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Best Espresso in the city...

  • r

I am wondering what the serious coffee drinkers think. My first choice is Bulldog Cafe, Granby and Church, but Louie's in Kensignton is just about co-equal. Depending on the barrista, Bar Mercurio can pull a mean one. But how do others see it? I am also interested in the June round of the barrista competition -- where? is it open to the public?

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  1. B Espresso on Queen east of Church and Mercatto (Toronto Street location) do seriously good espresso.

    3 Replies
    1. re: westhead74

      B is my favourite bet, but they seem to have some strange hours and are not open on Sundays?

      1. re: Randy

        Brazilianos on Dundas near Clinton.

      2. re: westhead74

        Definately Mercatto best esresso outside of italy!!!!!!

        15 Toronto Street, Toronto, ON M5C 2E3, CA

      3. Gatto Nero at Crawford/College

        1. p
          peppermint pate

          Ah, the holy grail quest for the perfect espresso shot...

          I've posted often about Louie's - overall, it's still my favourite for the combined espresso/atmosphere experience. I like "b" as well. A couple of other options - Black Camel. It's a newish little spot on Crescent, off of Yonge Street (opposite the Rosedale station). The guy is serious about his espresso and pulls a fine shot. Great sandwiches too. The other spot is Zuccarini's, a 50-plus year-old espresso machine retailer on Davenport, near Dufferin. They have a stunning Elektra machine in the front that makes a fine espresso shot.

          Never tried (or heard of) Bulldog Cafe. Is that near Wellesley? Thanks for the tip - I'll definitely check it out.

          1. My mother swears by Jet Fuel on Parliament.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Claire

              Not sure about the espresso, but the latte at Jet Fuel is great. Super tall, clear glass. Excellent home-made muffins and danish, too

            2. I have always had a thing for Terroni's Capps. Excellent!

              1. There simply aren't any great places for espresso in Toronto...that is, if you are talking about the type of quality you will get in Seattle or Scandinavia. The level of knowledge just hasn't made it's way here yet.

                It's starting to manifest itself in small ways...

                Bulldog's owner has figured out how to microfoam milk, and can (sorta) pout latte art. Not so sure about the bean quality though...there's hope here, as he is the owner, and has a passion. Expecting some part-time, minimum wage, uninterested student to pull great espresso is as difficult as throwing them into a kitchen and expecting Susur level food...ain't gonna happen. There is actually a great deal of knowledge and skill involved.

                "b" espresso is the only place I have been served an almost perfect cappa...but this was from an employee who had trained overseas under someone who actually knew what they were doing. I say "almost" perfect, as they use Illy beans. Illy is still better than almost every bean used buy every place in town that has an espresso machine mind you...it's just ridiculously expensive, as the process to keep the beans from degassing ain't cheap...neither is having it all shipped from Italy.

                And that's the main problem with why all espresso in Toronto is generally undrinkable swill....they almost ALLLLLLL use stale beans. And you can have all the skill in the world, but it won't save you from stale ingredients.

                If you can manage to actually have fresh beans (that means they are used within one week of being roasted), then the storage, grinding, and extraction process will almost always be flawed. And any one of the variables are even a bit off, and it won't be very good.

                Good espresso is very difficult to produce. I'd say the main problem in Toronto, is that basically no-one has ever had a properly made espresso, so they really don't have a frame of reference...which is why we keep lining up for more of those 20oz "cappacinos" or "lattes"...which aren't...they are just some kind of mildly espresso flavoured milk.

                Did someone say Jet fuel????

                Ok...the place is very cool...Toronto is not lacking in the cool department...lotsa places with a great look, location, vibe...no prob. But Jet Fuel cannot make an espresso drink....just badly extracted espresso, added to badly scalded milk, topped off with that useless dry seafoam stuff.

                Do not judge the espresso based on how impressive you think the equipment looks...any espresso machine that is capable of 9 bars of pressure and decent temperature stability can produce a god-shot (the chrome and eagles on top don't have anything to do with it) Have crappy beans, or don't know excactly what you are doing, and those fancy, expensive machines will produce as bad espresso as one of those toy espresso machines you can buy at the Bay for $89.

                Besides...the real rock star of the espresso world is not the machine...but the grinder.. don't know how to dial in the correct grind...you are screwed.

                Wish I could recomend a place to go have a perfect cappa to see what it really tastes/smells like...but i can't think of one in Toronto...if you have come across one (and you know what it is), let me know...cause I have spent more time and money, tasteing more espresso drinks in Toronto than I would like to admit...and have come up short every time. The only place I can recommend is b espresso...if the right person is doing it, you will get a properly extracted shot, combined with properly microfoamed milk, poured in a properly heated and sized cappa cup, and you may even get latte art.

                Otherwise, you will all just have to wait until I actually open an espresso bar. LOL


                23 Replies
                1. re: KGB

                  you are spot on in terms of temp and in terms of the overly dry and troppo caldo factor -- but there are some good, fresh, pulls available, so I think youre being a wee bit overcritical. Louie's in Kensington and the two espresso places lower level St. Lawrence can't be faulted on bean quality...I notice, though that no one has responded to the second part of my original query re the barrista competition!

                  and, what's this about coffee culture in the Scandinavian countries?

                  1. re: Rick

                    Where exactly is Louie's in Kensington? I walked around looking for it once and never found it. (picked up some other good stuff, though)

                    1. re: Yongeman

                      corner of Baldwin and Augusta. it looks a bit like a shack; in the warm weather you can order from the steet. enjoy

                      1. re: Rick

                        Thanks Rick.
                        I can't believe I missed it. Is the name, "Louie's" on the outside? Is it the one on the SE corner?

                        1. re: Yongeman

                          I dont believe the name is posted -- but its RIGHT on the corner

                          Email me: I'd be happy to meet you and go for coffee!

