The Grind is a somewhat ideally, somewhat mysteriously located coffee shop decorated like an eccentric French lady's salon/boudoir. It's a wholly unexpected discovery, as it's located underground at Yonge and Bloor just as you get off the subway.
As I make what I think is a valiant attempt to hunt this place down, I become confused and actually call the owner to find out exactly where on this planet I might reasonably expect to find them. It's a sunny day, and I feel just as an especially befuddled groundhog might. "T-58!" He hollers at me. "Can't miss it!" Right. It turns out it's just down the escalator, and I am pleasantly surprised at what I find when I get to The Grind.
A vast array of healthy lunch options is laid out along the counter as you first walk in. There are small plates of hand rolls ($4.99), sandwiches ($5.99) and "little bite" sandwiches ($2.95), as well as baked goods from Jules and Circles & Squares.
The atmosphere is nice and quiet, with people snuggled into the antique armchairs reading or having low conversations over tea. A small crystal chandelier hangs from the ceiling, and ornate old frames are arranged on the walls, many of them with no pictures inside. It's very granny chic with a shabby edge. It sounds like an odd choice of decor for an underground cafe, but the vintage touches make it more cozy than it would be otherwise. I won't lie, it still seems like a strange basement cafeteria, but, somehow, it works.
I visit around breakfast time, so I order a lemon ginger scone and a latte, which comes to $7.31 all in. I've got to say, it's not the most remarkable mini-breakfast experience I've ever had. I can taste the real lemon and ginger in the scone, which I always appreciate, but the texture is a little too crumbly, almost as though it had been sitting out longer than it should have been. The coffee is from Forty Ninth parallel, and while the flavour is great, my latte isn't made the way I like it. The foam isn't fine enough, and there's (thus) no cheerful latte art.
The Grind, as its name perhaps unintentionally suggests, is a place to wait for the train, meet up for a utilitarian meeting if it's a convenient spot, or grab food on your way to and from work. I know some people in this city spend just about their entire lives indoors and underground, but just because these burrowers exist doesn't make this a destination of any sort.
Make no mistake, though. This is still a better food-on-the-go option than you'd find, say, outside of Union Station. There are bowls of fruit, cereal, dumplings, and a series of omelettes available for a mere $4.95. It's a convenient spot for many, and their selection of snacks and lunch options far outweighs many other drop-in cafes like it.
Photos by Natta Summerky