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Cafes

Smock Cafe

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on May 16, 2012

smock cafe torontoSmock Cafe is a new Roncesvalles cafe that offers crafts for kids and respite for parents."The other day," owner Sara Wood begins as we sip coffees by the front-facing bar, "a woman came in from the Beaches with her child."

smock cafe roncesvalles"Her daughter sat quietly at the craft table for a full hour," she continues, "while the mother ate her lunch at another table, had two coffees, and flipped through a copy of Vogue."

smock cafe west endNot a parent myself, I quickly realize the anecdote amounts to a pretty impressive feat. "Those few moments to yourself can really be rejuvenating," Sara says. "She looked like she really appreciated it.

smock cafe toronto roncesvallesSuch is the mission, so to speak, of Smock Cafe. After having her daughter four years ago, Sara realized the need for a cafe that caters to both parent and child. Davina Cheung-Brown and Tera Goldblatt tapped into that market earlier this year with their baby-friendly cafe, Playful Grounds, over on College, but there was nothing in the Roncesvalles community, where Sara has lived for the past 10 years.

smock cafe roncesvalles"There are so many young families here and many of the parents are artsy-types — trying to juggle their kids and careers," Sara says. "But there was nowhere for them to go and bring along their kids."

smock cafe torontoIf Playful Grounds is more baby-minded in approach, Smock Cafe seems perfect for kids who won't put safety scissors in their mouths. The cafe has a play kitchen-station near the entrance, toys and blocks by the bench tables, and even a little hidden "reading nook" just big enough for novice readers or fervent fans of picture books.

smock cafe torontoBut the main kid-friendly attraction is the craft table at the back, which has everything from paints to pom-poms and ribbons and strings, and comes with a full-time "facilitator" who will help kids create the project of the day (fairy dolls, during my visit). For $8, parents can let their kids go at it and escape to a table to make use of the free Wifi and enjoy the soup of the day.

smock cafe torontoSpeaking of, that soup ($6.00) should receive its due attention. Sara comes from a catering background and has personally honed Smock Cafe's daily menu.

smock cafe kidsThe offerings include baked goods such as cookies and muffins, salads including carrot slaw and spinach/pecan/strawberry, and fresh, hot panini ($7.25)--all of which are made at the cafe. For kids there are Kiju juices ($2) and a combine-three menu plate ($4.50) that includes options such as grapes, hummus, and celery and peanut butter.

smock cafe toronto roncesvallesAs for coffee, the blend is Reunion Island (my personal favourite) and my Americano ($2) has that smooth, nutty flavour that has rendered it tops in my coffee books.

smock cafe torontoSmock's basement is currently being prepped for summer camps and classes, though it already offers a changing table (needless to say) and private bathrooms big enough for mom, dad, and child. Paper butterflies and other crafts are already displayed by the sinks.

smock cafe toronto"It makes me happiest to see kids come in and instantly know how to interact with the space," Sara says, glancing at a toddler rolling a toy car, as her mother watches from a nearby table. I'd say that goes for both kids and adults.

smock cafe roncesvalles

Additional photos:

