My parents take their coffees black. My brother takes his with sugar and a splash of milk. I don’t take my coffee at all. Like wine, olives, and the colour beige, coffee is one of those acquired tastes that I have yet to acquire. Apparently, my taste buds have died and regenerated at least three times by now, yet I haven’t had the slightest urge to drink coffee. However, my dislike of coffee doesn’t stop me from liking cafés.
I lived in university towns so most of my young adulthood was, and still is, spent hanging out at quirky cafés. I’m attracted to places where university students and middle-aged hippies hang out. The best cafés always strike the balance of an energetic buzz and a soothing calm.
For me, the problem with cafés is finding something to drink. Lattés, cappuccinos, espresso, French press—none of these appeal to me. It gets even harder this time of year. When it’s sweltering outside, the only thing I want less than hot tea is hot coffee. Southerners can keep their tradition of tea on a veranda on hot days. I get enough hot water from the humidity of the summer air.
In my experience, the best way to start a hunt for new café haunts is to decide what you’re looking for. A café can mean anything from a Starbucks to a shop that keeps a pot of coffee on for customers. My parameters were as follows:
- It has to be local; no major chains.
- It has to be a café with baristas (no waiters.)
- It has to have seating.
- It has to serve coffee (for my coffee-drinking friends).
- It has to serve tasty non-coffee cold drinks (for me).
Even after applying these rules, the Danforth neighbourhood has so many cafés to offer. Here are some great options:
- Bread and Roses (508 Danforth Ave)
The yellow and brown decoration at Bread and Roses feels soothing and the soft instrumental music from the speakers plays at the perfect low volume to either be noticeable or easily ignored. Many customers sit silently as they work on their laptops. Apart from the occasional crash of a smoothie-making blender, the café feels serene. This would be a good place to come for lunch and stay to work.
Whether you feel like a baked good to nibble on or a whole sandwich, the menu offers a number of options. Pre-prepared paninis come from a small fridge and are pressed and plated to order. The drink menu offers 23 distinct options (not including different flavours of the same drink). For my cold drink I choose berry tea lemonade, served in a mason jar and adorned with frozen berries. I am satisfied with my choice.
- The Only Café (972 Danforth Ave)
I know what kind of place The Only Café is the moment I see the bright psychedelic paint job at the entrance. As expected, the interior houses age-worn wooden furniture and eclectic framed art and photography. The music matches the furniture: an eclectic mix of classic rock and indie. The café feels artsy with a chill bohemian vibe.
Cold, non-coffee beverages sit in the cooler but when I ask for other options, the barista tells me they make teas over ice. I ask him to choose one for me. He serves me a pint glass with a large, hand-mixed bag of lavender, chamomile, and almond root tea over ice. The tea tastes delicious; however, one of their micro-brew beers would have also been a good alternative.
- Red Rocket Coffee (1364 Danforth Ave)
Red Rocket Coffee strikes just the right balance between industrial modernity and cabin coziness––red and black polished metal mixed with shellacked wood. I sit on a large brown leather couch with friend and we join the low din of people chatting with their own friends. I even make a friend who, after overhearing my conversation, suggests that I order a vanilla Italian soda with cream, to make a cream soda.
Tempting as that sounds, I look at the artfully written cold drink options on the chalkboard behind the counter and order sweet tea. The tea is tasty and thirst-quenching. It reminds me of something I drank on my road trip to Florida.
- Poma Rosa (1504 Danforth Ave)
Despite having few places to sit, Poma Rosa offers great service and delicious healthy food, including arepas (a Venezuelan corn flour bread filled with toppings), smoothies, and coffee. While the coffee menu offers variety and the arepas are delicious, the smoothies here are the real treat. I choose The El Mono, a mix of banana, peanut butter, cinnamon, soymilk, and chia seeds. The mousse-like texture reminds me of a nutty rice pudding.
- Café Cocoro (1989 Danforth Ave)
This unique café offers the usual baked goods and bagels along with Death in Venice artisan gelato and a selection of Korean dishes. While I am tempted to try the bulgogi plate, I remember I am here for drinks. I order a chai frappé that, while flavourful, is a little icier than I’d like. Next time, I will pick from their cold drinks cooler, which offers the largest variety I’ve ever seen at a café.
Image from Bread and Roses Facebook—no copyright infringement intended
Browen Matheson is the Editor for the Kitchen Space section of On the Danforth and her favourite food is the humble potato. Though she appreciates food, she does not have the skills to cook. When Browen’s not desperately trying to become a functioning member of society, she can be found indulging in nerd culture through TV, podcasts, role-playing games, and literary criticism. Browen currently resides in North York with her roommates/adventuring party.