Cafe Con Leche
Cafe Con Leche is located by the underwhelming intersection of Dupont and Perth. "Underwhelming" by first impression, mind you. Because if you ask owners Carlos and Sandra - and indeed, some of the area's locals - they'll tell you that this neighbourhood is terribly underrated.
"It feels just like home," Carlos says as we sit inside the cafe on a dreary weekday afternoon. "People here are so friendly, so nice. Sandra and I are actually thinking of moving to the area because we like it so much."
The couple is no stranger to the Toronto cafe scene, acting as part owner of CocoaLatte over on St. Clair. But whereas CocoaLatte offers breakfast and lunch fare, Cafe Con Leche is decidedly more of a traditional espresso bar.
"Part of making good coffee is about monitoring," Sandra says. "You want to make sure there's no moisture in the grinder, your water is at the right temperature, and you can't always do that when you're trying to make a sandwich, too."
It's that dedication to quality espresso that motivated the duo to look for a spot for a more coffee-focused café.
"We started looking in the summer," says Carlos. "And we actually walked around the neighbourhood, talking to people in their front yards and asking what they think of us opening an espresso bar here."
Needless to say, the community was more than enthused. So Carlos and Sandra took over this space (formerly a laundromat) and got to work on renovations. They used salvaged kitchen cabinets and roofing sheets to construct the bar, redid the floors (but left them raw), painted, accessorized, and added finishing touches.
Among those finishing touches are three clocks over the cafe entrance - one set to Toronto time, one set to Western European time (a nod to Portugal and Sandra's background), and one set to California time, where Carlos grew up.
"We want this to feel comfortable and friendly; a real place for the community," Carlos says.
Café con leche (the drink, that is) is the bar's specialty ($2.25/$2.50/$2.75), though conventional lattes ($3.50/$4.50), Americanos ($2.00/$3.00), and espressos ($2.00/ $3.00) are also on the drink menu, all made with Rufino coffee.
Carlos prepares me a cup of the café con leche, which is made with drip coffee and steamed milk as opposed to the espresso-based latte. I take it unsweetened, allowing the natural sweetness of the milk to prevail. The drink is smooth and quite mild (with a heaping amount of foam on top), striking me as a good option for the infrequent coffee drinker.
Eats at Cafe Con Leche are left to Sweets from the Earth, Circles and Squares, and a couple of other bakeries, with free WiFi available (naturally) in the cafe and operational hours that include every day of the week. Carlos and Sandra say they are hoping to host some special events in the future, and of course, looking forward to further connecting with the community.
Cafe Con Leche is open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.