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Dark Horse 3

Posted by Adam Vrankulj / Posted on January 6, 2011

Dark Horse 3Dark Horse has once again proven to be one of the most tenacious purveyors of coffee in Toronto, and their new location proves three isn't just a crowd. With this new corner spot on Queen West, Dark Horse has really hit its stride but maintains the same signature look we've all grown used to: communal tables, glass jugs, lots of knotted wood and a fancy and well-organized cash register/order system.

Dark Horse 3Found next to Sydney's at Queen and Euclid, the new Dark Horse Espresso (affectionately referred to as Dark Horse 3) is clearly going to be able to hold its own against the nearby Quaff and Niche cafes.

Dark Horse 3The first thing I order is a shot ($2.51). My first impression was that the crema had little elasticity, but the shot went down well. I was first told that my shot was a Detour Panamanian blend (later corrected to 49th Parallel's Epic Espresso), and it was incredibly sweet, without being too bright. This espresso (whichever it was) had the distinct sweetness of a green apple.

I have had 49th's Epic Espresso many times, and I am almost certain this wasn't it. The apple-like sweetness of this coffee caught me off guard, but it's still worth a try. Epic tends to taste a little bit heavier on the tongue.

Dark Horse 3Next I ordered a cappuccino ($3.10), and it was pretty good, but not great. Served in a nice tulip-style cup, I appreciate the clean and stylish look of the drinks coming across this bar.

Technically speaking, this cappuccino had a couple of flaws, but thankfully the unique flavour of this espresso held everything together. The milk was much hotter than I would have preferred, and the head of foam was much thinner than I think a good cappuccino deserves. That said, this Dark Horse only opened a few days ago so it's hard to be critical at this point.

Dark Horse 3One of the most striking aspects of this cafe is the gorgeous tin ceiling. A ton of construction work was done to get Dark Horse 3 into shape and it shows. Strong lines, re-claimed furniture and materials make this one of the most appealing cafes to hang out in Toronto. Rivaling the well-calculated design of Hula Girl, this most recent Dark Horse is definitely their best. And that's saying something.

A latte is $3.57, americanos are $2.86 and a selection of grilled paninis is in the works for this location.

Dark Horse 3Dark Horse 3Dark Horse 3Dark Horse 3 is located at the corner of Euclid and Queen St, west of Bathurst, and is open from 7 a.m.- 7p.m. during the week and 8 a.m.- 7 p.m. on the weekend.

Photos by Dennis Marciniak



Andrew / January 7, 2011 at 09:33 am
I had been wondering for the longest time what this magical location would become, as it was under construction and I'm beyond ecstatic that its another Dark Horse location.

A small part of me, though, hopes that it won't go more than four locations. Is that selfish? I don't care.
Betty / January 7, 2011 at 09:42 am
Looks very nice, and I have nothing against the owners, but that stretch of Queen really did not need another coffee shop. The Square Fruit market, which departed due to a rent hike, was a real asset to the neighbourhood and I'll never be able to walk past that corner without thinking of it wistfully.
Kenny / January 7, 2011 at 10:07 am
I agree with Betty. For me, the perfection/imperfection of the cappuccino here remains a moot point. The Square Fruit Market was an asset to the community and were it not for a greedy landlord it would still be there. Neighborhood food/fruit markets: 0. Coffee Shops: 8?
Stra / January 7, 2011 at 10:19 am
Square Fruit gone for this? Really? The Dark Horse bean is really not that good.
Square Dancer / January 7, 2011 at 10:47 am
This is how neighborhoods become less interesting and less liveable: the services that people need are replaced by clothing stores and coffee shops aimed at visitors not residents.
Billy B / January 7, 2011 at 10:52 am
Great spot , great coffee, what an amazing renovations, definitely will go back,
Billy B / January 7, 2011 at 10:56 am
Dropped in yesterday as I left Sydney's, was pleasantly surpised with the magnificent renovations and great espresso, well done and welcome to the neighbourhood DH3
LadyBird / January 7, 2011 at 10:57 am
This strip really is over saturated with coffee these days. (Keeping in mind that on Dundas north of the park you've got a mess up there as well.) However, my hope for all "small" businesses is that they do well.
I've biked by a few times now in the morning (right about 7am) and seen them pretty quiet. Is Queen West an early-morning-crowd neighborhood? They have the youngest demographic of the whole city. The average age of a resident on Queen West is 23.
Good luck, Dark Horse 3!
Redclove / January 7, 2011 at 11:09 am
Looks great, tastes great.. & Isn't there a fruit market right across the street ?
Esther / January 7, 2011 at 11:12 am
Welcome to the neighbourhood. I will drop in for a sampling. Hope it is as good as Spadina.
Betty / January 7, 2011 at 11:16 am
Wong's across the street would do in a pinch but Square Fruit was head and shoulders above it for the produce selection alone, and the grocery shelves were far better stocked. Plus they had a great plant stand in spring/summer, pumpkins in fall and Christmas trees!
Square Dancer / January 7, 2011 at 11:16 am
To add a few more words: Of course I also wish nothing but the best for small businesses. I am also well aware that these comment sections are easy places to spew negativity, be a sour puss and generally slag whatever topic is on display. It is also my feeling that we tend to have short memories in Toronto. To some extent it is this way everywhere, but I think that we are particularly good at it here. Can anyone remember what Liberty Village looked like 10 years ago, or what Queen Street was like before the Drake? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Except that I think it does. We are all too quick to bulldoze our history in this city in the name of gentrification, and this is resulting it a much less interesting place. Whereas in New York, neighborhood essentials like hardware stores and fruit markets are woven into the fabric of communities, in Toronto we are quick to flip them for fashionable quick sells (another shoe store at Queen and Bathurst anyone?)

I was motivated to write something here, knowing fell well that I will sound like a wanker to most of you, because the week that Square Fruit Market officially was given notice was an interesting time on Queen West. I would go so far as to say that there was an outpouring of love as well as something akin to mourning for the loss of that space. Posters were put up and meetings were held to try to prevent this space from becoming what it now has become. All of this is meaningless, of curse, except that it’s worth remembering that this nice new coffee shop had a different incarnation in its past life, and that, to an unusual degree, people really cared about it and it was an important part of the lives of the residents of this area. A new Loblaws is moving in down the street, and this will satisfy the need to buy groceries, but I don’t doubt that shopping there will be a less personal experience, and that is just the point. It was the personal aspect of shopping daily for fresh veggies at a neighborhood store with familiar faces that was one of those things that made this a neighborhood and not just another strip of more of the same.
SDS / January 7, 2011 at 11:46 am
Well done Dark Horse and good luck.

Seeing as this has become a discussion of neighborhoods, I'll add my two cents. I've lived in a number of downtown neighborhoods over the years and recently a spent few years right on Queen street.

