Dark Horse Espresso (Geary Ave.)
Dark Horse Espresso Bar, one of the original Toronto indie coffee brands, has expanded its empire with a fifth location, taking over what used to be an auto body shop on Geary Avenue in Dovercourt Village.
Part of the 80,000-square-foot Artisan Factory, the main purpose of this space is to serve as Dark Horse's bakery, the place where all the bread and baked goods for this outpost and all its siblings are made.
Co-owners Deanna Zunde and Ed Lynds have done an amazing job turning what was previously an ugly garage into an aesthetically pleasing spot; the espresso bar area in the front and the bakery in the back are separated by a windowed barn board wall and antique French doors originally from Argentina that were purchased at Smash in the Junction.
Striking, stencilled fleurs-de-lys beautify the concrete floor while a piece by artist Matt Durant on the wall is a reminder of Dark Horse's start - it used to hang at the front of the original Riverside location . In terms of seating, there are just a handful of seats at the concrete bar built by Lynds along with a bench outside, so it's mostly a take-out coffee operation here.
All the standard espresso-based drinks are on offer, although there isn't a menu or board listing the options (yet?): espresso ($2.75, including tax), Americano ($3.15), macchiato ($3.25), cappuccino/cortado/flat white ($3.50), latte ($3.95).
Espresso beans are from 49th Parallel, and shots are pulled with a La Marzocco Strada EP, the Rolls Royce of espresso machines (it costs about as much as a car). This thing is a barista's fantasy: an attached USB can record and replay the pressure profile of each shot. If that's not coffee nerdery at its finest, I don't know what is.
Drip ($2.50) is also available, rotating between beans from Detour and 49th Parallel. They'll even do pour over or French press ($4). Bottles of cold brew ($5), made at the John St. location, are brewed for 16 hours with Pig Iron's Ethiopian beans, and it's apparently so good they've run out by the time we get there.
While the cookies, muffins (the vegan dark-chocolate-and-pureed-beet one is super moist and chocolatey), squares and sandwiches can all be found at the other Dark Horses around town, this is the only location where patrons get to eat successful kitchen experiments. (Zunde is currently working on a French pain au cacao recipe.)
Zunde tells me there's been quiche, and now pizzas are available on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the breadmaking days. A whole ($10) or half ($6) pizza is topped with whatever ingredients are on hand; so far they've created smoked provolone and mortadella, potato and pancetta, and even ham and egg breakfast pizzas, along with some vegan and veggie ones.
Sadly, we stop in on a non-breadmaking day, so I'll have to return sometime soon to try the pizza. This place may be on Toronto's ugliest street , but the area's got a lot of potential, and those who live/work around here seem happy about this addition to the 'hood. The feeling's mutual for Zunde. "Everyone in the neighbourhood is amazing - they're all so sweet."
Photos by Jesse Milns