Red Eye Espresso
Red Eye Espresso is tucked away in a little space just off of McCaul Street. Clearly designed to catch the OCAD crowd, it's white as gessoed canvas, with little flashes of colour in the floor and wall like daubs of paint. Walls are currently hung with a jeweller's work, but as in a gallery, it'll change.
A couple of window-facing stools makes this primarily a take-out place, perfect for students and workers on the go, but there are some soft cushions and kids books lying around so moms and tots can enjoy too.
I get owner Alex to make me up an Americano, as I like to sample a barista's skills without the muddle of milk. Hers are in great form, as the coffee has a nice, holding crema and is subtly fruity with a nut finish and no trace of oily bitterness. The coffee comes in two sizes. A large has four shots. For an Americano it's $2.25 or $3.25, while a latte will run you a dollar more. That's pretty cheap. There are London fogs and mistos and caps if you want, and for those lacto-adverse you can get soy or almond milk instead.
The basics of a good Toronto coffee shop are covered here. You've got a La Marzocco machine humming along, beans and teas ($2.00 a cup) from Toronto's own Social Coffee & Tea Company , Grizzly Bear on the MacBook. Nearly all of the baked goods are from Circles and Squares -- most of the city can now spot those brown-tissued muffins speckled with sunflower seeds from a mile away. The banana bread, however, is made in-house (a slice being $1.75) but it is so good you can take home a whole loaf.
The cafe is pretty small and a full baking kitchen too tall an order, but the skills are clearly there, why not put a halt to those tired muffins ( Dark Horse has those covered on Spadina anyway) and whip up something special? The cookies (by the same company) I'll abide by, ginger molasses, sea salt or Nutella chocolate chip, but please let someone else serve those retched muffins.
Photos by Jesse Milns