I agree that many landlords can be short sighted about making a few extra bucks. I have watched a number of useful neighborhood stores (hardware, books) close due to rent increases. Ironically, the next tenant is often unable to succeed given the high rent and the space keeps getting flipped (until yet another corporate store moves in). In other cases, the place sits vacant, like the former Pages books, which was a daily destination for many in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, if we want neighborhood stores to survive, we have to frequent them in favour of to going to the big chains as a habit.
MattB / January 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm
I hope that the ghost of Square Fruit Market curses these guys and they go out of business. Another coffee shop?!!! There's now some 11 or more coffee shops between Trinity Bellwoods and Bathurst. Crackheads, coffeeheads ... who needs them. Begone!
Matt / January 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm
@ LadyBird Right on. But not just Queen St.--the whole west side is over-saturated with coffee shops. Some of portions of Queen, Dundas and College look less like neighbourhoods and more like culinary destinations for foodies. Which is nice and all, but not exactly conducive to a healthy, functioning city.
Simuls / January 7, 2011 at 12:37 pm
While the coffee is good, it's not great (not even close to the realm of Sense Appeal or Te Aro), and since they decided to get rid of all their electrical outlets for laptop users because the "cost of the electricity was too high" I've shunned and spent my money elsewhere.
JR / January 7, 2011 at 01:42 pm
Maybe this will make Quaff step up their game a little bit. I've given them a few shots (hah, pun not intended, but welcome), and every time I would have done better at Starbucks. Drinkable, if not good, coffee in very close proximity is welcome in my eyes, despite the less than auspicious reason why this space became available.
Eric26 replying to a comment from Simuls / January 7, 2011 at 01:49 pm
Yeah Te Aro is much better, but I approve of them not letting people plug in their laptops. For some reason the sight of people sitting in coffee shops in front of laptops disgusts me.
Ian / January 7, 2011 at 01:56 pm
I'd trade coffee for vegetables any day. Love Darkhorse but again; do we really need another shitty bar, coffee shop or shoe store in the 'hood?
Wongs across the street is permissible but not up to par, I hope they'll step it up. Loblaws is going to be brutal. When I need a handful of grapes, a baguette or some other random items I'm not going to roam the aisles of a SUPERmarket when I'm happy with a FRUIT market.
Matt / January 7, 2011 at 02:11 pm
Seriously? An indie coffee shop opens and people are crying about the decay and downfall of a neighbourhood? It's not like a bloody Gap opened on the corner.

I live in this neighbourhood and I loved that grocery store. However, what Dark Horse has done to that building is amazing! They have restored the classic luster and filled it with a place to gather, chat and think. Perhaps go in and ask each patron where they are from, my guess is within a 1-3km distance. Not "I came here because I read about it in Fromer's guide to Toronto".

Relax, your neighbourhood will be OK with a Dark Horse espresso bar.
den replying to a comment from Matt / January 7, 2011 at 03:00 pm
Matt is right. You are all crying about an independent coffee shop opening up when you should be rejoicing that it's not a Starbucks or McDonald's.

