The Strong One
The Strong One is the little sister cafe to Empire Espresso on College Street. Design-savvy owner Lisa Young-Kutsukake brings her stand-out decor and scratch baking to Kensington Market with a new focus on wholesome sandwiches, pies and baked treats. The cafe is a bit off the beaten path in the space formerly home to Café Unwind near the Toronto Western Hospital.
Inside the cozy countrified cafe, I find Manager Shanley Maguire serving fresh Tuna Cheddar Melt Sandwiches ($5.50) from behind-the-counter kitchen.
Hungry homesick crowds from the hospital will be pleased to find fresh lunch items as well as many baked treats.
"Our menu is never the same. We have a regular rotation of sandwiches like our Tuna Melt Sandwich and assorted breakfast sandwiches; right now we're serving Toad In The Hole, a German sausage in a Yorkshire pudding! Alongside a few recipes doubled over from Empire, there's plenty of new stuff to try." Maguire tells me.
With floral wallpaper set to trend on Instagram, hand-painted leafy trees and dainty vintage mirrors, The Strong One is a little slice of the picturesque countryside in the big city, with a pioneering coffee menu featuring Empire Espresso stables.
If there's one thing that everyone loves at both locations, it's the Lavender Honey Latte ($5.50); made with steamed milk and lavender honey, then poured on top of double-shot espresso. The taste is smooth, with a bright Lavender aftertaste that kicks in like a warm shot of whiskey. Sweet Jesus, it's beautiful.
Shipped from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, The Strong One roasts single-origin coffee from Anchored Coffee ; a medium roast profile (Nectarine, almonds, cola) you probably won't find in Toronto. Sam James' Cut Coffee is also on tap for those banking on a loyal neighborhood roast.
Beyond go-to coffee drinks, there's a handful of specialty lattes like the Nutella Latte ($5.50), Actual Pumpkin Pie latte ($5.50), The Matador (a sweet and spicy latte) ($4.50) that make this café a sweet paradise. Other drinks like the Pure Lemon Ginger ($5), Ginger hot chocolate ($4.80) and cozy apple cider ($4.80) comfort like a long hug.
Keen to try a little bit of everything, Maguire prepares a special feast for me with Mulled Apple Cider and Chai Cake with Maple Walnut Icing and Rosebud ($8), The Shan-Wow (invented by Shanley herself) ($4.50), Two Hand Savory Pies ($6) and Seasonal Sweet Hand Pies ($6). I'll admit, I'm drooling.
With homegrown charm and a baked small batch empire, The Strong One is a farmer's wet dream; a Kensington speakeasy for small batch baked goods, Nutella lattes and old-fashioned good times.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.