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Sam James Coffee Bar

Posted by Emily Thomas / Posted on September 9, 2009

Sam JamesSam James does some amazing things with coffee... like making it taste like blueberry. He also makes cappuccinos with heart designs on top, so whatever additional coffee knowledge or skill he possesses, he's already won us over with these two tricks. When Alyssa orders a mochaccino from him this week at his brand new, self-titled coffee bar at Harbord and Clinton, she asks if it will come with a fancy design on top. "You betcha," says Sam. Hook. Line. Sinker.Sam JamesCoffee people like to give Sam James accolades, sometimes even in the form of official awards (like Canadian Central Regional Barista Champion). They throw his name around like celebrity (coffee celebrity!), with top-notch institutions like Cherry Bomb, Manic and Hank's. "Cherry Bomb is where it became fun," he says, of the Roncesvalles café where he got his start as espresso-making champ. His propensity for coffee fun definitely contributes to an endearing presence and personality (and probably those cappuccino designs) but fun aside, there's a science experiment on the counter.

"What's that thing?" I ask.Sam James"That's a siphon," he answers, pointing to the "siphon" option on the menu ($5.31 for a cup). It's categorized under "old school" coffee. He's happy to launch into an explanation of what, exactly, the siphon does to produce a cup. I can't quite catch all the details (aside from the fact that it's like a manual clover) but I'm really happy that Sam James has taken the time to learn them. "Do you want to try some?" he asks. You betcha.Sam JamesEveryone inside the tiny café (with almost no seating) gathers around to watch the siphon in action. We're totally enthralled. "Did you invent that thing?" asks one particularly excitable customer whose clothes are drying at the Laundromat across the street. "No," says Sam, grinding the coffee beans in a manual grinder mounted on the wall. "This was invented around 1840."Sam JamesEach observer gets a taste of the siphon coffee and is told to save some for later because the taste changes as it cools down. The first sip is a deliciously smooth and light but flavourful bit of coffee. It's made with an Ethiopian bean from Toi et Moi, a coffee company in Montreal. "Everyone assumed I would use Intelligentsia," says Sam, "but I wanted something different, more local."Sam JamesWhile we're waiting for our siphon brew to cool, we try out Alyssa's mocha (the one with the heart design) and my Americano ($2.30). They go down so smooth that the caffeine kick seems to come out of nowhere. Alyssa starts to feel like she's on drugs. But you know what's really trippy? That siphon coffee. It's cooled down. It's fruity and floral now, subtle as tea. Sam comes over to ask about it. "Can you taste the blueberry?" he asks. Good Lord, that's what it is. S.J. is right on the money.Sam JamesThe excitable customer finishes up some blueberry coffee of her own and throws in her two cents on the operation. "As a resident of this 'hood, I'm excited," she says, earnestly. "There's nothing north of College."
"Really?" I ask, naming a few coffee places off the top of my head. I don't doubt that Sam James is a welcome addition to the area but doubt, instead, the necessity. Excitable says that there's nothing good at Bloor and Clinton, and College is too far if you're just stepping out for a cup. Sam James is top of the line and right-outside-her-front-door-convenient.Sam JamesSo we're a spoiled bunch when it comes to coffee and I blame Sam James. Seriously, give me a coffee that tastes like blueberries and I'm going to start to think I can have anything I want.Sam JamesSam JamesSam JamesSam JamesSam JamesgSam JamesSam James

Photos by Alyssa Bistonath



Lindsay / September 9, 2009 at 09:21 am
I just have to comment on the photography, it's FANTASTIC. Wow.
Martin / September 9, 2009 at 10:54 am
No matter which shop you went to, if Sam was making your coffee you could count on perfection. I'm pretty reserved with my praise usually, especially when it comes to judging coffee, but Sam deserves it. Regardless of his field of expertise, it's amazing to see someone delve so deep and take this kind of pride in what they do. I'm more than happy to travel half-way across the city for a cup at SJ Coffee Bar any day!
Amanda / September 9, 2009 at 11:03 am
I find it funny that this excitable person is crapping on their neighbourhood, seeing as how Saving Gigi's is only a mere 4 blocks away. Are we really getting THAT lazy?
bobo / September 9, 2009 at 11:27 am
um, Saving Gigi is six blocks west and one huge block north. which wouldn't matter one bit if their coffee was any good. i'm sorry but those cappuccinos they make with SKIM MILK are atrocious.
geg / September 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm
Uh, Linux Caffe is two blocks west
kit / September 9, 2009 at 01:00 pm
correct geg.