                          1. re: Rick

                            I think the place you mean is the cafe added onto Casa Acoreanas, the spice shop?

                            Because if so, bingo- terrific drinks at excellent prices, with a people-watching perch second to none.

                          2. re: Yongeman

                            Its actually the NE corner, and it's right beside their coffee beans and spice shop. Speaking of which the coffee that Luis' uses is barleno and you can buy the beans there.

                      2. re: Rick

                        I will second Rick's favorable comment about the coffee in the lower level, St Lawrence Market. Espressos are the real deal (their longs are my fav) and their dark roast regular brew is great.

                        1. re: Aarby

                          There are two that serve espresso in the basement of the SLM. Do you mean Everyday Gourmet or Pasta Mia?

                          1. re: Googs

                            I had to go online and check that out. I've never paid much attention to the name of the shop. It's Everyday Gourmet. But I'll have to give Pasta Mia a try now that I'm aware that it's there.

                          2. re: Aarby

                            I agree with you. But on Saturday, there is always long line-up. If I don't want to wait, I will go to Hank's on Church. The espressos are also good. An added bonus is they have a great selection of baked goods. My fave is the lemon scone.

                        2. re: KGB

                          I enjoyed your post KGB and very much relate to what you said. I would have recommended to you Vici Gelato at Yonge and Dundas, but, alas, they've departed. To my taste buds, all the espressos I've had in TO in my explorations to date have tasted more or less the same. They've mostly been okay but nothing to write home about. Vici was something to write home about and coffee wasn't even the central part of their business! Jet Fuel made me a nice Americano, but I didn't care for the dinginess of the store. I spent a few hours at Dark Horse on Spadina today. This was my second visit. The owners were in today. On my first visit, I found the baristas to be positive, but nervous. This time around, they were subdued. One girl behind the counter (not pulling shots but taking my order) couldn't hear me when I spoke to her. I commented that it didn't surprise me, with the music being as loud as it is. She asked if I wanted it turned down. I said no. That would have been extremely embarrassing and you know they would have resented me asking for that. This is what drove me away from Dark Horse in Broadview village. There's just no need for the tunes to be cranked up so loud that your staff is annoyed and can't hear you. My initial score for Dark Horse on Spadina was 4 out of 5. I have to knock off one or two points for atmosphere. Loud music is for nightclubs for goodness sakes.

                          I had a single short, an Americano and two capps. I was looking for something that worked well. The pure shots are okay and maybe the Americano will work once I get the water to espresso ration right. But the capps are too milky. I'm really tiring of the latte art in lieu of a good drink. The first capp was a 2 shot. It was too milky. The second was a 3 shot and it was stronger, but, strangely, worse. I think the coffee they're using is part of the problem. It's not up to snuff in my view.

                          1. re: Aarby

                            You sound like you prefer more traditional style espresso bars with a more relaxed atmosphere. My suggestions for you would be to try these places:

                            Zaza Espresso Bar - 75 Yorkville Ave
                            Bisogno Espresso Bar - 61 Sherbourne St.
                            B Espresso Bar - 111 Queen St. E.
                            Caffe Latte - 2409 Yonge St.

                            report back if you try any :)

                            1. re: sleepy

                              Thanks for the suggestions! I went to see Star Trek tonight (which would have been yesterday I guess). I got to AMC about 9:30pm maybe and deliberately grabbed a ticket for the 11:20pm showing so I could hunt up Bisogno which wouldn't have been far from Yonge & Dundas. Well, I found it. What a charming shop! Of course it was closed at this hour. I just wanted to know where it was after reading other posts about it. I was able to read the menu board from outside. If I'm reading it right, they charge an extra dollar for a bit of foam or milk (macchiato). I hope that's not the case. Still, I will check it out and the other spots mentioned. I will report back.

                              1. re: Aarby

                                In that area, Pasta Mia's espresso kicks Bisogno's butt. My typical morning at the SLM is go to Stonemill Bakehouse for a fresh baked something then walk 2 seconds to Pasta Mia for an espresso to go with.

                                1. re: Aarby

                                  In the St. Lawrence Market area Bisogno is by far my favourite spot. Very consistent coffee. They'll make it with Intelligentsia Black Cat if you ask, which is wonderfully smooth. I've never once had a bitter coffee from here. But as important, it's the most friendly and relaxed coffee shop in the area and lacks even an ounce of pretension (when did a decent cup of coffee become an elitist adventure?) The owner Von is a genuinely nice guy who loves coffee, and he seems to have a great skill at hiring equally qualified staff. I think the prices are exactly on par with other quality coffee places around the city.

                                  B Espresso is also good, with a really authentic upscale Italian vibe and excellent food and pastries.

                                  The recently opened Hanks, beside the JKWB near the foot of Church is another great find. But the coffee varies depending on who pulls it... on two of my three visits it ranked up with the best I've had in the city, but on my third visit it was very mediocre.

                                  I've tried numerous places within the St. Lawrence Market but I've never found one that seems to serve consistently excellent coffee. Also, I find the general bustle of the market is no conducive to sitting and relaxing; better for grabbing a coffee to go, I guess.

                                  1. re: Gary

                                    I agreed with you that quality of Hank's is not that consistent. The cappucino that I have yesterday was not as good as the 4 I had before.

                                    Talking about Hanks, I have a question about their cappucino. When I ordered to sit in, I always get it in a short wide mouth cup. But when I ordered to go, I got three different sizes. One time, I got one that is the size of a small Timmy coffee. The other time, I got it in a regular paper cup (8oz), but they charged me extra. Yesterday, I got the regular size again but they didn't charge me extra. This is pretty confusing. I would have asked them if I were not in a rush.

                            2. re: KGB

                              Bisogno at king and sherbourne has the best espresso, hands down. even better than my nonna.

