The Holy Oak Cafe
I would have killed for a Holy Oak Café in November 2008, the last month I resided at Bloor and Lansdowne. Back then, comfortable places with good brew were scarce in those parts. Yasi's was (and is) fantastic, but the hours were just wonky enough to disappoint me at least once a week. On mornings when Yasi's was closed, coffee was a solid bike ride away unless I'd shown enough foresight to stock my cupboards the day before; grocery stores were also annoyingly distant. I moved downtown to be close to things! I wanted groceries and coffee available on a whim! So sadly, I moved away from B&L just as things were getting good. I'm jealous, even from my comfortable and grocery-store-flush home at Christie and Dupont. Thankfully, one may travel freely in this city, so on Monday, Alyssa and I head back to the old hood to check out the development and stop in at Holy Oak.
There are kitchen tables inside Holy Oak, and I mean kitchen as in suitable for a family of four, like the one you knew from Megan Nimmo's house in grade school. This strikes me only because I expected to find gigantic, unfinished wooden tables as per the trend. The childhood throw-back/counter-top cultural table decision sets me at ease, as does the soothing art on the walls and all the plants. To top things off, the sun is streaming through the door and windows. I feel so relaxed I'm practically sleepy, which is exactly how I used to feel when I came home from grade school. And like any grade-schooler who has just come home, I'm ready for one strong Americano ($2) and a spinach, cheddar and chive scone ($2).
The coffee is Intelligentsia, and very conscientiously prepared by Matt, Oak's guy behind the counter and top-notch barista. He fixes me a strong cup and crafts a nice cappuccino ($3.25) for Alyssa with Harmony (hallelujah). The scone (baked by Aurora Ratcliffe using fair trade ingredients) is amazing! It is packed full of greens, seeds n' cheese, ideal for breakfast and it's gone in a second. Speaking of breakfast, Holy Oak offers traditional Finnish pancakes every Sunday from 10am-2pm. "Oh, are the owners Finnish?" I ask Matt. "No," he says. "They just enjoy Finnish pancakes."
The non-Finnish owners are Justin and Melissa, an industrious duo hailing from the Transac club, where they cut their management teeth. Justin tells me the plan: a liquor license, "good drinks, low lights," and music every Sunday. A piano in the corner suggests the weekly music plan is already underway. Alongside it is a wicker basket full of toys - for the kids. Holy Oak gets lots of families dropping in. They also get lots of local artists. Justin cites the diverse crowd as a reason he and Melissa chose the neighborhood. It's extremely multi-cultural, plus there are creative endeavors going on all around. "All these artists and all they had was Coffee Time," he says about bygone days. I couldn't agree more. I'm not an artist, but still, I could have used more than a Coffee Time.