Dark Horse Espresso on Queen East
Dark Horse Espresso has a brand-new Queen East location, just a stone's throw away from the original location (now closed). The new digs replace the first spot, and the similarities and differences between the humble beginnings and this expansive new joint tell a lot about what's been happening with the company over the last eight years.
The Queen East spot adds to the prestige of the mini-chain. Taking over the corner ground level of a newly developed condo building, they made use of the vaulted ceilings and industrial features, but combined those with some natural or vintage elements to humanize the concrete.
At the original Dark Horse, they installed a communal table, which caused a stir at the time. Now communal tables are part and parcel of the Dark Horse enterprise, familiar and welcoming, and there is one massive one (brought over from the old location) in the front window, outfitted with bolted diner stools all around, and light by a massive Tom Dixon Studio PunchBall pendant that is both arty and illuminating.
Another long communal wooden bar runs the length of the long room, intersected by concrete columns. At the back, there are soft chairs for lounging, another counter bar to seat at, and numerous other benches and such to grab a quick seat. The floor-to-ceiling windows provide beautiful natural light, and showcase the handful of paintings that line the few walls. While the space is new and visually dynamic, there are design echoes from all the other past and present locations, further solidifying the brand.
The coffee and baked goods are relatively the same. They used a Kees Van Der Westen Mirage Veloce machine, 49th Parallel and Detour beans, and sell Chemex, pour over, Buono coffee drip kettles and other fancy coffee machines. I had an Americano ($3.15), and it had the characteristic caramel-ly crema and smooth finish Dark Horse is known for. As for snacks, they bake most of them in-house, with a few others coming in from three different bakeries.
Part of the coffee counter is outfitted with a panini grill and ovens, so expect quick lunch options coming soon, similar to the Spadina and John locations. All in all, the new space is a welcome addition for coffee drinkers - and more proof Dark Horse is a front-runner in Toronto cafĂŠ culture.
Photos by Jesse Milns.