Toronto is a coffee town. Go to almost any neighbourhood and you can find a place serving up espressos, single-source varietals, or just plain joe brewed black and strong. Yes, you can go to a Starbucks or a Tim Hortons for that cookie-cutter chain experience but you deserve better.
We rounded up the best cafes in the city for whatever your need. Whether you want a hearty lunch to go with your coffee, a fresh-baked muffin to pair with that cappuccino or you're looking for the perfect spot for that first coffee date, we've picked the best cafes for you.
Did we miss your favourite? Share it with us in the comments. Full text of the slideshow follows:
For The View
On warm evenings you can see Toronto’s gleaming skyline and the Don Valley before you. Strike up a conversation with some of the friendly locals, or head for a more substantial meal on the Danforth or Chinatown East.
Also try: White Squirrel Coffee Shop
Finding a cafe that does good, affordable food can be hard. How many times have you had a horrible quiche or a limp, tasteless salad at an otherwise decent cafe? Fortunately for Torontonians, Israeli chain Aroma has opened their shops all over the city. Their filling sandwiches feature bread baked daily and a great range of salads (think sweet potato, lentils and goat cheese) for the health conscious.
Also try: Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters
For The Treats
A comforting fixture on Dundas Street West, you’ll almost always see a hard-at-work baker in the window at Ella’s Uncle. What this means is that you’re getting handmade, freshly baked pastries. Take your pastry and coffee to nearby Trinity-Bellwoods park right after.
There’s plenty of space in this Queen Street West cafe and bar. Find yourself a nook and make yourself comfortable. This grungy and friendly staple doesn’t have the greatest coffee but you can always switch to beer.
The Spadina branch of mini coffee empire Dark Horse features two huge tables perfect for pounding out novels, blogs, computer code or grant proposals. The well-made espressos help too. It doesn’t hurt the inspiration that the cafe sits on the main floor of the Centre for Social Innovation, so that laptop jockey sitting next to you might be working on a brilliant idea, too.
For The Hipsters
Blink and you’ll miss Sam James’s tiny shop on Harbord Street. But you probably won’t miss the gangsta rap blaring on the speakers. The puckish Sam James is one of the best baristas in the city and has trained others in cafes across town. There’s probably six seats in the whole joint so you’re better off getting your Americano (black, naturally) to go. HIs brew is not exclusive to the hipster crowd though, with a new location in the PATH for Bay Street types.
For Latte Art
The baristas at the Bull Dog cafe often make lattes so pretty you almost don’t want to drink them. Think flowers, hearts and of course — bull dog faces.
Also try: Toronto Life lists a few places with lattes it loves.
For The East-Siders
Coffee-snobby Torontonians might claim that the best espresso in the city is west of the Don. They’re wrong. The coffee slingers at Mercury (or Dark Horse, or Te Aro) are easily some of the best in the city.
For Playing Board Games
Move over Monopoly. Shuffle over Scrabble. A runaway success since it opened in mid-2010, Snakes and Lattes is a mecca if you’re a board game lover. The cafe has hundreds (if not thousands) of games in its library. Be warned it gets BUSY. Call ahead
for a reservation to find out how long the wait is or stop by and you can get added to their waiting list.
Also try: Go Lounge
For the Locals
It’s like Cheers, but in an espresso bar. The baristas at Jet Fuel have been serving Cabbagetown locals for 18 years(!) so you can forgive the crusty exterior a bit. The place is also a favourite pit stop for bike couriers.
For Taking The Kids
Tired of trying to cram your baby stroller into your tiny local cafe only to get glaring looks from childless hipsters? Smock Cafe's open and contemporary space in Roncesvalles is pretty enough for parents and full of fun activities and classes for kids and grownups alike. They also serve up beautiful and healthy snacks for all ages.
For Picking Up
Dog lovers? Check. Queen West hipsters? Check. The White Squirrel’s proximity to the park means it’s always been a great people-watching spot. If you play your cards right you can grab your second coffee, pastry or ice cream in the park with your new crush.
With a name like Balzac’s this Distillery District cafe is full of old-time charm. Note the interior, all wood and brick and antique-looking posters. There’s also the giant eye-catching chandelier. If you think hard enough you can almost imagine you and your sweetie finishing your coffee and taking a walk somewhere more exotic than downtown Toronto.
Also try: Rooster Coffee House
For Those Who Want To Know Where Their Coffee Comes From
Some people want to know the story behind the coffee they drink. If that’s you, then head over to this hidden gem. The knowledgeable staff can tell you where that cuppa came from. They also hold workshops, classes and other educational events.