9 Bars, a new coffee shop on St. Clair just east of Yonge, is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood, where such intimate quarters are few and far between. As soon as I walked in, owner Laith Toukan received me with a big smile from behind the pressed metal counter.
The low and cozy room has wine coloured walls and faux wood and industrial details and there is a communal table and a series of tables and comfortable, slick chairs suited to the uptown clients.
I ordered a latte ($3.62) and barista Gabriel Nav made what I can only describe as the perfect cup. Smooth, creamy, without a trace of bitterness, I'm not sure if it was the particular blend of Cut Coffee beans (a mix of Brazilian and Sumatra) or the La Marzocco machine they use, but it was among the best I've had.
They can make up a hot chocolate, a toasty Almond or a London Fog if coffee doesn't tickle your fancy, and Nav mentioned they make real vanilla flavouring, none of that chemically tasting stuff here, that you can add to any drink for $0.25 a shot.
They also now offer house-made sandwiches, soups and pastries to go along with the coffee, items that should translate well as quick business lunches or a late afternoon sweet. The whole front of the cafe is a large glass garage door that will be yanked open in summer, and with the destined patio, there will be some great people watching.
As I enjoyed my latte, I chatted with the boys, talking shop and such, as they poured, cupped, tested, adjusted and poured again. It was clear that they were passionate about coffee. With their hospitality, enthusiasm and truly wonderful coffee, I'm thinking 9 Bars will be 10 out of 10 success.
Photos by Jesse Milns