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serious non-chain coffee in downtown Toronto

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I can't stand chain coffee shops like Starbucks and 2nd Cup. I want to find a REAL cafe in downtown Toronto where they take their coffee seriously and that doesn't feel like the an airport waiting lounge.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Try wandering through Kensington - there are a few good ones there e.g. Moonbeam, Kensingtons. And don't forget to take some home with you...yummy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: oishi

      i second Moonbean... great selection of coffees, and in the back, the patio feels like you're hanging out at a friends place.

    2. Jet Fuel, parliament north of carlton. I have only been here once after hearing about it a lot, and I'd say one of the best coffees you will have in Toronto.

      In my hood the Beaches I like the Remarkable Bean.

      In the Distillery district there is Balzac's which is also very good.

      I'm sure others will have more suggestions!

      5 Replies
      1. re: cord

        I second Jet Fuel, they have great coffee, but with a word or warning... You need to know what you want, there is no menu with a list of what they serve, or the prices. and if you want just a 'regular' coffee it will be an americano because they make the coffee as you order it, so everything they serve is espresso based.

        But yes, exceptionally yummy coffee, I just was a little thrown by the no menu thing when I first went. Oh, also, they only take cash, just so you know...

        1. re: mainja

          Yes, I have to admit I was a bit thrown as well the first time I went - also because there seemed to be a bit of a "scene" in there, and I felt a little out of place, but the coffee is excellent! I think a second visit would be much easier.

          1. re: cord

            absolutely, second time was just fine. but first time would have been easier if i knew about the no menu cash only thing. ;)

            1. re: mainja

              Love Jet Fuel and had a lovely latte at Petit Thet yesterday

        2. re: cord

          Three great suggestions! I agree with all.

        3. One of my faves is B Espresso Bar / 111 Queen St. E.


          My girlfriend had a baby shower there, I would have never found the place otherwise; not in the best area and not a very prominent sign (look for the 'Illy' light). But it's an amazing little spot.

          1 Reply
          1. re: NovoCuisine

            Couldn't agree with you more. B Espresso is where I've enjoyed the best coffee in Toronto.

          2. I am a coffee fanatic. Right now I'm drinking freshly-ground beans that were roasted a few days ago at Merchants Of Green Coffee. Like flying business class (Merchants), you can never go back to coach ("Fourbucks", Second Cup, Timothy's, even many ma-and-pa places that have cruddy beans).

            So I have three suggestions for anyone who wants a great cup of coffee and a great atmosphere:

            1) Mercury Espresso Bar - Queen St. E
            2) Cafe Vert (right across the street from Mercury)
            3) Go directly to Merchants - a cool place to see for yourself, they'll give you a free cup of freshly roasted, freshly ground coffee and you will not believe how good it tastes. Right now they have a rather scaled-down coffee bar, but I think they are trying to get it more full-service soon)

            The reason I suggest the first two places is that they serve freshly-roasted Merchants beans.


            2 Replies
            1. re: sweetspotlee

              I'm 95% sure that Mercury uses beans from Dark City Coffee, not Merchant of Green Coffee.

              A good choice though. IMHO, Mercury and Bulldog are the only reliable coffeeshops in town.

              1. re: detritus

                You're absolutely right - but what is not common knowledge is that Dark City Coffee uses Merchants beans!

            2. Some of my favourites:


              Moonbean (aforementioned

              Jet Fuel (aforementioned

              I'll speak to Bulldog, which hasn't been mentioned yet in this thread. It's a great little place tucked away near Church & Carlton which serves some of the best espresso in the city, in my opinion. The place is tiny though, so be forewarned that you might be grabbing your coffee to go.

              1. Gatto Nero on College...feels like you're in Europe...

                Caffe Latte north of Yonge and Eg

                1 Reply
                1. re: phoenikia

                  I tried Gatto Nero's moccaccino on Sat night when I wasn't in the mood for my usual cappuccino...
                  It was the best I can remember having...the espresso and chocolate flavours were balanced,and it wasn't overly sweet.

                2. I am not sure where you are or will be downtown but a bit further west than most of the suggestions others have made I particularly like the Roastery (in the 401 Richmond) or Le Gourmand (at queen and spadina). It doesn't exclusively serve coffee (although it does have a nice area to sit) but bon vivant on spadina just north of adelaide serves and sells some excellent coffee and they are really nice.

                  1. While I admit to actually liking Starbuck's coffee and some of their other amenities, I do find that many Starbuck's-isms make me cringe.


                    Mercury on Queen E - I hope the Starbucks supposedly opening across the street doesn't hurt them.

                    Jet Fuel, which is -- as mentioned -- very much a scene. I don't fit in, but their coffee is great and I keep going there anyway

                    Mercurio -- the one on the North side of Bloor. It's a trip to Europe. Their drinks depend much on the barista and aren't consistent, but can be excellent.

                    Balzacs at off hours. It's a stunning place with good espresso, but the service at busy times is bad to the point of tears

                    Hollywood Gelato on Bayview makes amazing caps/lattes. Yes, it's an ice cream place and not an espresso bar, but the coffee is REALLY good

                    I do not like the Remarkable Bean (mentioned earlier) at all

                    I love Cafe Vert, but I've never had a really good espresso there. Eat at Vert and go to Mercury across the street for coffee

                    1. Mercurio's
                      (at St. George's and Bloor), across from the UofT OISE building......

                      Great espresso and coffee.......and great italian eats!

                      1. Hmmm. Some excellent suggestions. For those wondering, I'm in Little Portugal (College & Dovercourt), but I don't mind travelling. That said, I wouldn't mind finding a regular spot close by.

