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Cafes

Hula Girl

Posted by Staff / Posted on October 13, 2010

Hula Girl TorontoThe Hula Girl Espresso Boutique on Dundas West, north of Bloor is a haven for design junkies, and espresso-heads alike. This is the first cafe to open up in this area, and will surely become an institution in Toronto's west end.

This small shop has been designed almost entirely of re-claimed materials. The bars and tables along the store walls are made from re-claimed wood from trees in Toronto and are beautifully shaped and polished. The wood used for the display shelves behind the counter and that frame the walls, are from an old barn in St. Jacobs, ON and create an incredibly comfortable and earthy feel to the cafe. On the ceiling are beautiful vintage tin tiles.

Hula Girl TorontoExposed brick, with the re-claimed wood gives this cafe a ton of modern and eco-consious cred it well deserves. Sustainability is clearly a strong focus of this cafe.

All of the coffee served is a blend consisting of at least 20 per cent Extra Fancy Kona, and is blended in house and roasted locally. For those who want to buy coffee to take home it's sold in mason jars. This is a cool idea, and definitely adds to the design-conscious feel of this cafe.

Hula Girl TorontoAlthough it looks great on the walls, and displays the large Kona coffee beans proudly, I'm not sure that a clear glass jar is the best way to preserve the freshness of your coffee. Ideally kept away from light, it would probably be best to transfer the coffee from the mason jar to something a little bit more light and air tight.

Hula Girl TorontoUsing an automated Mazzer grinder, and Simonelli Aurelia machine, the shots coming from Hula Girl are incredibly consistent. Both owners, Elias Vastis and Hector Ramos have plenty of coffee experience behind them, and it shows. The machine is set up with traditional single and double-spouted filters, and custom bottomless filters, as the owners feel each type of filter offers its own unique taste, and I tend to agree.

The first thing I tried was a double shot, pulled short. The tiger-striping on the rich crema was beautiful, and the shot was even better. No acidity and a soft smoky taste made this espresso stand out as some of the best I've had in the past year. Having been open for about a week, these guys have their system down.

Hula Girl TorontoFresh flowers bring colour to the room, and the two have created a kitchen and workspace in the basement where they currently blend their coffee and will soon be baking their own pastries.

Hula Girl Espresso Boutique has three different blends, and they all contain a precisely measured amount of Kona coffee, blended by Vastis and Ramos themselves. Although the idea of in-house roasting is romantic, and on the surface sounds impressive, I find consistency takes a major hit. If you ask me, blending your own coffee is far more important than roasting it yourself, and these two obviously take it seriously.

Hula Girl TorontoSoon, Hula Girl will be brewing French presses of 100 per cent Kona, but in the meantime, there are two different custom-blended brew coffees and a beautiful espresso system to choose from.

Hula Girl is the first coffee shop in its neighbourhood which lies between the Junction, High park and Roncesvalles and will definitely operate as a popular hangout for locals in time to come.

My overall impressions: a great space with delicious coffee, and two devoted owners. This coffee shop will definitely put this sleepy stretch of Dundas on the map.

Hula Girl TorontoWriting by Adam Vrankulj. Photos by Dennis Marciniak.

Discussion

44 Comments

Colin Medley / October 13, 2010 at 10:40 am
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Great to see cool shops opening up in that area!!!
mark / October 13, 2010 at 10:42 am
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Crema, Cafe Novo, The Good Neighbour - this seems like a nice place, but the last thing this area needs is another high-end coffee joint. Just my opinon.
Holden / October 13, 2010 at 11:07 am
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Please forgive me I just can't resist. The last time blogTO did a review in my area it was of Zocalo and although it was in Junction Triangle it was incorrectly labeled as being in Bloordale Village. This time the cafe is labeled as being in Junction Triangle when it is in fact outside of those boundaries. Note the train tracks are the western boundary of the area (and for that matter comprise the other two boundaries also).

