Boxcar Social, the latest coffee and wine bar in the Summerhill area of Yonge , owes part of its name to the train bridge and old station just steps away. The social part they cover themselves: effused through the warm, inviting two-storey house, felt in their serious attention to coffee, and created at night when they pull out the wine, craft beers, bourbon and scotch. The staff are enthusiastic, the conversation lively amongst patrons at the many spots to take a seat.
Formerly a drycleaners, getting rezoned and up and running has been a long process. The transformation is felt at every level. Floors are brought back to the hardwood and painted black, walls are either exposed brick or whitewashed, the tables and bar made of thick cut raw or rough hewn wood, blade grain and bark visible.
Chairs, stools and banquettes are all leather covered and comfortable. Upstairs you'll find more of the same - brick, wood, leather - with big windows streaming in natural light. Downstairs is the active environment, with the La Marzocco machine humming with near constant use, while upstairs is a perfect place to work. If the ambiance alone weren't enough, there's free Wi-Fi, and plenty of electric sockets to boot.
Coffee is approached wholeheartedly. Each cup is ground according to its use and type, and weighed before and after being made. Espresso-based drinks on offer include espressos and Americanos ($2.86), macchiatos and cortados ($3.50), cappuccinos ($3.75), and lattes ($4.00).
Unlike many other coffee shops in town, Boxcar Social doesn't rely on one 'house' bean for their drinks; they have a revolving, and evolving, coffee profile. When I arrive, espressos are being made with a Bolivian Bertha Miranda from Victoria, BC coffee roasters Bows and Arrows , but you can also get a Rwandan coffee from Anchored Coffee Roasters .
You can do tasting flights: three coffees brewed and served side by side for $6.15 so you don't miss anything on offer that week. They have drip coffee for the unfussy and fast moving, and for those enjoying a slower pace try the daily features as pour over method, Kalita Wave alongside Espro Press for French press - perfect if you want more than one cup.
If you are more of a tea person, they carry a wide selection of Rishi Tea and the simple collection of La Bamboche croissants will keep the caffeine high at bay. When the liquor license comes in this week, if (and I suspect they will) they pay as close attention to the nuances of wine, craft beer, bourbon, and scotch as they have been to the coffee, this business is full steam ahead.
Photos by Jesse Milns