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The Communal Mule

Posted by Emily Thomas / Posted on June 12, 2009

Communal MuleThere is a feeling of optimism inside The Communal Mule, and it's contagious. Peter Primiani, new owner and staff of one, has just finished telling us that business at his new dundas west espresso bar had been "pretty good - I can't complain" when scores of people begin to pour in and out. Pretty good indeed. The recession's got nothing on new endeavors in this town (especially on Dundas, it would seem).
Communal MuleAlyssa, Johnnie (whose stomach can't handle coffee) and I hit up Peter's new establishment on Wednesday after a sandwich and poutine. (It was Caplansky's one-year anniversary; they were selling three-buck pints!) The Communal Mule is a sunny place with vintage movie posters on the walls and a killer beat. Before taking up in the espresso business, Peter was one half of the DJ duo Peter and Tyrone, evidence of which can be found in the turntable set-up and steady tunes coming from his laptop in the corner.
Communal MuleThe main deal at the CM is the coffee. Peter's wants to know if I've tried Intelligentsia or 49th parallel coffee before. I tell him I've not, and the look on his face tells me I'm about to be enlightened. He crafts a couple of Americanos ($2.50) for Alyssa and I, and they're beautiful. Even Johnnie is impressed. "Those look rich," he says. "How are they so glossy?" The crema is thick (and glossy) and it all goes down dark and intense with a smooth aftertaste. Johnnie's chai latte ($3.75) is sweet and refreshing and sits well in his stomach. The chai is organic, as is the milk. Harmony comes to our table in a glass bottle (the one with the affectionate cows on it) for the coffee and my companions eye it, greedily. I know they want to chug the whole thing but Alyssa makes do with an appropriate splash.
Communal MuleThe cookies, muffins and scones come courtesy of Circles and Squares, the elusive baking entity supplying (what seems like) all the new cafes these days. I had a (raisin-free) butter tart, so rich and sweet with amazing crust. Alyssa chose a pumpkin muffin. It was light and fresh and she keeps talking about it. "Mmm remember that pumpkin muffin?" Peter is considering expanding the menu to include more pastries or lunch items, but cautiously. He doesn't want to take attention away from the coffee.
Communal MuleWe sat around one of the huge wooden tables for some time, flipping though Peter's collection of art magazines ("you gotta take a look at Monocle") and listening to Alyssa talk about her latest career move. Caffeinated, she talks fast and loud. "It's this coffee," she says. "With this music, I'm getting all euphoric." I look at Peter in his successful new espresso joint and feel pretty optimistic myself. Communal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal MuleCommunal Mule

Photos by Alyssa Bistonath



~ / June 12, 2009 at 09:56 am
This place is so trying to be the Common up on college.
cody / June 12, 2009 at 10:21 am
Put up a sign. I’ve walked by 20 times and didn’t even think you were open.
Buck / June 12, 2009 at 10:26 am
I agree with Cody. There needs to be some signage no matter how subtle it may be.
janice / June 12, 2009 at 10:40 am
crema in the junction (dundas and quebec) sells the exact same pumpkin muffins. they're mega delicious!!
Elle Driver / June 12, 2009 at 10:43 am
Alyssa, the photographs are beautiful as usual. It certainly adds to the already in-depth review. :)
Bridgette / June 12, 2009 at 03:06 pm
Amazing space....just what the city needs! I prefer this place much more over's much more inviting! Love the espresso bar/music combo :)
Chiara / June 12, 2009 at 03:18 pm
Dopest place to hit the city...not just visually appetizing but stimulates the palate as well...can't say a lot of places offer both these seems to be all about the "look" and not so much about the product...The Communal Mule definitely puts the emphasis on both and delivers it well...
Meghan (Making Love In the Kitchen) / June 13, 2009 at 08:53 pm
This makes me want to go back to drinking coffee... and eating sugar.
Arby / June 14, 2009 at 03:20 am
I like Peter. He's a very regular, easy going, down to earth guy. Though the tatoos are... interesting.

He grabbed a nice spot for his shop. The store is old enough to have charm. He's done the interior up tastefully without it being boring. I'm not a big fan of glossy magazines that don't educate. On the other hand, I loved the different archictural styles and designs featured in one I was purusing. "Man, If only my coffee shop - the one I dream of opening - could look like that!," I thought when I saw a few of the pictures.

The first time I was into Communal Mule (I had it pointed out to me by a stranger who overheard me talking about coffee to another stranger who I met at the TTC stop!), Peter was having problems with his shots and was sort of frantic about it. Together with another customer (a Starbucks barista it just happens) who joined us to 'talk shop', we had a pretty good time and hopefully our moral support and encouragement imparted some consolation for poor Peter that day. When I returned yesterday for a visit, I was delighted to find that Peter had fixed whatever the problem was. My espresso was up to snuff.

This is a great spot to grab a coffee on a sunny summer day and walk through the park which is a stone's throw away.

Folks will like Peter's tuneage. I didn't mind it, but I'm in a minority who don't like foreground music. I like my coffee shop music to be background, even if I like it. But it was by no means out of control loud.

