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Cafes

The Riverdale Perk

Posted by Dar Mustafa / Posted on August 4, 2009

Riverdale PerkThe Riverdale Perk is a classy little spot in a quiet, residential area. As I make my way through a sea of cute houses, looking for the patio umbrellas to part it, the anticipation is as delicious as the mint lemonade they are about to serve me.

I'm a sucker for a treasure hunt, but living directly on a major street has deprived my daily life of the right to claim such hidden gems. The kind where the owner might ask, "How did you find out about us?" This is a true neighbourhood staple in a neighbourhood very far from my own.

Riverdale PerkAfter a very long day at work, I'm beyond relieved to see their extensive menu, because I know that the usual snack-y cafe fare just couldn't possibly be enough. This might be the reason I proceed to show very little self control; indulging myself in a meal that has me casually stretching my time, wallet and legs as though I have not a care in the world.

I get caught up in the waxy candelabras, more than two chandeliers, and iron stoves (well, one, really), that give the place a kind of almost Gothic glamour. Merged with numerous, quaintly sophisticated details (and un-quaintly sophisticated clientele), the aura of richness intoxicates me and I am tricked into insolently acting (and eating) above my station.

I feel kind of like the Great Gatsby, but hungrier.

Riverdale PerkEngaged in the extensive sandwich list for many minutes, I finally settle upon the portabella mushroom & walnut Panini. With chevre and garlic aioli, I am expecting something not unfamiliar and relatively filling, for a meatless option (mushrooms and nuts being two of the only things that can trick my body into feeling satisfied without it).

Not at all my usual, the presentation blows me away; particularly the intriguing disc of flatbread which looks, at first sight, exactly like a gigantic Breton cracker. But that could have just been my hunger delirium talking.

Riverdale PerkAt $6.75, it is a wee bit small for my insatiable appetite (accompanied by a side of apple salad), but it's tasty as hell, and something tells me that's the more the point.

The lovely owner, Danielle, describes the menu as being "about tastes...," developed "not [by way of] formal training, but more about just [having]...a knack." Her humble yet adventurous approach is the root behind some interesting flavour combinations such as blueberry and chai muffins, and lime and pistachio pie (all made in-house).

Riverdale PerkThe tart and creamy pie ($3.55) is very rich after my decadent meal, but half is saved (with gratitude) for the long ride home. The coffee is self-serve and just the right blend for my exerted taste-buds. This is before I notice the impressive array of flavour-infusions offered on the long shelf of beans.

Riverdale PerkIn a city where everyone is concerned about being the strongest, darkest and espresso-est in coffee, it's cool to see someone injecting some personality and variety into the brewed offerings. Light and delicate flavours are certainly more in tune with the vibe here, anyway.

"Do you have a grinder?" she asks me, going for a sample of one of the more potent beans: Sambuca.

Riverdale PerkMy unfortunately fussy self has always taken great issue with its taste, but appreciates the waft of intensity."The smell fills up the entire room when you make it," she proudly states. Caramel crunch, tiramisu and blueberry (fruit coffee?!) cream are a few other flavour-melds that seem damn near impossible, but I have fun trying to dream them up in a Wonka-esque reverie.

Riverdale Perk"One of my regulars says that we remind her of an old-fashioned candy shop," she says, referring to the eye-widening variety (and comforting ambience, surely).

Riverdale PerkI would have to agree that in the past hour, I have been allowed to feel like a kid in a lemonade, sandwich, cake, and coffee shop, respectively. I am truly looking forward to attending the brunch she plans to offer in the fall. Candy's got nothing on this stuff.

Riverdale Perk

Riverdale Perk

Discussion

29 Comments

Tony / August 4, 2009 at 11:29 am
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my wife has been there twice and has had the worst service experience both times. almost as if she were inconveniencing the girl at the counter by asking for a latte. was also short-changed on one occasion.

