Coffeeshops in Toronto change more frequently than any other kind of establishment! We have to take into account the quality of the coffee, tea and alternative beverage offerings more than anything, but the seating, comfort, style and fun factors are important components as well. The ones that made it into the Tried and True list also have some memorable and special qualities.
Tried and True:
- 135 Ossington: This is more so a vibe than a coffee shop and a unique and stylish place that you can safely bring all your coffee connoisseur friends to. Potential drawback: This targeted little space can be a little intimidating for those who just want something “simple”.
- Neo Coffee Bar: This Old Town Japanese coffee shop is a beautiful and slick place to go to read your Monocle or Walrus magazine in your raw silk pants and fancy glasses. Potential drawback: They expressly prefer people to come and chat with their friends or read a book rather than camp out to work on their thesis.
- Cafe Zuzu: This place is sort of a not-so-hidden gem that has become the unofficial meeting place for a lot of folks I train with. The espresso drinks are great, but it is the breakfast sandwiches you should really be excited about. They’re all good. Indoor and patio seating available. Potential drawback: The location is in the East End in a very residential area.
- The Lobby at The Ace Hotel: This is a beautiful multi-use space where you might come as a tourist or to feel like a tourist in your own city. The coffee and food options are very lovely, and it’s a great place to come to write a few lines of poetry or conduct a casual business meeting. Potential drawback: This is still technically the lobby of a boutique hotel and not everyone will be using the space with the same intention.
- Rustle & Still: This is a Vietnamese Coffee Shop in Koreatown with really cute elements that will make you feel like you’re on a little adventure. Fun menu items change often. Potential drawback: You have to go up some stairs to get in.
- Cafe Panemar: An old favourite of mine in Kensington Market, especially for their patio in the summer. They also host events at night and have a strong social-justice bent. Potential drawback: The narrow space design can be a bit claustrophobic, especially in the winter.
- Tandem Coffee: Do not let the exterior fool you – this place is home to one of the most beloved coffeeshops in Corktown, run by the loveliest couple, offering up a rotating selection of baked goods and even some vintage shop finds. Their oat milk beverages are worth a try. Potential drawback: The seating is limited and a little rustic.
- FIKA Cafe: This Kensington spot has pretty good coffee, but the Scandinavian hygge and cardamom cinnamon buns are really what keeps me coming back. Potential drawback: This café is not wheelchair accessible, and only half the spots are good to sit in.
- Ninetails Coffee Bar: A French-Japanese modern specialty coffee bar in Koreatown. Potential drawback: Very narrow and small seating options for anyone who has a taller or stronger build.
- Rooster Coffee House: With Persian rugs and various kinds of seating, the Rooster locations are some of the best coffeeshops to hit up on the East End, and their baked goods selection is very generous. Potential drawback: These spaces are not designed for working or for sitting a long time.
- Boxcar Social: This place epitomizes Toronto and its strong coffee scene. With locations in Rosedale, Temperance Street and Harbourfront, they have overhauled and significantly improved every space they take over. They are fully licensed and even have charcuterie board and other substantial food options as well. Potential drawback: Some of their staff are a little bit too obsessed with their coffee.
- Fahrenheit Coffee: The staff here are so friendly, you might think that there’s a little something-something in the coffee (or their addictive scones). But as you’ll soon learn, it’s just a really happy place near Church and Lombard (they now have other locations) with really great beans. Potential drawback: There’s very little seating here.
- Sam James Coffee Bar: These guys are a trendy-but-accessible operation that’s very minimalist in their approach to coffee and decor. I used to go to the one in the PATH on an almost daily basis for a Flat White with my Aussie friends. Potential drawback: It is usually a little hectic around here.
- De Mello Palheta: This is the place I usually stop in when I’m in the Yonge and Eglinton area. They also have umbrellas all over the ceiling, and an obsession with their brewing process. Potential drawback: The walk down the stairs to the bathroom is treacherous, and I’m not exaggerating.
- Dineen Coffee: This place got me through my bar exams, and is still one of the best places on Yonge St. Now, you can also find locations in Commerce Court, and their newer outpost on Gerrard St E. Potential drawback: It’s literally always crammed and there’s about a 20% chance you’ll score a seat.
- Hailed Coffee: This place gets top spot on honourable mentions not just for their great coffee, but also for their Arabic touches. Potential drawback: They’re located right beside a large parking garage.
- Balzac’s Coffee: If it weren’t for Balzac’s coffee and warming winter tonics, I would have never made it through law school. They try to maintain good community vibes with initiative such as encouraging you to bring your own packed lunch to eat within if you like. Potential drawback: They have been so successful that they’re no longer an “independent coffee shop”.
- Pilot Coffee Roasters: You can find Pilot Coffee in various locations now, but location that used to be Te Aro in Leslieville is still the heart of the operation (in my opinion). Potential drawback: Now that they have so many locations, there is much more standardization and each place feels less special.
- Green Beanery: As the first thing you see coming out of Bathurst Station, this is a popular meeting spot for study groups and Craigslist meetups. They are unique in that they roast all their own beans on site, and have both a gift shop and this crazy vault meeting room that can be booked for a price. Potential drawback: No wifi on purpose, and their food options are not the most refined.
- Dark Horse Espresso Bar: A long-time favourite back when coffee culture in Toronto was still considered an up-and-coming thing. The Spadina location is my favourite. Potential drawback: Some of the locations are way too dark to read or work in.
- The Common: This coffee shop (one on College, and one on Bloor) is so unpretentious and so casual, you might think that they’re putting on an act, but I’m (pretty) sure they’re not. Potential drawback: Cash only, and a slight “regulars only” vibe.
- Versus Coffee: This coffee shop has a great patio and a fun vibe just outside the Financial District, on the ground floor of one of my favourite condos. Potential drawback: The tables are a little smaller and unstable, which can make it difficult to balance your drink and/or book and/or laptop at the same time.
- Jimmy’s Coffee: If you can handle the overly friendly vibes, you’re going to like it here. Many Torontonians are fiercely defensive of this coffee franchise. Potential drawback: The seating is awkward and you may have to fight for it.
On My Radar:
- Cafe 23
- Coffee Dak Lak
- Subtext Coffee
- Dispatch Coffee
- Reunion Island
- Hale Coffee
- The Library
Last updated: July 2023