Dark Horse Espresso Bar
The first thing I notice upon entering Dark Horse Espresso Bar is the huge wooden table in one corner. The thought of sitting beside strangers unnerves me, but the bar seats are all full. Co-owner Deanna Zunde says she got the idea for a communal table while traveling in Europe: "I thought Toronto could use a little more encouragement to talk to strangers in an intimate setting."
Photo courtesy: Tim Shore.
"I love that Dark Horse has fit so well into the neighbourhood and has become a community meeting place," says Angela Bradfield in the Dark Horse Facebook group. "The communal table is such a great concept and works like magic at connecting people."
As baristas / owners, Deanna Zunde and Ed Lynds make the coffee themselves and offer baked treats in addition to their espresso-based drinks and teas. Lynds took second-place at the 1st Annual Toronto Life Latte Art Competition and will be competing in the National Barista Championships in September.
I slide onto a chair at the table and focus on the artful double heart poured into the foam of my London Fog as I studiously avoid eye contact with others seated around me. A stranger across the table remarks to their companion about an article in the newspaper they're reading. A moment later, someone else a few seats away adds a comment, provoking laughter. Subtly, the atmosphere changes.
And suddenly we're no longer just strangers sitting stiffly in the same space, pretending the others don't exist. We're chatting in the kitchen of someone's home as sunlight spills onto the table, and time slows down. Not a bad way to start the day, really.
682 Queen Street East, Hours: 7am-7pm every day