Cabin Fever has undergone some welcome changes since it first opened on Bloor West between Dundas and Keele. Not only is it a record store, cafe and art space, it's now also a bar.
Owners Robyn and Alex Harrison have renovated their shop, tinkering with the layout and adding fun decorative touches like a counter covered in pennies (see if you can spot the one TTC token) and lights made out of bottles and seven-inch vinyl records.
They've also installed a pinball machine that will change monthly. When we visit, it's The Rolling Stones, and a chalkboard beside it keeps track of high scores.
Their selection specializes in indie rock and electronic (Bonobo is playing over the speakers while we're there), and if they don't have what you're looking for, chances are another member of the West Side Vinyl Collective will, as each place has its own niche. Alex tells me there are plans to hold vinyl crawls in the future.
On the cafe side of things, they use Birds and Beans for drip coffee ($1.90/$2.15) as well as espresso ($1.75/$2.15; Americano, $2.25/$2.85; latte/cappuccino, $3.25/$4.20), and loose leaf teas ($1.75 each) are from Herbal Infusions.
I try an iced latte ($4.75, tax in) made with a steam-free milk frother, and it hits the spot on a hot summer evening.
Alcohol-wise, there are two rotating Flying Monkeys beers on tap ($4.50/half-pint, $7/pint); on our visit, there's 12 Minutes to Destiny, a delicious and refreshing lager steeped with hibiscus, fresh raspberries, rosehips and orange peel, as well as AntiGravity, a light ale.
Ontario craft tall cans, including Steam Whistle, Bell City, Mill Street, Sidelaunch and Longslice, go for $6 each while Brickworks ciders are $7. Along with the obligatory PBR ($5), there is also gluten-free Glutenberg beer ($7.50). The Harrisons are also considering adding spiked coffees.
Robyn asked her brother John Detlor to help spruce up the food menu, and he's added snacks, salads and substantial sandwiches, along with Sunday brunch.
Appetizers include tasty prosciutto crostinis ($7) with blue cheese and walnuts all drizzled in an Ontario red pepper jelly and house-made hummus served with grilled naan ($7).
A pear salad ($10) comes with baby spinach, prosciutto, blue cheese, dried cranberries, walnuts and a housemade raspberry balsamic dressing, and it's a satisfying mix of creamy, crunchy, salty, tart and sweet.
My friend already ate before he came, yet he still gobbles up the humongous chicken and goat cheese pressed sandwich ($10) that also contains pesto, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions between Cobs bread custom-made for Cabin Fever.
There are plans to host DJ, board game and movie nights, and they've already introduced Trivia Thursdays. Robyn tells me they're always putting in something new here; they ask their customers and the neighbourhood what they want, and they listen.
Photos by Jesse Milns.