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Bulldog Coffee Toronto - A lot of bull, not a lot to write home about

This is the last time we go to Bulldog Coffee. We had stopped going there because of the attitude we got from the owner and his staff. One of the things that they will ask you to do when you are done is to pick up your dishes and put them in the tray (and ONLY in the tray, or you WILL be humiliated). This is not a casual thing that happens every once in a while. You are being monitored and policed so that the moment you get up and they notice you are about to do the unthinkable and leave your dishes on the table, they will give you an indirect order to do so (form the tone of their voices, it becomes obvious that they are not really asking you, they are TELLING you to do so or else). This is not the only issue with the owner and the staff: customers are snapped at for leaving loose change as tips (!?) or told that they “need not come back” (??). The owner seems to have this idea that he has the inherent right to domesticate (i.e. discipline / sometimes abuse) his customers, and appears to have trained his staff to do so as well. One thing is for sure, we are not picking up our dishes and taking them to the tray for the $15 we paid for two small coffees and two scones.

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  1. i usd to love bulldog, but when they started laughing at my friends for what they ordered or drinking their coffee too slow i stopped going there. I've heard the same from everyone i know, anyone who goes there is disgusted by the service and won't return. Strange how they have changed so much.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TeRReT

      What is this, Starbucks served Terroni-style? It's too bad the downturn hasn't put these jerks out of business.

    2. Perhaps Bulldog is trying to model itself after The Elbow Room in Vancouver.

      1. That's too bad -- I met the owner a few years ago and he was really nice. He explained how a really good cup of espresso is made. It was delicious coffee (among the best I've had in the city) and he was obviously passionate about his java. I really liked the look of the place as well but since I don't live nearby I have not been back in some time.

        1. I couldn't agree with you more. I used to live just down the street and the absolute arrogance showed by the owner, and this was before R.M. went in and gave it the two cent facelift, was simply overwhelming. While I am not a fan of the chain coffee shops, I would gladly switch to drinking tea at home full time if the Bulldog was only place in the city to grab a cup of coffee.

          1. I've found with Bulldog the owner is decent but it may be you aren't 'gay' enough for the scene, it seems to have gotten attitude'ier over the last while...
            On a side note i have found the service at Cherry Bomb on Roncy pathetic as well...
            i find the service to be extremely snooty and kinda standoffish so I avoid and hit Lit where they don't have laughable attitude

            3 Replies
            1. re: dannyboy

              I haven't noticed any attitude at Cherry Bomb even when I ask a million questions. I really detested the espresso/latte at Lit and haven't returned despite their great atmosphere.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                I have, I've been snipped at because I wanted 1% milk, and as well because i didn't tell them quickly enough what size i wanted.
                Lit has 100x better espresso, the guy has actually put in his time to hone his skills and has excellent beans he sources himself....cherry bomb is a bunch of wanna be arty fartsies, little style, no substance

              2. re: dannyboy

                I go to Cherry Bomb about 6 times a week and have never had bad service from anyone, including the owners and the entirely different weekend staff. It's consistently one of the most pleasurable transactions I have.

                But I just read your comment about them being wannabe artsy types so I guess you're going in with a preconceived idea looking for attitude and when you look for it you usually see what you want to.

              3. Maybe Bulldog should change its name to Pit Bull Cafe.

                1. I am a bit confused by all the comments here. I first went to Bulldog a couple years ago and read a lot of negative reviews on the service, so I was expecting it to be bad, but it wasn't at all. I've been about 10 times since and I haven't had a single incident of rudeness or attitude.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: kwjd

                    I feel exactly the same way. Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I worked on Restaurant Makeover and thought the owner seemed like a nice guy. I remember this episode well since I thought it was interesting to makeover a coffee shop. Though he didn't stick with the panini suggestions the chef gave him, I've found his drinks to be delicious.

                    I've never experience any attitude or negative experiences here.

                    1. re: sarnya

                      When I used to go before restaurant makeover and had the owner making the coffee there was no attitude, and the coffee was quite good. Bulldog was also my first experience with latte art and proper coffee shops when I moved to toronto, so I was quite excited to live near such a place. At the time, it was easily the best coffee available to me.

                      But for the last few years, nearing the makeover, and post makeover, I have no had the owner making my coffee, and rarely have I seen him there. There has been a lot of attitude from the one employee, and the quality of coffee has suffered some (though it is still quite decent). I have gotten away relatively unscathed, generally they have not been rude to me, but to people i bring, and friends that have gone on their own have not been so fortunate.