Anyway, I hope you'll forgive the brief rant. Other than that one minor point, it's a great review and I'm looking forward to checking the place out. Although I know what Mark's talking about, there's actually not that much that's walking distance from Dundas and Bloor. Crema, for instance,is a pretty long walk away.
Park Choi Yoon Kim / October 13, 2010 at 11:19 am
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I might go there if they had spam loco.
Andre Paquin / October 13, 2010 at 11:25 am
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Just a coffee shop great. After just coming back from Maui I was expecting to see Kalua Pig, Poke and some fish like Ono and Mahi-Mahi on the menu. Just another coffee shop supporting one item that is Island specific.

What a drag.
snort replying to a comment from Holden / October 13, 2010 at 11:39 am
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You're right. Hula Girl belongs in Kensington.

Gabe replying to a comment from Park Choi Yoon Kim / October 13, 2010 at 11:40 am
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Don't let the boundaries bug you.
Tim replying to a comment from Holden / October 13, 2010 at 11:46 am
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While it's true that the cafe is just outside the Junction Triangle boundaries it's in a bit of a dead zone with no neighbourhood attached. Since the owners refer to the cafe being in the Junction Triangle we thought, all things considered, it made the most sense to list it in that neighbourhood.
Holden replying to a comment from Tim / October 13, 2010 at 11:48 am
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Thanks Tim. Makes sense. The more the merrier.
Dave / October 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm
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I have been to this place a few times already. There is a nice vibe and the coffee is great. This is a perfect addition to an up and coming area.
Ian / October 13, 2010 at 02:21 pm
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No girls and no hulas...what gives?
Amy / October 13, 2010 at 02:29 pm
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The coffee is delicious!!!! And in response to Mark this is exactly what my neighborhood needed.
Kristina / October 13, 2010 at 04:00 pm
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I agree about the not technically the junction triangle thing. As I live in this area I got really excited to think there was a nice coffee shop to go to on Dupont, but when I read that it was on Dundas, I knew it wasn't truly in my hood. Of course I will still go for a coffee this weekend.
zappa / October 13, 2010 at 04:45 pm
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I am still looking for the Hawaiian thing...cant see it.
Rob / October 13, 2010 at 04:55 pm
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Hawaiian themed coffee? great because the Hawaiians know there coffee.

I assume it will be nicely expensive as well.

since when do Espressos cost $3
bullring / October 14, 2010 at 01:34 am
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Screw this, go to Starbucks. A Junction Starbucks!
mark replying to a comment from Amy / October 14, 2010 at 09:36 am
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If you say so. I live in the area too. Like I said, just my opinion.
Matt / October 14, 2010 at 09:43 am
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I agree with Mark, for what it's worth. Every neighbourhood from Spadina to the Humber is startign to look the same: Coffee joint/doggie groomer/clothier/hip bar/coffee joint. Boring.
Inesse replying to a comment from Tim / October 15, 2010 at 11:39 am
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Just for fun, given the discussion of neighbourhood boundaries, what if I told you that technically, Hula Girl is located in "The West Bend". See http://www.thewestbend.ca/

:D

I live in the JT but am happy when anything new pops up to add more flavour-icious within walking distance to my home.
Michael / October 15, 2010 at 02:00 pm
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I'm sure what they brew is fantastic, and it is a gorgeous space, but I'm not enough of an addict to seriously consider getting an espresso (let alone the longer drinks on their card) from a place where I can't sit down and make something of both my time there and the expensive drink. A quick snort of espresso isn't the first thing on my mind when I'm carrying groceries home from The Sweet Potato or from Price Chopper, which is about my only excuse to be walking along that stretch of Dundas most of the time. Given they have Chairtex across the street (a former furniture factory selling old, unfinished chairs every Saturday), I wish they had found a way to incorporate some interior seating into their space.
robb. / October 15, 2010 at 04:04 pm
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Nice place. For many of you knocking this place, you should go check it out, then formulate your opinions. Not sure why people are discounting this great addition to the street because of the area in which they opened. People from the area are not going to walk to crema or cafe novo. Or are you the type of people that drive to get your coffee? Anyhow...
Out of curiosity, if this is the last thing this neighborhood needs, what is the first thing? If this is boring, what would make the neighborhood less boring?
zack / October 15, 2010 at 07:00 pm
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I live on abbott, about 2 minutes walk from this place. When I first saw this place I thought it'll never last, and that's still what I'm thinking... The area just isn't ready yet, this stretch of dundas definitely hasn't felt the "junction effect". I've watched a lot of businesses deadpool along here over the years, and hula girl is really the first of its kind and I applaud that. I'm not sure where they are really expecting the business to come from though. Maybe a bit from the side streets that intersect with dundas, and maybe a bit from the artist lofts ("Dundas West Arts Building") and the dance studio/karate converted factory, but other then that thats it... They are going to have to work seriously hard to get a good flow of business going. Every time I have walked by (which is 2x a day minimum) it's been dead. I don't buy coffee much, maybe I'll check it out on the way to school one day though...
Declan / October 15, 2010 at 07:08 pm
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This is great. It's right across the street from the Movement Centre too, one of the best spaces in the city for yoga.

