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Cafes

Circus Coffee House

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on November 26, 2011

Circus Coffee TorontoCircus Coffee House has that same know-your-name feel as Circus Books and Music, owner Ron Duffy's Danforth and Jones (mostly) secondhand bookstore.

Circus Coffee TorontoThe cafe, which is just off of Danforth at Woodbine, has Ron alone manning the open kitchen and espresso station, greeting regulars by name over the roar of his massive juicer. Just two months in business, Circus Coffee House is already seeing some customers almost daily. It's no wonder Ron seems to know everyone's name.

"Well," Ron says, as we sit down at one of the cafe's four tables to chat, " I figured I could be crazy enough to open something else."

Circus Coffee Toronto"Once I felt I had a handle on that business," he says, referring to Circus Books and Music, "and a bit of a workforce behind it, I thought I could try this. I had some of the experience--it was just laying dormant for 20 years."

Back in the '80s, Ron got his coffee start at Timothy's, which, needless to say, was less of the corporate chain then than it is now. In the '90s he moved to a juice environment, followed by books and music, and now, Ron has returned to coffee and juice.

Circus Coffee TorontoThe menu board in the small cafe offers a humble list of basic coffee drinks, such as espresso ($1.50/$2.50), Americano ($2.50/$3.50) and lattes ($3.00/$4.00). Below are the fresh fruit smoothie and vegetable juice options which include combinations of orange, apple, and pear; kiwi watermelon; celery, garlic, and parsley; and carrot, beet, and ginger (s$2.50/m$3.50/L$4.50).

Circus Coffee TorontoBut the items that have been drawing the lunch crowds aren't actually displayed on the wall. They are Ron's homemade soups and rice bowls (which are vegetarian and, so far, also dairy-free, though Ron is reluctant to call them "vegan"), which were created using recipes from old cookbooks found at Circus. Right now they're priced the same as the vegetable and fruit juices, but Ron says the prices will likely go up (slightly).

But seeing that this is Circus Coffee House, I ask Ron to prepare me an Americano, which he makes pulling a shot from his vintage Gaggia manual machine. "With this sort of thing," he says, "you really have to watch the colour to see when the shot is done. It's a strong, solid workhorse."

Circus Coffee TorontoSo is my Americano, coincidentally, which comes off quite bold and gives me the jolt I was craving to get me through the rest of my day. Circus uses a Merchants of Green blend, which leaves a nice linger--a bit of an earthy, dark chocolate taste. I'm barely through my first sip when another regular comes through the door; he greets Ron by name and orders the last rice bowl of the day.

"Yeah, I'm getting to know people," Ron says, as he prepares the order. "It has been slow, but you know, slow growth is good growth." Especially, it seems, when you know everyone's name.

Circus Coffee TorontoCircus Coffee House offers free Wifi and is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Photos by Vai Yu

Discussion

14 Comments

Sarah / November 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm
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RICE BOWLS! YES... oatmeal is getting so played out
Curious about those bowls / November 26, 2011 at 08:01 pm
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I wonder why someone would be reluctant to call something 'vegan' - it is or it isn't? Yes or no? I'd even take an 'I'm not entirely sure' over reluctant.
cosmosuave / November 27, 2011 at 06:09 pm
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Note conditional pass by Toronto Health...
n / November 27, 2011 at 07:12 pm
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this place looks great... I do like Circus Books so I'll definitely swing by.
Danforthist / November 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm
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The conditional is for a purely technical reason ... at the relevant time (pre-opening) the washroom hadn't been completed yet.
Neighbor / December 1, 2011 at 12:35 am
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I love this place.
Kevin / December 7, 2011 at 04:48 pm
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Awesome addition to the neighbourhood.
Ron is the kind of laid back, beautiful conversationalist that people in this east-end hood love. His simple, delicious offerings warm the soul almost as much as his hospitality and good nature. Welcome!
ken / December 9, 2011 at 07:32 pm
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Ron, you the man. p.s. nice artwork in the background! Ken
Erinne / December 19, 2011 at 01:09 pm
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Just chowing down on some veggie chilli....first time customer btw...this stuff is killer. Nice cozy place, great prices. Super PLUS to the neighbourhood!
heidi / June 6, 2012 at 03:37 pm
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I love Circus! Unique vibe, great coffee, GREAT rice bowl that nourishes body and soul. Did I mention affordable? Very affordable! Super addition to the neighbourhood!
maria / June 8, 2012 at 04:47 pm
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I absolutely love this place. Great atmosphere, fantastic drinks (the smoothies are so delicious!), wonderful artwork, great music. Ron is so kind, welcoming and friendly. Wonderful addition to our neighbourhood!
kcwilson / August 21, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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The phone number listed for Circus Coffee is wrong - it is 416-423-3603. The man who owns the number you have listed was very annoyed that people keep calling him.
Giuliana / August 10, 2013 at 10:46 am
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Circus Coffee House became my second living/dining room. A social space to meet with my girlfriends and slurp down those tasty vegetable juices (beet, spinach, ginger, ...). Ron welcomed me for the first time kindly and made me a really tasty coffee Americano. mmmm! Rice bowles are killers. I better go there now, before they run out of them.
Circus Coffee House is a hidden gem!
G
Foodie1 / August 31, 2014 at 04:52 pm
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I have just moved to the neighbourhood and was so excited to find a small, locally-owned cafe. However, I must say I was disappointed.
First, they only seem to have cups to go (I understand they have a small space, but they do have a kitchen downstairs which should have facilities to wash dishes...) - not very eco-friendly (even if they are compostable/eco cups). I do always carry my tumbler with me, but there is something about drinking a latte in a ceramic mug! It just seems to taste better...
Second, the latte I ordered was ok- a good deal for $3.00 but I'm not sure I would have it again.
Third, the bathroom was filthy! There was years worth of dust on the floor. It is an older building, I understand, but a little elbow grease would do the trick!

I don't believe in judging a restaurant/cafe with just one visit, so I will give them another chance - perhaps to try the smoothies or rice bowls.
Until next time!

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