linux is only two blocks away and seems to have been forgotten about. its ideal coffee made owned by true locals.

though is seems mr james has done a excellent job
Martin / September 9, 2009 at 03:30 pm
For anyone who has actually tried SJCB and Linux Caffe (which are literally steps apart from each other), I'm sure you will agree that it doesn't really make sense for the two to be compared --it's like comparing Dufflets to Tim Hortons. If you are satisfied with decent coffee or are more into a place with lots "atmosphere" and cushioned seating then Sam James may not make sense for you... but if you are looking for excellently prepared coffee (particularly espresso) where every pour is prepared with special attention then you should try it. There's a Harry Rosen store across from H&M on Bloor street, they both sell clothes within a few steps of each other, but there's no use in comparing because they satisfy completely different tastes/styles... And one of the greatest things that sets Sam James Coffee Bar apart is that the prices don't even begin to reflect the massively superior quality of their drinks... $2.60 for a cappuccino of that gourmet quality is a ridiculous deal, if that's your thing.
liz / September 9, 2009 at 06:35 pm
Sam's coffee is great, and his attitude is as well. This will be my new local (even though it's nowhere near my place)
joejoe replying to a comment from liz / September 10, 2009 at 12:00 am
I love "Martin" comment, spot on.
And "Liz", u r hilarious.
Now I have to head down to have some serious blueberries coffee! Did some one just says Sam James...
Steph / September 10, 2009 at 01:55 am
Dropped in last week... coffee was SO GOOD, the service was excellent- and the design of the place, as is pretty evident from the photos- is gorgeous. Antique and vintage accents and an understated charm about the whole place- its lovely. Everything is so well thought out! I will make the trek whenever I'm in the area (and I live in Scarborough)
Paul / September 10, 2009 at 09:21 am
Just don't park in the bike lane!
max / September 15, 2009 at 07:19 pm
Sam is a well beloved barista throughout this city for so many reasons.

Aside from being an all-around good guy who is always happy to help you fix any barista problem you have (or recommend a tattoo artist) he brews some wicked beans.

If you haven't ever had coffee made by Sam, Emma or Thomas - go. It will raise the bar on your coffee expectations. And that's never a bad thing.
river / September 22, 2009 at 11:50 pm
Wow. These photographs are amazing. I thought I had to go here before I saw these pictures :) The siphon coffee experience sounds pretty wonderful too. Thank you for sharing this.
Alex / October 7, 2009 at 07:39 pm
I love this review. It makes me want to click on in the future. The writing is clever, charming as well as instructive -- and it's animated by spectacular photography. Way to go Emily Thomas and Alyssa!!! Gone past it many a time already, but I'll be trying Sam James coffee for myself in the near future.
james / October 28, 2009 at 08:10 am
Sam James acts like a true profesional, and is respected because of this.
Unfortunately, this is not the same of some of his staff - I don't want to hear other coffee shops, baristas, owners being spoken negatively about. It's not professional to do this, and I like these places, so you are making me, the customer, feel uncomfortable!
Yes, Sam James has a great shop, and makes excellent coffee. It's great the staff have alot of pride that they work for Sam, but have some integrity and watch out who you speak negatively about. It will ruin your reputation, and takes away your integrity.
Sam, keep up the good work. And keep setting such a positive example for your staff - hopefully it will begin to rub off on them!
george sawision / November 2, 2009 at 07:21 pm
What a great addition to the neighborhood. Good Luck, I hope to see you soon to try that great coffee!
Oghey replying to a comment from james / November 8, 2009 at 10:01 pm
Its probably best to post negative things about Sam's business online in return of you not liking what someone, whos name you never even mentioned, said about another shop. Are you better for doing that? Shitty people pay attention to shitty stuff.
rob / November 17, 2009 at 06:09 pm
$2.62 for a cappuccino? Thats just not right!!!
I paid $3.84 for what was probably the world record breaking worst capp ever made at Cafe Uno in the distillery. I know, I know, what should I have expected? Well, there arent many options in the distillery and I just thought how hard could it be to make a semi decent capp? Well, I tossed it after one sip!
Sam, we appreciate the hard work and reasonable prices but come on... you gotta make a living too!
Keep up the good work dude!
bud / January 7, 2010 at 05:12 pm
hey buds.. does anyone know of anywhere in this city where a cafe doesn't already exist? no? so... it would be impossible to start a business doing something you know and love without stepping on SOMEONE'S toes?
D Jeremy Brown / January 7, 2010 at 09:39 pm
Sam is the man that taught me how to be a barista when we both worked at Cherry Bomb, and this could not have happened for a nicer, more down to earth fellow. / January 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm
Sam James is a good friend of mine. I respect him and his attention to his art. There are very few baristas in Toronto that can come close to preparing coffee the way he does. He is brilliant! He has helped me tremendously with my coffee research and is a true authority in the specialty coffee preparation industry... I had to be specific. Great job bro!!
drew / January 20, 2010 at 06:25 pm
sam's been doing this long enough to prolly feel uncomfortable with the suggestion that he can even make his coffee taste like blueberries. the fruit in that cup is typical more of the process employed in drying the harvested coffee. the fruit is both a result of "terroir" and a good amount of ferment from the sun-dried coffee cherry. if the farmer had screwed up, if the dry mill had messed up, if M&T roasters had botched it and if Sam had spaced out while at the syphon you wouldnt taste it.

