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Best of Toronto

The Best Cafes in Toronto (West Side)

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / November 27, 2013

best cafes torontoThe best cafes in Toronto on the west side offer some respite from stresses like skyrocketing rents and dismal job prospects. When such concerns threaten to get us down, it's life's little pleasures we seek out, perhaps none more so than what we find in the independent coffee shops. Popping up like mushrooms in and across the city but with particular concentration on the west side, these beacons of hope are usually commandeered by young upstarts as riddled with enthusiasm as they are with caffeine.

And don't underestimate their contribution. Sure, these cafes offer coffee jolts and noshing fare with ever-increasing expertise, but they also provide jobs to the sea of overeducated and underemployed, respite for at-home moms and dads, and a warm refuge for the weary, the working, and those looking to connect.

Here are the best cafes in Toronto west of Yonge Street.

See also:

The best cafes in Toronto (East Side)
The best late night cafes in Toronto
The best cafes for free WiFi in Toronto
The best Americano in Toronto
The best cappuccino in Toronto
The best cafe patios in Toronto
The best coffee roasters in Toronto

Dark Horse Espresso

Dark Horse Espresso

When Dark Horse opened on Queen East just over the hump of the Don Valley, East Enders had reason to cheer. Now with the three new locations concentrated to the west of Yonge, it's the West side it dominates. Despite growing competition, each Dark Horse spot is usually packed to the gills, forcing even the squirmy to make use of the communal tables. Queue up for their espresso-based drinks, or slow down and savour a French press. More »

Crema Coffee

Crema Coffee

Now a veritable coffee empire, owner Geoff Polci really hit the big-time when he started Crema Coffee in the Junction. The original space is bright and community-engaged, the espresso earthy and a little nutty, much like the neighbourhood itself. The occasional music and ample seating add to the warm character while the focus on development and education of its dedicated staff (not to mention beautifully executed coffee and a wide selection of baked goods) prevents this cafe from losing its heart as it grows. More »

Early Bird Espresso

Early Bird Espresso

The proverbial phoenix out of the ashes of the Queen West blaze is Early Bird Espresso and Brew Bar. Salvage lighting? Check. Exposed brick? Check. Reclaimed wood tables, school chairs, chalkboard paint? Check, check, check. But look beyond these usual Toronto cafe tropes and you’ll find a serious coffee culture, especially in the brew bar, with its pour over, siphon and cold drip options, advancing this newbie cafe beyond the older competition. More »

Sam James Coffee Bar

Sam James Coffee Bar

Sam James sure has made a name for himself in coffee, and occasionally, controversy, when he tossed a cup of his own liquid gold on anti-abortion protestors. You can say this. His passion is palpable, especially for great coffee. The high-impact Sam James coffee bar at Harbord, the Sam James Pocket at Bloor and in the underground tunnel of the financial district occupy just slivers of retail space-lacking WiFi, extensive food, or even tables-but this champion barista has them continually lined out the door. More »

Capital Espresso

Capital Espresso

While some lament Parkdale neighbourhood’s gentrification, I doubt few would prefer the days before Capital Espresso. Equal parts cool and cozy, the space is as welcome to strollers as it is to the local denizens, and all happily co-minge over excellent coffee and delicious in-house baked goods. The wooden tables perfectly suit those toting computers, sit in the window and people watch, or let the kids play with the communal toys, but make no mistake, the only snobbery tolerated here is of the coffee-kind, where it’s at its best. More »

Jimmy's Coffee

Jimmy's Coffee

From the onset, Jimmy’s Coffee was a haven of relaxation and pleasure to the oft bourgeoisie business vibe of King West. The coffee is made to customer specifications, as espresso or even in drip. The cafe, just like the old house it sits in, warm and inviting. The newish location on Baldwin with its back patio and fireplace adds a touch of sophistication to Kensington Market, but has the same heart as the Jimmy’s original. More »

Dineen Coffee

Dineen Coffee

Nestled at the corner of Yonge and Temperance, Dineen Coffee stands out as the only coffee shop in Toronto to harken back to the lux Venetian coffeehouses of yore. The design is impressively posh, as is the signature blends of roast beans they use to make their list of coffee-based beverages, and the decadent and wide variety of treats on display. With even the staff smartly dressed in vests and gingham, it's no wonder this regal cafe is a roaring success. More »