                              also, i believe the owner has a degree in chemistry and used to live in italy. a deadly espresso-making combination. pretty sure he'll address all of your requirements ;)

                              1. re: iknowmystuff

                                What other espresso joints do you enjoy, iknowmystuff?

                              2. re: KGB

                                God KGB, you're almost as bad as me.

                                No mention of Sam James Coffee Bar at all on this thread? People aren't really paying attention seemingly.

                                SJCB, hands down. The lines are already 5 people deep. Rightfully.

                                1. re: rich_ie

                                  I think it's because it's only been open for a few weeks, plus Harbord is a quieter street.

                                  It's funny how Sam has developed this otaku esque following.

                                  1. re: aser

                                    I had a siphon coffee at Sam's today. Whoa. S-m-o-o-t-h--not a hint of acidity nor bitterness--at the same time delightfully complex in flavour. Truly an exceptional brew. Can't comment on the espresso as this was my first time there, but will certainly try it on subsequent visits. Mr. James knows his stuff.

                                    Not to mention he poached my fave baristo from Dark Horse on Spadina. If you're hankering for a latte, go to Sam's and ask Thomas to make one for you. Maybe they're long-time buds, or maybe Sam is just plain smart; I have no idea. Either way, we're lucky to have two genius coffee-makers in one place, even if it's a little off the beaten track.

                                    Aser, I checked Wikipedia to see what you meant by Otaku-esque, and I guess whatever, okay, to each his own. Personally, I care about people who make good food or drink. If Mr. James is obsessed about good coffee, so be it. Life's too short for bad coffee.

                                    1. re: suzeo

                                      He makes good coffee, no doubt about it, but even he'll tell you this celebrity-esque status is rather over the top.

                                      He helped start up Dark Horse on Spadina, hence the poaching of talent. It's actually pretty commonplace for a lot of these baristas to work for multiple shops. It's a rather incestuous scene between the top places (manic, dark horse, mercury, sam's, etc...)

                              3. Best place is B Espresso, hands down.

                                1. Tried Bisogno Espresso for the first time this week on the way to work. Nice vibe and good lattes & espresso.

                                  They've only been open for a few months I think.

                                  Bisogno Espresso Bar
                                  61 Sherbourne St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: westhead74

                                    What a great idea for Saturday mornings at the Farmers Market! I like the espresso at Pasta Mia in the South Market, but sometimes the crowd makes it a little too bumpy to enjoy.

                                    I'm always a little dismayed when I see people with Starbucks cups at the Market. Would much rather support local. Does Bisogno have food as well?

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      Anyone know of good espresso places uptown ( north york, markham, richmond hill area, scarborough...?)

                                      1. re: Googs


                                        They have biscotti, muffins and other assorted goodies - not sure if they have anything else.

                                        Agreed on Pasta Mia beverages - not easy to navigate on a Saturday morning but well worth it.

                                        1. re: westhead74

                                          Cherry Bomb on Roncesvalles (near Queen) is pretty good for Toronto. Vancouver (Cafe Artigiano) and MTL (Caffè ArtJava and Olympico) also have a couple of decent spots, but after a couple of weeks in northern Italy recently, it was hard to come back to the canadian stuff.

                                          1. re: DDD

                                            I still like Louie's in the market, and Seb's Cappuccino on the Danforth for an old school experience.

                                            1. re: DDD

                                              In Vancouver, Artigianno is the tip of the iceberg, there's also 49th Parallel or JJ Beans for local chains, and tons of indies, the best being the Elysian Room in Kits and Prado on the Drive.

                                      2. who uses freshly roasted beans in toronto though? i know i-deal roasts their own, but there has to be more

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: chocohead

                                          'B' makes a decent espresso, Bisogno is the best I've had in Toronto.

                                          Bulldog is decent too - if you can stand dealing with the owner.

                                          1. re: tbagley

                                            My best pal refuses to go there with me, he's *that* turned off by the snooty attitude from behind the counter. Me, I find it to be part of the charm of the place, but then I haven't been turfed out for trying to pay my bill in small change, which happens.

                                            Good coffee drinks, very nice cocoa, if you're a regular they'll know your drink, but... definitely not the place to look for a sunny smile from your barista.

                                            1. re: SpiceMustFlow

                                              I agree about the attitude at Bulldog. I was in there the other night on the way to school and the guy at the bar practically turned away a customer that asked for a coffee saying, "we only do espresso based drinks here" - with attitude of course. The unfortunate thing is the customer's English didn't seem too good, so he just left. Not cool! Good luck in business my friend...

                                            2. re: tbagley

                                              Too right about the owner. Once recently I made him laugh and laugh over some little joke, and he actually said, "you'll ruin my reputation!" Fortunately, I'm still welcome there.

                                              Some friends of mine accept the 'tude as part of the atmosphere, and some are so turned off they avoid the place. I can see both points.

                                              Interestingly, one of the afternoon baristas is a young guy whose default expression is a charming smile: he's like the antidote to the general disposition behind the counter.

                                              1. re: SpiceMustFlow

                                                That's too bad about Bulldog. I saw them on Restaurant Makeover a few months back (surely a rerun), and the owner came across as so passionate about his coffee; of course, I didn't detect any attitude on the show--he seemed really grateful for whatever services they provided. Having never visited the place, I have no idea whether RM did quality work there, or not. Until reading these posts, I had felt inspired to try to get there sometime, but I now have no such desire. I don't need a latte prepared by a self-proclaimed 'artiste' with attitude. The latte should have attitude, not the service.

                                          2. There is also sublime espresso bar in Kensington, they are pretty damn good.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: gastronom

                                              Just had an espresso at Sublime; wandered in while walking around the market. Pretty good....

