Ella's Uncle (Bloor St.)
Ella's Uncle, a local favorite of the Dundas West set, opened up it's second cafe at the foot-traffic heavy intersection of Ossington and Bloor. Even on the dreariest of days, a particularly sludgy/haily/snowy April morning, the wide, sparsely furnished cafe, with its incredibly high ceilings and un-abrasive lighting seems filled with warm sunshine.
Co-owner Mike Craig greets me with a smile from behind the stylish re-purposed wood and tile bar (designed by customer and now-friend Cosmo Dean. Craig, no stranger to slinging espresso, immediately gets me sipping on a simple cappuccino ($3.75) while I sit and read the morning paper. The new location hasn't switched up the coffee offerings, sticking to Classic Coffee Co. 8-bean espresso blend and Dark City's Zen Blend for drip coffee (a nice, even, medium roast that changes origin with the seasons to keep up a consistent taste profile).
Don't get me wrong, the coffee at Ella's Uncle is definitely good, but the stars of the show are the tantalizing, freshly baked goodies that keep regular customers coming back for more. In a city where most cafes are serving up the usual Circles & Squares selection (don't get me wrong, their treats are delicious), pastries at Ella's Uncle are baked in house from scratch, and always reliably fresh.
Though perhaps they could do with a bit of variety every once in a while, the mainstays like the berry or cheddar-bacon scone (both crumbly and delicious at $2.25) or the super popular "Crack Cookie" (toffee/chocolate-chip/oatmeal for $2) are worth holding on to. Craig and Hedley also just added muffins to the selection, with a tangy fruit-filled muffin and classic carrot walnut (both $2.75)
As we recently saw in the great Toronto coffee drink challenge, Ella's Uncle serves up some seriously sweet specialty lattes. Their namesake, the Ella ($4.25), features a dose of maple syrup for a sweet Canadian kick, but my favorite (and one which is decidedly unique) is the cafe's take on a Mexican hot chocolate, the Red Mocha ($4.25). A double shot of espresso is mixed with chocolate and a dash of cayenne pepper for a spicy/sweet mix that is damn delicious.
For those regulars of the Dundas West location, who know that the best part of Ella's Uncle is its incredibly friendly owners and staff, don't worry, that won't change with the addition of a new location. Craig and Hedley are determined to keep their customers happy, so the two will be trading off, making sure that one of them is at each location every day.
Though it may not be a family business, the team at Ella's Uncle does a great job of making you feel at home. I've got to say, with the addition of this cozy, take-out focused location, the heavily populated Bloor and Ossington neighborhood is in for a real treat.
Photos by Morris Lum