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The Mascot

Posted by Elizabeth / Posted on May 4, 2010

the Mascot cafe torontoThe Mascot opened last month in the huge corner space at Queen and Elm Grove that has been vacant ever since The Shop Custom T-Shirts moved out about a year ago. Gone is the bright pink exterior and the obnoxious signage and in its place is a coat of freshly painted black and a more subdued aesthetic. It's a big space compared to other Parkdale cafes but that's because a good chunk of the interior is dedicated to showcasing art.

Mascot cafe torontoMaster carpenter and prolific graffiti artist Kwest is currently showing his stunning graffiti inspired woodwork for the month of May. And he's also is responsible for the massive custom bar, on which a vintage La Victoria Arduino sits. Chances are you can pull up a Victorian style armchair and chat him up, as he's frequently hanging around the cafe.

Mascot cafe parkdaleThe Mascot is run by long time friends and business partners Eddie Chan, Mike Krupica and Rico Estoy, who all live in and have a genuine love for the neighbourhood. They named it the Mascot because they felt the space could be just that for Parkdale, a place the community can rally around. And there is quite the wide appeal: old meets new, flexibility meets purpose, art meets function.

It's still a bit of a work in progress but the owners plan to shift the direction of the space to fit the needs of the neighborhood over time. In the coming months the Mascot will play host to film screenings and bi-monthly charity events for Grounds for Health.

Mascot cafe parkdaleSeating is limited for a cafe, but the intent is to keep it open and airy. And you can't help but be drawn to the gallery side while you wait for your espresso. There is free WiFi, and even high fives from the staff, if you're so inclined.

Mascot cafeThe vintage espresso machine is a conversation piece but it can be known to pull an inconsistent shot from time to time. Regardless, the people behind the counter are well versed in its finicky ways and do their best to compensate. The machine is also quite slow, but that fits in with the attitude of the Mascot. It takes you back to a time when it wasn't such a big deal to slow down and wait a bit, all the while enjoying yourself.

Mascot cafe parkdaleEspresso, Americano and similar single shot drinks cost $2.50, while it's $3.50 for a latte and $2.75 for a Cortado. Sweets and savory snacks are brought in from OMG Bakery on Dundas West. Cupcakes are $1.50 and stuffed Foccacia is $3.50. There's also loose leaf tea courtesy of Steve Smith Tea (formerly of the Tazo fame). Try the hibiscus or intense peppermint for $2.50.

Mascot cafe torontoMascot cafe torontoThe Mascot is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, with the potential for extended hours in the summer.



Sean / May 5, 2010 at 10:23 am
This is great space.
sjfbarnett / May 5, 2010 at 10:43 am
great space to a neighbourhood that needs it; and Eddie, one of the owners, is a total sweetheart.
dave replying to a comment from sjfbarnett / May 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm
"great space to a neighbourhood that needs it"

Parkdale needs upscale, hip cafes/galleries? Give me a break! Do you think those who are living week to week need $3.50 lattes? I take it you mean that what is really "needed" in the neighbourhood is to have the poor folks go back into the apartment buildings where they belong, so that the streets can be cleared up for the "cool," "cultured" folks who have disposable income?

Really, what is this place contributing to a community that--because of its many lower income families--keeps its rent a little lower than rents on the other side of the tracks?
Nathan / May 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm
I'm not sure how an operating business (where an empty space once was) could be considered a negative. I welcome any addition to this stretch of Queen that isn't another bar/club. That these guys have restored the space to some of it's former glory says a lot about their respect for historical architecture and the neighbourhood.
As to having another cafe that pulls decent espresso in Parkdale, I am quite happy.
Graham / May 5, 2010 at 02:43 pm
Another blogTO coffee review that is sure to provide you with photos of coffee, but can't even tell you about the beans being used...
Elizabeth replying to a comment from Graham / May 5, 2010 at 03:35 pm
Hi Graham, the Mascot uses beans from Reunion Island. Sorry for not mentioning it in the post. :)
Jer / May 5, 2010 at 08:29 pm
arghh - looks great - but suburb hours again! What about post dinner community support? I am tired of coffee shops who cater to the people who seemed to be able to wander the streets during the day and not so much those who day-work and want a non-bar to go to after... ho-hum. Open until 11pm please, even if not super-profitable.
JR replying to a comment from dave / May 5, 2010 at 09:29 pm
Fair point in that the neighbourhood's residents are mixed, but mixed doesn't mean that everyone frequents Coffee Time. Parkdale's proximity to downtown means that there'll be some people in the area who have heard of a latte. Sorry.
hides / May 6, 2010 at 11:04 am
stunning space, amazing coffee and beautiful people - what more do you need?