Communal Mule will do fine - because it already is. And Peter doesn't even have his sign out front yet! I never had a chance to ask him why.
Will Scott / June 15, 2009 at 12:47 pm
Nice pictures for sure and wishing The Communal Mule all the best. But there's just one thing that continues to niggle me...How long is everyone going to keep using Intelligentsia and 49th Parallel? These are great coffees but roasted and posted from miles away. Time to support the local roaster fraternity in TO and also to explore some origin coffees.
Arby / June 15, 2009 at 02:42 pm
Will, I think you're right. I don't know everything about it, the reasons and such, but drinking the same coffee everywhere, when it's not dynamite to boot, isn't exciting. I'm told that they (folks like Intelligentsia and 49th Parallel) tend to buy too much of one thing. If so, I don't know why. I find it puzzling. In reading around online, you find all these people crawling all over the coffee regions of the planet cupping all these coffees and you get the impression that there's a zillion different coffees out there, leading you to have certain expectations about what is available to you on your end when you trip around and visit different shops. Then you find, in most instances, only two kinds of coffee with similar taste profiles.

And I like the idea of supporting local businesses. It still depends on the business, but that's my preference.
piccola / June 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm
Do they have wi-fi?
Arby / June 16, 2009 at 08:23 am
Yes there's wifi. I'm too poor to own a laptop, so I never get to do such things. I don't know whether the wifi is free.
Rina replying to a comment from ~ / June 24, 2009 at 09:02 pm
um, sorry. It is NOT trying to be the common at all. His place is awesome and he's our new best friend. He built most of the place himself! And it's not pretentious.
david / June 24, 2009 at 09:09 pm
I finally checked this place out today: love it! Peter is cool--he's sort of semi-retired from the music business and is doing this coffee thing for fun (and to get away from the music scene.) I really like his custom-designed lighting and reclaimed-wooden tables, hand-built counter etc. The coffee--to be expected--is great. I just wonder: Dundas is now becoming saturated with coffee shops--from Ella's Uncle, Ezra's Pound, Communal Mule, GBC, Zoot's, Naco Gallery Cafe, even Ideal just south on Ossington, to cafes that serve coffee--Nova Era, the Lakeview, Musa, Saving Grace, etc--how many more can survive? Is SBUX coming next?
david dlov/tigger / June 26, 2009 at 07:23 pm
good for you , you stylee boy-yatch-----------loving the tables and benches-----------ill be dropping in------happy to hear so many shout-outs for your endeavour ...........and to the pickyass bitch hater comments from the above please try to find SOME happiness-------------beautiful space, cant wait to spend my money there, makes the city so much more than .........................
yeah but / July 21, 2009 at 09:19 pm
the location wasn't, and isn't, zoned for this type of cafe. they're operating illegally without a license. way to show your respect for the "community" dude.
david dlov/tigger / July 24, 2009 at 06:07 pm
yeahbut , yeahbut ,yeahbut , yeahbut u should go out of your little planet and find u some HAPPY
Arby / July 25, 2009 at 12:33 am
Well, If there's one thing this Harper government has taught us, It's that advertizing that you are about law and order doesn't mean you are. And advertizing that you are about people (and not just a few people) doesn't mean you are. So, I wouldn't automatically jump all over someone for breaking some rule that may or may not make sense. Where's it come from? What's it's purpose? On the other hand, Cool coffee shops like Peter's are meant to put a smile on everyone's face!
me, dl/t / July 25, 2009 at 01:17 am
thank you , arby
Keith / July 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm
I just checked out the place on Friday, after hearing a couple of guys talk about it on the street car, and was back the next day for more. It's fantastic! Great space, great decor, and of course GREAT coffee! Definitely up my alley. Peter's the nicest too. Consider me a regular.
yeah but / July 27, 2009 at 05:23 pm
arby, i'd suggest that zoning laws actually do serve a number of clear and very useful community purposes. as a businessperson, should i be able to unilaterally decide without applying for a zoning change that my residential appartment is now going to be a mr. sub, based on the argument that meatball subs spread smiles?
Arby / July 27, 2009 at 07:13 pm
Sure 'yeah but'. Did I recommend lawlessness? I get you. Do you get me? I really don't want to argue about nothing. I will leave that to the angry world out there.
dlt / July 27, 2009 at 07:16 pm
arby , u rockkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
yeah but / July 27, 2009 at 08:47 pm
honestly arby, i did try to understand your point but don't really get ya. zoning is "a rule that may or may not make sense" but you don't recommend lawlessness. hmmm. i agree that this has become an argument about nothing (not my intention) & serves no further purpose.

peace out dudes
Arby / July 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm
No problemo. Peace sounds good! ;-)
Debra / August 26, 2009 at 06:27 pm
Hey Peter...congradulations on you coffee shop...hope you get this...It's been a long time...let me know how everyhing else is.
Rachel / October 10, 2009 at 05:27 pm
This article seriously needs to be edited, starting with capitalizing "Dundas West" and teaching the writer when to use "I" versus "me."