Manic Coffee

Manic Coffee

Manic Coffee has a wildly loyal following, considering they buck trend and don’t offer WiFi. It’s the coffee (not the computers) that stands out instead and the resulting community spirit is noticeable as soon as you walk through the doors of the College street coffee shop. Supporting both Social and Intelligentsia coffee, outfitted with a Clover machine, advanced latte art, and dazzling us with their array of house-made gelatos, it’s no wonder Manic keeps us coming back. More »

Sense Appeal

Sense Appeal

With Sense Appeal’s scientific approach to coffee there is no telling what taste profile they’ll come up with next. Bubbling vessels and centrifuge processes are employed at the cafe to eek out all of that humble coffee bean’s potential. Constant innovation has connoisseurs seeking out Sense Appeal-and while some harp about the inconsistent results, it seems their bang-up job of breakfast, lunch and basics has its loyal clientele hooked. More »

Lit Espresso Bar

Lit Espresso Bar

Both locations of Lit Espresso, on Roncesvalles and College, are always hopping. West enders have even more reason to flock to the cafes since founder Joe Angellotti began roasting, supplying each place with their own signature brand of Pig Iron beans. Lit Espresso is focused on the output of a premium product, and with their consistently delicious results, I’d say they are at the top of their game. More »

Crafted by Te Aro

Crafted by Te Aro

It's no surprise Crafted by Te Aro is one of Toronto's best cafes. The Ossington extension of Te Aro serves up their own award-winning Pilot Coffee Roasters beans in a myriad of espresso combinations, and with a selection of Circle and Squares baked goods you can either grab one of the tables, hit their back patio or take your beverage on a jaunt on the strip, ending up in the nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park. More »

Cafe Pamenar

Cafe Pamenar

Once you recognize Cafe Pamenar for the oasis that it is, the better off you will be. The extensive back patio lets you enjoy a cold drink on a hot day, while inside the long concrete bar or one of the tables provided a place to sample a cookie with one of the fine staff’s perfectly balanced Americanos or lattes. In the evenings this cafe also serves alcohol, adding to this Kensington Market cafe’s sense of warmth and refinement. More »

Discussion

54 Comments

Jer / November 27, 2013 at 03:58 pm
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Think R2 should have made this list. Favourite spot.
Jack / November 27, 2013 at 04:03 pm
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How is Cherry Bomb on Roncesvalles NOT on this list?????? Major miss.
James / November 27, 2013 at 04:10 pm
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No Rsquared? weird.
joeb / November 27, 2013 at 04:23 pm
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Cherry bomb is not on this list because the owner roasts the shittiest coffee now.
Sandy / November 27, 2013 at 04:24 pm
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Empire Espresso is a new cafe on College Street (at Beatrice) and they have AMAZING coffee and it's really gorgeous inside.
Probably not on the list because they're new, but you blogTO just gave them a fantastic review.
CW replying to a comment from Jack / November 27, 2013 at 04:30 pm
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Totally agree with Jack's comment - how on earth was Cherry Bomb not included here??!! I've been to all of these and Cherry Bomb beats them all!!
ryth / November 27, 2013 at 04:39 pm
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Cherry Bomb? Seriously? Best pastries in the 'hood absolutely, but their roasts are REALLY sub-par. The key is to hit Lit for a superbly made drink and walk down to Cherry Bomb for the accompanying treat if you're in that area.
ryth replying to a comment from joeb / November 27, 2013 at 04:39 pm
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Exactly @joeb.
MoneyTalks / November 27, 2013 at 04:40 pm
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What a joke of a ranking not to mention coffee shops that did and did not make it on the list! I guess signing up for blogto's specialty services does pay off!
lauren / November 27, 2013 at 04:48 pm
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absolutely love early bird! amazing coffee, service and great atmosphere.
Dora / November 27, 2013 at 04:53 pm
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No Thor Espresso bar? And Early Bird? Seriously? That place is always dead and empty.
Kayoh / November 27, 2013 at 04:54 pm
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Agreed on R2. WHAT ABOUT TAMPERED PRESS?
Emily / November 27, 2013 at 05:18 pm
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THE COMMON - great $2 americano. I am over the $3.75 double americanos that are average!