can you guys open Mascot II on College? its much needed.
cmw replying to a comment from dave / May 6, 2010 at 01:32 pm
what ought to go there instead? in addition to lower rent costs attracting poorer families, lower rent costs also attract poorer artists. how can opening up a new gallery space with an auxiliary raison d'etre be a bad thing? it keeps buildings from going otherwise unused, helps to maintain the vibrancy of the community and is locally owned. god forbid anyone wants to drink coffee.
Martin / May 6, 2010 at 02:30 pm
Great coffee and great people! This is one of those awesome spots where you can be sure that the people running the place are putting their heart and soul into it. Wish them lots of success!
Adrian replying to a comment from hides / May 6, 2010 at 10:36 pm
The Green Grind on College is cool place to go. The Bookworm is too grunge and Manic, is...Manic.
priscilla replying to a comment from dave / May 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

Like it or hate it Parkdale is a diverse neighbourhood. It is made up of a wide range of incomes and backgrounds.
I welcome any business that is locally owned, not another bar/club, supportive of local artists and is working to benefit the neighbourhood as a whole.

If you don't like it go to Coffee Time. (Coffee Time Donuts Incorporated has grown dramatically to some 300 locations across Canada and now overseas in Greece, Poland, China, and Qatar. Franchising prospects for future expansion are also underway in the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait).
dave replying to a comment from priscilla / May 7, 2010 at 11:23 am
People are talking as if the only options are commercial chains, or artsy coffee shops with expensive wood bars and antique furniture (to capture the "authentic past" of Parkdale--Please!). What about Jason's coffee place at Macdonell, or Queen's diner [across the street]. Places like this are frequented by locals, many of whom can't afford (or just don't want) to pay $3.50 for a coffee. Yes, these places are not pretty, and there's no fancy artwork on the walls, but clearly they're servicing a real, living need in the community, and allowing the less wealthy to occupy the public spaces they live near.

Artsy places with fancy espresso machines have better coffee, which I know is crucial for those low income artists to make their excellent art. But, let's be honest, this cafe is a lot more like the Parkdale Drink or The Stones Bar, than it is like Jason's. And, though it is capitalizing on its apparent street cred (by being West of "Queen West West"), in the end, it's really part of a movement that will extend Queen West West to Landsdowne, at which points the rents and real estate will go up (thank god, for those who've purchased a cheaper home nearby!), meaning fewer and fewer public places for those with lower income. And this means those so-called starving artists will also have to look elsewhere for affordable housing.
JR replying to a comment from dave / May 7, 2010 at 11:43 pm
And so well designed cafes with good coffee can't exist? Gentrification is going to happen when an area is within walking distance of the downtown core. Feel free to bitch about how independent businesses are ruining Parkdale's grungy aesthetic, but I'm really still not convinced it's a bad thing.

Also not too sure about low-income residents losing "public places." I haven't witnessed any cases of the public sector selling off parks or community centres in the area. Businesses are private, whether they appeal to high or low income residents. It's as simple as supply and demand. If people will come, someone will build it.
Bad_Self / May 8, 2010 at 09:43 am
How are there not even enough "public places" like Happy Time, Jason's, Parkdale Breakfast, Sun Fa, Jasmine's, Stavros and many other older institutions? This hood has way more bars/coffee shops than most others. Not to mention all the Vietnamese, Indian, Ethiopian, Tibetan and many other cheaper eateries. These reflect the diversity of the area as does the café scene, and frankly Toronto (not just Parkdale) is finally getting on the same page as most other urban centres with the good quality café thing and I say it's about time!
JumboJones / May 13, 2010 at 10:47 am
I saw on their window that The Mascot and Reunion Island Coffee will be having a Free Coffee Day on Saturday May 22!
Arby / May 18, 2010 at 01:23 pm
I quite enjoyed my visit here the other day. I thought I was working on this particular Monday and it wasn't so. So it turned out to be a good day for a solo coffee crawl.

I started at Voulez Vous where I just said hello to my friend Sean and had a quick, fine espresso. I then hit up Te Aro, which I do from time to time, and Sean (another Sean) pulled a couple of fine shots for me. We got talking about short, long, regular and ristretto shots when he got the idea to pull us a couple of ristrettos. I'm glad he did. Wow! I'm loathe to make a barista work too hard for me, but I might try this more often. Then I did The Rooster where Sean (another Sean and I know I've got one name spelled wrong), the owner, tried an Ehtiopian blend on me after I had retrieved a pop from the fridge. I relented and was so pleased I did. Then I stopped into Savoury Grounds (definitely 'not' for the coffee) which I work across the street from and had a sandwich and made a phone call to Sean at Voulez Vous. He had mentioned The Mascot to me but I had forgot the name of the place. And I thought I'd go check it out. So from SG I eventually made my way over to The Mascot.

That's pretty cool when you can call up a coffee shop - Voulez Vous - and say "What was the name of that coffee shop you told me about again," and it's not an issue at all. Julie, the owner, answered and put her partner Sean on the line.

That's what I like about Indie coffee shops and that's, I guess, something along the lines of the positive, supportive approach to the biz that members of the Coffee Conspiracy have. (I'm not endorsing it the Conspiracy. I'm just saying...)