Sam's a conjurer no doubt. But within reason.

Nice photos.
alley cat / February 1, 2010 at 11:28 pm
alley cat on January 31, 2010 at 11:22 AM

i agree that there are alot of great cafes in the city ,south of bloor st.but has anyone really researched the history of cafes and coffee shops in the whole city....any idea anyone...theres surly a great deal of awesome cafes or coffee shops in the city and some are also located that have never had a write up or any type of public notice....these are cafes or coffee shope that have been around for the last 40 years and still going strong.but they get no regoniction becuase the mass coffee commuters and coffee snobs are all living downtown so no one visits north of bloor st... go try them out then do the comparessing in quality of coffee becuase design is just design but at the end of the day costumers that can say ..that was a great latte or coffee or espresso ,its what counts in the real coffee world.i go around the city and check out coffee houses and cafes becuase its what i love to do everyday...and that is make my costumers great coffee....just a word from your sponsor....
just the truth / February 10, 2010 at 02:04 pm
I find the writers on this blog very bias.
The coffee at SJ is ok.
re: alley cat replying to a comment from alley cat / February 10, 2010 at 09:00 pm
have youuuuuuuu?????
Ed replying to a comment from just the truth / February 15, 2010 at 04:49 pm
I'm with you. Sam is a great barista, and his shots are definitely better than his staff's shots. But still, the coffee is just ok, especially when you're drinking espresso. All that milk in a cap or latte definitely improves the taste.
Daniel / February 23, 2010 at 05:27 pm
Sam Is D Man!
his a Spro can be categorized under "Freaking Awesome"!
just a superb corner. too bad its on the west side.
Daniel replying to a comment from bud / February 23, 2010 at 05:32 pm
midtown desperately need Some good spro joint.
I work @ yonge & yorkmils and I can't find any drinkable spro.

I wouldn't mind going couple Subs-station south or north.

