The Riverdale Perk is a classy little spot in a quiet, residential area. As I make my way through a sea of cute houses, looking for the patio umbrellas to part it, the anticipation is as delicious as the mint lemonade they are about to serve me.
I'm a sucker for a treasure hunt, but living directly on a major street has deprived my daily life of the right to claim such hidden gems. The kind where the owner might ask, "How did you find out about us?" This is a true neighbourhood staple in a neighbourhood very far from my own.
After a very long day at work, I'm beyond relieved to see their extensive menu, because I know that the usual snack-y cafe fare just couldn't possibly be enough. This might be the reason I proceed to show very little self control; indulging myself in a meal that has me casually stretching my time, wallet and legs as though I have not a care in the world.
I get caught up in the waxy candelabras, more than two chandeliers, and iron stoves (well, one, really), that give the place a kind of almost Gothic glamour. Merged with numerous, quaintly sophisticated details (and un-quaintly sophisticated clientele), the aura of richness intoxicates me and I am tricked into insolently acting (and eating) above my station.
I feel kind of like the Great Gatsby, but hungrier.
Engaged in the extensive sandwich list for many minutes, I finally settle upon the portabella mushroom & walnut Panini. With chevre and garlic aioli, I am expecting something not unfamiliar and relatively filling, for a meatless option (mushrooms and nuts being two of the only things that can trick my body into feeling satisfied without it).
Not at all my usual, the presentation blows me away; particularly the intriguing disc of flatbread which looks, at first sight, exactly like a gigantic Breton cracker. But that could have just been my hunger delirium talking.
At $6.75, it is a wee bit small for my insatiable appetite (accompanied by a side of apple salad), but it's tasty as hell, and something tells me that's the more the point.
The lovely owner, Danielle, describes the menu as being "about tastes...," developed "not [by way of] formal training, but more about just [having]...a knack." Her humble yet adventurous approach is the root behind some interesting flavour combinations such as blueberry and chai muffins, and lime and pistachio pie (all made in-house).
The tart and creamy pie ($3.55) is very rich after my decadent meal, but half is saved (with gratitude) for the long ride home. The coffee is self-serve and just the right blend for my exerted taste-buds. This is before I notice the impressive array of flavour-infusions offered on the long shelf of beans.
In a city where everyone is concerned about being the strongest, darkest and espresso-est in coffee, it's cool to see someone injecting some personality and variety into the brewed offerings. Light and delicate flavours are certainly more in tune with the vibe here, anyway.
"Do you have a grinder?" she asks me, going for a sample of one of the more potent beans: Sambuca.
My unfortunately fussy self has always taken great issue with its taste, but appreciates the waft of intensity."The smell fills up the entire room when you make it," she proudly states. Caramel crunch, tiramisu and blueberry (fruit coffee?!) cream are a few other flavour-melds that seem damn near impossible, but I have fun trying to dream them up in a Wonka-esque reverie.
"One of my regulars says that we remind her of an old-fashioned candy shop," she says, referring to the eye-widening variety (and comforting ambience, surely).
I would have to agree that in the past hour, I have been allowed to feel like a kid in a lemonade, sandwich, cake, and coffee shop, respectively. I am truly looking forward to attending the brunch she plans to offer in the fall. Candy's got nothing on this stuff.