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Cafes

The Common

Posted by Dar Mustafa / Posted on May 10, 2009

The Common TorontoThe Common, a beloved little cafe just east of Dufferin on College, is terrific evidence of an evolving neighbourhood; one that has changed a lot in recent years but still manages to maintain its low-key charm and tight-knit vibe.

Back in the days when Ossington was just a bus that I took home, not a whole lot was happening over on this end of College Street. Five years later, the neighbourhood is something of its own destination, and the result is a never-ending bloom of cool-looking storefronts that bring the bustle in spades.

The Common is cool, and has been bringing it for awhile now. It's so cool in fact, that when I first stumbled upon this place years ago I felt some trepidation about going in. Finally, one winter, I mumbled my way through a take-out order, feeling overwhelmed by such things as:

1. Absence of menu on the wall
2. Absence of personal comfort items (read: sandwiches)
3. Abundance of people intensely typing on their Macs and consequently, a lack of empty seats, which felt something like rejection to my silly self.

Since that day, I have snapped up one of those coveted spots more than once, with rapidly increasing frequency and enjoyment. Still no menu to be seen, however the staff behind the counter did qualify this for me once with "...but I can make you pretty much anything you want."

The Common Cafe

Hard to argue with, that. On my most recent visit I went straight for the fruits of their retro Elektra espresso machine. I'm not gonna lie - rich and delicious Americano ($2) served in a tall Picardie glass did taste better than those conventional mugs I drink from at home, and I appreciated the opportunity to dictate my own water pour-age.

Pots of amber-hued brown sugar, standing alongside organic milk and cream, felt luxurious, and looked even more so sinking into my friend's frothy and heart-adorned cappuccino ($3).

The Common Shortbread

I have a bit of a thing for shortbread, so the scant snack choice between these buttery biscuits ($1) and a coconut cookie ($1) did not trouble me in the slightest. Fresh, yummy and eaten too quickly for me to even realize (as in, who took the rest of my cookie?).

The Common Coffee

The interior is simple and comfortable with plain white walls and a winding vine, accented by a fun collection of drawings and snapshots behind the counter. If the wall menu was sacrificed in favour of that awesome vintage Laura Secord signage, then I'm not complaining.

The Common Inside

The Common Shelves

Long wooden benches and tables give the room a kind of unavoidably communal feeling; which on this day ended up working out quite well considering my coffee date just happened to know the two girls sitting at the opposite end of our little slice of table in the corner.

She also knew the girl behind the counter. I tell you these things because it rendered the name of the place very appropriate, whereas before it may have seemed sort of presumptuous; I mean, for seemingly appearing outta nowhere at College and Dufferin.

The Common

Discussion

32 Comments

Ashley / August 2, 2007 at 06:38 am
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Best coffee in the city, hands down!
marek / October 21, 2007 at 07:00 pm
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Great treasure of a place, awesome coffee. Ed and the staff keep me and the neighbourhood comming back.
Ben / August 14, 2008 at 07:18 pm
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The only problem is that it is often too busy and noisy. Some of the employees know how to make less noise with the grinding machine than others.

The coffee is great, but the muffins are the best.
/ November 22, 2008 at 06:47 am
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I love this cafe, except for one thing.
Whenever the barista is making shots, they look great to begin with, and then its like they get distracted, and let the shots run for soooo long that it gets bitter and watery, and always dilutes my cappuccino.
Mars Blackmon / December 21, 2008 at 06:57 pm
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They make a damn good London Fog and the cappuccinos are top notch as well, plus they also use organic milk.
rm / February 5, 2009 at 10:23 pm
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best coffee in the city! try "the common" it's my fav.
Stephen / May 10, 2009 at 11:28 pm
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Love The Common. Always like to start a fresh book here on the weekends.
Erica / May 11, 2009 at 03:20 pm
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I leave nearby and I've been meaning to try this place for ages. That cappuccino looks incredible.
Erica / May 11, 2009 at 03:21 pm
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I leave nearby and I've been meaning to try this place for a while. That cappuccino looks incredible.
homeslice robinson replying to a comment from Mars Blackmon / June 15, 2009 at 12:54 am
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they use harmony 'organic' milk.
if you did a little bit of research you'd find that harmony treats their cows just as poorly as any 'non-organic' farm, and also puts in large doses of casein... so, basically, you're not doing yourself (or anyone else) any favours by drinking it.
i wish the common would step it up a notch and realize that harmony is a front. 'we care about you and the environment' - it's sad that such a boring tag line can manipulate so many people into thinking they're actually being HEALTHY by drinking milk.
bobo / September 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm
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i love everything about this place, especially the fine fine microfoam and the owner's sweet mom (at least that's who i think she is...) sweeping up in the back
= replying to a comment from / September 12, 2009 at 09:41 pm
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just ask them to make it shorter, they will do what every you wont! after all they don't have a menu...
barbalala / September 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm
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This place makes the best coffee in Toronto without a doubt.
Richest tasting americano I've ever had.
The variety of loose teas that they have is also great!
I wish their business hours were a little more extended, but that doesn't stop me from going there.
Arby / November 22, 2009 at 03:55 pm
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The Common is lively, which I enjoyed. However, The music is way too loud. The barista was totally cool, but I seemed to throw her a curve when I asked for a macchiato. I can't remember exactly how the exchange went down, but she asked me how I wanted my macchiato and I answered with "You know, microfoam." She then asked "You mean like silky smooth," to which I said yes, feeling concerned now about the drink I was about to get.

