The Coffee Bar
The Coffee Bar is right on trend with the moment we're having where country has suddenly taken hold in Toronto. Following in the footsteps of late night spots like Boots n Bourbon and Rock n Horse Saloon, the Coffee Bar has brought a bit of country to the daytime coffee and espresso scene.
One might rightly ask: what do cowboys have to do with coffee? Is it the current enthusiasm in Toronto for mechanical bulls and line dancing that has The Coffee Bar dripping in rope and horse tapestries and all things Western? Even the barista comes dressed in a vest and cowboy hat. I wasn't sure at first, but this rodeo-themed coffee shop, a recent addition to the otherwise corporate stretch of Front at Blue Jay Way, is so hokey you can't help but smile and saddle up. Best part is the coffee is actually pretty darn good.
It turns out The Coffee Bar is owned by Paul and Marie Coutu of Coutu's Quarter Horses (amongst other businesses), a horse breeding facility in Sutton, Ontario. Their passion for horses explains the décor, and their suave head for business explains the rest.
Catapulting on coffee trends, they outfitted The Coffee Bar with all the latest coffee gear options include Kone, French Press, Chemex, AeroPress, V-60 and Abid Clever coffee drippers while espresso-based drinks are made with the fancy Nuove Simonella Aurellia 3 group machine and prices kept respectable (espresso $2.50, latte $4.00) considering someone else might jack them for the tourists that frequent the area.
The coffee itself comes from small batch Stouffville roasters Velvet Sunrise, whose beans have had a relatively minimal presence in downtown Toronto coffee shops. You can choose between a darker and a lighter roast for your drink, or buy beans to take away. I had an Americano, and my cowboy barista made up a cup with a lovely dark crema, titling it toward me and adding just as much water as I desired. Aw, shucks.
For the many hungry office workers of the neighbourhood they carry a number of take away sandwiches and snacks, brought in from Bite Me Bakery, Foodbenders, Chasers Juice and Pink Grapefruit (a scone is $3.00, the sandwiches between $5.50 and $8.00), and have vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Rather progressive for the ol' West, but right on par with expectations for Toronto's cafes.
The place is actually well-designed for workers. There's quick drip coffee and the grab-and-go food, free Wi-Fi, stools and some seating on the main floor, with a mezzanine upstairs you can book for meetings, or use impromptu. There is an unknowing charm to the place that comes from putting all the campy saloon plaques, barn board, rope signage amidst the on-trend coffee equipment; if it were a person it would be Shania Twain. And that's no dig - I love that cheesy little sweetheart.
Photos by Jesse Milns