearly not, as evidenced by her 2nd and 4th "sentences"*. Atrocious, I tell you!

* In her 2nd and 4th sentences, the author writes: "Or just people in the area looking for good espresso. [...] This arrival has been a coveted one as the library underwent renovations, and Balzac's, in the meantime, went ahead an scooped itself with a new location at Ryerson University."

Christopher King replying to a comment from mark genitals / August 13, 2012 at 04:26 pm
Oh look, a troll came out from under it's bridge.
Jason / August 13, 2012 at 06:09 pm
I'm surprised people aren't whining about "yet another" Starbucks clone coffee shop opening up in Toronto. That area already has close to a dozen of them!

For the record I think the more coffee shops, the better! We're a highly caffeinated city.
Dick Hurtz replying to a comment from mark genitals / August 13, 2012 at 09:17 pm
Cyril Sneer / August 14, 2012 at 04:42 pm
My only issue is with the closing hours. Why are there so few venues that stay open late in this city?
Marc / August 30, 2012 at 03:09 pm
This is revolutionary, because it wasn't a big plastic chain like Starbucks opening up there. It is a Canadian cafe and even more of a mom/pop level. This is how it should be. Cyril, about places closing early here, Toronto is Hogtown and will always be that. It's just a working place, where the populace is designated to work work work and make the bigwigs richer. It's not about quality of life here, culture (I'm talking about being cultured) or beauty, it's about work, greed and money (see condos as well). Notice how the infrastructure is behind and abandoned, and why there is no beauty put toward architecture. That's Toronto.
J / March 4, 2014 at 03:15 am
Hi! How is the wi-fi here?

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