Simit & Chai
Simit & Chai is a Turkish bakery and cafe where bagels and tea are the specialty. Owners John (Candeniz) and Dee (Duygu) Ulgen took over the King Street address that was formerly a hair salon and have transformed it into another kind of salon.
The charming cafe feels especially spacious thanks to the high ceilings and open kitchen.
The decor incorporates a mix of natural textures and mismatched furniture and feels like the perfect setting to get some work done (strategically placed electrical outlets seem to encourage this) or socialize over coffee and a couple matches of backgammon (boards provided).
As you might guess from the name, tea ($2-$2.50) was intended to be the main focus, though the rich Turkish coffee ($3.50), brewed in a cezve from beans sourced at Kensington Market's House of Spices , has also proved very popular.
When it comes to the assortment of edibles on offer, the husband and wife team have brought on baker Martha Solecka, though Dee comes from a line of Turkish bakers herself and the recipes are adapted from family recipes.
Simit, sold plain for $2 each or $10 for a half dozen, are the main attraction. The street style bagels of Istanbul are unlike the North American version; they're not boiled but rather coated in molasses and rolled in seeds before baking.
You can embrace that sweetness and have them slathered with Nutella ($3.50), or alternately go the contrasting route and order a sandwich with cream cheese and black olive paste ($3.50).
Aside from bagels, there's a lineup of tiny tea sandwiches priced to encourage consuming multiples in a single sitting.
Classic Turkish breakfast sandwiches topped with asiago and olive paste or sliced tomato with thick slabs of feta and sprigs of fresh lemon thyme sell for just $2.25 each.
The pastrami with fava bean paste ($4) is a standout for me, but there's also prosciutto with hummus ($4) and cream cheese with smoked salmon, chives and dill ($4).
The assortment of fresh baked goods includes brownies ($3.50), cheesecake ($5) and muffins ($3.50) in flavours like fig and walnut, white poppy seed, and vegan zucchini studded with walnuts.
This authentic Turkish cafe has already won over King West locals and become a destination for Turkish expats and dignitaries visiting from the consulate.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.