plz do tell if you know any. (on the subway line~)
gigi / April 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm
hey guys its all good but as ally cat said how many of you really know the history of cafes in toronto.some of us have been in this business or working for older traditional uropean cafes for over 30 years now.i think instead of critisizing the owners in what there doing to contribute to a growing neighborhood we should be proud that us as owners are love to do what we do best .now to answer your question about cafes north of bloor ...does anyone know a cafe that has been around for 50 years named tri colore,well if anyone is ever decides to go north of bloor .we do have awesome cafes ...drop by and check them out on davenport(rockabilly rock)st.clair ave.west or east...good luck to all of us in the busness and thank you to all the costumers that are suppoting us and that will keep suppoting us for whatever we keep doing to make your day an awesome one.
Alex / May 12, 2010 at 08:18 pm
Sam, I was hoping you would make my coffee a few weeks ago when I was visiting Toronto from Van. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed you were using that roaster from Montreal - it's not to the standards I would expect of you. I found 2 new awesome local roasters when I was in Toronto, that truly blew my mind. Have you even tried the local offerings? I imagine that most of your clientele are latte drinkers, so I guess it doesn't matter.
jim / May 15, 2010 at 08:14 pm
sam james coffee is the best in the city. most customers aren't latte drinkers, and local roasters blow. you are obviously a moron. next time you should bring up your concerns to sam himself instead of posting on a message go back to van you pussy.
Rashmi / May 16, 2010 at 11:40 pm
SJCB is just alright. There are places that make as good or better coffee which are cosier and more hospitable.
Ali / June 23, 2010 at 11:26 pm
The photos are really nice.
coffee drinker / July 9, 2010 at 10:00 am
Pretty good coffee - also really like Ezra's Pound -
Goober / July 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm
I had a delicious cappuccino there on July 1, and free corn on the cob in lieu of Canada day! Awesome!
jose / July 17, 2010 at 08:21 pm
went in last week with high hopes asked for a soy macchiato got a soy latte!! i appreciate getting more than i asked for but i didnt want a latte. while im here i was at mercury last winter to get a mocha, watched him put it together brought it to my table got a paper took of my coat took a sip and it was cold!!
Barry / July 24, 2010 at 10:54 am
I make it my mission to try every coffee in the city. Had heard about Sam's and am disappointed to say this is a classic example of "over promise and under deliver". Perhaps a little less time spend on self promotion and knocking competitors on social network sites might make for a better coffee.
Brett / July 24, 2010 at 12:10 pm
Who cares if there is a heart on their latte? That's like buying a bottle of wine because of the pretty label on the bottle. Quality and Taste...these people should support local roasters...aren't they a local coffe place? The staff here think they are too cool and personally I don't care how good looking the Barrista is as long as I get my shot the way I ordered it. Overall bad experience...
Jamie / July 28, 2010 at 07:37 am
Barry - couldn't say it better! The people working here think they are the coolest. Especially the girl they have working. I can't stand her unprofessionalism and attitude. I've heard her bash many a cafe around town - is she that jealous of their success?? Sam needs to hire better employees and stop thinking his name is going to bring him success. His coffee is from Montreal and tastes burnt.
Ben Weeks / July 31, 2010 at 05:31 pm
Again, the photography is great. Looking forward to visiting soon for the first time.
Ben Weeks / July 31, 2010 at 05:32 pm
Excellent photography and enjoyably written review too. I'm looking forward to visiting soon for the first time!
Bbob / August 4, 2010 at 03:36 pm
you don’t need to talk smack about cafes around town to prove your worth - your cafe is great as it is. Drop the hostility lady.
John / August 13, 2010 at 10:46 pm
Coffee is ok, not great. But ok.

Really bad service here.

SJ has to huge ego....

I will never go there again.
Michael replying to a comment from John / September 28, 2010 at 10:26 am
How is the service possible bad there- what service do you expect at a coffee shop? And how does SJ have a huge ego? He just does his thing and makes coffee.

You have a whorish little mouth
Jme / October 22, 2010 at 11:01 pm
The first time I went into SJCB just a few days ago, there was a great sense of community. Many regulars and many locals from the area were there for their morning coffee including SJ's own father. It was a great experience. A pair of girls were in the shop, one of which did not have enough money for a coffee and another customer paid for her. SJ then matched the generosity and provided the friend a free coffee as well. The girls were grateful and had initially tried to insist on paying for the coffee to which SJ just replied, "It's okay, just pay it forward and have a good day." How wonderful is that?
Then as I waited for my americano, SJ's father said thank you for the coffee and SJ said, "I love you, see you later." It made my morning and coffee experience. The coffee went down smooth too.
Harley replying to a comment from Brett / November 26, 2010 at 01:55 pm

The design itself on the latte doesn't really matter, but in order to do any latte art whatsoever required properly microfrothed milk. Think of the art as a quality certification instead of just a pretty label.