pity as we live in the area and would like to support local businesses. if only those businesses gave a shit about customer service.
Wade / August 4, 2009 at 11:51 am
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My wife and I go there from time to time for coffee and a treat. We have never had a bad experience with the food/drink and the staff have always treated us great. Once they even let us walk around the park with their mugs... trusting us to bring them back. Great spot - great review.
Brent / August 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm
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My family goes there all the time, coffee's great, but if you're allergic to eggs the brunch offers little to order. Hopefully the new fall brunch considers this!
Marissa / August 4, 2009 at 12:12 pm
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I have been here only a couple of times and both times I was really disappointed.
The first time ordered a soy latte from a very young girl with attitude after waiting for around 15 minutes for service. It was luke warm at best. Not steamed nearly enough.
But I live so close and would rather support local coffee shops than large chains. So I tried it again.
This time ordered a couple of butter tarts "to go" after (again) being ignored for several minutes. After being greeted (by a different girl this time) by a ridiculous amount of attitude once again, this girl short changed me by 25 lousy cents.
When I pointed out that this had happened she proceeded to suggest that I was trying to scam her out of said $0.25.
I will not be returning to Riverdale Perk.
Steph replying to a comment from Wade / August 4, 2009 at 06:19 pm
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I really like the Perk. I don't know where this attitude stuff is coming from because we have always had a very nice experience with friendly, chatty staff and yummy treats. I just hope they have eliminated their styrofoam take-out cups and replaced them with a more environmentally friendly option.
Louise / August 4, 2009 at 07:29 pm
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I haven't been there in a couple of years (no longer in the area) - but I don't recall ever having anything but fabulous service! I also remember the most DEVINE banana french toast.. simply to die for.
StevenM / August 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm
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My house is only a block away and while I now live on the other side of the world, this place is one of the reasons I look back with very fond memories on my life in Toronto. It's just the sort of neighbourhood cafe that I wish we had here and am sorely missing.
Scott L. / August 5, 2009 at 02:02 pm
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The Perk is a great cafe, but FYI the "intriguing disc of flatbread" you speak of is nothing more than a President's Choice brand hamburger bun...

http://www.presidentschoice.ca/FoodAndRecipes/GreatFood/ProductDetail.aspx/id/18771/name/PCBurgerFirstWholeGrainWhiteBuns/catid/174/language/english
su / August 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm
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The Perk is great spot if they could hire gals with a positive outlook or simply someone who likes people. Hopefully the " I can't give you the time of day" attitude isn't from the owner!? Nice product, presentation, wonderful atmosphere, but not grateful or fun service.
Luuk / August 9, 2009 at 10:09 am
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Living a few houses away from the Perk, it has become a staple in my life - mainly for the coffee and baked goods, but also the occasional sandwich. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, the owner and staff are very friendly, and the quality of food and drinks is excellent.

Having read the above reviews, I am somewhat surprised at the comments about service. Yes, sometimes it might seem slow (probably because the person is making a sandwich in the back), but that's why there is a bell on the counter!!

And, the coffee cups are now paper and recyclable!

If you have the chance to stop by, it's well worth it.
Brian / August 13, 2009 at 01:25 pm
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When I was young and in my prime, before I was married, 2 years ago, I lived on Queen East. Now expecting our first child, we've moved out of the city. Work and friends still bring me downtown regularly and I make a point of stopping at this secret spot my dog Jasper and I "discovered".

Most of the employees are new from when I first found the perk but I've always had a really great experience. My favourite treat to take to the park is the chewy date square.

I recommend many visits.
James / December 15, 2009 at 08:09 am
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I think the standards here are definitely going up. Seems like they are focusing more on the quality of their coffee. And even their food. This is a great neighbourhood spot.
Ace / December 17, 2009 at 06:04 pm
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I agree with comment. I go here because it is the closest place to my house. I was really not into the coffee, but have seen some changes recently. Maybe they are spending more time training the baristas, and they have also seriously upgraded their coffee.
charlie / January 14, 2010 at 12:39 am
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Out for a run today and took a different route along logan when I came across the Riverdale Perk. I had heard a bit around about the place but never had I been before and I can't believe I have been missing out for this long. It was a quiet day and there were quite a few people in having lunch, it smelt fantastic but I didn't want to eat and cramp on my way back. The menu is like fine bistro fare with great prices. The owner, Danielle has such a natural flare for flavor fusion and never have I looked into such beautiful and genuinely caring eyes. AWESOME COFFEE!!!!
Will / January 14, 2010 at 04:10 pm
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This spot is an absolute gem. A client introduced me to it two or three years ago and it has become a favorite place to stop when I'm in the neighbourhood.