Ronces needs a good coffee shop! Like actually good. Dark Horse, Sam James or the Common expand to Ronces!

Wallace Espresso at Lansdowne & Wallace is a new neighbourhood gem.
Mr Bean / November 27, 2013 at 05:23 pm
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That you did not include the original and longest running cafe, Louie's (Casa Acoreana) doesn't surprise me. It seems to be a cafe these days you have to invest in a certain amount of post-industrial decor elements and a whole f***load of pretension. Louie's is the original cafe, the cheapest and the best. It was almost lost this year due to the skyrocketing rents (brought on by places like Jimmy's setting up shop across the street no less).
Matt / November 27, 2013 at 07:25 pm
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If what you actually care about is the taste of coffee, then it is absurd that Lit is not number one on this list. They surpassed Sam James a couple of years ago. And the fact that Dark Horse is number one shows that coffee culture still hasn't evolved much beyond where beer was 15 years ago.
Matt / November 27, 2013 at 07:27 pm
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Cherry Bomb has amazing baked goods, but their coffee is not great.
nn / November 27, 2013 at 07:32 pm
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Not to be one of those "blogto you made a mistake again" people, but how is Dineen coffee on yonge street the west side?

West toronto is west of spadina at the very least.. west of yonge is a stretch. On yonge, definitely shouldn't be in this list.
Graeme Quinn / November 27, 2013 at 07:48 pm
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Wow, this list is a joke. Oh well, the places I like are so busy that we don't need the blogTO herd to crowd the place.
Graeme Quinn replying to a comment from Mr Bean / November 27, 2013 at 07:49 pm
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Couldn't agree more with this. Interior design and pretension does are the two drivers of popularity these days, but has nothing to do with the quality of the coffee.
D-man / November 27, 2013 at 09:26 pm
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Check out Empire Espresso--on college and beatrice. no pretentiousness and people who really care about good coffee. Let us move into the 4th wave in Toronto with cafe's who truly care about the coffee, how its sourced, how its roasted, and all that nerdy stuff that goes into coffee.
lol / November 27, 2013 at 09:31 pm
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Ever notice how Dark Horse is empty until like 11am? I swear most of their clientele dont' have jobs

Also Rsquared feels like a martha stewart set that place is so fake and pretentious
Brian replying to a comment from lol / November 27, 2013 at 09:45 pm
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You obviously don't know anything about coffee and now you are making fun of a shop's clientele?! Those two coffee shops are couple of best coffee shops on queen west :) I'm sure they can manage without your help ;)
Sasha / November 27, 2013 at 11:03 pm
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Any Rob Ford stories at any of these places? Would LOVE to hear.
Ryan replying to a comment from Food Tourist / November 28, 2013 at 07:43 am
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The guy gets points in my book for that.
Cynara / November 28, 2013 at 08:11 am
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Pity they left off Noir on St. Clair; that's a wonderful spot.
MadMan replying to a comment from Graeme Quinn / November 28, 2013 at 08:20 am
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If Interior design and pretension does are the two drivers of popularity these days then Dineen Coffee would be No1 on this list, so is not about the interior design is about the whole experience!
Amanda / November 28, 2013 at 09:38 am
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R2, ella's uncle, and tampered press would get my vote.
Rose / November 28, 2013 at 09:57 am
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The Common! College/Duff and Bloor/Duff...best.espresso.ever.