I have no reservations saying that SJCB is the best coffee I've had in Toronto.
Niall replying to a comment from Jme / November 28, 2010 at 12:35 pm
Thanks for throwing that in there, Sam is a totally solid dude with his ego completely in check. I think you nailed it though, its not just about superior coffee and honest service, it's about community.
Pat / June 4, 2011 at 05:46 am
Barry is correct this place doe not match up to its hype. Average coffee served by surly staff who bash other coffee spots that ironically are much better than Sam james.
Wholesale Coffee / June 29, 2011 at 06:00 am
Grate post by authour on sam james coffee
Neil / July 13, 2011 at 12:25 pm
user-pic are entitled to your opinion. However, it is very, very wrong. Maybe you prefer a darker roasted coffee, I don't know. Sam is making coffee of the highest order. My wife and I have just returned from our honeymoon in Toronto and Sam James is making quite excellent espresso. My wife owns a coffee shop here in the UK and she is an award winning barista so I'd like to think that she knows a thing or two. We found Sam to be a truly nice guy and his staff very friendly and helpful.
Ronald / July 14, 2011 at 11:02 am
A lot of the comments bashing Sam's "staff" are strikingly similar and seem to be written by the same person. Possibly the owner of one of the truly pretentious and underwhelming cafes (manic) who are in direct competition with SJCB and pissed that he poached the best staff in the area....
Java Joe / July 28, 2011 at 09:57 am
Lots of coffee shops (and coffee shop owners) make crap coffee. Being an award winning barista really depends on who is giving the award. That said, Sam James is a good guy. I have like his staff and the layout of his places are great . I just don't find his coffee great. It's about average. I have tried it a number of times to exclude an off cup, and no to all you Sj lovers I do not own or work for a competitor and never have.
Nick / August 6, 2011 at 08:48 am
I don't care about how the place looks, the staff acts, if there is a little foam flower in my coffee, or how many awards the place has won. I just want a good cup of coffee and I can't get it here. One grade above Tim Hortons and that is on a good day. All this talk about "a great sense of community" is B.S. because he does not even support the local community by using local roasters.
sarah / November 29, 2011 at 05:48 pm
Agreed that SJ has some of the best coffee around. I think that's impossible to dispute, but if the customer service gets any worse, the place is sure to go out of business sometime soon. Any time you are so extreme in your beliefs that you begin to alienate the rest of the community and make everyone else wrong, that's a problem. Sam depends on the biking community to support most of his business, but does little to welcome the young families that are within walking distance. My husband and I have supported Sam since he first opened and I have been telling anyone who would listen for ages that his coffee is easily one of the highlights of Toronto's best in class. Today, as my husband and I drove up and stopped outside the shop so I could jump out (we were literally there for 15 seconds), a customer of Sam's came out, banged on our window and swore at us agressively (I had my 1 yr old baby in the car). I then watched as she walked back into Sam's shop and was high-fived by Sam and other people all of whom were laughing and cheering her on. All this because she wanted us to know that she wasn't okay with us stopping for 15 seconds in the bike lane - on a street where there is no where to stop but on the side of the road (and p.s. there was absolutely no one on the street at that moment, we checked before pulling over obviously). I was a fan, but I will never be back again. Good luck Sam James. You better sell a sh*t load of $4 coffees to stay in business if that's how you treat your customers.
sam james replying to a comment from sarah / December 16, 2011 at 01:55 am
Dear Sarah,

I'm very sorry that you had a bum experience, and I understand that it might have been very upsetting for you, but you are presenting only one side of the story.And while I make a point to not bother with comments and battles on the internet, I feel it's only fair that I defend my shops' bike lane policy and clarify what happened in this specific example.

The initial conflict was not directly related to me or my business, other than the fact that you chose to park in front of the store to come in for a coffee, and another customer let you have it. I never asked, endorsed, or commended my customer for approaching you like she did, period. After the incident, I asked her to not approach other customers regarding the parking in the bike lane, but to leave this responsibility to me and my staff.

I remind you, as well as many of my customers, that there is a clearly visible By-Law sign on both nearby posts that prohibit parking in the bike lane, as well as a politely worded sign in front of my store (and my neighbour's store) clearly asking that customers not park in the bike lane.

Our store policy regarding the bike lane is that staff will ask our customers who fail to see and/or respect those signs to find an appropriate parking spot while we make your coffee, and to park in a designated, safe spot each time they visit the store.
Anybody who refuses, will be respectfully refused service. I and my staff feel comfortable doing so, because we are protecting the safety of many of our customers and other members of the community who are cyclists. It's not our intention to alienate customers and community members who drive, but feel the need to do what we can to avoid a preventable accident in front of our workplace.

We will not tolerate customers who endanger the lives of others on the road for the purpose of conveniently coming in for a coffee. Nor will we tolerate individuals' disrespectful behaviour towards customers and staff.

I understand that it is not my duty to enforce the laws, or to try and educate people that bike lanes exist so that cyclists may use it for clear and free passage, that it is not a parking space, or a safe place to pull over except in an emergency.

However, when it comes to matters of endangering my other customers who do use the bike lane, because you find it inconvenient to use the free parking, I do take it upon myself, and empower my staff to bring awareness to how unacceptable that kind of action is.
Parking is available on side streets, on the north side of Harbord from Bathurst all the way west to Montrose, or in the vacant lot at Harbord and Frank Kovac Lane, all within a 1 minute walk. It requires a little more planning, especially with small children, but the rest of my customers manage to do so without issue.

I won't see a person be killed in front of my store, because I was too afraid of alienating somebody who might buy a $4 coffee. The money is not worth that to me, the same as the inconvenience of finding a parking spot and walking an extra minute should not be worth that risk to you.

I know you did not see the harm in a quick stop for a coffee, and that is why I insist on bringing to my customers attention the reality of the danger of parking in the bike lane.

Whether you don't see a cyclist coming behind you, it takes only a second for an accident to happen. Driving a car is a responsibility that comes with certain conveniences and inconveniences. It's inconsiderate to expect the same conveniences of being a cyclist or pedestrian while driving a car.

When I ride my bike, I don't stop and leave it in the middle of the bike lane to get a coffee, I park it at the nearest available ring and post.
As an owner of a car, you take on the responsibility to not only drive safely, but to find safe parking.

I hope this explanation makes my point, and that you can agree with at least some of it. I do hope you return again for a coffee, and that we can let this be in the past. If you or any customer takes issue with an aspect of my business, I'd prefer you take it up with me directly, rather than airing your grievances on the internet.

Sam James
Angela / January 2, 2012 at 02:13 am
Very reasonable and well thought out response. Good on you Sam.
Alex / January 2, 2012 at 09:15 am
Well written, Sam. Thanks for the support.
sarahisanidiot / January 2, 2012 at 10:14 am
Sarah, you're exactly what's wrong with everything today. You don't think your actions, whether only for a second, affects anyone around them. The bike lane is a lane. Just like the car lane is a lane. Why don't you stop in the middle of the car lane.

It's only for 15 seconds? I'm sure the other drivers wouldn't mind. They can go around you in the other lane they are not supposed to be in and figure it out with oncoming traffic.


Christina / January 2, 2012 at 10:17 am
"I then watched as she walked back into Sam's shop and was high-fived by Sam and other people all of whom were laughing and cheering her on."
Sounds like a really mature way to treat your customers, also went in there with my husband who loves coffee more than anything! He was not only disaspointed by the service, but said the coffee was gritty, service was bad, and now looks like owner cares more about parking than his customers, or only certain customers! I get the bikelane thing, but allowing another customer to a threaten and harass a women with a baby and reward her for it? That is not the kind of person I want to give my money too!
Bike Hater / January 2, 2012 at 10:39 am
I love driving and I hate all bikes. Especially e-bikes. I mean what the hell is that? Anyway, still, if someone parks their car in a bike lane, that means bikes gotta pass them in the car lane. That's where I am, trying to drive my car. I don't want bikes in my way. So stop making bikes drive in my car lane, Sarah and Christina. Do what Sam James says. Do what I say. Also it's the law -- don't go to jail because of bike-riding pinkos. Go to jail for your terrible grammar.
Bike Rider with Driver's License / January 2, 2012 at 11:25 am
"That's where I am, trying to drive my car. I don't want bikes in my way."

That's too bad, and highway traffic law in Ontario doesn't support you, either:

§147 (1): Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (1).

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to a driver of a,
(a) vehicle while overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(b) vehicle while preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or
(c) road service vehicle. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 147 (2).

Vehicles meeting bicycles
§148 (4). Every person in charge of a vehicle on a highway meeting a person travelling on a bicycle shall allow the cyclist sufficient room on the roadway to pass. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 148 (4).