I can't believe I forget the name of the friendly barista who looked after me so well in The Mascot, but he's the tea lover. Even after reviewing the names above, it escapes me. I'm too burned out to remember stuff these days.

The espresso was okay. The coffee is Reunion, which I don't know a whole lot about. I'll have to do some research on it. My friend says that he and his partners went with it because of social factors, which I respect. But the cup is important. And I made the point that while you can try to do things ethically, If coffee is the physical core of your biz, then the cup's gotta be good. And I suggested that he keep in mind that they can have more than one supplier. That also keeps things interesting, in my view. Customers have variety and, while not all of them will care, coffee geeks will. And Don't you want to please them? They go out and spread the word.

But the fancier you get, as Von at Bisogno explained to me, the more labor intensive it gets.

For a fact, The Mascot is a cool place. It's just darnright cool. One negative about it though is the dearth of seating. I love flitting around from coffee shop to coffee shop and re-visiting many. The lack of seating and the prospect of not being able to sit down and relax after TTCing all the way in from Scarborough might make me less enthusiastic about heading out to some places. Although in my case, I know so many and there are so many new shops popping up all over that it's not such a big problem.

I really enjoyed my visit and really, really feel bad that I forgot the dude's name. Forgive me? I'll be back of course.
Ryan Hobson / June 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm
Mascot is an incredible cafe; the space is beautifully decorated with some really amazing pieces. I'll be back time and time again!
cathyg / June 25, 2010 at 09:18 pm
lov it here
Tina / August 25, 2010 at 03:59 pm
My fave coffee shop in my hood - by far the BEST americanos!!! I love my Parkdale :)
Jainafur / November 14, 2010 at 02:41 pm
Dave, having lived in Parkdale for 15 years I can say that I am hard pressed to see your point about this being a negative change. There are plenty of places to get coffee if you are on a budget. Its not like they moved out another coffee shop that was frequented by lower income locals to put in the Mascot. They have done a great job with this space. Does everything have to be lit by florescent lights, smell of cigarettes (from a time gone by where smoking indoors was allowed) and sell $1 coffee to be considered acceptable to you? It takes all kinds to make up the hood and right now there are places for everyone. I am on a budget and can't afford daily latte's but I don't begrudge anyone who can.
Nicole Walugembe / December 19, 2010 at 05:48 am
My first stop when i left the house on a beautiful summers day in Toronto. The best 'iced hot coco' ever. Not to mention the awesome crew!!! LONG LIVE THE MASCOT! :)
Jonny / January 1, 2011 at 01:22 pm
I'd like it better if they didn't have the Swear Jar.
Other than that, I love these people!
Ellie / January 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm
I love the cafe, the owners, the decor and the art the exhibit. Yes, businesses like these contribute to the inevitable gentrification of Parkdale, but I think the great thing about Parkdale is that hip businesses can co-exist fruitfully with social services and charitable orgs (like St Francis' Table across the street from Mascot).

Also, the owners are artists who are able to live and own their business in Parkdale because of the lower rent! They have generously supported so many art initiatives that make Parkdale so vibrant. Yay Mascot!!!
suzanne / March 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm
I'm all for a location that brings the neighborhood together. Families drop by after dance class - and the atmosphere is both accessible and friendly. The artists' work is fresh, innovative, and thoughtful. It is "refreshed" regularly. Local musicians and artists are spotlighted. I think the Mascot is a step in the right direction with a commitment to supporting community, and the arts. I love the owners. :)
Jeremy replying to a comment from Jer / July 11, 2011 at 01:28 pm
I LOVE the Mascot, and noticed in the article and in the comment thread 2 things: 1) A link to the other cafes in Parkdale, and 2) That someone lammented it is closed @ 6pm and good cafes aren't open in the evening.
To adress BOTH concerns, ACROSS THE STREET from The Mascot is cafe Taste, which opens @ 6pm. They're a night spot only because by day they're making all of their products - even their own ice cream, chocolate and breads. They also get their beans from Reunion Island which is currently the "Cannonball" organic and fairly traded blend. Full disclosure: I work there :)
I hope however that both of these issues can be solved with this post however.
Jacob / October 15, 2012 at 03:45 pm
I like the relaxed atmosphere at the Mascot - especially coming in and reading one of the newspapers that they always have around. Their area with event flyers for local art/music is great for finding out what's coming up.
darth espresso / July 30, 2013 at 09:29 pm
well i think the blogger got it wrong as well the machine is a La Victoria Aurduino, the machine is not vintage, most likely since I own the exact machine myself, you may be confusing the look and copper finish with old. It is no secret Reunion Island sells this model, the athena lever machine brand spanking new. For around 12000.
It makes better espresso than the motor driven espresso machines of the current generation of coffee machines.
If you dial in the shots correctly it makes an incredible coffee.
Nice job Mascot for taking on the piston lever.
check out my shop and you will see the vintage espresso machine.

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