and Belljar!
Keith replying to a comment from Emily / November 28, 2013 at 10:10 am
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YES!!! COMMON (either location tbh, but I frequent the one on Bloor) easily has one of the best Americano's in the city. Staff is great, vibe is tight... but the medium roast really is what keeps me coming back... daily.
Bobo replying to a comment from nn / November 28, 2013 at 11:14 am
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@nn - Toronto is divided as East and West at Yonge ... so why does a place have to be 10 blocks out to qualify? And what new list do we then have to come up with? "Best Places That Are Neither East Nor West"?
Lisa / November 28, 2013 at 01:05 pm
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THE MASCOT. Hands. Down.
Little Fury / November 28, 2013 at 04:45 pm
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Lit's espresso is bilge water.
meh / November 28, 2013 at 04:50 pm
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I love how they noted that this was the west side only so there weren't 500 comments about how they completely ignored anything east of yonge.
Terry / November 28, 2013 at 05:30 pm
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Decent list. Additonally, one of my other fav's (appearance + atmosphere) is The Good Neighbour at Annette/Quebec. Killer pastries and great coffee.
Melissa / November 28, 2013 at 10:32 pm
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NO Rsquared?!?! Definitely the best spot!
Also, Dark Horse Number 1? I wasn't surprised to see it on the list, but it is definitely not close to No. 1
Alison / November 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm
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I can't believe that R-Squared didn't make that list. If this is truly voter-based, I'd love to see the result breakdown. There should be more metrics behind "the best" designation considering how much clout your site has in terms of driving awareness and traffic to these indie cafes. It's a very powerful message to be sending -- that these 12 cafes actually stand apart from every other cafe in existence on the "west side".
Darren / November 30, 2013 at 09:10 am
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Amani Earls in the Junction from a coffee and tea perspective stomp 90% percent of the places listed here, Wallace Espresso does the same, even Good Neighbour you missed.. I guess quality of product means nothing. Seriously Jimmy's?
kafe / November 30, 2013 at 01:23 pm
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R Squared, Lit (Pig Iron is amazing), Dark Horse, Voodoo Child, Capital Espresso, Pamenar, The Common, Sam James, and maybe Crema, Te Aro, Dineen and Early Bird.. Those are the good shops.
Aiden / December 4, 2013 at 05:17 am
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Over half of these are east of Bathurst and south of Bloor.

I refuse to believe that there are no other excellent cafes in the "West Side" of Toronto.

(Hint. Yonge St. isn't west side Toronto)
fredb replying to a comment from Keith / December 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm
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"……….. the vibe is tight ? Like when everyone is staring at their computers sharing the password for free wifi and then no one spends another dime on a second coffee. You make me sick ! People have become accustomed to free wifi, free water. four hour sit ins and they don't usually give a rats ass about the owners trying to make the rent ……..you destroy business with your entitled comment !
Garneau / December 14, 2013 at 03:38 am
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Pat / January 10, 2014 at 01:42 am
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Voodoo Child, Jimmy's, Crafted, Manic, SJCB, Wallace, The Common, can't go wrong.
DAVID / January 13, 2014 at 07:03 pm
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NO TIM HORTONS? REALLY?
Matt replying to a comment from DAVID / January 13, 2014 at 07:17 pm
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Ah yes, Tim Horton's, the blight on Canada everywhere.
V / April 26, 2014 at 09:07 am
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For your consideration:
Grind House and i deal in Kensington, Voodoo Child, Green Beanery, CSI's Coffee Pub
Fox / April 26, 2014 at 09:57 am
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What about Hula Girl up on Dundas West? It's small but it's awesome
Chris / April 26, 2014 at 11:31 am
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If we're mentioning others that could have made the list, I have to throw in Café Novo. I love that place.
Kate / April 26, 2014 at 11:46 am
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+1 for VOODOO CHILD!!
rogirl / April 26, 2014 at 11:48 am
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Extra Butter on Ronces that just opened up is pretty good.
Terry / April 26, 2014 at 06:57 pm
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The Good Neighbour (Annette and Quebec) is awesome in many ways! It's also close to Crema.
Lloyd Penney / April 26, 2014 at 09:18 pm
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Nothing good in Etobicoke, hm? Try the Yellow Cup Café on East Mall Crescent.
Coffee head / April 26, 2014 at 11:20 pm
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The Brockton haunt used pilot coffee. Best in the city at dufferin and college. A great croissant and best chocolate chip cookies!
Stella / May 27, 2014 at 03:12 pm
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What about i deal coffee? they're an institution in the west end!!!
Does the taste of coffee have any merit in this list? Really folks, it's not just about the aesthetics of the cafe..or is it?
Kirsten / September 20, 2014 at 10:54 am
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what about the Coffee Bar, at 346 Front St W!
Amazing Velvet Lattes, expertly trained barista's, gluten free and vegan snacks, freshly squeezed organic juices. and much more!

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