Lit Espresso Bar (Queen St)
Lit Espresso bar has recently opened its third location and this time they're testing Toronto's willingness to drink coffee anywhere. Located near the corner of Queen and Bathurst inside Design Republic , this new addition to the Lit family makes it easy to drink carefully-prepared coffee and shop for a new couch at the same time.
I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say but come on, where else can you do that? Before you try to answer that question with Ikea, it's important to understand that while there are no 15 piece meatball meals on the menu here, the coffee is miles ahead of anything you could possibly find at an Ikea cafeteria. Located at 639 Queen St. West inside the beautiful Burroughes building, this is definitely one of the most unique locations for a coffee shop in the city.
As usual, the first thing I order is a shot ($2.57). Carefully dosed into the portafilter, tamped evenly and quickly thrusted into a shiny, brand new 3-group La Marzocco G5 rig. I had a feeling this would be a good shot.
When I asked what I was about to taste, Mike, one of the most enthusiastic baristas I've ever come across, excitedly told me it was a Stumptown blend, and that Lit is the only cafe in Toronto to use this famous Portland coffee (and the only shop with a G5).
Pulled from a double basket, this shot was syrupy and sweet from beginning to end. Having read so much about Stumptown coffee over the years, and having only tried it a handful of times, my perception remains the same: this coffee is awesome.
I also ordered a cappuccino, and it too, was fantastic. It sported a nice head of foam, the perfect tepid temperature and latte art to boot. I mention the latte art not because I think it distinguishes a good cappuccino from a bad cappuccino, but I find it particularly annoying when a coffee shop prioritizes latte art, and leaves the more important technical aspects of a cappuccino at the door.
Though latte art can in many ways represent properly-steamed milk, there is also much more to focus on when crafting a good capp before worrying about trying to pour a 7-level tulip in a 5 oz. demitasse. As a former co-worker and fellow espresso-obsessed friend of mine says about latte art, ''It's the tip of the iceberg, man."
The pastries here are the usual Circles and Squares selection, and will run you anywhere from $1.90 to $3. Though the espresso is the star of the show at this cafe, french presses are also offered for those in search of a regular brew.
This iteration of Lit Espresso bar is open from 8 a.m.- 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and is open from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Sunday. Americanos are $2.81, cappuccino are $3.52 and mochas are $4. My overall impressions: fantastic coffee, clean bar, great staff, weak pastry selection and a killer west-end location.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak