Red Star Cafe
Red Star Cafe is the new Design Republic-owned coffee shop in The Burroughes Building near Queen and Bathurst. Opened since early July, Red Star has taken over the area inside the store once occupied by Lit Espresso Bar, which came and left within a matter of a few months. The reason for Lit's departure is still somewhat vague (they cited an issue with the landlord), but perhaps the key to making this space work is keeping it all in the family. That is; the couches and the coffee all sold by the same owner.
I didn't catch the owners when I stopped to pick up a cup from Red Star, but I did meet their charismatic barista, Chris, who munched on an enormous carrot while we chatted about the café.
"You know," he says mid-crunch. "I don't know why they wanted to run their own café, but we have been really busy since we opened."
And according to Chris, it's as much people off the street as Design Republic customers. "Our smoothies are really popular," he says. "All natural; it's just bananas, and ice, juice." There's no milk, so no dairy.
The smoothies come in four varieties; strawberry, banana, mango, and mixed berry ($4.00), but it's the coffee I'm after. Red Star uses Reunion Island Sumatra, which is one of my personal favourites; a fair-trade and certified organic blend. The menu is standard with Americanos ($2.50), lattes ($3.25), cappuccinos ($3.00) and more, available with soymilk for no extra cost. There's also an assortment of baked goods from Circles and Squares.
Of course, the downside to a café like this is it's not exactly a place to pull out your laptop and get comfortable. There is WiFi available, and--being a design store--there's lots of seating around, but the traffic might make concentration difficult, especially if someone wants to try out the leather English chesterfield you happen to be reclining on.
So I get my iced Americano to go, and Chris and I discuss the abundance of red stars in Toronto café logos while he packs my shot. I could think of three off the top of my head. He pours the espresso right over the ice, adds some water, and hands it over. The drink has a great, bold flavour with a slight chocolate undertone, and I quickly pop on a lid as to not risk muddying the fancy floor models around me. Alas, such are the dangers of a design-store embedded cafe.
Red Star Cafe is generally open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Photos by Jesse Milns