Old Town Bodega
Old Town Bodega is a buzzy, eccentrically-decorated little cafe and ice cream parlour that also has a Hastings Barber located in the basement.
The shop takes inspiration from New York City bodegas and secretive speakeasy-type establishments, a lack of signage and a homey feel meant to evoke this.
The 18-seat space is plastered with personal memorabilia, a massive penny tiling project primarily executed by the Hastings owner spelling out Neil Young lyrics from the song “Harvest Moon,” which actually plays over a powerhouse speaker system while I’m there.
A back area that seats about eight has a couch and a functioning fireplace, and leads to a miniscule outdoor space with patio chairs and another fireplace that burns real wood.
From the stereo with weighted knobs to five, (count ’em, five) chandeliers to an old school Elektra espresso machine, everything in here speaks to a love of analog.
This sense of charm extends to the two-chair Hastings space.
Cappuccinos ($4.25) are made with Rufino coffee, like everything here, and you can also do drip starting at $2, and add an extra shot to anything for a buck.
The espresso-based beverage is milky and toasty but balanced.
There are usually eight flavours of Kawartha ice cream available at a time, including peanut butter chocolate, birthday cake, salty caramel truffle, and raspberry sorbet, a scoop going for $3.50, three for $7. Get a waffle cone for a dollar upcharge.
A gigantic ice cream sandwich ($7) stuffs cookies and creamy ice cream between two sticky, sugary toffee coffee chocolate Circles and Squares cookies. You might need a friend to finish one of these bad boys before it melts...and maybe a spoon too.
A tight selection of sandwiches on St. John’s Bakery bread with veggie soy patty, smoked salmon and chicken pesto options signals the beginning of a more substantial food program. The idea is to let this place organically grow into a licensed bar cafe with more snack options and booze.
The main “bodega” element here is the presence of some curated snack and pantry items for sale like cold-pressed olive oil ($14.99) as well as Junior Mints and Big League Chew ($2) that subtly carry through NYC/Seinfeld references.
Husband-and-wife owners Matthew Tosoni and Maura Grierson actually live upstairs, explaining the homey feel and personal decor. Furniture obtained entirely from Craigslist may have been better in theory as far as actual functionality goes, though it does create a one-of-a-kind look.
Tosoni actually opened this cafe after the show he worked on, The Rick Mercer Report, ended, which explains where an imposing portrait overlooking a front seating area and parliament-like wood accents on the back wall came from.