smock cafe toronto

smock cafe toronto

smock cafe toronto

smock cafe roncesvalles

Photos by Morris Lum

Discussion

28 Comments

kat / May 16, 2012 at 03:38 pm
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I have never seen a staff member anywhere but behind the counter at Smock. We supervised our child when we were in on Friday. As did every other parent there.
Terri / May 16, 2012 at 03:52 pm
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Such a beautiful-looking space. Excited this is in my hood!
Joanna / May 16, 2012 at 05:27 pm
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Bright and inviting for both me and my 5-year old. Amazing menu. Will be spending lots of time at Smock - a great addition to Roncy!
Noelle / May 16, 2012 at 05:59 pm
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Reply to Kat: user-pic
'I have never seen a staff member anywhere but behind the counter at Smock'
Umm...never? The cafe just opened Fri./Sat. and it's absolutely beautiful, great food & coffee. What's not to love? I've been there twice since it opened and there was a supervisor there. It's a great place.
Stew / May 16, 2012 at 06:33 pm
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Can I leave my kid here while I go get smashed at the Dizzy?
Todd replying to a comment from Stew / May 16, 2012 at 09:04 pm
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You can leave your kid at home and do that, don't bother with this place if your that kinda jerk...
Jennifer / May 16, 2012 at 09:08 pm
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Good luck with it! We have a kid friendly cafe in my neighbourhood that was great when it opened but now some people have decided to use it as a place where they can get a free babysitter (a cafe staff member) while they use the free WiFi and play on their iPads and smart phones! Such a shame because the concept is great!
Sandman / May 16, 2012 at 09:12 pm
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Great news and welcome addition!
Not planning on EVER going there, but, it means (hopefully) I won't have to hear obnoxious, self-entitled brats at my regular cafe hangout now! ;)
Lil / May 16, 2012 at 09:13 pm
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Great idea, keep all the screaming kids + babies together in one place. Everyone else - where NOT to go for coffee!
PrinceRonces replying to a comment from kat / May 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm
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It's not a daycare, dummy.
Allyson / May 17, 2012 at 01:30 am
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I went in to check it out during the open house and thought it was ok but there wasn't any juices and my 2 year old was offered Pellegrino. They don't have regular coffee or tea and are more worried about getting a liquor license. I was told that they would be charging a nominal fee for craft supplies that parents and kids could choose out of the jars in the back for five or ten cents but now it's a flat rate of $8 per kid even if you are eating and drinking.
Like Lil Beans and Greens who charges $5 for a substandard play area, I see this place relying heavily on classes, workshops and the such instead of being what child friendly cafes in Europe, Vancouver and California already are - cafes that serve GREAT food and are child friendly and accessible. If you have good food, good service and your kids can play for free and there are all the high chairs, kiddie dishes, foods, etc., needed., gimmicks like art and classes aren't necessary and just take away from the cafe.
The cost of the classes is high too so maybe moms in the neighborhood will go here but for us that live out of the way, there is no point going to Roncessavelles that isn't subway accessible when I can spend the same money elsewhere or do projects at the ROM, Science Center, Early Years Center, Library, etc., for free.
If I want to enjoy my food and friends company while my kids play, I will go to Playful Grounds where the staff is great, the cupcakes from Earth's Best are amazing and the play area is FREE, Did you see the cupcakes at Smock? Covered in hardened icing sugar that was dripping down the sides? Not appealing. Buy them from a good baker or learn to make a good buttercream ladies.
I wish Smock the best but they need to be realistic in what they are trying to achieve
By the way, I definitely think more child friendly places need to open up. In Vancouver IHOPS have put in small play areas and their business has increased over 40% since doing so. Moms don't want to be stuck at home nor do they want to be embarrassed or stressed when out.
I just wish someone besides Playful Grounds would get it right. Just feed us and let the kids play while we relax. Stop selling us classes for hundreds of dollars or making us pay for our kids to play when we are already paying too much for "organic fair trade " this and that to eat at your establishment. Ok, if we don't buy any food or drink, implement a fee for kids to play or use the craftspace or charge for craft supplies like I was told would happen. If we buy food and drinks, the price of the crafts is built in already. There's no way it isn't with the panini being almost $8 and the salad was a small bit of bitter leaves with balsamic vinegar, not even dressing or a proper salad, and the sandwich was cold, small and not very tasty. Who serves a cold, untoasted, rubbery baconed BLT?
I hope the owner is paying attention to the comments and this is all growing pains.
Elgaucho / May 17, 2012 at 10:09 am
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Wow... those WHITE walls will be no more with kids running around.

You should take before & after pics for this article ;)
danielle replying to a comment from Sandman / May 17, 2012 at 10:31 am
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Not sure why you or Lil even read this article in the first place. Oh right, because you're sad trolls. I'm just happy to be able to spend some time with my son in a public venue without the rolling eyes of self-entitled hipsters in our midst. I'll take a screaming kid over a self-important 'adult' any day.
Roxanne replying to a comment from Todd / May 17, 2012 at 01:59 pm
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Sheesh! Obviously Stew is kidding. Seriously?
bisca replying to a comment from Sandman / May 18, 2012 at 12:04 am
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Someone's daddy and mommy didn't love him.

group hug!
bisca replying to a comment from Lil / May 18, 2012 at 12:06 am
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I'm guessing it might be best to freeze those eggs for the foreseeable future.
Lil replying to a comment from danielle / May 18, 2012 at 11:37 am
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Just because someone expresses an opinion different to your own, doesn't make them a troll.

My comment was a positive one - you guys have your space the way that suits you, we'll have ours - it's win-win.

But since you started it…

Speaking of self-important adults, I've lost count of the amount of times I've had my feet run over or shins rammed by an oversized baby buggy wielded by an out-of-my-way-can't-you-see-I'm-a-MOTHER?!

Just because ya'll forgot to take your pill a few years back and out squeezed a slimy critter, doesn't mean the rest of the world should automatically bow down and worship the ground you walk on. It's biology, enough with the holier-than-thou.

