Smock 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."
"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."
Not 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.
Such 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.
"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."
If 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.
But 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.
Speaking 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.
The 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.
As 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'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.
"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.
Photos by Morris Lum