Translation, in plain English: a bicycle is a vehicle under provincial law. A bicycle, like a car, motorcycle, or horse, is permitted to occupy a lane or, where not practicable, the safest amount of space to the right (not left) side of, say, a two-lane road. Generally, this requires that a bicyclist be at least a solid metre minimum from the right curb — outside the path of slick metal storm grates and where dirt, debris, and road salts cake up. You would not wilfully drive on broken glass and nails and other debris using your $300-a-tire Yokohama or Pirelli touring radials; and there is no expectation that a bicyclist must to it, either.

If you are a driver, and you try to use your horn to signal to me to move off the road entirely (or out of the right lane of a four-lane (or more) arterial), I will shout to you "H.T.A. 1-4-7. IT'S THE LAW." It is your responsibility to know the traffic act. If you use your vehicle in a menacing or threatening way to nudge me off the road (and don't think that that hasn't happened, either, as I've only escaped with my life from that twice — with only one of those landing me in E.R.), I will remember your plate and I will phone the police to, at a minimum, file a formal complaint.

That's all. Glad to hear what you really think. Obey the law, and as a city bicyclist (I've held a driver's license for 23 years and owned my share of cars), I will do no less than the same. Impede on me at your own peril.
james / January 2, 2012 at 01:55 pm
a really polite and well-reasoned response. thanks for taking the time to communicate your thoughts so eloquently, sam. i've been meaning to come into your shop for a coffee for a while now. time to make that a priority, i think!
Lauren / January 2, 2012 at 02:29 pm
Sam, your response to this bike fiasco leaves me feeling much the way your coffee always does - warm, hopeful, energized and endlessly impressed with how consitently good you are. Well done, sir.
D. / January 3, 2012 at 04:21 pm
I am a frequent customer of Sam's, and that's saying a lot. Aside from the odd latte at Capital (previously, Blondie's), coffee was never my thing. A little under two years ago, I had my first taste of what seemed like a coffee made especially for me. The fantastic brew, paired with flawless service by enthusiastic, friendly staff kept me coming back.

Sam is not only a good businessman, but a fantastic barista and, from the looks of it, a kind person that cares about the community he lives in. That being said, it's pretty shitty to try and besmirch his name because you don't like obeying the law, or because you can't be bothered to park around the corner and carry your beloved spawn in the way so many of the other patrons do.

Sarah, I think you'd be hard pressed to find many other people who would mind shelling out the $4 for a great cup of coffee, served with a smile. SJ has enough grateful customers, and I'm sure with your attitude, your business will definitely not be missed.
Rob Ford Hater / January 3, 2012 at 10:47 pm
Hey 'Bike Hater'!

We'll see what's up when I throw my pink U-lock through your fucking windshield next time you cut me off on the road! See you out in Thornhill..Oh wait, no you won't. Stay in the 905 and out of Toronto affairs, you cuntservative!
Rolfcopter replying to a comment from Rob Ford Hater / January 6, 2012 at 05:41 am
I may also be a bike hating cuntservative living that will drive 20 minutes out of my way for SJC, but I do support Rob Ford riding a bike in tight hipster jeans.
Chris / January 14, 2012 at 06:31 pm
I guess it is safe to say, for every douche bag that visits/works at the coffee shop, there are like 6 regular people..

sound familiar?
Waffles / January 16, 2012 at 05:02 pm
It's me. Terrorist of babies and cars. I'd like to get the record at least reasonably straight. Possibly approximating something vaguely accurate.

That morning, it was raining. The pressure had lifted and I was all light and energized. I felt cozy belonging in my neighbourhood; like a participating member of a community.

An SUV parked in the bike lane, and without asking permission I ran outside and gestured in air traffic control style for them to go around the corner. They watched me for a while, without rolling down their windows.
Rain was happening! I was getting wet.
They looked at me through their tinted windows, behind which there was apparently a baby, which I couldn't see.
By the time they decided to hear me, I was pretty geared up from the gesturing/dancing and said loudly (but certainly not yelling, and with a smile on my face), "hey! Get the f* out of the bike lane!"
I immediately tried to grin after dropping the f-word because I hadn't meant to be so abrasive. I just swear a lot.

The man leaned over his wife and said, "You're a BITCH!"