Welcome Dark Horse, and all the best.
Square Pants / January 7, 2011 at 03:01 pm
I agree: the people at Dark Horse did a fantastic job renovating the space. As well, the coffee shop is a good meeting place, and yeah, it isn't like a big chain moved in. The main reason it sucks, I think, is that the previous tenants really did effect quality of life in the area in a positive way. Heck, it was the only place around to buy food. Without it, a car is required. One has to go out of the neighborhood to get groceries. The Wong's had a perfect opportunity to step up and fill the void, but they haven't bothered to try. There are some scuzzy convenience stores scattered around, as well, but Square Pants is missed.
Square Pants / January 7, 2011 at 03:04 pm
I agree: the people at Dark Horse did a fantastic job renovating the space. As well, the coffee shop is a good meeting place, and yeah, it isn't like a big chain moved in. The main reason it sucks, I think, is that the previous tenants really did effect quality of life in the area in a positive way. Heck, it was the only place around to buy food. Without it, a car is required. One has to go out of the neighborhood to get groceries. Daily life is more complicated. The Wong's had a perfect opportunity to step up and fill the void, but they haven't bothered to try. There are some scuzzy convenience stores scattered around, as well, but Square Pants is missed.
rek / January 7, 2011 at 03:19 pm
Coffee is popular, fruit is not. Would you rather have another Starbucks instead? We should be supporting a locally owned venture that's taking off like wildfire in the way Dark Horse has. I don't drink even coffee but I wish Dark Horse well, and look forward to hearing they've opened stores in other cities.
Jammer / January 7, 2011 at 03:48 pm
Coffee & Pizza: the two easiest ways to make money. The ingredients cost nothing. That's $3.40 profit on your $3.80 latte.
piero replying to a comment from Stra / January 7, 2011 at 03:54 pm
Agree with your comment. Though better than chain coffee, Dark Horse don't roast their own beans. They should. It's the only way to control quality and ensure peak freshness. I find the local micro roasters have better tasting coffee but Dark Horse has the better atmosphere.
JR replying to a comment from piero / January 7, 2011 at 04:01 pm
That argument can't be spun both ways. Coffee roasters that would be used by a cafe on-site generally lack a lot of the mechanized controls that a larger scale roaster would have. In the hands of a master-roaster who knows green coffee like the back of his/her hand, that can be a positive. In the hands of your everyday ten-dollar-an-hour barista, it's usually going to be a negative. And in terms of freshness, I'm not sure that there are significant gains, given that coffee beans shouldn't be consumed immediately after roasting, and shipping is pretty darn fast these days. Beans could be roasted, packaged, shipped, and at the cafe in a day or two.
Kenneth Shearer / January 7, 2011 at 04:44 pm
I welcome Dark Horse to the area, frankly have been supporting the east side coffee shops as have never been able to find a great coffee on the west side other than their Spadina location. They have done an amazing job on the inside, I commend the owners as well as the bricklayer, as the west wall looks amazing, what a difference from the pink , red and grafitti filled wall with the chain linked fence. Now people, who does not think this space looks fantastic, great spot, great coffee, independant and a great atmosphere. Sorry the fruit market is gone let us rejoice for it is Darkhorse not Swiss Chalet, or Tim Hortons.. Welcome to our neighbourhood. I am so glad you are finally open and I will see you tomorrow. Congrats.
Kitty Well / January 7, 2011 at 05:40 pm
Those hands.
The Dude / January 7, 2011 at 08:42 pm
Square Pant - the Kitchen Table is a 5 minute walk away and hardly out of the neighborhood.
CW replying to a comment from Square Pants / January 8, 2011 at 01:19 am
Kensington Market is like a 20 min walk or 7 min bike ride away....suck it up. Branch out a little bit. A car? Pleeeease.
Square Pants / January 8, 2011 at 02:50 am
Biking riding now? Do I have to? 20 minutes (30?) there and 20/30 minutes back. You just added an extra hour to my day. Thanks Dark Horse bastards.
S / January 8, 2011 at 06:13 am
More info here than their web page.

For my coffee challenged friend, do they serve hot chocolate here?
S / January 8, 2011 at 06:14 am
More info here than their web page.

For my coffee challenged friend, do they serve hot chocolate here?
S / January 8, 2011 at 06:16 am
More info here than their web page.

For my coffee challenged friend, do they serve hot chocolate here?
Andy replying to a comment from Square Dancer / January 8, 2011 at 08:01 am
Agree with much of what you say, except for the NYC comment. What's happening here is also happening there, only more so.
Mike / January 8, 2011 at 01:59 pm
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH you bunch of damn cry babies. You don't like it? why don't you open a god damn fruit market then. Dark horse didn't run anyone out of business, they're adding value to the neighbourhood and I, for one, am happy to see another quality coffee shop open up west of Spadina, even if it's only 1 block west.
localguy / January 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm
This corner could have easily become another soulless Czehoski-style joint, so I'm quite happy with the outcome. Dark Horse serves a damn good coffee and the neighborhood doesn't have to worry about even more jackasses doing coke and listening to a shitty DJ till 4 in the morning.

Now if only Czehoski, that fucking shithole run by a crook, would go out of business...

MattD / January 9, 2011 at 02:37 pm
@piero and others: they do use a local skilled roaster, and it's a blend they developed personally. They use Detour out of Dundas, ON.

Congrats DH3. You will do the neighborhood well.
cosmosuave / January 9, 2011 at 04:36 pm
Simuls wrote / January 7, 2011 at 12:37 PM

"While the coffee is good, it's not great (not even close to the realm of Sense Appeal or Te Aro), and since they decided to get rid of all their electrical outlets for laptop users because the "cost of the electricity was too high" I've shunned and spent my money elsewhere."