One, I don't mind at all 'not' getting snobbishness from the barista, who was pulling shots non stop for a permanent lineup. But this is not culinary coffee. Then again, They aren't charging culinary prices. Everyone was in a good mood. The vibe was good. I've never been to this nabe before. It's got a good vibe to it. I only see it getting better with time.

As for The Common, It is grimy. It certainly has character. The wifi is free but only for an hour, as far as I could tell. I'm glad I never caught a break in the lineup in order to order a tea, as I intended. I would have been nursing a tea with nothing to do on my pc while having my head pounded by loud music.

Well, If I lived in the area I'd probably be a regular here until something better came along. But the coffee was not good. I don't know what they were serving and it was too crazy busy for me to enquire. And that's that.
Sage Tyrtle / December 14, 2009 at 07:40 am
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The coffee here is just excellent, the baristas are friendly, and I am always glad I took time out to have a delicious cup.
UFCRuleZ / January 21, 2010 at 09:17 pm
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Pretty cool place you've got here. Thanks the author for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read a bit more soon.
JasonE / April 12, 2010 at 08:53 am
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After LIT (College west of Shaw) opened last month I decided to make a review of my favorite Americano's in my 'hood.

My hands down favourite Common. Service, quality and price. Common was the winner for all three. Reviewed - LIT - Starbucks - Pantry - Common.
Liz / June 24, 2010 at 02:03 am
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Why does this writer mar the the review with sexist writing that would be out of place in a high school? Girl behind the counter? Two girls sitting? Unless they were under 18, they should be called women!!!
Some Guy / December 25, 2010 at 08:01 am
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What The Common is:
The Common is a laid back coffee shop during the day and cantina in the evening. The staff are real people (that is to say, without pretense or facade), the coffee is very decent (spoken by a coffee roaster/drinker of espresso from crema, ideal, dark horse, etc) and the setting: folky and somewhat haphazard.

You will enjoy this place if:
a.) You don't pride yourself in your socio-economic status
b.) You're ok with sitting next to people between the ages of 4 to 95.
c.) You can deal with people being real: i.e. with a mood/disposition.
d.) You like having money.

What The Common is not:
The Common is not a student venue. With limited seating, and no outlets, it's not the ideal place for long study or paper writing sessions. If, however, you don't need too much space, or an outlet, you'll be ok. The Common is not a fully stocked bar, i.e. no specialty cocktails, or huge selection of single-malts. In general, if you're looking for frills or flourishes, you're not in the right place.

You will not like The Common if:
a.) You party on Richmond
b.) You drink soy-latte mocha frappacinos
c.) Your sensitive to changes in general ambiance (i.e. music volume, light levels, noise levels)
d.) You can't deal with people not pretending to love you and your coffee orders.
Mars Blackmon replying to a comment from homeslice robinson / January 23, 2011 at 08:36 pm
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I hope you get eaten by dairy cows ! Just kidding, life is too short to take everything seriously. Everything we do carries an element of risk - so I'd rather drink a few ounces of Harmony milk in my coffee than ingest a Big Mac.

Cheers.
curious replying to a comment from homeslice robinson / March 19, 2011 at 10:48 pm
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where is this purported information on how Harmony Organic treats its cows? I only tried briefly googling it, but couldn't find anything and am curious.

mandrew / July 11, 2011 at 12:29 pm
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leah is hot. coffee is great. they have a really good night time thing going on as well with great wines, food, and SNACKS! friday nights are always a great time! like a living room full of strangers with a great vibe!
Tom / November 6, 2011 at 08:08 am
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This place rules
Jim Tykoliz / December 2, 2011 at 07:47 pm
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fantastic coffee, and the cutest Barista in Toronto
Jolie / January 12, 2012 at 11:33 pm
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The Common is fine but even better is the coffee at The Slow Room, a couple of blocks to the east on College.
Nancy / January 12, 2012 at 11:49 pm
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What amazes me, as much as the excellent coffee, is that Ed remembers the names of ALL his customers.
Will / June 13, 2012 at 05:37 am
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Looks good!
EARTHSHAKER / July 15, 2012 at 04:20 pm
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I've noticed another café called "The Common" has opened up in Bloorcourt Village. Any relation?
marcus / August 30, 2012 at 05:43 pm
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The coffee is superlative... the price is shockingly low.
Not a combination you see often.

Marcus
Jella replying to a comment from EARTHSHAKER / September 15, 2012 at 07:46 am
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Yup, they've opened another location. I love their coffee, but stopped going due to pretty much always waiting 20 minutes in line! I thought with the new location and more space they would actually have two staff at busy times, but no luck. I went there and although there were only two ppl in front of me, I waited 15 minutes. I suspect the slow service may be part of the 'vibe', but sometimes you just don't have the time.
JAMES / December 8, 2012 at 01:27 am
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I STOPPED BY ON A WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. THE ENVIRONMENT SEEMED INTERESTING. THE BARRIS TA TOOK MY ORDER FOR A CUPACINO. IMMEDIATELY NOTICED I WAS UNFAMILIAR AND TOOK MY $10 AND CONSEQUENTLY GAVE ME CHANGE FOR A $5 DOLLAR BILL. I REVIEWED MY CHANGE AND FIXED MY DRINK WATCHING HER ALWAYS AND NOTICED A NERVOUS ENERGY FROM HER. I THEN ASKED THE PRICE OF THE DRINK AND POINTED OUT HER MISTAKE. SHE IMMEDIATELY APOLOGIZED AND GAVE CORRECT CHANGE.

AN OPPORTUNISTIC THIEF BEHIND THE BAR UNFORGIVABLE.

CONSUMERS BEWARE.
claya smylie replying to a comment from Mars Blackmon / August 10, 2013 at 08:37 am
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I'm with you! exactly what I think!

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