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Sublime Cafe

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on November 26, 2011

Sublime Cafe TorontoSublime Cafe is part coffee shop, part vinyl store. And it is perhaps that combination that has allowed it to thrive in Kensington Market for the past six years. Oddly enough, the cafe is actually within doors of Sonic Boom, which, you would think, would challenge its record collection. As well, there are plenty of other coffee shops now sharing Kensington rent; much more than the few when Sublime first moved in.

Sublime Cafe TorontoYet the hybrid shop has managed to distinguish itself from the other options, perhaps because it presents each option in a uniquely laid-back way. Its vinyl, first off, isn't simply a miscellaneous mishmash. Rather, it has honed in on vintage blues and jazz, with records by Barry Miles, Pharoah Sanders, First Choice, and even Mr. T (labelled: "Buy this record. Don't be a fool"). The crates line the wall opposite bench seating, allowing customers to break from their lattes ($3.00/$4.00) to peruse the collection.

Sublime Cafe TorontoThe coffee is consistent and smooth, offered a few classic ways using Rufino Super Bar beans. Manager Reza Shelly, who also happened to be part of the driving force behind Mr. Cream this past summer, tells me the initial idea started with coffee, but eventually evolved to include vinyl.

Sublime Cafe Toronto"All of our friends are record collectors," he says. "Basically, we were running out of room, so we thought it might be a good way to stand out by offering them here."

Sublime Cafe Toronto"We try to focus on soul, jazz; there's a little bit of psych and afro in there too."

The music in the crates (and also paying on the turntables hooked up to the cafe's sound system) reflect the type of live performances you'll catch there some Sundays. It's all part of the vibe, which, according to Reza, is that of an "analog cafe."

Sublime Cafe Toronto"We're not going to tell you not to bring your laptop," he says. "But there's no Wifi; nowhere to plug in. We want to get people to socialize."

Sublime Cafe TorontoReza certainly helps to get that going, as we continue to chat as he prepares me an Americano ($2.00). I challenge him about the cafe's name, and though he admits he was a fan of the band Sublime ("15 years ago," he says), the shop wasn't named for that reason. "It's more about all the different things the word means," he says.

Sublime Cafe TorontoI leave it at that and take off with my drink, which is smooth and consistent as I often find Rufino coffee to be. Though my Americano does come off as a wee bit mild, I chalk it up to my unintentional, liberal organic milk pour, which was caused by distraction due to Mr. T album art. I guess I'm the fool who didn't buy the record, and poured too much milk in my coffee.

Sublime Cafe TorontoSublime Cafe TorontoSublime Cafe TorontoPhotos by Jesse Milns



Ella / March 10, 2008 at 10:48 pm
The Sublime Cafe has started a Sunday Blues Afternoon. I stumbled upon it the other day and it was truly a swell experience. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon - drinking amazing coffee and listening some chilled out blues music. I highly recommend it!
j / July 16, 2008 at 12:57 am
sublime cafe is a great place. part coffee shop, part jazz record store. great coffee, and great service albeit at a pretty leisurely pace; it was no matter to me b/c i was sucked in by all the jazz albums. it was a very languid afternoon anyhow. the fellow behind the counter even offered to put on a record for me. yay for sampling music! i also found a public wireless network, so yay to that too. i'm not sure if that belonged to sublime but it was there!
angulo / December 8, 2008 at 08:46 am

check out Ken Skinner every 3rd Saturday afternoon...
dorothy / January 10, 2009 at 01:05 pm
Tanya who is sandro? What time can we go and see his art work?
L / January 13, 2009 at 12:19 pm
Sublime cafe makes excellent espresso. Plus they provide the option of good quality fair trade espresso which is rare. The atmosphere is eclectic, low-key, intimate. The place has style, no question about it. And the live jazz rounds out the experience with charm.
Arby / September 12, 2009 at 03:39 pm
I wasn't impressed with Sublime at all. I wandered in expecting to find good coffee and good service. Both were crap. I had a macchiato. The place was slow. The barista was chatting with friend at the bar, which is fine. But he acted like I was butting into his break. I mentioned I had just tried another great coffee shop that day and didn't even respond, which I would expect from someone uninterested in his job as a barista.

What a waste of a great space. Another couple of spots I ducked into in Kensington Market on Augusta, just north of this one, also disappointed. One was like an oven. No one wanted to talk. What a lifeless, dull, rude bunch I always find in Kensington Market! The one place I popped into, which isn't marketed as a coffee shop, but which looks like it serves good coffee, just had me shaking my head. The dude was making an au lait for someone. The aisle was narrow. Otherwise, This place wasn't busy terribly either, with just one or two people on laptops at the back. So I was standing just inches from him while he had his head down, making his au lait, seemingly taking forever, and he couldn't even say hello. And his workmate squeezed by me and they started to chat like I wasn't even there. Good grief!

Moonbean I was to once on another occasion. They were unbelievably busy - and they still looked after me and pulled me a proper espresso. So, The business there, I get.

I'm so outta those other jokey places.
luis gasca / April 23, 2010 at 12:33 am
best Esspresso in the market
best record collection i've seen in Toronto
Piper replying to a comment from Arby / August 12, 2010 at 09:17 am
Best coffee!!! Period!!! Amazing atmosphere, amazing people!!! And to the gentlman who said he was unimpressed, Well sir, than you have no taste or any sort of idea what a good coffee shop is, their coffee is rated the best in Toronto by multiple sources. And the place is usually packed. The Batista was talking to a friend because he doesn't have to worry about getting fired, he is infact the owner!!! I'm assuming that no one in Kensington chose to talk to you cuz you had an attitude!!! Kensington market is the friendliest place in all of downtown Toronto. You just didn't try hard enough
avvikande / October 20, 2010 at 05:17 pm
Sublime is... well, sublime. We enjoy heading out for a good walk to Kensington, and always make Sublime our first stop. Who can face the day without a perfect latte?

I can give you a list as long as my arm of the rude and ignorant service I've received in Toronto, but I've always had perfect service at Sublime.
bikeroo / November 27, 2011 at 11:05 am
$3 for a double shot of rufino? Aside from the fact that $3 is on the high-end for a double shot of espresso it's also a low-end blend by classic gourmet.
coffeebean replying to a comment from bikeroo / November 27, 2011 at 01:11 pm
bikeroo's comment in spot on. I'm so tired of cafes selling and priceing themselves as "high-end" while using low-end beans.
Davenport / November 27, 2011 at 01:37 pm
Robyn hasn't steered me wrong yet so I'll give Sublime a try...thanks Robyn for hitting a place I've walked by a zillion times...usually go to Moonbeam or "the place on the corner" to watch the world go by...
Jeff / November 28, 2011 at 09:41 am
Any ideas on the Ginger Beer? I assume they make it in house? How is it made and is it any good?
Sol / November 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm
Sublime's espresso is the best in the market, best high-end beans in Toronto, the only other place that compares in flavour is Bisogno's at Sherbourne/King. It turns out they use the same beans. As far as atmosphere, Sublime and any other place that doesn't offer wi-fi will always be a vibrant bustling and friendly crowd filled with conversation... a welcome change to the sterile laptop cafe culture.
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