In retrospect, that was fairly inappropriate language in front of a baby, but I don't tell people how to speak in front of babies. Maybe bitch is an important word that he wants his baby to learn early on? I am not an anthropologist.

I grinned and said "I know!" And then ran inside! Because I am made really nervous by tinted windows and large angry men! Also, it was still raining.

I told everybody in the store I'd just been called a name, because it was so weird and novel. Some people commiserated with me, and then I heard a big slam and Sam say "whoa!"
The lady really let me have it. There was lots of yelling. I said "I'm really sorry, I just swear without thinking I shouldn't had worded it that way." More yelling. Some repetition. Finally she said "Are you scared now!?!?"
I was, but I said, "Not really." But I was. She had been really slammy and I had seen way too much of her eyeballs.

So that's it! That's what happened. Anyone who's seen me around knows I wouldn't bother trying to lie for my reputation.
chris / January 17, 2012 at 01:33 pm
my goodness waffles get a grip
YayForInternetComments / January 18, 2012 at 01:10 pm
Just, wow. One day, future historians will look upon this page as the epitome of what anonymity unleashes from within. Wow.
Ben / January 26, 2012 at 03:05 pm
Yeesh, this is embarrassing.
SomeoneThinkoftheChildren / February 22, 2012 at 08:16 pm
You guys.
Stonner / March 29, 2012 at 07:19 am
Every time I am in Toronto I go to SJCB. Great coffee and he is hot looking.
Fletcher / April 8, 2012 at 04:30 pm
Anyone in the west end check out LaRose Bakery (140 Larose Ave. [Scarlett and Eglinton])

Try their Cappucino and let me know how it compares with SJ
I'm very curious...
natrix / July 9, 2012 at 03:18 pm
I tried their coffee in the PATH. My co-workers and I are coffee fiends, that like to just drink regular ol Java. And we will down it.

Sadly, several of us (including myself) was disappointed in the coffee, to the point where finishing a small cup (which is ~$2.30) was just a chore. Apparently it is supposed to taste like blueberries.

However, another co-worker of mine said that their cappuccinos and espressos are top-notch (which I can't comment on as I haven't tried).
Travel Photographer / September 27, 2012 at 11:22 am
I was very excited to try one of the best cappuccinos in the city this morning. I ordered a cappuccino to go. The barista gave me the stink eye while I took a few pictures of the coffee bar for my global coffee bar personal library. Then he made the wrong drink and sneezed in it! When I took the drink from the bar, he threatened me that my pictures better not show up online. Get overyourself SJCB. There are better coffee bars in the city.
Greg replying to a comment from Paul / January 4, 2013 at 01:22 pm
Kate Turner / April 6, 2013 at 10:59 am
It's not nice to assault those who don't share your views. It's criminal, actually.
Norm / April 27, 2014 at 07:58 pm
I crossed town today to try his coffee on Harbord. The capuccino was lukewarm and bland to the point of no coffee flavour at all. Must have been a bad day, I guess.
Sanday replying to a comment from Norm / May 8, 2014 at 01:53 pm
Yeah, there's nothing really special about it at all. It was pretty decent when Harbord was the only location, unfortunately it goes downhill each time a new one opens. I stopped going after a consistent string of bad experiences with customer service and quality last year, so it's interesting to hear it hasn't changed much.
Sebastian / July 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm
Canada Day morning, out for a nice quiet coffee in the neighbourhood (Harbord st) but our nice was met with selective snobbery. The baristas behind the counter managed to put a sliver in our relaxing morning off in the city. My boyfriend who arrived into the line less Sam James coffee shop to order a simple latte, ended up waiting for over 10 mins for. He also watched patiently as the crowd who arrived well after him, start to receive their drinks before his. After the 13th min he decided it wasn't worth the wait. He left without the coffee he paid $3 for not to mention the $2 tip he have given them, as the two girls behind the counter just watched him, unconcerned as he waited. Not sure what prompted the selective baristas to decide that he would be the paying customer to wait, without any explanation for why his drink was taking so long, and why, everyone else was getting their americano's before his. To the ladies at the bar, and the owner of the establishment, coffee is only as good as the experience behind it, and the baristas tainted the deliciousness out of our morning drink. Sad because i love the coffee but won't go back for the snobbery.

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