Ginger / October 15, 2010 at 11:46 pm
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Ahhh, thank goodness. Finally a nice coffee place I can walk to!

I love my neighbourhood but we don't have many nice places to go to yet... Sometimes you just want to have a reason to get out on the weekends, why not go grab a coffee?

Also, the relationship between Hawaii, Hula Girl and Kona is that Kona is a type/brand of coffee grown exclusively in Hawaii and it is fantastic. It's rather pricey but very delicious. Can't wait to try this tomorrow!
Lara / October 16, 2010 at 02:06 am
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I have a Hula Girl latte everyday before school.
I don't think I couldn't survive school if I didn't.
What I love about Hula Girl (other than their amazing lattes) Is that it's more personal. Unlike Starbucks or McDonalds, I have a small chat with Hector and Elias. (You guys are awesome).
Haters gonna hate,
BUT I LOVE HULA GIRL.
Nadine / October 16, 2010 at 06:07 pm
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What a fabulous looking space. Very 'foreign' in it's approach to stop by, say hello, get your 'hit' and move along. Those are chairs I see outside... Cool your bottom and rest your feet. And there is always a price for good coffee, so bite the bullet and enjoy something new in your neighbourhood or take a walk and and sip a kona java.
irina / October 27, 2010 at 07:07 pm
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Such a cute spot. Love the way they serve that espresso in the double walled mug... is that a Bodum? Very cute design, name and logo... I love the idea of it... It's so tiny though. Is there a seating area? Wifi? I can't tell by your photos. Too far to venture out to if there's no where to sit. I love the idea of it though.
Grace replying to a comment from Michael / November 9, 2010 at 02:10 pm
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Michael- traditionally, an espresso shot on it's own is not meant to be sipped- it 'expires' after about 10 seconds of it being poured. To experience the real flavour and caramel sweetness of espresso, it is meant to be drunk all at once. If you let it sit, and sip it, the flavour changes dramatically from sweet and full to dark and bitter very quickly.
Elea / November 30, 2010 at 10:13 am
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I actually don't like how it looks on these pics - empty, trash cans way too obvious for my liking, exposed brick paired with an old-fashioned white fridge that just doesn't look like a good centerpiece. By the looks of it, I'd think this was a store of some kind, not a cafe. Why would I go there?.. There's enough great places that brew great coffee - and look much nicer to begin with.
shlepster / December 27, 2010 at 09:37 am
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Starbucks moves into the area, everyone complains. A small espresso bar moves into the area everyone complains. Maybe you should get a Coffee Time and then you will all be happy. You need a suburb feel in your area and perhaps a Tim Hortons as well. Why dont we throw in a Walmart next door and a Canadian Tire big box store. That should make all of you happy!!! What really makes you people happy? Nadda!! You deserve nothing in your area!!!
shlepster / December 27, 2010 at 09:37 am
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Starbucks moves into the area, everyone complains. A small espresso bar moves into the area everyone complains. Maybe you should get a Coffee Time and then you will all be happy. You need a suburb feel in your area and perhaps a Tim Hortons as well. Why dont we throw in a Walmart next door and a Canadian Tire big box store. That should make all of you happy!!! What really makes you people happy? Nadda!! You deserve nothing in your area!!!

