CSI Coffee Pub
CSI Coffee Pub is a new coffee house (no forensics involved — I know that's what you were thinking) situated on the ground floor of the Centre for Social Innovation in the Annex.
Funny enough, the new cafe has been stationed less than 10 feet from a ready supply of free coffee, available to all CSI members. But that hasn't seemed to matter much; CSI Coffee Pub has been pulling espressos practically nonstop since it opened for business about four months ago.
The Centre for Social Innovation is a communal workspace where members pay for a particular package that suits their individual needs. There are three CSIs in Toronto, but this one on Bathurst is the host of the newly minted CSI Coffee Pub.
There's no dividing line separating the cafe from the workspace, which poses a bit of a problem. CSI Coffee Pub is open both to CSI members and people off the street, but the workspace, technically, is for members only. In other words, you're really not supposed to grab a latte and pull out your laptop and work away the afternoon (though the WiFi password is plastered on the wall) unless you're a CSI member, though staff has not (and will not) ask anyone to leave. That's just not their schtick. But the issue is complicated by the fast that CSI Coffee Pub does not do take-out, meaning you pretty much have to sit down to enjoy that latte (unless you bring your own cup).
"We're still trying to figure it all out," barista Jordan says, fielding my questions while owner and manager Erin steps out to run errands. "We want to make the space available to everyone, without cheapening the value of a CSI membership."
The cafe certainly has its appeal. While I'm not sure what's brewing in the free carafe on the next counter, CSI Coffee Pub sources its beans from Merchants of Green and offers fresh sandwiches ($7.50), soups ($5.50), and salads ($6.00), along with baked goods from OMG. Green is the cafe's principle (hence the no take-out), with a bar made from recycled barn board and bread for the sandwiches delivered fresh from Woodlot by bicycle each day.
I enjoy an Americano ($2.25), which comes rich with a thick reddish-brown crema and bold, earthy flavour, while Jordan tells me a little more about the cafe. "Our meats for our sandwiches come from Rowe Farms and our milk is organic," he says, adding that customers have the option of almond or soy milk with no extra charge. "We're really focused on natural and organic wherever possible."
For those who have spent the day at CSI and are looking for a little caffeine-free detox, the cafe also offers a green smoothie ($4.50) and vegan eats, such as its multigrain sandwich with dandelion pesto, cucumber, sprouts, tomatoes, and other veggies. The cafe is currently open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. (look out for breakfast specials!) to 6:00 p.m., though Jordan says hours may change. Of course, when you find yourself in need of a jolt and it's after hours, there's always the free coffee — just a few paces over.
Photos by Morris Lum