                                            2. I'm from Vancouver, and the small amount of good espresso bars in Toronto sucks as much as winter.

                                              The best shot I've had was at the Mercury Espresso Bar in Leslieville. I was intending to go to Dark Horse, which is supposed to be good. There was a place at the end of my street called Wild Thing, where I scored some 49th parallel beans, but its now closed down. The Green Bean Roastery has fresh beans, and a good selection, but I've never had a particularly good shot there.

                                              None of them of course match my beloved Elysian Room in Vancouver.

                                              I expected College street to have a ton of places, but we only found one that was open at 11am last Saturday. I think it was called the Azzure. We walked in, it was dark and full of old italian men. It somehow manages to look smoky without having any smoke. Had a pretty good workman like shot.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: DoNutAlter

                                                That was Bar Azzuri, at College and Clinton. It's old-school in the mornings, all the older Italian gentlemen go there for their latte or espresso. It's not bad coffee all things considered and there's a certain charm to the place. I'm there almost every morning on my way to work. Gatto Nero at Crawford isn't too bad either, especially if you want that 'I'm not in Starbucks' flavour...

                                                Another spot you might like is Caffe Brasiliano on Dundas just east of Manning. They have a really great espresso there. Look for the window display of vintage stovetop espresso makers if you're in the area and need a shot.

                                                The one that I will be avoiding from now on is the place at Harbord and Borden. A very short, overpriced long espresso. Manic, iDeal, Cherry Bomb hell even Bar Mercurio are infinitely better.

                                                1. re: escoffier

                                                  That's it. It was a very amusing atmosphere. When I was standing there about to order, a woman walked in, then turned around and walked right out. Now that's atmosphere! I'll be sure to check out Brasilano if I'm in the neighbourhood.

                                                  You won't have to worry about avoiding the place at Harbord and Borden, there was a for lease sign on it last time I walked by.

                                                  Maybe KGB should open up shop there?

                                                2. re: DoNutAlter

                                                  i never realized how spoiled i was getting living out west until I moved back to TO and within less than a week, i was desperately missing my coffee. would highly recommend you check out Manic Coffee on College (east of Bathurst) - owner (matt) gigged at elysian room.. Manic sells intelligentsia beans and were carrying 49th parallel for a while, but recently switched to origins.

                                                  1. re: VeeCee

                                                    thanks for the tip, I'll check it out. The joke back home used to be that I was composed, by volume, of 50% coffee and 50% sushi.

                                                3. Hands down Dark Horse on Queen East near broadview gets my vote!

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                                    I am reading the above postings with increasing disbeief. Does anyone in Toronto know what good espresso tastes like? NOW recently did a comprehensive feature on cafes in Toronto and I responded with the following letter which they were good enough to publish:

                                                    "I've read your feature io cafes and coffee in Toronto. I wish the scene were as great as you say it is. I'm a bit of a coffee fanatic, with a particular love of espresso. Almost all the new independent cafes featured in your article have a great funky atmosphere, lots of enthusiasm, very good baked goods but horrible espresso. The essential feature of espresso in Toronto is bitterness and, often, thinness, producing the worst of both worls for espresso lovers.

                                                    I'm not sure why this should be. In Italy or Spain, it's hard to find a bad cup of coffee. I've been to a number of cafes in New York City and San Francisco with excellent espresso, and Vancouver has quite a few, beginning with Artigiano. But with a few exceptions (Balzac's in Liberty Village), the standard of espresso in Toronto is abysmal."

                                                    Just after NOW's piece, CitytBites did an espresso review on a number of cafes but could only really recommend one - Crema in the west end (which I have not been impressed with but will try again). They gave mediocre reviews to 2 of the cafes which some above have praised - Dark Horse and Manic - and why? - bitterness. With which I agree.

                                                    Does the poor overall standard of espresso in Toronto explain why Torontonians don't know what good espresso is and tastes like?

                                                    Or is it Torontonians not knowing what good espresso is and tastes like an explanation for the poor overall standard of espresso in the city?

                                                    It's a chicken and egg question.


                                                    1. re: alvino

                                                      agreed.. grew up in Toronto and love espresso but not until i was in NYC and visited Ninth Street Espresso / Abraco / Cafe Grumpy did i realize what i was missing in TO. Places like Mercury, Manic, DarkHorse are still your best bet in TO but I find myself dreaming of the drinks i had in NYC :/

                                                      1. re: sleepy

                                                        I had the opposite experience. I always hated espresso until my first trip to Italy. An eye opener in so many ways. In Toronto the only one I'll drink is at Pasta Mia and only when the gentleman is pouring.

                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                          Ararat Fine Foods (north of Lawrence on Avenue Rd near the new LCBO) had a good espresso, but the best I've had in Toronto is at Pennylicks on Augusta in Kensington Market--it was smooth, and not bitter! What a relief. For a chain, Aroma in the Annex is decent.

                                                          (And I've tried many many places in Toronto--Crema, Darkhorse, Zoot's, the Common, Manic, Cherry Bomb, Tinto's, Ideal, Bull Dog, etc.)


                                                          1. re: Googs

                                                            I finally made it to Pasta Mia for an espresso a few weeks ago. I think we may have different tastes but in fairness, the lady was pouring!

                                                            Pasta Mia
                                                            91 Front E, Toronto, ON M5G, CA

                                                            1. re: Food Tourist

                                                              Nope, we may not. It has to be the gent or I just keep walking. He's only there on Saturday's. Better luck next time.

                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                Saturdays...that's good to know. Will try next weekend. Thanks.

                                                    2. My first choice is Louie's at Kensington. My problem with espresso drinks in this city (and most of North America) is the amount of milk. What they call a macchiato here would be a latte or capuccino in most of Europe! After living in Spain for a year, I got addicted to cortados, which is an espresso with some steamed milk. Picture below:
                                                      The cup is barely larger than an espresso cup here.

