Longstanding bike repair store in Toronto has transformed into a French-style cafe
After more than 25 years as a bike repair shop fixing up old Bianchis, the Harbord Village staple Bike Joint is no more.
From the outside, it doesn't look like much has changed: The Bike Joint's distinctive yellow and red sign with the Salad Fingers-esque cyclist still sits atop the door 290 Harbord St.
But gone are the pedal wrenches and repair stands inside. Bike Joint owner Derek Chadbourne, who also masterminded the annual Icycle Race and non-profit Charlie's Freewheels, closed his Harbord shop sometime last year.
As of February, the shop has transformed into Bicyclette, a simple spot for French takeout helmed by Jean-Pierre Centeno.
Centeno, a former culinary professor at George Brown, has reimagined the old Bike Joint space with a fresh coat of paint on the outside and a brand new interior.
He's replaced the beater bikes with baguettes, bags of Choco Sol coffee beans, and a glass display of Croque Monsieurs and quiches made by Centeno daily.
"Teaching is great and I loved it," he says.
"I was teaching business, food and wine pairings, theory, to culinary students... but I just got to the point [and said] well, I'm teaching this stuff. I might as well put it into place."
Centeno is originally from southern France but after having lived in and around the Annex neighbourhood for decades, he jumped at the opportunity to check out the unit at 290 Harbord. His wife, an architect, saw potential in the space.
Centeno combines his extensive background in French cooking—he owned the popular College Street bistro Gamelle for 16 years—with a perfectly quaint name that pays homage to the longstanding bike community that formed around Chadbourne's shop.
Open Thursdays to Sundays, Bicyclette's menu includes chicken tourtieres, ham-and-cheese quiches and litres of French onion soup from La Brehandaise Market.
The salade Niçoise, with anchovies, boiled eggs, olives, and green beans is packaged for takeout.
A good sandwich is central to Bicyclette. The Croque Monsieurs, loaded with Gruyère cheese on brioche, with ham and béchamel sauce, are a definite standout.
Centeno has plans to eventually launch a bottle shop inside, so you can pair your roast beef sandwich on baguettes or roasted lamb (not on the menu yet) with a suitable wine.
In the meantime, all ingredients on the menu are carefully sourced, straight from providers at the Food Terminal or companies like Pasquale Brothers. The shop feels in keeping with its neighbours, which include local favourites like Harbord Bakery or Think It Cafe.
"Speaking to my neighbours, they are quite happy to have me," says Centeno. "We're creating a nice a little hub."
As for the Bike Joint sign, don't expect it to stay up forever. As much as Centeno is a fan, the creepy biker never fully charmed its way into the hearts of neighbours, he says.
A former employee of Bike Joint has offered to take if off his hands and it'll make way for a new Bicyclette sign sooner rather than later.
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