Probably more like they were tired of the deadbeats that would hang out all day and surf the net and only purchase one item...
Ben / January 10, 2011 at 01:43 pm
Meh...Dark Horse is overrated. I will still go to Clafouti and get the Balzacs coffee they serve there.

Regardless, the neighbourhood does need more grocery stores. There is a Loblaws opening at Queen and Portland sometime in the near future, so that should provide a place to do some comprehensive grocery shopping for those fortunate enough to actually live in the area and not just buy clothes, records and coffee there.
DavidC / January 12, 2011 at 01:38 pm
Most Toronto independents use 49th Parallel or Intelligenstia - which carries a high carbon footprint to transport over here. With all these independents springing up all over TO, don't you think it's time for them to start supporting or developing home grown roasters? Besides, having lived in the West Coast and sampled the best, I find Dark Horse too weak and fruity for my taste.
DavidC / January 12, 2011 at 01:40 pm
To add, Red Rocket has the flavour profile that I like - rich, bold, chocolatey. I think they use Reunion Island coffee, which is home grown.
JR replying to a comment from DavidC / January 13, 2011 at 01:34 am
Home grown?
Not sure about any coffee fields in Canada (that comment was 99% facetious). Really, once its been transported from South/Central America, Africa, or Asia, the impacts of a cross-country trip is negligible. There's also the ambiguity of the middle-man. Intelligensia and 49th Parallel are both direct trade operations, meaning the green beans likely aren't making a stop-over somewhere between the farmer and roaster. Reunion Island coffee is a mix of fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, and uncertified beans, meaning there's probably a mystery stop at a distributor before getting to Oakville. Not knocking independent certification (different argument for a different day and different site) but I think the carbon footprint argument is a moot point.
AlexT replying to a comment from JR / January 18, 2011 at 07:29 pm
Actually PIero, you have your facts wrong. Large Roasters (the likes of Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, Square Mile, Parallel 49, George Howell) all use Probats and Diedrich roasters. So do smaller roasters. They may just have one that roasts less coffee per batch. You may be confused with crappy little cafes that have little 1kg sample roasters - then you would be giving up quality.
Who wants their coffee roasted on a big mechanized machine?? If you do, it probably means you enjoy starbucks or tim hortons.
I prefer an artisinal approach as well as small batch roasting, and therefore enjoy coffee coming from the likes of Stumptown, Intelligentsia, Parallel 49, Sense Appeal, Te Aro, and Detour......
DavidC replying to a comment from JR / January 30, 2011 at 03:29 am
The quote was "home grown roaster" not grower you pretentious moron. I hope you understand the difference.
DavidC replying to a comment from JR / January 30, 2011 at 03:40 am
@JR, I think you missed the whole point. The argument is not that we should support home grown roasters because it leaves a lower carbon footprint, but that the industry in Toronto has grown sufficiently that local coffee houses should help grow and nurture a local roasting industry, much in the same way that coffee houses in Vancouver, Victoria, & Calgary have supported their own local roasters. Frankly JR, I find that your attitude is typical of Torontonians - insecure and pretentious.
piero replying to a comment from MattD / February 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm
Good to know! Thanks.
piero replying to a comment from AlexT / February 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm
I'm referring to the fact most of the roasters you mention are clear across the continent, not in the quality or ability of their roasting. Coffee is only optimally fresh for 5 days. Even with fast air shipping, which is expensive for a small business roasting relatively small batches, the inventory management would be a nightmare. I'd prefer a locally roasted coffee to support the local guys and gals and to minimize the environmental footprint of my own yummy consumption.
russman / May 11, 2011 at 12:04 am
Great reno but crap coffee.
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Jenny / May 10, 2012 at 05:25 am
I heard Dark Horse is owned by Starbucks.
Anyone know more about this?

Their website is a rip-off of the S. Pelligrino website.
Also their pastry menu is a rip-off of other independent cafe's.
Like exact same...

Shit service also.... DH staff need to pull their heads out of their asses.

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