The Primal Grind doesn't offer the typical pinky-out, recline-and-sip experience of many cafes in Toronto. In fact, it's just the opposite. Located inside the Academy of Lions Crossfit gym on Dundas near Ossington, The Primal Grind isn't focused on lavish indulgence, but rather, it's all about fueling your body with the right stuff.
I walk into the Academy of Lions late one afternoon to Interpol blasting from the stereo, a line of men and women hurling medicine balls against a concrete wall, and Clinton Pontes preparing something hot and dairy-free for a customer at the counter. The Primal Grind isn't really a self-contained café, but instead is more of a stand from which to order drinks and treats, with two circular wooden tables set up nearby.
You can venture inside the stand, though, to pick up prepared soups, eggs, frozen meat from Beretta Organic Farms and more. But what they all the items have in common--including the drinks and treats available from the counter--is that they all adhere to the rules of a strict primal diet.
Pontes, who opened the café with his partner, Freya Ravensbergen, one month ago, sits down with me to explain the principles of a primal diet. "Basically," he begins, "it's about eating the foods that our ancestors ate; the food that our bodies have evolved to consume." That means no dairy, no refined sugars, no legumes, and no grains.
"Sure, our body can process a lot of shit," he says. "But that doesn't mean it's good for it."
Pontes and Ravensbergen, who are both from Montreal, decided to open The Primal Grind in The Academy of Lions since they knew the owner (Ravensbergen works there as a trainer) and figured it would be a good fit for the clientele they would be serving. They regularly serve up espressos ($2.25), teas ($2.50) and other drinks without milk or sugar. Instead, you can opt for an almond milk latte ($4.00), coconut milk latte ($5.00), or almond milk spicy chai latte ($4.00), and sweeten your drinks with raw honey. Sister company Primal Indulgence offers the treats, including apricot nut balls ($2.00) and banana cacao muffins ($3.50).
I sit down with a coconut milk latte and make the mistake of treating it like a normal latte, despite Pontes' warning that it "drinks like a meal." It's smooth and creamy, with a distinct coconut taste, and I begin sipping it down way too quickly. With my cup half empty, I can only pick at the chocolate zucchini spice loaf in front of me ($3), which is quite light and a little crumbly, but I just have no room.
"It's really good for replenishing the body after a hard workout," Pontes says.
Feeling unbelievably full, I take note. Certainly brings new meaning to "survival of the fittest."
The Primal Grind is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak