Playful Grounds is a kid-friendly cafe that has left the Elmos and Alphabet off the wall. This place has real espresso, tasteful decor, healthy snack options, and (perhaps best of all) booze. It just happens to also be a place that was designed specifically with moms (and dads, and caregivers) in mind.
First off, Playful Grounds has no steps, making it stroller accessible throughout. The front of the cafe has a designated "stroller parking" area, and the tables are wide enough apart to allow strollers to pull right up to tables. Needless to say, there are plenty of high chairs on hand, as well as bibs, first aid supplies, and extra diapers to come. There is also a play area with books, toys, and a train table (plus a bin labelled "This toy has been in someone's mouth") and all of the cafe's tables are guarded with have corner protectors.
Walking into the space, it's obvious that a couple of moms are behind the initiative. And indeed, it is Davina Cheung-Brown and Tera Goldblatt, moms of two and one respectively, who decided to open this cafe on College. Davina tells me she was longing for a place like this after she moved to Toronto from Vancouver not long ago, and found few family-friendly options in terms of neighbourhood cafes. She met like-minded at Tera at the drop-in centre down the street, and the two decided to work together to create a place of their own.
"The fact that the bathrooms were on the same floor was a big selling point for this space," Davina says as she gives me the mini tour. We head back to the family bathroom and by then it's clear that Davina and Tera have really thought of everything. Yes, there's the changing table, of course, but there's also a potty seat, step stool, and chalkboard wall on the inside of the door. "When you have two children, especially, it's good to have something to preoccupy the second child while you're changing the baby," Davina says, referring to the chalkboard. "Here, they can draw instead of touching things they probably shouldn't be."
Back at the front counter, Davina and Tera take me through the food and drink options for moms and kids. "At some places," Tera begins, "a 'kid's menu' has things like chicken fingers, hot dogs — junk, really. Here we offer the same thing, just smaller portions. So you can order yogurt and granola for an adult ($6) or yogurt and granola for a kid ($3.50). There are also kid-geared options such as Kiju organic fruit juice boxes ($2) and hot chocolate ($1.75) made with organic ingredients. Tera says they're working on veggie and fruit plates (with Tera's homemade tofu dip) and sourcing fruits like organic berries that can be mashed up quickly for baby food.
For moms and dad, there's coffee from Alternative Grounds and tea from Herbal Infusions, various baked goods and snacks, and yes, alcoholic drinks. I ask Tera about the reaction to the wine ($5), beer ($5.50) and specialty coffee options ($6.25) on the menu. "Relief," she replies frankly. "At least from moms. There have been no mixed reactions from that end."
"Obviously, we understand what moms need," she says as she pours espresso into a cup of hot water Americano ($3/$3.50). "Any other place, if your kid starts screaming, you become a pariah; you can't get out of there fast enough. Here, we get it, and you can meet other moms who are dealing with the same things you are."
You can also get a pretty decent cup of coffee, as I experienced with mine. Though the cup was still pretty scorching when I first got it, the crema was still intact — nice and elastic — with plenty of room for organic dairy milk, rice, or soy. Tera and Davina have opened with limited hours for the time being (M-F, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), though are hoping to extend to weekends as business picks up. They're considering later hours as well, as long as it doesn't interrupt with nap time.