Theatre Centre Cafe
The Theatre Centre Cafe has replaced BevLab inside the home of The Theatre Centre , the live arts hub and incubator on West Queen West . This bright, natural light-filled part of the building is open during the day as a community space and during the evening if there are events going on at the centre.
As a publicly-funded facility, its goal is to bridge the non-theatre community with a theatrical space. It's collaborated with City of Craft and local businesses to feature quarterly installations, and when we visit, there are terrariums from Acorn Studio for sale all along a wall. A big communal table in the cafe transforms into a functional ping pong table for impromptu games.
Other quirky-yet-fun touches include the coffee bar, with its sides made from doors found at Post & Beam Reclamation in the Junction and its countertop made from parts of a bowling alley lane. There is even a huge jar filled with Tootsie Pops on the counter when we're there, free for the taking.
Both espresso-based drinks (espresso, $2/$3; Americano, $2.50/$3; cappuccino, $3/$3.50; latte, $3.50/$4.50) and drip coffee ($2) use Rufino beans, while loose leaf teas ($2) are from Detour.
The cafe is also licensed (evening theatregoers need their alcohol), so a selection of craft tall cans ($6) from the likes of Great Lakes Brewery and Double Trouble Brewing Co. are available along with mixed drinks ($6), glasses of wine ($6) and sangria ($8).
In terms of eats, P&L Catering supplies a changing roster of salads ($7) and sandwiches ($8), but what sounds really interesting is a mid-monthly, mid-week, affordable community meal made by Remington North, director of facilities & production for the centre and a budding chef. He hosted an outdoor seafood boil one month, and cooked up ramen the next.
Baked goods-wise, everything is made in-house by baker-in-residence Nicole Bilyea , who
carries the centre's spirit of experimentation and fostering creativity by managing to turn out impressive treats in a small space. She bakes a delectable selection of cookies ($2), loaves, squares and scones (all $3 apiece) that makes decision-making difficult.
Offerings vary day-to-day, and when we visit there are caramelized onion & aged cheddar scones, dark chocolate & sea salt cookies, bourbon oatmeal raisin cookies and peaches & cream (cheese) squares made with local peaches. We try a slice of an Earl Grey tea vanilla citrus loaf that's fresh out of the oven, and it's both refreshing and not too sweet.
Bilyea also has gluten-free quinoa fudge brownies in her arsenal for those who are more health conscious, and she tells us she likes to use natural sweeteners like applesauce and maple syrup in her baking.
A nice place to enjoy a coffee and a treat (or two, or five) is the small outdoor patio and green space on the centre's roof, which is open to the cafe's customers (it's not licensed, so no alcohol). It's a peaceful hangout spot and a great place to reflect on one's love for quality caffeine, freshly baked goods and of course, the arts.
Photos by Jesse Milns