Pardon the pun, but I have to do it: Gail Hawkins has found her niche... in NICHE ESPRESSO BAR, THAT IS. (You can't suppress innate cheesiness, people). Open for about a year and a half, this carefully crafted spot serves real gourmet coffee, specialty teas, in-house baked goods and a well-rounded menu of tummy-pleasing food (hellloooo brunch!).
Everything about Niche is planned to the last detail. A self-proclaimed "control freak", owner Gail makes sure that every menu item, every bit of presentation, every concept is worthy of public consumption. I approve of this extra care, and will celebrate with a glazed maple oat scone.
Gail stresses that only 9% of the coffee market is actually prepared with gourmet beans, and Niche is willing to pay a premium to be a part of that elite percentage. And no Starbucks burn with these beans, no sir. "If you buy the best steak there is, but then you burn it, you've ruined it." Same deal with coffee beans. Not only can you expect premium roast, but you can also savour their six custom blends named for Toronto neighbourhoods - like the certified organic Toronto Island, the dark roast Queen West, or the caramel and chocolate flavoured Kensington Market. Fancy-schmancy, but maybe I want tea instead? Covered, with their fourteen wild-grown flavours.
When it comes to food, extra love goes into the kitchen escapades as well. Baked treats are all made with butter, organic ingredients add a boost of flavour and a rotating menu keeps things interesting. "I won't serve anything I don't love, " says Gail. AND when it comes to reusing and recycling, she points out, "anything we can do, we do." Biodegradable containers, composting, meticulous recycling - she hopes to one day help her building become the first green location on Queen Street.
But the coolest part about Niche stems from Gail's other company called Hawkins Institute, which helps people with Asperger Syndrome acquire vocational skills. She opened Niche with the intention of using it for an apprenticeship program, and all other ideas fell into place later. "Everyone needs to find their niche," she says. By helping people with Asperger Syndrome develop skills, she knows that her employees feel proud to work in a place where there's more to life than the dollar.
M-F: 8am - 5pm
S-S: 9am - 5pm