Just because to you the sun shines out of your son's ass, doesn't mean he's anything more than a snot encrusted screamer to the rest of us. Deal with it.
danielle / May 18, 2012 at 11:57 am
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Yikes. You may not be a troll, but you've got anger issues. Re-read your first comment - it was a dig wrapped up in sheep's clothing. Your second comment just came across as a scary. I'm deeply respectful of other people's personal space and ensure my son's behaviour doesn't ruin the dining/drinking experiences of those around him. If he misbehaves, we leave. There are bad apples in both camps, and I'm afraid your out-of-left-field invective suggests you represent one of them.
LKF / May 24, 2012 at 03:26 pm
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Had a baby playdate here yesterday. And although things went horribly wrong - my son got a hold of my drink and it spilled all over both me and him. The owner was INCREDIBLY amazing about the entire thing. She even sent me home in her own jeans because I was soaked. She kept me calm and stayed with me until we were both sure my son was fine. Can't put a price on that type of care. Had a good time otherwise. Despite the space being very spacious it was a little cramped with all of our strollers in there. Perhaps best to leave your stroller at home or in the car.
shocked / May 25, 2012 at 05:29 am
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Wow. So many mean people in the world.
All this fury and vitriol over a new business?

opensource / June 1, 2012 at 01:37 pm
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Lil - it doesn't make sense to hate kids. We were all kids once, and so probably annoyed adults not our parents (or including our parents) at that time. Having to share your space with kids is the price you pay for living, period, and living in a society that actually continues to grow. If you don't like it, move to the club med.
Pearl replying to a comment from Lil / June 19, 2012 at 08:45 am
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Whoa - too much anger on this thread! I agree with opensource -- is it the kids you should be angry/annoyed with? I am a mother of a two year old who equally can't stand self-entitled kids and huge obnoxious strollers with even more self-entitled/self-important moms AND dads -- I live in Leslieville! But really, it's the parents, not the kids, who are the problem. This is more a reflection of our current culture, wouldn't you say, rather than kids, who um, have been around for a while . . .
Kowolczewski / August 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm
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Yes Pearl ... Why it's going like this... I'm with You. BTW Blog is cool ;)
Julie / September 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm
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Smock is great, I like the fare they offer and the craft section is very clever (and was totally supervised when I was there). But what they REALLY need is a ramp to get into the place. I can't be the only one with a stroller.
Anna / September 22, 2012 at 05:38 pm
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I've been to Smock many times as part of a Mom's group but if it weren't for the group I wouldn't come. I find the service incredibly slow and the servers not particularly helpful. When I come in I want to sit down with the other moms as soon as possible as I only have a limited time between my baby's naps. I would really appreciate it if the server could just let me pay and then bring my drink over as they are so slow,especially if they can see I'm struggling with a baby. Half the time I don't even want a coffee- I'm only buying one so I can sit in the cafe! Also if they did table service, even if only on an ad hoc basis, they would make so much more money! Once we are sitting it can be a pain to get up but I often fancy something after a while. It could be such a great place. A lot of thought obviously went into Smock but the follow-through is not good. Great service is incredibly important when you have a small baby. At least they finally have a ramp.
LA replying to a comment from Lil / November 10, 2012 at 04:51 pm
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I was just reading through the comments here to see if this is would be a suitable place to bring a 16 month old (I'm going with- not yet!).

I have to say, PLEASE do not label all mothers as the same. Believe me, I do not enjoy the Holier-Than-Thou-Mothers you are referring to. I also do not enjoy people with bad Stroller Manners (or Umbrella Manners or TTC Manners while we're on the subject!), but we are all different. I have a huge SUV buggy- but wait, before you judge, it's because I have no car and my buggy doubles as a shopping cart to bring all my groceries home in. It also has big wheels so I can get through the snow and ice on sidewalks, as I walk almost everywhere. I have VERY good Buggy Manners. I am sorry that sometimes the sidewalk may be a bit narrow, and despite me moving all the way over and apologizing if I am in the way of someone, and often stopping altogether as to not inconvenience anyone, you still hate me. I also want to note that I have never once gone to a cafe with my baby since he was born since I don't want to inconvenience anyone. I am extremely aware of my surroundings and the Mom Hate in our culture and I try my best to hide from it. Thanks for being super over-generalizing and mean and making me even more insecure about being in public ever.
Gina / February 6, 2013 at 03:07 pm
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Terrible experience here. Chicken wrap was full of brown hard bits and bones. Staff were miserable, non smiling and unhelpful. Why would you want to work at a kids cafe if you act like you don't even like children? Really disappointing and I think if the owner had of been a fly on the wall he/she would have been cringing at the whole experience.
Ellen / March 2, 2013 at 09:25 pm
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I've been going to Smock Cafe since I discovered it through my mommy group during the summer. Reading through all of these comments is really surprising. I guess it just goes to show that it is only people who want to complain who bother commenting on here so I'm posting this for all the moms and kids I know who are regulars and love Smock. The food is fantastic, and I love the modified menu for the little ones. The craft table is always a hit with my kids but what I really love is the sense of community that I get from going there. The staff is always lovely, they know my daughter and I by name and are always happy to see us. It isn't a great place to go if you want to sit down for a peaceful coffee (a little one might take your seat and and start eating your muffin!) but that's the nature of the place, and I am so thankful that I have a place like that in the neighbourhood where my kids can really let loose without worrying about offending the non-parent crowd!

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