The photos and the cafe itself are lovely.
Lisa / January 7, 2010 at 08:35 pm
I was just wondering if Communal mule has a email address, or phone number?
Geoff / January 10, 2010 at 04:30 pm
Aesthetics are nice. But feels pretentious. Peter should smile more. And what's with the generic euro-house that has been playing? I have nothing against house, or euro, or techno music -- I love it -- but I thought that a "DJ" is someone who possesses a refined musical taste?
Cheryl / January 12, 2010 at 04:50 pm
My visit to the communal mule in November was relaxing and refreshing. The owner was friendly and charming...offering free muffin & scone samples in exchange for my opinion on them. The atmosphere was welcoming; communal wooden tables, music, magazines, sun streaming through the windows...I stayed for a very enjoyable 20 minute break despite intending a 'to go' visit.

I haven't been back since because I didn't like the coffee. My cappuccino had that slightly bitter, acrid taste that is not uncommon enough in my experience in Toronto and the foam was far too thin for a cappuccino. I had a similar experience at nearby Ideal coffee on Ossington and the waitress at the Lakeview couldn't remember how to make a cappuccino, which I took as a bad sign & ordered a latte instead (also bitter tasting).

My best cap experience in the neighbourhood so far has been at the old school Nova Era bakery, a bit further west on Dundas. Creamy, smooth, tasty, cheap cappuccino in a god-awful atmosphere.

I'd go back to the Communal Mule if I weren't so cappuccino addicted. It really was a very relaxing break from work.
blah replying to a comment from ~ / March 1, 2010 at 10:56 am
I and muffins is so over done!!!
blah replying to a comment from ~ / March 1, 2010 at 11:01 am
i agree Cheryl..the coffee is much to be it the coffee or the operator????hmmm i wonder...
Alanna / June 24, 2010 at 08:55 pm
I love the atmosphere and all the magazines I just wish they had better chai lattes, although The Communal Mule did make my top 5 list of chai lattes in Toronto check it out
Hey Zeus / July 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm
I've been there twice now and the owner is super nice in a laid back way, and he takes his coffee--which is delicious and strong--super seriously but in that same laid back way.
michael Rutledge / July 6, 2010 at 12:02 am
Its very interesting to read a list of diverse comments and then go and take a visit for yourself
I wont dwell on negative stupidity of some comments you will read among a review list ,it only leads to believe that some people have nothing good going on in there lives and some people enjoy and recognize when something is a little hidden treasure that you just happen upon in your little area (that may not have a tacky sandwich board out side) where the owner is pleasant and attracts the same in a clientele . A great looking cafe,the coffee is great, the treats are tasty and a visit will be relaxed and enjoyable, just like your coffee should be...
How did I hear about "The Communal Mule" walking on the street one morning I over hear a group of walkers say "Lets go to the Common Mule ,I like their coffee better" TO EACH'S OWN
Hey Zeus / July 11, 2010 at 01:03 pm
I keep thinking about the comment that "This place is so trying to be the Common up on college."

This is like saying a great coffee place is trying to be a great coffee place. On the one hand, the comment makes no sense, on the other hand, duh.

I believe The Common uses Classic Gourmet and The Communal Mule uses Counter Culture and, despite one being from Ontario and the other from North Carolina, so far my favorite is still Counter Culture. That's not my final decision, but, after a few tastings, the direction I'm heading in.
z / September 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm
I used to go some times for the amazing Soma gelato (much closer than Distillery District) - but he stopped selling it. Apparently because too many people were buying it in the afternoon (?!) Not sure how that makes sense.

Now that there is no more ice cream I see no reason to go back. The cappuccino I have had there was extremely disappointing (somehow both too big and milky and bitter at the same time), on top of being incredibly overpriced ($1 more than my regular spot). Also, it seems very excessive to charge more than $5 for a soy latte.

The place looks very pretty, though.
Alison / September 23, 2010 at 11:18 am
IS there Wifi? I know there used to be.. did they change the password????
b / October 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm
Yes there is wifi..
it's the best coffee shop in the city.. The coffee, the sweet delights and now panni..
It's a fantastic place.. Great atmosphere... I love it .. there is no other cafe that can compare its stand alone fantastic gem..
Dan / July 25, 2011 at 08:46 pm
Thanks for your time and consideration of others by making this web site available.,
Vanblaricum / July 25, 2011 at 08:47 pm
In fact, more than what we had acknowledged in advance of the time we came upon your wonderful blog.,
Iain / August 17, 2011 at 04:12 pm
Walked by the Communal Mule Tuesday August 16th and it's gone. Totally cleaned out from floor to rafters.

ambient / August 17, 2011 at 06:47 pm
I loved this place. Too bad it's gone. I passed by today specifically for a chai but alas to only find an empty shell.
vintage / August 26, 2011 at 02:15 pm
Communcal Mule served one of the best Caps in the city, owing much to the Counter Culture beans. Near the end, the art began to show in the presentation, but it was always killer tasting from day one.

Living on Trinity Bellwoods Park, and on bike or car, I have a lot of choice,and Ive obsessed about the best Cappucino all over the city.

I saw it gone the day Jack Layton died. I miss the coffee more.

Theres a place in Parkdale no serving Counter Culture and nice muffins on the South Side west of the Mascot.

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