BB Cafe has been thriving in North York in the heart of the Persian community for the past two years, though the cafe strikes me as the type that would do just as well out of its element, perhaps even in the downtown core.
BB — first and foremost — feels modern, laid back, and cool. Now, I realize that nothing renders a place lame as quickly as coming right out and calling it "cool," but the aspiring linguist in me falters when it comes to coming up with another descriptor for this cozy Persian cafe.
There are plenty of places around Toronto that neglect ambiance and/or decor in favour of ensuring the authenticity of their (often cultural or ethnic) baked goods, but BB seems to have found the perfect balance.
Its pastry display showcases pristine-looking nokhodchi, glistening, syrupy zoolbia bamieh, and of course, baklava with almonds and pistachios, while the seating section is tastefully adorned with dark wood accents and chocolate high-back chairs.
One of BB's main attractions is its bulk section of dried fruit and nuts. The section is small but neatly arranged, and BB has nixed the plastic bins characteristic of self-serve in favour of wicker baskets. The offerings include Persian pistachios ($2.49/100g), almonds ($1.59/100g), figs ($2.99/100g), and other local and imported nuts, fruits, and seeds.
Fatima, the woman serving the drinks, tells me the cafe is family-owned, and while she's quite familiar with the ins-and-outs of BB Cafe, she says the owners prefer that they field any media questions. So I take it upon myself to explore the little shop.
The back section of the cafe actually houses an autonomous business called Lawich Honey, which sources pure honeys from Iran, New Zealand, France, and beyond.
BB customers with champagne tastes might opt to drizzle some of that honey over the cafe's saffron and pomegranate ice cream and faloudeh (a type of Persian sorbet), which is stored in containers ($3.99/$6.99) in a freezer by the cash.
The cafe also has a full drink menu of espresso beverages ($1.80 and up), as well as Turkish coffee ($2.75) and Persian tea ($1.49). But since I had come with BB's reputation for fresh smoothies in mind, I opted for a cantaloupe drink instead ($3.49).
Fatima says it is a customer favourite and I can certainly see why. Needless to say, the smoothie is made with real, fresh chunks of cantaloupe (as opposed to frozen or pseudo ice cream flavouring) and the taste rivals any high-profile downtown juice bar. It's a little thinner than the typical smoothie, but cool and refreshing with little sweetness from a dash of honey. You would think I'm in Kensington, but as I step outside I'm reminded — nope, a strip mall.
Photos by Irina No