                      I remember one occassion, a friend who wasn't a big coffee drinker came in with me since I was going in, and ordered a cappuccino to go because he was not able to drink it as fast as me and didn't want to keep me waiting. The gentleman (used lightly) serving coffee laughed at him, sneered at him, and I don't remember exactly the terms used, but essentially called him a baby for being slow and not man enough. This was received with laughter from the owner who was sitting at one of the tables talking to friends.

                      The friend was relutant to even come with me because he had been there previously and treated poorly, and thats how he knew to get coffee take out.

                      Any time I've even consider asking for a drink takeout or a friend has, its met with a sigh, a whine, and some sort of rude suggestion that it would taste better in one of their glasses.

                      The same friend went one last time with another friend of mine, and I forget the details completely, but he was treated the worst yet, and has sworn never to return again.

                      There have been numerous other ocassions where I have been met with abrasive behaviour, mostly post makeover, and always by the same employee.

                      Perhaps I just don't understand church street sarcasm or am missing something else, but there certainly has been a change in attitude as far as i'm concerned.

                      For now, I am happy to travel the extra distance to go to Sam James, where he is always polite, and more then enthusiastic about his coffee, always excited to tell me about the new beans in the siphon and about his business.

                      1. re: TeRReT

                        I like to chime in too... I stopped going to bulldog also because of one of his employee (assuming you meant the big one) and there I thought I was the only one ... until I see this thread!!

                        I like the owner, S, he's a cool guy, not necessary super nice (I've seen him kicked out people who stayed too long, they didn't call him the coffee nazi for nothing), but at least seems genuine. If he's having a bad day, he won't put up a front and pretend to be nice just because you're a customer. Having worked in the service industry before, i get that, so no complaints on this front.

                        On his good days, he would make incredible latte art on my drink, like triple hearts, even though he didn't really know me nor was i a regular. One time when I introduce my friend to his place, he seemed genuinely pleased and was really nice asking how my friend like her drink. Once you figure out the rules in that place, don't use small change, keep the line moving, don't overstay, it was for a long time my favourite coffee shop.

                        However, in the last few years, maybe S's exhausted or tired, he stopped working as much in the afternoon and I got stuck with his annoying employee, who put up this prissy attitude when he takes order or asks customers to clean up after themselves in a supremely fake polite tone. It's more annoying when he choose to be selectively nice to only some people, mostly his friends, long time regulars or the guys who gives out parking tickets in the area (with a special mention what his own car look like) while being quite jerky to almost everyone else.

                        But the main reason I stopped going is that this guy keeps pulling these shots that gives me a headache (never happened when S or even his former employee Amber was around).

                        Maybe it was just me psychologically repulsing him, but I haven't been back for almost a year. I've been meaning to go back during the morning hours to try to catch S when he's in store, I miss having the bulldog.

                        I think most people here who got the bad service and/or bad drinks mostly likely got it from the prissy employee and not S.

                      2. re: sarnya

                        I'm thirding this. I go to Ryerson and I go to Bulldog usually once a week in the mornings. I haven't had anyone but the owner make my coffee is a long time, and he's always friendly and I never get rolled eyes or anything when I get it to go (which is almost always).

                        I asked him about the RM paninis and he says that he would love to do it but he only has room for a couple people on the floor so he just doesn't have the staff to dedicate someone exclusively to paninis.

                        1. re: Sagesse

                          Agreed, with Sagesse and Sarnya, that there has not been any attitude to me at this place

                      3. re: kwjd

                        I also don't have problems with the service. The drinks are pretty good. However, it would be nice if they use paper cups instead of styrofoam cups. This will make me feel less guilty when I forget my travel mug.

                        1. re: tree25

                          Styrofoam can now be recycled in Toronto blue bins, if it makes you feel a bit less guilty -- the same can't be said for most coated paper cups.

                        1. I just remember calling once with a question ("What are your hours?") and got immediately told, "It's on our website." To be fair, then the person on the phone gave me the answer, but I just thought, "Hey, I did want to give you some money, but not now. Sorry for trying to be a customer."

                          1. I agree with you edward10001 I went there today and didn't like the attitude at all. The cappuccino was ok (I feel I make a better one at home) The barrista was following us with the eyes like we are about to commit some kind of crime and made sure we returned the dishes. The biscotti was just plain awful. Have marked it off my list and won't visit again. Restaurant makeover or not no one needs to put up with this attitude. There are plenty of places who will take my money :)