It's a cozy place to stop in for a muffin and latte but it is worth a detour to have lunch. The soups are hearty and imaginative, combining delicious flavours in a way I've never tasted before. There is a panini style smoked salmon sandwich and a Niçoise salad that are both out of this world.

The service is very friendly and the entire restaurant is kept spotless.

All in all, a great find.
Carolline / January 14, 2010 at 07:56 pm
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I love to arrive at the Perk just after work when the candles are lit and I can grab a vanila hot chocolate for my walk home. The weekends are great for a brunch and a latte on my way to the park with my fiance and our dog Pepper.
Silke / January 25, 2010 at 12:42 am
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I've been around the Perk for a few months now, and used to stop by now and then. In the new year I noticed a significant change in their coffee, as well as the training of the Baristas. I asked and yes, the beans are now local.
Never had a bad experience with the customer service. The girls are always warm, chatty, and friendly.
Christine Frantz / January 30, 2010 at 09:08 am
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The Perk is a great little place in Riverdale, the food is wonderful and very creative. Brunch is outstanding. Also offers flavored coffee, which is surprisingly hard to find.
Dave / February 1, 2010 at 10:22 am
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I go to the Perk regularly. I've never had issues with the staff. Danielle is very friendly and accommodating to all. The atmosphere in the Perk is warm and friendly. I see many regulars in there daily. The drinks and coffee are top notch. Its a welcome addition to the area.
Laura / August 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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Good and bad: I love the location, and had friendly service, but every time I order baked goods they are awful! I'm not that picky, but I had a date square that was such a weird texture that I threw half of it out: the crust was gummy. It was a sticky handful of molasses covered granola. I also had an apricot muffin that had dried apricots in it...they needed to be soaked or chopped (or use fresh or canned fruit). Both times I actually had the thought: maybe this was made by a child? I really hope they overhaul the baked goods (maybe just pick a few things and do them well?) because I love the spot!
Max / October 4, 2011 at 04:03 pm
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I do not know where these bad comments could possibly be coming from. The perk is one of my favourite cafe's in all of toronto. The service is great, yes it might not be the fastest at times, but they seem very busy and it is always well worth the weight. Both food and desserts are delicious and it is such a cute layout! Stop being over judgemental and give them a chance.
Marty / December 26, 2011 at 01:34 pm
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The Perk is a fav of ours and has been for a couple years now. I prefer a double americano which is short on water. Yum. Food is great, don't be in a rush for it 'cause there's usually only one or two staff there. Well worth the wait. Comfy couch and good music, usually a friendy word or too to be had.
ryan / December 26, 2011 at 02:22 pm
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i haven't been in a while but the perk is awesome, both the food and the service, passed by the other day and noticed the beautiful patio is gone, hope it is only temporary it made having a coffee so much more pleasurable
Alicia Weir (food jobs expert!) / January 1, 2012 at 11:11 am
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Loved the eggs benny :)
Carl / February 21, 2012 at 07:43 pm
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The Salmon Eggs Benny is by far the greatest thing I've ever eaten for breakfast. I live in Brampton but I love this place so much I'm willing to take the hour + transit route to go for breakfast :D
eiman / May 25, 2012 at 06:22 pm
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I tried this place last week. The latte was awful! the girl was nice enough but I couldn't finish the latte. I headed back to roosters coffee house instead.
Ed Delicious / December 17, 2012 at 06:16 pm
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This place is fantastic. I mean c'mon, look at it. Most of the negative comments seem to be from a few years ago, plus you can't hold the entire place hostage for one crappy employee. They even let me leave without paying for a coffee once because all I had was debit.
Bobby Hamon / October 8, 2013 at 12:41 pm
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I used to live in the area (Sparkhall Ave.) and know this location well. The place sounds great and probably just what was needed. I'd certainly be in there. Congrats.
Bobby Hamon (again) / October 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm
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I've just dug out some old photos of when I used to go to Withrow school (1950's). Where you are and Roosters used to be grocery stores and a chip and coke restaurant beside you and there was Murry's diner on the west side of Logan between Withrow and Riverdale Ave. It was and probably still is a compact and friendly neighbourhood.

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