                                                      So Ozzie makes me something that is very close, a macchiato (sp?) with more milk than foam (aka a "wet macchiato"):


                                                      I find the beans at Cafe Mercurio too bitter and the owner of Bulldog too rude although I do go to both occasionally since I study at U of T and live near Church & Wellesley...

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: peregrina

                                                        It's true - they pour way too much milk into the macchiatos and cappuccinos here, and they ruin Americanos with way too much water. Most places you go, they take one shot of espresso that's pretty weak to begin with, then pour a large mug full of hot water in there, resulting in something that just tastes like dirty water. Even when I ask them not to pour too much water in, they do it anyway then offer to dump some back out when I complain - not realizing that since they've already diluted it way too much, it's not going to make it better by pouring it back out.

                                                        I do find you can get a decent Americano at the Portugeuse and Brazilian places (Brasiliano, mentioned above, makes terrific Americanos), but even Nova Era sometimes serves it in a large mug, now. Urgh!

                                                        1. re: distra

                                                          Places like Zoot's (Dundas West and Gladstone) and The Common (College and Gladstone) give you a shot or two of very strong (Darkcity) espresso then ask you when to stop the water level--good stuff there.

                                                          1. re: urbandreamer

                                                            Cherry Bomb is great, and has top-notch baked goods to boot.
                                                            I'm no espresso expert, but I can discern flavour, and it's true- many places serve watery, bitter stuff.

                                                        2. re: peregrina

                                                          I have had the expresso from Louie's. It was very good.
                                                          I think the machines they use also make a difference. My choice is the Gaggia.

                                                        3. Jet Fuel Coffee is easily the best coffee shop in Toronto and in serious contention for the best in Canada. A few spots on Commercial Drive in Vancouver are excellent but The Jet has the coffee experience pretty well nailed.

                                                          People who disparage the jet tend to miss the point - fabulous coffee in a tremendously comfortable environment where people are helpful and the vibe happening. The Roast and the beans at Jet are fresh as all get out and the baristas take pride in pulling a perfect shot and making a tasty drink.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: bruce_from_sydney

                                                            Jet Fuel is my least favourite out of many espresso/latte places in the GTA. (It's down there with Alternative Grounds and Red Rocket). I rank Bulldog at the top, with Manic, Birds 'n' Beans, Mercury, Crema, Cherry Bomb, etc. quite enjoyable as well. I've done a few tasting/rating tours but still have to try Lit, Louie's and a few others.

                                                            1. re: Food Tourist

                                                              Manic's espresso is nasty.

                                                              Try the espresso at School Bakery & Cafe or Pasta Mia in the basement of the SLM when the gent is pulling. Smooth, strong, and delicious just as an espresso should be.

                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                Can't comment on their espresso but Manic's lattes are high up on my list - same with Dark Horse and Ezra's Pound. I've also become a recent fan of Lit. I tried an americano at The Common last week and it didn't wow me.

                                                              2. re: Food Tourist

                                                                Did a tasting tour of Roncesvalles today and discovered that Cherry Bomb is the hands-down winner! Very enjoyable espresso, and good latte. Excellent cookies (chocolate with cranberry, and almond macaroon). Lit was disappointing (sour espresso, average latte). Tinto's espresso and latte were predictably mediocre, even though they use fresh Birds 'n' Beans beans. Tinto's Americano was slightly better than their espresso. Pretty good sandwiches, but average wraps and soup.

                                                                Bonus: Cherry Bomb also has the lowest prices on Roncy. $7 got us an espresso, a latte, and two house-made cookies.

                                                            2. OK, I can't say if it's the best, but the espresso (or Americano) at White Squirrel is fantastic -- full and rich, not bitter at all.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: piccola

                                                                I have to agree about the White Squirrel - best Americano I've ever had. It's my go to place on Saturday mornings even though I live at Dupont/Christie!

                                                                1. re: acd123

                                                                  I've been hearing great things about White Squirrel - where is it again? Do they have any food there?

                                                                  1. re: peppermint pate

                                                                    They have one or two breakfast items and an ice cream bar in addition to the coffee. Check it out. You won't be disappointed. It is very close to Clafouti, across from Trinity Bellwoods park.

                                                                    1. re: acd123

                                                                      Thanks - I'm slowly working my way through the proliferation of stellar indie cafes in the city - definitely one of my favourite trends in Toronto from the last couple of years.

                                                                  2. re: acd123

                                                                    Hahaha me too, though closer to Oss.
                                                                    But yeah, it has a very rich mouthfeel, unlike most places' Americano, which is usually really thin.

                                                                2. I like this discussion! I've been spending my free time exploring all of TO's real coffee shops. I see the discussion started in 2005. It's great that's it's still going, although it could get long and unwieldly I suppose.

                                                                  I agree with a lot of what has been said. Some things I don't agree with. I've not been blown away by many espressos I've tried at various spots. The best espresso I had, easily, was at a little hole in the wall inside the basement of the Toronto Life Center at Yonge & Dundas. But they are gone for whatever reason. Vici Gelato did great gelato and great espresso. They just didn't have a comfortable setup for folks wanting to lounge and read a paper or whatever. As well, Being just inside the entrance to the subway, the winds in winter were killer. But it doesn't matter now.

