The Best Cafes in Toronto (West Side)
The best cafes in Toronto's west end can probably be visited by foot in a single day, during the course of a long and caffeine-fuelled stroll. A year or two ago they would have been a group of independent shops, but many of them have blossomed into mini-chains, which must count as a sort of sign of the city's apparently unquenchable coffee mania.
The fact that they've held their own against the onslaught of Starbucks and a shaky economy says a lot about how caffeinated we've become - and how thoroughly access to a spot at a common table with free WiFi has become less a privilege than an urban right.
Here are the best cafes in Toronto (west of Yonge St.)
With two locations on Queen West and Spadina, Dark Horse does a fantastic job at providing the basics of the modern cafe - great coffee, good food, reliable WiFi and a space for you, your newspaper and your laptop. Dark Horse does it in an atmosphere that's almost become standard for cafe hangouts, with a mix of institutional antiques and repurposed industrial design, and big windows to let in daylight and frame the customers deep in their online thoughts. More »
The original location has expanded to three more, including a mini cafe right at Yonge and Bloor, and another on Spadina, as part of a deal with the healthy takeout chain Freshii. The fourth, on the Danforth, is a return to the clean, bright ambiance of the Junction original, where the cheerful staff cope with all-day rushes from regulars apparently unconvinced by the arrival of a local Starbucks. More »
James, the eponymous barista behind his two tiny coffee shops, eschewed conventional wisdom by making his cafes about the coffee. So - no WiFi, no thick menu of baked goods and sandwiches, no big rustic tables or rows of stools in the floor-length windows. Just coffee, sourced, pulled and poured with care and precision. More »
A roaster as well as a cafe, this little space near the foot of Spadina can guarantee the freshness of its beans. It also has a brash, blokey vibe, like somebody updated an old school cafe in Little Italy with exposed brick and industrial fixtures. More »
Te Aro owners Andy and Jessie Wilkin are coffee nuts, plain and simple, and this Ossington branch of their Leslieville location is a tidy distillation of what made the east end original so appealing - a relaxed vibe, a respectable menu of snacks, and a spectacular devotion to coffee. Their bean sourcing is immaculate, and the west end branch also features their cold drip coffee, ridiculously uneconomical but apparently addictive. More »
The stretch of Queen between Lansdowne and Dufferin has been scorched earth for coffee bars, so locals were grateful when Capital opened in what was once Vice magazine's Toronto office, giving everyone's Macbooks a place to spend the afternoon. Take a table in the window for a year or two and watch the neighbourhood transform itself. More »
Opening in 2007 almost makes Manic on College one of the pioneers of coffee in the city. Owner Matthew Lee is a bit of a coffee boffin, with a particular dislike of that Canadian standard, the double-double; he's also bucked trends by refusing to offer WiFi, which is more than a bit rebellious on this stretch of the street just near all the cut-rate computer shops. More »
Long and narrow, this Kensington cafe feels like the product of a lot of thought, and it was - the owner spent an expensive year putting it together. The courtyard at the back practically pulls you all the way in, and the lineup of laptops at the bar by the door can feel like a Genius Bar on busy days. More »
After closing its Leslieville location, I Deal became an exclusively west end concern, staking out spots in Kensington and Ossington with charmingly ad hoc shops. As a roaster, it follows that I Deal can be sure of the freshness of its beans, and if an endorsement were needed, you might find yourself lined up at the Ossington cafe behind star chef Susur Lee. More »
The Roncesvalles original opened in a neighbourhood with plenty of coffee competition and has held its own for three years - long enough to spawn a second branch on equally coffee-mad College. Bonus points for being among the first people in the city to introduce that staple of Barcelona coffee shops, the cafe cortado - espresso cut with a bit of steamed milk. More »
Always packed right out onto to the sidewalk with locals who all seem to know each other, the Common can sometimes feel like a west end hipster version of Central Perk, the coffee shop from Friends. Not that there's anything wrong with that - what's not to love about a place where everybody knows your name? Joking aside, once you've settled in, it's like spending the afternoon at someone's house. And the espresso machine might be the most beautiful in the city. More »
On a quiet, leafy stretch of Annette in the Junction, where this shop is actually Crema's good neighbour, you can almost fool yourself that you're living in a small town, while enjoying coffee and pastries in this lovely converted corner grocer. The atmosphere is relaxed, almost hushed, and the baked goods from Jules and Circle & Squares might actually overshadow the excellent coffee. More »