A page a day, day twenty: coffee shops

I love my neighborhood. It has just about everything I could want, including a dozen or so coffee shops within easy walking distance. It’s one of the main reasons I chose my condo when I did.

There’s the standard Beano cafe on the corner of 16th Ave and 9th Street. It has an excellent decor and the seating is comfortable so long as you don’t take one of the window seats. But that’s true of any bar chair seating. I’m not a fan of any chair with a seat so high my legs dangle. But the rest of their fifties decor is quite comfy and the place is well lit. It’s constantly busy with a fairly regular crowd. There’s also plenty of bench seating outside for the cancer people to occupy when it’s warm enough. Beano has also been there long enough that they’re on the permanent radar of some of the more colorful street characters. You can always find a good rambling, tin-hat monologue going on with some guy wearing as much beard as clothing sporting more fingers than teeth.

They’re friendly, just don’t ask what’s wrong with the government unless you’re prepared to lose an entire afternoon.

Beano has some simple sandwiches and a few minor desserts. They’ve started carrying some gluten free stuff from the all gluten free bakery down the street, though.

Then there’s the Good Earth on 11th street and 15th Ave. Definitely a more urban professional kind of place with aging yuppies reading the National and discussing retirement strategies. You’ll also get young moms with their triple-the-price organic blend lifestyle saving the world highly discerning consumerism and all natural, free range genetic purebreds on their leash in and in their baby carriage. I have to wonder how many of them are running on oil money. The irony would be just too precious.

Good Earth has some convenient group seating as well as a few comfy corners. People will spend hours reading their paper in there on the weekends owing to the brilliant partnership with the newsstand next door. They’ve taken the wall out between them so people can easily grab their Vogue and Toronto Star as they sip their organic chai latte and nibble on their low fat muffins.

Waves is a relatively new place, although given that it’s actually a franchise I’m sure it’s only new to me. The place used to grant free WiFi but that seems to have since disappeared. They do have a nice environment, though, and their furniture is very comfortable. The place is packed every night with a huge range of international peoples. I’m guessing they’re mostly immigrants but I feel I’m edging on potentially rude just speculating that far. I think the franchise has switched ownership and the new owner/manager appears to be one of those Arabic type merchants who more or less lives at his shop. He’s very attentive to detail and does his best to make sure as many people can be accommodated as possible.

Waves has pretty good food, although I’ve found their cinnamon buns to be a bit dry. They also have a wide range of rooibos tea variations to try, which may explain the large number of immigrants who visit there. Rooibos has been popular in Africa, or so I’m given to understand, for “generations” and is only now making inroads into North America. As a tea it’s pretty mild, somewhere between a light black tea and an herbal tea. I actually rather like it iced.

chiasso cupFor a while my favorite coffee shop was Chiasso. Of course the very reason I liked it so much is probably the same reason they have since closed their doors: they were never very busy. They had comfortable furniture and good, sturdy tables. They often had some very tasty desserts and carried a terrific English Breakfast tea that had a heck of a caffeine kick. I was able to get a lot of writing done there because the place was quiet and uncrowded. I’m guessing, however, that unless you’re constantly busy it is very hard to stay in business in the 17th Ave area.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention how the coffee tasted at any of these places. There’s two reasons for that: 1) I don’t drink coffee all that often and 2) I can’t really tell the difference between “good” and “bad” coffee in North America. It all tastes the same to me. The only place I ever had a remarkably good cup of coffee was in Paris. Anywhere in Paris. Any little cafe or restaurant in Paris served coffee a million times better than anything I’ve tasted here. It’s one of the reasons I don’t drink it very often.

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