                                                                  On the other hand, Espresso is an interesting drink. My first experience with a good espresso was actually with a good cappuccino at Starbucks. They did something wrong, because you really can't get proper Europeans (a term, I believe, that refers to espressos and all espresso-based drinks, but I could be wrong) at the chains. However, I'm seeing, from some of the comments, that some baristas serving culinary, or specialty coffee, act like snobs. I heard from one girl who worked at The Coffee Tree, an excellent shop in Bloor West Village, that when she and her friends, who aren't into culinary coffee, went into Bulldog and one of them asked for a coffee, she thought the employees were going to throw them out. That's just wrong. I got a little sample of that snobbery at Manic, although I wouldn't go so far as to say they were unfriendly. Still, If you are actually looking for new customers, who will already be coffee drinkers obviously, it makes no sense in my view to intimidate those who are used to the formulas and practices of say a Starbucks, as I was. I asked for a dry cappuccino and was ignored. They proceeded to make my drink - which turned out good, if still slightly more milky than I would have cared for. I then repeated my desire for a dry cappuccino and asked them how they do it. They said to just trust them. They said they do micro foam. They made me a fine drink and did a little heart or something with the foam.

                                                                  Frankly, I think the latte art is fine, but the focus should be on the drink and the customer's satisfaction should be something that the staff are interested in. Say what you want about Starbucks, The baristas (usually) could teach some of the more professional baristas a thing or two about customer service.

                                                                  I'm still searching for a standout espresso. It's all relative of course. You run into a lot of the same coffee at different shops as well. Dark Horse uses 49th Parallel for it's espressos and Intelligentsia for it's lattes, the girl at Broadview and Queen told me. I appreciated the service they gave me and their willingness to talk to me about the drinks they were making me. They were all good. As I said, It's all relative. I haven't found that standout espresso (now that Vici is gone), but most of the independents are standouts in comparison to the chains.

                                                                  The interesting thing about espresso, as I mentioned to a barista at the newly opened te aro on Queen St E, between Pape and Carlaw, is that you can actually have a drink that's properly made, having great body and acidity and it can be very satisfying, even though it lacks taste. Regular coffee has to have the taste. Espresso can pass muster if it lacks any special taste, as long as other components are positive. I'm looking for that Vici-tasting espresso and enjoying exploring nabes in the process. I really enjoy the great people I meet on my outings as well. Tomorrow, I'm doing Moonbean and, I think, Balzac's in Liberty Village. I've done Balzac's in the Distillery District. I'll probably revisit te aro. It had such a great vibe, as did the new Dark Horse on Spadina.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Aarby

                                                                    Your comment about the Bulldog 'tude doesn't surprise me in the least- "we don't do coffee drinks" is a line that could possibly be delivered with a smile instead of a sneer, but that's really not their style, is it?

                                                                    I like their drinks, but on those days when a little human warmth would be nice along with my latte, I head to Louie's in Kensington instead.

                                                                  2. Anyone know the name of that cafe just south of College on Augusta? It's on the east side of the street.

                                                                    The Elektra first attracted my attention but I love how they give me a glass of water while I wait for my short espresso. The whole process takes less than a minute and then I'm on my way. I can't stand those places further down. The one on the corner does lattes in a glass and they taste so weak! Ditto for Moonbeam and they have shitty baked goods to boot!

                                                                    Further east, I'm fairly devoted to Dark Horse for the cappuccinos, their newspapers and amazing brownies/butter tarts (best I've had in the city, bar-none!).

                                                                    Mercury I like too but I'm less inclined to hang around unless it's outside.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: peppermint pate

                                                                        A weak latte. Hmm. Isn't that like calling milk weak. Just wondering. It's not a drink that draws me at all. To each his own of course. Sorry to hear about Moonbean though. I'm just heading out the door on a wonderful rainy day to check it out! Seriously, I like gray, rainy days. Later...

                                                                        1. re: Aarby

                                                                          I enjoyed their lattes at pennylicks. Definitely not weak and the caffeine lasted a while

                                                                    1. Best Expresso in the city - Broadview Expresso on Broadview just north of Danforth. Great vibe and fantastic coffee.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: lominator

                                                                        second-best espresso in the city but best atmosphere, price and staff.

                                                                        i would still choose Mercury if i wanted the best latte. plus i love the option of a feature latte (the Ethiopian and Yemen espressos mmmmmm). but their service and attitude kind of kills the experience. hate to feel like i'm doing the staff a favour by buying my lattes there. plus Mercury is awful to sit at in the winter. not properly insulated and heated.

                                                                        Broadview Espresso, on the other hand....a beautiful spot. i would be happy to buy a latte and one of their excellent desserts (I forget who makes it for them, but their butter tarts are fab!) and enjoy my coffee there during a grey January day.

                                                                        Broadview's espresso is more on the strong side (Mercury's regular espresso is a bit smoother but less strong). so if you like a latte with the taste of espresso in it, its a great choice. not too strong (like, for example, Lettieri's burt blend) but you definitely know that you have espresso in it. its still creamy smooth.

                                                                        Broadview's staff is very nice and the owner is nice.

                                                                        Went to Black Dog for the first time. I do not understand why people say they have the best espresso in the city. it wasn't bad, but i'd give it a 8 out of 10. it tasted very good but didn't have the euphoric 1st sip that I get from amazing lattes (like Mercury or Broadview)

                                                                      2. It's been mentioned already, but deserves another shout out: Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbourd St is now open! Amazing espresso, friendly experienced baristas and great atmosphere. One of the best by far.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: espressoist

                                                                          I'm sure the coffee's terrific, but I'm a little put off by the "celebrity barista" thing. I think I'll wait until the hype dies a little.

                                                                        2. b espresso (already mentioned in this thread), on the south side of Queen in between Church and Jarvis. A word of warning though: it's no longer open on weekends. waaaaa

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: cinnamon girl

                                                                            I used to trek accross the city every day to have an espresso! Then they opened a second location and I didnt have to trek accross town anymore. Sadly, the coffee isn't the same anymore. Did they loose their touch? Can anyone let me know if it's my taste buds?

                                                                          2. I tried Pasta Mia in the St L Market this weekend thanks to all of the postings here. I had a cappuccino rather than a straight espresso . . . but it was so good that I'm going for the straight espresso next time. Thanks Hounds!