Moi / January 3, 2011 at 10:20 am
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Comment to Slepster:

Uh, not everyone in "our area" is complaining. I'm quite happy about Hula Girl existence around the corner from my house - as are many of the posters here - I love their coffee and the owners are very personable. I HATE the idea of suburban life, and it in no way applies to "our area." We are well within the city of Toronto, a very short walk to two subway stations, and and easy walking distance to High Park, Roncesvalles and the Junction. Overall a very urban feel, I'd say.
Sheila / January 3, 2011 at 05:57 pm
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We mostly make (and drink) our coffee at home, but I have started buying it from Hula Girl because I think the cafe is a marvellous addition to the neighbourhood, and therefore I want to help it succeed, rather than just moan on about how unlikely it is that anything so cool and pretty can survive in our neighbourhood.
Joanne / January 3, 2011 at 06:07 pm
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I love the Americano coffee served at Hula Girl. I try and stop in whenever I am in the area - I live in Parkdale, so in the winter it is a bit of a walk. That being said, I love the coffee is fantastic, and I love the space that these guys have created. It is beautiful, original, and features a lot of art by local artists. I admire their entrepreneurial spirit and wish them all the best.
jh replying to a comment from Joanne / April 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm
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i totally agree with you. wish there were more seats.
Robert / May 10, 2011 at 05:05 pm
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I've wanted to try this place for a very long time. I walk past it all the time...and yet haven't stopped in. WHY? After reading the reviews, I will certainly give this place a go.
Joey-Jo-Jo / August 13, 2011 at 07:51 pm
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Had high hopes for Hula Girl and they were dashed today when we finally went there instead of Cherry Bomb (further along Dundas in Roncy). The shop is cute and the vibe is hip, but I was surprised by the curt/borderline rude service we received. I asked about the baked goods (there were few/no signs labeling things), and was actually met with sighs, eye-rolling and a few blanknstares for good measure. Awkward. I was really, really bummed because I was really happy to have a place so close to home. There are way too many awesome places in this city to go to that don't give you attitude; no one needs that at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. Excellent coffee, ho-hum tea, yummy choco-banana muffin and grocery-store quality croissant.
Bloordale_rez / January 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm
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I had a delicious coffee and muffin at this joint. Also it was a coffee oasis for those coming from the west over the railroad overpass attaching to Wallace. I think it's the perfect place for a coffee joint, considering its an economic vacuum along that strip. What else would or could survive there? A little pricey, but I suppose it's neither here nor there considering some higher end boutique cafés.

My only critique is the poor ergonomic design of the front window table and stools -- I found the table to be incredibly awkward at which to sit. Maybe it was made for giants? Awkward space makes me want to take my coffee to go.

For a cheaper coffee and better seating, I recommend the Paris café at Wallace and Landsdowne. Less hipsters, more seating and cheaper, but equally decent, illy espressi. Pass on the desserts.
nataliapuravida / January 23, 2012 at 01:52 pm
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It's a real treat to have Hula Girl in the neighbourhood. I live around the corner from them, and before they arrived there was nothing else there. Let's not even talk about Crema; way too far just to grab a cuppa! Plus, Hula Girl's coffee is delicious!
Eman replying to a comment from Matt / June 28, 2012 at 04:16 pm
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Buddy, you would not know boring if it hit you over the head with a 1986 motorola fridge phone. Try Ottawa or Toronto 20 years ago. Boring then. Not now.
Tyler / July 23, 2012 at 09:38 am
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$15 for a HALF pound? really?
It's nice inside, the coffee is great but no tables, the one guy is kind of a dick...i'm in the JT, it's cool that it's close but as soon as the industrial units open up on the extension of Edwin Ave, Hula Girl can say goodbye to the clients from JT. It needs to be realistic with their prices given the area is up and coming yes but not Av&Dav right now.
Tom / September 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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This place looks damn unimaginative and boring.
a / September 25, 2013 at 02:00 pm
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love hula!
JIM / August 23, 2014 at 06:58 pm
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Well, this is a first for me - after being so impressed with the displayed shop at the CNE.
So radical. It caught my eyes!
If it wasn't for the CNE I would not know of this unique shop in Toronto (the city of little imagination). Seein' more of Hula Girl shops will definitely make Toronto, helluva better place.

You deliver something so interesting.

Tim Hortons and the rest are just so,so bland. I feel choked withe them!

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