Tom & Sawyer
Tom & Sawyer, a new cafe-like space in Leslieville looks like any chic coffee house at first glance. Arm chairs occupy the front room, while a barista tends to a counter that sits in front of a state-of-the-art kitchen. Statues of sleek German Weimaraner flank the entrance on Queen East.
This place does serve coffee and cold drinks for humans so you don't have to tie up your best friend on the street (members of I Am a Leslievillan will tell you: don't do it). So while it is technically Toronto's first dog-friendly cafe, its real raison d'être is to serve up freshly prepared pet food.
That open kitchen in the back? It's outfitted with equipment that would make any top chef envious. Chef Trish Donnelly (formerly of Oyster Boy and The Healthy Butcher ) uses it to make meals for dogs and cats with entirely human-grade ingredients.
Backed by research from veterinarians and food professionals, the Tom & Sawyer team formulates each recipe to meet the the National Research Council's recommended allowance of nutrients for both cats and dogs.
There are two options for felines, including Scared-y Cat (chicken) and The Harold (tuna), while the lineup for canines is considerably more extensive.
Dog chow comes in five flavours, such as B'Apple (grain-free, lean ground beef with apples and a medley of veggies), oatmeal with beef and blueberries, and sous vide salmon studded with broccoli, carrots, edamame and eggs.
Aside from the obvious ingredients, the only things added are essential oils, vitamins and minerals to balance out nutritional requirements. Packages are vacuum sealed and can be purchased fresh or frozen. At press time, my pup has eaten two samples of this stuff he's going to resent me for totally not being able to afford it in the future.
According to Tom & Sawyer's online calculator , my 18-pound fur ball would need to eat almost three quarters of one two-cup package, priced between $11 and $14 ($8 to $11 with subscription), each day. I'm not going to even bother working out the math for my in-laws' beastly mastiff.
Even still, I do believe there's a market for this stuff. Owners Kristin and Peter Zakarow got into the business when their super cute yorkie-poo Sawyer required home-made meals and upon researching the market, the duo discovered that there was nowhere to buy this type of premium pet food.
They point towards the lack of transparency in pet food industry. That's why they have an open kitchen at their store.
While the freshly prepared meals aren't going to be on the regular menu for my little guy anytime soon, I'd happily stock up on the dog treats, like dehydrated sweet potatoes, snausages, pupsicles.
And of course the shop is stocked with a well curated selection of pet essentials (chiefly from Canadian brands) and of there's always the enticing option to go for a coffee with my best friend - this alone might make me a regular.
Photos by Jesse Milns