                                                                            1. Great thread!! I've been to many of the places mentioned ie.. idealcoffee, moonbean, jetfuel, manic, crema ,ezra's pound...

                                                                              Fav right now would probably be ezra, with moonbean second, jet fuel, i deal coming next...

                                                                              The reason I'm posting is , I work downtown on front street, near the skydome, and I'm looking for an afternoon caffeine fix within walking distance...like at king/john area...any recomendations?

                                                                              Oh, and 1 more thing, sometimes I need a fix really late, like at 11pm :) , moonbean is the only place that I know that is open till 9pm, anything else good downtownish ( i live in the annex) open really late? thx

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: PCPETE

                                                                                Where's moonbeam and ezra?

                                                                                What about Green Beanery at Bloor and Bathurst? I went in there the other day just to look but didn't have an espresso. I like Aroma across the street; I think it's open late. The coffee's fine but isn't as good as b espresso on queen st tho'. I like ideal in kensington too

                                                                                1. re: PCPETE

                                                                                  Moonbean is in the kensington market area, more specifically...


                                                                                  Ezra's Pound now has 2 locations...


                                                                                  I live right by the Green Beanery, and yes it is open quite late, 10pm I think, I've tried there americano on 2 seperate occasions, not in the same class as the others, will give them another shot...

                                                                                  1. re: PCPETE

                                                                                    Thanks PCPete. I'd heard that about Green Beanery's finished product . . . that it's a better source for the beans rather than the finished coffee.

                                                                                    I like Ideal in the kensington too ... but i haven't tried straight espresso there yet. I'll look for ezra's and moonbeam now.

                                                                                  2. re: PCPETE

                                                                                    went to Dark Horse this morning after my fiancee said she had an amazing latte there last week.
                                                                                    not sure if it was an off day, if their beans were off, or what, but here's my review:

                                                                                    got a latte to go. added my sugar to it (sorry...need sugar in lattes) and started drinking it in my car. first sip and it had some nice berry aftertones to it. i like that in espresso and find that some of the feature espressos at Mercury would have that (esp the Ethiopian beans). that's where my satisfaction ended.

                                                                                    it honestly goes down as one of the poorest-tasting lattes i've had in a while. i actually spilled it out when i got home. again, i am not sure why it tasted so bad. it almost tasted as if the beans were funky. it didn't have any nice front-of-the-palate flavour to it and tasted really flat and a little watery and mouldy. my fiancee said the same thing.

                                                                                    does anyone know if Dark Horse rotates their regular espresso roast? maybe that was the reason...?

                                                                                    otherwise, $4.25 for a latte that was smaller than the $3.50 double latte i normally get from Broadview. parking sucks around there (esp in the morning). staff was meh. their food looked good. but in the end...wow, it was a horrible latte. so scratch Dark Horse off of my personal list of places to go to.

                                                                                    Dark Horse Espresso Bar
                                                                                    215 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

                                                                                    1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                      Sounds like you got a bad shot.

                                                                                      There's about a zillion things that could have been done wrong. Unfortunately, if you've left the building, it's hard to go back and make a complaint.

                                                                                      I've seen the staff there tasting the shots, so they are monitering quality. I'm sure they would want to correct the problem and provide a new drink.

                                                                                  3. My favourite is True Brew Cafe which is on the north side of The Danforth, just east of Woodbine. Great home made goodies too.

                                                                                    1. I like crema (at quebec and dundas in the junction)
                                                                                      ive had a few that were not as good, but usually its amazing

                                                                                      1. I always prefer going to a cafe that also roasts their own beans. I do find that many of the roasters in Toronto seem to prefer a very dark roast. I find this really takes away from the flavour of the bean.
                                                                                        I've enjoyed a few coffees from Ezra's Pound, and I really enjoy the "air roasted" beans at Te Aro. They definitely do a lighter roast, and I recently tried one of their "feature coffees" which was an organic fair trade el salvador bean. It had some very interesting characteristics. I also tried their Kenyan coffee, this was very citrusy, which I really enjoyed.
                                                                                        I have tried Green Beanery and Merchants, but did not enjoy their coffee.
                                                                                        I think we are lucky to have some up and coming roasters in Toronto that are going to really drive up the standards.

                                                                                        1. Finally got around to trying the Green Beanery Sunday night as it was one of the few coffee shops open that late in the area. I figured it would be good as these guys seem pretty hardcore about their beans.

                                                                                          It was ABSOLUTELY AWFUL!

                                                                                          I'd rather drink a Tim Horton's than one of their cafe lattes (with 2 shots). It tasted like gasoline. Not doing that again. Next time I'll go over to Aroma instead.

                                                                                          Green Beanery
                                                                                          565 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S, CA

                                                                                          1. Hi there,
                                                                                            Terroni on Toronto Street does a divine espresso, and a great little place in Yorkville, Crepe-a-Go-Go, does a great espresso as well. The creperie also has this wonderful espresso creme with a dash of chocolate (sorry, I forget what it's called!)....very, very fine.....

                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Giulia_F

                                                                                              The new place on Broadview, The Rooster, does what I think is an excellent espresso.

                                                                                              1. re: millygirl

                                                                                                I agree, Rooster has great coffee. And also a great vibe. Super chilled.

                                                                                                1. re: jwhitereview

                                                                                                  hope someone finds this helpful, it's a google map of good coffee shops around toronto: http://bit.ly/crWJOV

                                                                                                  1. re: sleepy

                                                                                                    My friend Angelo (who is an espresso connoisseur) and I tried Sam James on Harbourd - the espresso was superb - smoooooth, creamy with lots of "hang time" (according to Angelo the longer it takes for the suger to melt through the cream the better the espresso). I had a delicious cappuccino complete with a heart on top!! So far the best!!