                        What's with all the coffee on Queen East?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ognir

                          Hi neighbour,

                          I've listed these before (i tend to stay in the hood so my recs are repetitive:)):

                          beaver cafe on queen at gladstone for americano
                          i deal coffee on ossington just south of dundas for any espresso based coffee - all beans are 'fair trade'
                          cafe brasiliano on dundas just west of bathurst for macchiato
                          arabesque on college at gladstone for arabic/turkish coffee

                          1. re: Kasia

                            Those are all real close. thanks!

                        2. Mercatto (Toronto Street location) does great espresso-based beverages.

                          1. When at the St. Lawrence Market, try the espresso at Pasta Mia. Great every time.

                            1. I second Pasta Mia espresso...but the lineup was very long this morning!

                              1. anything closer to west end?

                                1. I second Gato Nero, quite far west (west of Christie?), on College. Excellent espresso.

                                  1. On the Danforth between Greenwood and Coxwell is Niche.

                                    1. And now a voice from the west end, specifically Roncesvalles (we need something good down on Queen). Alternative Grounds is fabulous and funky and Cherry Bomb, further south, is takeout only. Tinto's, on the same block as Cherry Bomb, has great food, great atmosphere and great coffee, as well as all sorts of community events.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Mushka

                                        Love Alternative Grounds! I believe Tinto's get their coffee from Birds and Beans on Lakeshore (in Mimico). Not only fair trade but bird friendly!!

                                        1. re: Mushka

                                          For great coffee in Parkdale (might be a bit of a jog from Roncy, but worth it) try Cafe Taste at 1330 Queen West. The owner is concentrating on wine and cheese offerings these days, but the coffee is exceptional. The espresso based drinks compare to anything else in the city, though I think the real coffee feature is the french press. I can't think of many places around the city that do a french press, which is a shame. It's so easy to do and usually superior to any sludge that comes out of a drip/filter machine.


                                        2. Your only downtown option is Bulldog. Toronto is a chain coffee town, with the exceptions selling crappy old Italian beans (witness B Espresso) as if an Illy or Lavazza sign lends some credibility. Ask the barista of they know about latte art or about naked portafilters- see if they grind the beans before each shot- see if they use a real tamper instead of the useless plastic thing in the front of the grinder. You'll rarely see this happening in Toronto.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: John Manzo

                                            I have been a Bulldog's customer for almost 2 years. I went there for the first time when I was a student at Ryerson.A fresh brewed latte for 3 bucks? Ross (the Barista) is friendly, the environment is cozy and I value the art of coffee making in this place. I can't ask for more!

                                            1. re: John Manzo

                                              I disagree, for years Starbusks was afraid to come into the Toronto market due to the established competion i.e local coffe shops..I live downtown and would highly recommend Ideal Coffee in kensington or Jet Fuel on Parliament give them a try..

                                            2. I really like Sen5es coffee at Yonge & Queen. They use Arcaraffe coffee, it is delicious. Also, there is a cute place in Lesliville but I forget the name of it.


                                              1. If ever in Roncesvalles, try The Cherry Bomb, for the coffee made from butter roasted beans.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: makanlah

                                                  I love coffees at Louie's in Kensington, and Hollywood Gelato at Bayview and Eglinton.

                                                2. Where is the cherry bomb on Roncy?

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: DDD

                                                    cherry bomb is two doors south of the filmbuff....good luck.

                                                  2. There's a new cafe at Broadview and Queen called the Dark Horse. I believe it has only espresso based drinks, baked treats, tea and hot chocolate, but it's quite good and a nice atmosphere. Not quite downtown, but on the way (for me anyway!)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: thenurse

                                                      i've been there a couple times now and the owners are very personable and nice. tasty lattes and this beautiful large table for people to sit around. very chill quite atmosphere and huge windows to watch people walk on by.

                                                    2. I have also had very good coffee at Linux Cafe on Harbord at Grace (they brew i-deal coffee beans) and Cafe Next Door on Broadview just North of Danforth on the west side - across from the subway.

                                                      1. I agree with most of the other replies to this post - Moonbeam, Alternative Grounds, etc. - but I want to offer a suggestion to people in the financial core who may think they're stuck with Second Cup, Timothy's or Starbucks. Try Ooh La La in the Richmond-Adelaide Centre (there's also one in the CBC building). They have a Continental Dark roast that rivals any of the independents and far surpasses the big chains.

                                                        1. No love for Manic Coffee here? I'd spend all my time there if it was in my neighbourhood. Probably be dead of over-caffeineation in a month, but what a way to go!

                                                          426 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1T3, CA

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: Pincus

                                                            Lots of love for Manic on the board - myself included. But this mostly 2 year-old thread pre-dates its opening. I could go for one of their lattes right now, in fact, what with this crappo weather outside.

                                                            1. re: Pincus

                                                              Isn't Manic fairly new? This thread is from 2006, so that may explain the lack of mentions!

                                                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                I confess I didn't look at the dates.

                                                                1. re: Pincus

                                                                  Yeah, I know it's a chain but Aroma Espresso is amazing and is the most un-chain-line chain I've ever seen.

                                                              2. re: Pincus

                                                                manic is slowly dying in my eyes.... the last latte i had tasted like coffee flavoured milk.

                                                                just was not worth it! and then darkhorse gave me a fiasco of a drink that was all overdrawn burnt bitterness.

                                                              3. 7 Grams just opened on Avenue Rd just south of Davenport on the East side. I'm a coffee freak and they make a seriously good americano. They also have this crazy single cup brewing machine for coffee that looks like it makes one great cup o java, I will try that tomorrow.

                                                                1. How about Te Aro? Is Leslieville outside of your scope?

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