Writer seeks not-office Toronto cafe place
October 25, 2012 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a great writing spot in Toronto, with some very specific requirements.

The mister is a writer, and used to enjoy writing at Linux Caffe on Harbord. Tango Palace Coffee Company on Queen East also met with his approval. We have yet to find another cafe that combines the following qualities:

1. Hubbub, but not loud/live music.

2. Free wifi

3. Good espresso/americanos

4. Hard-backed chairs (not just cushy easy chairs)

5. West of Spadina

6. Relaxed atmosphere (a little cool, a little left of centre, a little "I don't give a damn", but not so crazy busy that he can never get a chair.)

7. NOT a Starbucks, Timothy's, Second Cup, or Coffee Time. Independently run, ideally.

8. Extra billion bonus points for animal protein option on the menu and gluten free baked goods.

Dark Horse on Queen East would have been great were it not for the giant family-style table with stools and the overcrowding and the East-end-ness. He's tried renting an office and the quiet, lack of coffee, and solitude drove him bonkers.

Can you help a poor sad writer find a spot?
posted by lizifer to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How west of Spadina is he willing to go? Good Neighbour fits the bill out here in the Junction.

The other place I'd recommend is The Mascot on Queen West in Parkdale.
posted by thecjm at 11:24 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Holy Oak or the Toronto Coffee Company, both near Bloor/Lansdowne, might fit the bill -- might depend on the time of day he's usually writing.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:37 AM on October 25, 2012

Also in the Junction, Crema seems like it might fit. Dunno about gluten-free baked goods, but they have paninis, and I imagine that means some animal protein and some not.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:55 AM on October 25, 2012

Yeah, The Holy Oak could be really good, depending on the time of day. They also serve beer, which may also be nice. I think they host dance nights also though so if he's looking to work in the evenings it may not be the best.

The Common on Bloor West (around Dovercourt) is pretty good with everything except the food requirements, and it would depend on when he's writing. They're open every day but I only seem to go on weekend afternoons when it's fairly busy. I have no clue what it's like during the week.

There are some west end Dark Horses, but I think you'd have the same space-related issues.
posted by SoftRain at 12:51 PM on October 25, 2012

The Tampered Press! They have big tables, so sometimes you have to share, but people seem friendly. Great coffee and other drinks, nice snacks (I haven't been in ages so I can't remember what they offer, but pastries and sandwiches come to mind. They are the kind of people to have GF treats, but I don't recall specifically either way). And you can look out into Trinity Bellwoods park.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 1:05 PM on October 25, 2012

Seconding Crema. I read your description and immediately thought of it, although the one on Spadina/Richmond isn't open as late or as much as the one on Bloor.
posted by vkxmai at 1:26 PM on October 25, 2012

Coffee & All That Jazz, despite the questionable name, is pretty good. Lots of room for sitting, big tables and small tables, wifi, hard back chairs, busy but not "busy." I don't think it's the best espresso in the world, but something's got to give....

It's right off the College Car at Roncesvalles.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 4:03 PM on October 25, 2012

Finally, my day has come! I am a west-end professional writer who at this very moment is procrastinating on going out and finding someplace to write.

A few suggestions:

1) The Lit on Roncesvalles is really nice, though they close really early (like, at 6).

2) El Amacien on Queen West by Ossington is intimate but very nice and has a fun selection of maté low-caffiene teas. No wifi on weekends though, I don't think.

3) The Abbott, tucked into the side of the corner building at King and Spencer, is a lovely little community coffee shop. Some hard-backed chairs and a picnic table. Very sunny.

These should fit the bill.

Can I offer a bit of perspective that transcends the requirements set forth in the question, since this is pretty much all I do these days?

- Watch the chair-height to table-height ratio. Coffee shops typically put tables up high, at approximately chin-height. I find it's a weird predictor of productivity: Is the table low enough that I can type on it comfortably?

- Don't rule out the corporate chains. A lot of people disdain them, but they're typically open longer than the indie shops, cheaper, more plentiful, more diverse in clientele, and I frankly never feel bad camping out there for hours and hours on end. They provide decent jobs in the community too.

- A lack of wi-fi is not always a bad thing. I've actively been seeking out places without wi-fi for writing. You'll notice that I'm typing this now instead of working, for instance.

Happy writing! May the words flow freely and the Facebook go mercifully unchecked for a little while.
posted by bicyclefish at 4:48 PM on October 25, 2012

Oh! Also, Tequila Bookworm, at Queen and Portland. Another favourite since it's also a bar and is open right till midnight or 1. The music gets loud really late, but until then it's chill and they're happy to serve you tea. Many words written there!
posted by bicyclefish at 4:51 PM on October 25, 2012

I came to recommend Tequila Bookworm, but looks like bicyclefish beat me to it. There's also a Dark Horse on Queen West, and has small tables in addition to the communal table. Moonbeam in Kensington could be good, but i'm not sure if they have wi-fi.
posted by Kololo at 6:32 PM on October 25, 2012

I much prefer Capital Espresso (Queen and Dunn) in Parkdale to the Mascot, especially if I'm doing work.
posted by scrute at 7:39 PM on October 25, 2012

Alternative Grounds on Roncy. Very left-of-centre, an entertaining crowd and some regulars, great coffee (although in the "good beans, good brew" sense and not the "wins espresso competitions" sense). If it's full you can then go up to All That Jazz, down to Lit, or over to Sorauren to go to Sunny Joe's.
posted by mendel at 8:50 PM on October 25, 2012

The Green Bean (I think it's called - Or the Ground Bean). It's in the old bank building, south side of Bloor at Bathurst.
posted by ofelia at 9:00 PM on October 25, 2012

Haven on Brock at Bloor has tasty gluten free snacks. No free wifi right now, but they are getting it soon.
posted by empatterson at 10:15 PM on October 25, 2012

Isn't Haven only about 25 square feet in size? Not much room for writing!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2012

Saving Gigi on Bloor, a block east of Ossington. Has live music once in a while, but certainly not all the time. Also: great sandwiches.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:46 PM on October 28, 2012

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