                                                                                            2. A new place just opened in the Beach today. Tofino Espresso Bar. I am a huge fan of Mercury and this place makes an awesome cappuccino. Its at 1948 Queen Street East in the place where the Second Cup used to be. Decent coffee places in the Beach are few and far between. I urge you to give it a try.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: chiefscout

                                                                                                Interesting ... I'm not too far either. What type of beans are they using?

                                                                                              2. Xococava is definitely a winner in my books. Not only do they serve great espresso and cappucinos, they also have delicious croissants, truffles and ice cream.

                                                                                                  1. I am in love with Te Aro and Crafted. Very very nice coffee and a LOT of attention to every part of the process from how the beans are grown, how they are dried, roasted, and, finally, ground and the espresso pulled. I am a friend of one of their roasters and they work with and visit growers and are always cupping to test the quality and consistency of their beans.

                                                                                                    But the best coffee I ever had is a cortado made by Louie at Manic.

                                                                                                    Te Aro
                                                                                                    983 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1K2, CA

                                                                                                    1. I had an excellent cappuccino at T.A.N. Coffee at 992 Queen St. West. It was rich and complex with proper micro-foaming. I haven't tried their straight espresso yet but I plan too.

                                                                                                      1. I went to Mercury today. First time in a long time.
                                                                                                        Wow....I'm so done with that place.
                                                                                                        First, the attitude: it was always a hipster type of coffee bar but now, its beyond words. staff was incredibly unfriendly. they didn't stop their conversation when we were waiting to place our order....one guy just rambled on and on to his co-worker with us standing right in front of him and in plain view.
                                                                                                        lattes: not as good as they used to be. we drank decaf (shhhh!) but you have places like Broadview Espresso that have an awesome decaf latte and you don't miss anything tastewise. At Mercury, the latte was meh. little flavour to it.

                                                                                                        I do applaud them for having the different types of coffee brewing available (siphons, french press, etc) and they do seem to take their coffee seriously (their high-end machine backs that up). but their latte today was a miss and their customer service is so lacking that there's no reason for me to ever go back there.

                                                                                                        Broadview Espresso gets my vote time and time again.

                                                                                                        Broadview Espresso
                                                                                                        817 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON M4K, CA

                                                                                                        1. OP in 2005 was dead on about Bar Mercurio L'Espresso, which I frequent. On a good day, great espresso, people, and great food at somewhat inflated prices. A good blend of neighbourhood and yuppie but fairly disjointed still. It's much more an Italian restaurant across from the yacht club.

                                                                                                          I want to make the case for Rooster Coffeehouse on Broadview as a real espresso bar. It primarily serves a neighbourhood, which is where it goes way right; it has great atmosphere, from a patio overlooking Riverdale Park, to books and artwork strewn around. It stays easy on the stupid hipster/kitschy items you'll find at places like say, Mercury and Red Rocket, and the coffee is so much better -- it's why the clientele is so varied. But let's talk about the coffee.

                                                                                                          Rooster uses Te Aro beans and has a lot of specialty and seasonal drinks they'll whip up for you too. Fresh baked goods, amazing scones and ginger cookies, and Loic sandwiches. They will start over if they get a bad pull and I'm certain they steam milk better than anyone in Toronto that I know of (including B, Mercury, Dark Horse, Jet Fuel, Zaza, Bulldog, all the Ossington joints, and so on). I'm a dry cappuccino guy, and I so appreciate a smooth, un-scalded cup.

                                                                                                          If you prefer a rounder, more chocolatey cuppa, I really like Dark Horse as a second choice. I know that's unpopular among espresso snobs, but I stand by my convictions.

                                                                                                          Bar Mercurio
                                                                                                          270 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1V8, CA

                                                                                                          Te Aro
                                                                                                          983 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1K2, CA

                                                                                                          Dark Horse
                                                                                                          2401 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S, CA

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: ThreeEm

                                                                                                            its personal preference, but I never liked Te Aro beans. They taste too burnt for my liking (I will admit I've only tried it once or twice).

                                                                                                            Rooster, visually, is THE best cafe in the city. Hands down. i've been there for lattes twice and I still stand by Broadview Espresso being superior. Rooster oversteams/overheats the milk, i find/found.

                                                                                                            Broadview Espresso
                                                                                                            817 Broadview Ave, Toronto, ON M4K, CA

                                                                                                            Te Aro
                                                                                                            983 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M1K2, CA

                                                                                                            1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                                              My personal favourites: 1. Bulldog--Perhaps the owner's mellowed; I've never gotten any attitude there. 2. Ezra's Pound on Dundas 3. Sam James Coffee Bar 4. Crema in the Junction.

                                                                                                              And my guilty chain pleasure: The iced vanilla bean latte from Second Cup. Most high end places make mediocre iced lattes. They serve you either luke-warm lattes with insufficient ice, or put in so much ice, the drink loses all flavour if you don't drink it in 30 seconds.

                                                                                                              The best bet seems to be the places that put double shots in then serve their iced coffee frappe-style (or would that just be "a frappe".

                                                                                                              Ezra's Pound
                                                                                                              238 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M5R1V7, CA

                                                                                                              3079 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6P1Z9, CA

                                                                                                          2. I used to love Crema. My only problem with it now is that they messed up my favourite drink - the cortado - by adding steamed cream to it. It makes it taste bitter and dulls the taste of the coffee. But because baristas move around and are friends, it has meant that other cafes have started adding cream to their cortados too... But maybe I wouldn't have so much a problem with it (after all, all I have to do is ask them to use milk only) if the crema folks didn't go around telling people that their creamed cortado is the "authentic spanish way".

                                                                                                            3079 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6P1Z9, CA

                                                                                                            1. any good 24 hour ones or very late night?