Boxcar Social on Temperance
Boxcar Social is the kind of place you can hang at from day to night. The fourth location of this popular cafe/bar created by co-owners John Baker, Alex Castellani, Chris Ioannou and Joe Papik can be found tucked away on Temperance St. at the base of a condo in the Financial District.
As has come to be expected, the Boxcar guys outfitted the space themselves, building their own furniture. With their first location, they did it out of necessity, because they couldn't afford not to—but now they do it because they feel it gives their places a distinctive yet cohesive look.
Like the other Boxcars, there's the exposed-beam, industrial vibe here, with a mix of stools and wood banquettes for seating. A wolf mural by John James (she also did the art at their last two locations) and boxcar-like stencilled letters and numbers can be found on the walls.
This 70-person capacity spot is designed to be their flagship, and the craftsmanship is admirable, from the countertops to the bathrooms (these ones are subway-tiled with curved edges).
Just as much care has been put into Boxcar's curated coffee program, which focuses on third-wave roasters outside of Toronto like Phil & Sebastian in Calgary, The Barn in Berlin and Parlor in Brooklyn.
Espresso beverages (espresso/Americano, $3.30; macchiato/cortado, $3.95; cappuccino/flat white, $4.20; latte, $4.50) and drip ($2.25/$2.80/$3.15) are available, plus pour overs (MP). Coffee is even served at night (but no drip—espresso-based drinks only).
Since it's freezing outside, a beautifully made hot chocolate ($4.50) is a welcome sight. It's smooth and very chocolate-y.
Unlike all the other Boxcars, this location actually serves cocktails—since the owners now own a cocktail bar, they decided to ease up a bit on the "no cocktails" thing. Classics like the Old Fashioned ($15), Manhattan ($16) and Negroni ($15) are on the menu.
There is also a rotating wine list with everything from red or rose to white or orange (and sparkling, of course), with over 40 options—and a lot by the glass. For beer and cider drinkers, there are 15 craft brews on tap ($7-$8 for 13 oz.).
However, Ioannou seems proudest of the whisk(e)y selection here, with about 100 bottles on display (on a huge, specially made rack Ioannou took three weeks to build). It's their largest collection, and it includes rare ones—this is the place to go if you're looking for the hard-to-find stuff.
As for eats, pastries from Delysees and Bake Shoppe are delivered in the mornings, while other daytime food offerings take advantage of the full kitchen at the Harbourfront location. Soup, sandwiches and salads made from there are delivered to this shop.
In the evenings, snacks include charcuterie boards (cheese, $17; meat, $18; small mixed, $17; large mixed, $34) with meats and cheeses from Cheese Boutique, all sliced on the premises, and bread from Blackbird.
For those who are merely peckish, there's The Dip ($10), made with roasted garlic, white bean and pecorino, accompanied by cornichons and pieces of pita.
During our evening visit, the joint is jumpin', with loud hip-hop blasting and a post-work, carefree kind of energy. I'm told it's (understandably) more serene during the day. Like its painstakingly curated coffee and booze programs, this sounds like the best of both worlds.