Monday, August 31, 2015Partly Cloudy 26°C

Empire Espresso

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / Posted on November 14, 2013

Empire Espresso TorontoEmpire Espresso has one of the prettiest espresso machines I've ever seen. The La Marzocco machine at College Street's newest coffee shop is covered with a custom silkscreen adhesive in a Moroccan tile design, which only adds to the Moorish-accented cafe. There are little iron lanterns lining the wall, glassware has gold flourish, and the cushions along the window are brightly embroidered.

Empire EspressoOnce the location of Lolie, a short-lived jewellery and pet accessory store, the space has been transformed by owner Lisa Young-Kutsukake into a quiet haven for coffee and sweets. With the soft opening just three weeks ago the menu is still in development but so far the cafe is off to a great start.

Empire EspressoFirst, take you pick of beans. Barista/ minority owner Sarah Dillon uses Dark City Roasters for the dark and Pig Iron Roasters for the light. Pig Iron is the roasting extension of Lit Espresso Bar, but I don't sense any neighbourhood competition. Empire Espresso uses them for good reason - the beans are award-winning. A second grinder will showcase a rotating selection of beans.

Empire EspressoI went with dark, and what resulted was a smooth, nutty Americano coming in just under three bucks ($2.85 to be exact). A latte, using the dairy, soy or almond milk available, is $4.00 and you can choose 10 oz. or the larger 12oz cups to temper the double shot with extra creaminess. Besides the usual caffeinated fare, they are experimenting with new fresh juices, and have a selection of local Social teas to sip.

Empire EspressoNot to be overshadowed by the smells of fresh brewed coffee, at the back of the cafe you might find the in-house pastry chef Hannah sliding baked goods out of the oven. The day I arrived they had rosemary lemon shortbread and gingersnap cookies under lovely glass domes at the marble counter. Both were good at $1.55, but the gingersnaps exquisitely so, elevated by a touch of heat from cayenne and a crunch of sugar crystals on top.

Empire EspressoThe $2.50 cheddar or blackberry and lavender biscuits provide hardier snacks, and don't miss the same-priced cinnamon buns. Take a bite and you'll find the cassia does double duty, mixed in with the dough and as a sticky sweet ribbon as well.

Empire EspressoThe front window is outfitted with low built-in benches for a quick sit, but without tables it's clear that Empire Espresso is more a-tuned to the commuter crowd than the computer crowd. Still, with its handful of chairs, a baby change table in the basement washroom, and promised WiFi in the future, I'm sure anyone apt to linger will find the cafe a welcome oasis in bustling Little Italy.

Empire EspressoPhotos by Morris Lum



BRYCYCLE / November 14, 2013 at 09:19 am
stumbled upon Empire while returning to the studio that's conveniently located right behind them.

their staff is extremely friendly and unpretentious - it's clear that they care about what they are doing and love coffee. I've been a few time now, having been served by what I would assume is the majority of the staff - always a positive experience.

Kara / November 14, 2013 at 10:24 am
Stopped in for an americano last Sunday and really enjoyed it. Love the colourful decor (cute pillows!) and the non-hipster vibe. I am also a sucker for little details and thought that the little gold spoons they had with the steamed milk jug were so adorable. Love that this is in my neighborhood now.
scd / November 14, 2013 at 11:04 am
One precision - all beautiful design was done by Lisa Young-Kutsukake!
darla / November 14, 2013 at 03:03 pm
this place looks gorgeous! i can't wait to try it when i'm in the neighbourhood.
amy / November 14, 2013 at 04:16 pm
most beautiful place & most incredible coffee!!!
Meagan / November 14, 2013 at 07:56 pm
Highly recommended! Great coffee, beautiful place.
Mono / November 16, 2013 at 10:15 pm
Love it! xo
Marla / January 25, 2014 at 05:11 pm
What a charming spot to stop and enjoy. Fabulous coffee and the baked treats are always delicious. The atmosphere is a real breath of freshness and the owners are especially warm and welcoming.
Annie / March 19, 2014 at 03:29 pm
The front window is becoming one of my favourite places to people watch with a smooth, delicious cup of java. I have found everyone that has been behind the counter when I have come in, to be easy going and nice. It's good, plain and simple.
Joseph / April 6, 2014 at 06:53 pm
Best window seating, best location in little Italy, best coffee in little Italy, BEST CINNAMON BUN IVE EVER HAD. The best. Period.
Jennifer / April 8, 2014 at 11:17 am
This is the best coffee I have had in a long time. My Americano was so thick and smooth I didn't even have to add cream. And it doesn't hurt that they are staffed with hot baristas and stay open until 10pm every night.
Pete / June 6, 2014 at 05:30 pm
You guys should have been number one on the best cinnamon bun list. I dream about your cinnamon buns and a perfectly pulled Americano. So glad you're in the neighbourhood.
Alice / November 23, 2014 at 11:30 am
I adore this place! Best coffee I've had in Toronto, plus the staff are friendly and there is a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

The fact that they bake all of their mouth watering pastries in their semi-open kitchen out the back means the place constantly smells amazing. The selection of treats at the counter is a cruel test of self control! (which has never disappointed on the occasions when I've given into temptation).

The fact that there are only positive reviews on this site (so rare!) is certainly testament to how great this place really is.


and omgggg the cinnamon buns... drool...
Amy / March 19, 2015 at 10:33 pm
Visited today for a chai latte and croissant muffin hybrid, that was one of the most delicious little things I've had in forever.

Love everything about this place, definitely worth a visit. Can't wait to try more of their delicious in house baked treats!

Fantastic addition to the neighbourhood!
Ella / May 27, 2015 at 02:28 pm
Great people, great coffee, great food, great space. 'Nuff said.

They work ridiculously hard and it shows.

And, they've got a bowl of water out front and a treat for the 4-legged neighbours.

Add a Comment


Find a Cafe

Or use the options below to assist you in locating a Cafe in Toronto.

Search Results

Please select criteria from the dropdown menus above to start your search.


Recent Reviews

Refine the list using the categories below:

Other Cities: Montreal