Grinder (Gerrard Street)
Grinder Coffee on the corner of Gerrard and Marjory is an offshoot of the popular Main St. joint of the same name. Although the three-month-old cafe sells the same brew and baked goods as its older sister, it is crafting its own identity in a hub of Toronto defined by Home Depot, Winners and, more recently, Great Burger Kitchen.
Grinder's most prominent trait is its grab-and-go urns conveniently installed for nine-to-fivers attempting to swiftly pour a cup before catching the TTC. While owners Euan Mowat and James Feistner encourage patrons to pay before bolting, the two also support the honour system and allow customers to pay when they return.
On my most recent visit, I enter the narrow beige space with a red accent wall to the chime of two friendly baristas. Before I even gander their chalk-board menu, the two pleasantly chirp suggestions and pairing advice with a comfortable serving of weather chit-chat on the side. I settle on a coffee (sm. $1.41/lg $2.25) and a recommended cranberry muffin ($2.65) -- both are delicious. Although I generally prefer (essentially) gasoline before noon, Grinder's signature roast is a welcomed medium bodied and lightly acidic brew with strong floral accents. The cranberry muffin deliciously balances the tart fruit with the sweet dough, and the treat pairs flawlessly with the coffee.
For Grinder enthusiasts, the coffee shop offers 1/2lb bags ($10) of their signature roasted drip, decaf and espresso beans to prepare at home. For tea lovers, Grinder sells loose-leaf tea by Whole World Trade Ltd. ($2.25).
If there's a disappointing aspect to Grinder, it is the cafe's lack of originality. While everything looks tempting, their menu never extends beyond the expected and obvious. Grinder offers your standard espresso drinks: americanos (sm $2.81/lg $3.39), lattes ($4.22), cappuccinos ($3.93), mochas ($5.42) and chai lattes (sm $4.22/lg. $5.42) to name a few.
It has a selection of "genuine Montreal bagels" ($2.50) and a number of common sandwiches made on site ($5) such as BBQ pork loin, roast beef and chicken salad. And, displayed in kitchsy glass bell-jars is a rotating selection of standard cafe fare (cookies, bars, tarts, etcetera) purchased from Toronto-based caterers. They even offer what many consider essential cafe perks such as no extra charge for soy or specialty milks and soon-to-be-available free WiFi.
Mowat claims the cafe's predictability is a kind-of-sort-of Waterloo, stating Grinder isn't offering anything new but rather it is offering a service. I can easily go along with his thinking as there is certainly a place in every city for the archetype cafe. Some (including myself) prefer to describe this kind of run-of-the-mill business as homey and/or comforting.
All in all, Grinder offers good coffee and good food. The baristas are charming and, most importantly, the cafe fills a void in an area of Toronto that would otherwise be snagged by a Coffee Time.
Hours: Mon-Sat 7:00am - 4:00pm; Sun 8:00am - 4:00pm
Writing by Carl Hiehn. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.