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Jan 28, 2010 12:11 PM

Coffee quest: Is there a Toronto equivalent of Vancouver's Cafe Artigiano?

Vancouver's Cafe Artigiano has the best coffee I've found in Canada. Now I'm living in Toronto and can't find anything even close. Is there any coffee that compares in Toronto? So far, I've tried Manic, Ezra's Pound (Dupont), I Deal (Nassau), Alternative Grounds (Roncesvalles), Dark Horse, Cafe Mercurio (both of the ones on Bloor), Aroma (Bloor), and Remarkable Bean. Dark Horse was the closest to what I'm looking for, but it wasn't on par with Artigiano. The others were quite disappointing. Any suggestions?

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  1. For lattes, I definitely would have said Dark Horse or Manic and maybe Ezra's on a good day (I find them to be pretty inconsistent). I'm not crazy about any of them for americanos (Black Camel is one of my favourites for those, though it's nothing like Artigiano in terms of atmosphere). You should definitely check out Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbord - one of the star barristas in the city, though again, nothing like Artigiano's atmosphere. There are also some other spots on Roncesvalles - Cherry Bomb and Lit - you could try those. What's your specific coffee drink and are you looking for flavour and atmosphere or just a great cuppa joe?

    On our last trip to Vancouver, we still enjoyed Artigiano but then we went to 49th parallel - gorgeous room, the Thomas Haas pastries, the coffee...oh my, perfection.

    4 Replies
    1. re: peppermint pate

      Hey, peppermint pate,

      Mostly I'm interested in finding a really great cup of coffee. Atmosphere is a bonus, but that's not what I'm most interested in. I usually order latte, and that was my favorite coffee at Artigiano (consistently across the three branches I used to frequent). So that's what I've mostly been trying here in TO, although at some of these places I've made more than one visit and have also tried hand drips and Americanos.

      I've heard Cherry Bomb is awesome, and it's on my list but I haven't made it there yet mainly because it's pretty far from me geographically. Will put Lit on my radar as well. I noticed Sam James the other day and wondered about it. Will definitely go there next. Thanks!

      Dark Horse was quite decent, pretty good, but not the excellent cup I'm still looking for. Ezra's and Manic were surprisingly mediocre. I Deal was awful. Forgot to mention that I also tried the coffee at Clafouti (Clafoutis?)--also disappointing. And the coffee at Wanda's Pie in the Sky was so bad it was undrinkable (and the pie was dry).

      I'm glad to know about 49th parallel--haven't tried that yet in Van!

      Many thanks for the advice.

      1. re: trumpler

        Hmm, just out of curiosity, which Dark Horse location did you try? I've had great lattes at both locations but maybe the one at Queen and Broadview is a titch more consistent? I'd suggest you give them another shot (ha!). I personally didn't like the latte as much from Cherry Bomb, though I've had a couple of good ones at Lit. If you're out in the west end, there's also Crema - haven't tried it yet but I've heard good things (and like Dark Horse, they use 49th parallel beans). And I also really enjoy the lattes from Louie's in Kensington Market but they're different than Artigiano's. Good luck on your quest - and keep us apprised of any great finds!!

        1. re: peppermint pate

          We really enjoy Crema, specifically the cappucinos as well as the muffins and scones. Have not tried the latte there. It's been years since I last went to Artigiano, but I'm pretty sure that Crema would at least be "decent" by Artigiano standards.

          1. re: peppermint pate

            I actually did go to the Dark Horse on Queen, but went only once, so I agree that I should try them again. I'd actually forgotten about the one in Chinatown and definitely have that on my list now! Since I am often in Kensington Market, I'll try Louie's as well. I didn't know about Crema, so thanks for that suggestion, too! I appreciate all the help!

      2. -- was going to mention Manic, but realized you'd gone --

        Sam James is the only one on your list that comes to mind then.

        visited 49th as well in Van and had a lovely time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jlunar

          Will check out Sam James and report back! Thanks for the suggestion.

        2. I should preface this by saying two things: I've never been to Caffè Artigiano (although all my Vancouverite friends never tire of telling me about it), and I've only been to Crema once.

          But, that having been said - the best espresso I've had in the city was at Crema in the Junction. I had an espresso macchiato, and it was positively fantastic. I haven't been back yet, since it's a long cold walk down a windy street, but I sure will be soon.

          6 Replies
          1. re: trombasteve

            Crema is opening a downtown location according to Toronto Life. Well, sort of opening, they are sharing the space in Freshii by Yonge and Bloor.


            1. re: cecilia

              Wow, that's great news. Seems like an odd combination - my sense is they would have very different clientele. But I'm certainly happy for the added convenience as the Bloor/Yorkville strip is a definite wasteland for great coffee.

              1. re: peppermint pate

                So the Yonge/Bloor (Freshii) location of Crema is apparently opening tomorrow...can't wait to try it!

            2. re: trombasteve

              I'm very excited to try Crema. Thanks!

              1. re: trumpler

                I have been enjoying the americanos at The Communal Mule--Dundas street West just east of Shaw.

                1. re: food_whiz

                  food_whiz and jwhitereview, I'm very happy to know about The Communal Mule, which is now on my list. Many thanks!

            3. Trumpler, what is the flavor profile you are looking for? Dark Horse, Crema Coffee, Broadview Espresso and Manic Coffee all get their beans from 49th Parallel and Intelligenstia - so they will taste very similar. I personally like my Americano to have a darker, richer, chocolaty profile - so Bulldog Coffee on Church and Granby is my favourite. The Toronto coffee scene is still 10 years behind Vancouver, most places are pretentious (Jet Fuel), but I read that Cafe Artigiano will come to Toronto soon. So there's hope for the future.


              3 Replies
              1. re: Canadian Gourmand

                Very cool that Artigiano is planning to expand here. First Guu and now this - Vancouver's finest heading east, me likey. I would respectfully disagree with your last couple of comments, though, CG - firstly, I don't think that "most places are pretentious" here at all - maybe Jet Fuel and perhaps especially, your favourite, Bulldog. But not Dark Horse or Manic or Cherry Bomb or Sam James or Lit or Broadview, etc., at least not in my experience. And while I totally agree that the Toronto coffee scene HAD been 10 years behind Vancouver until relatively recently, there has been an explosion of cool and credible indie coffee spots in the last 1-2 years that has narrowed that gap significantly.

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  Canadian Gourmand, thanks for your post. Fantastic news about Artigiano. I wonder how long it'll be before we see one here.

                  Also, I've heard the controversy over Bulldog, but now that you've mentioned that their coffee is on the darker/richer side, I've put it high on my list of places to try next.

                  Today I tried Dark Horse on Spadina for the first time and was disappointed. My latte was very bland, weak, and creamy. I actually threw half of it away. Earlier in the week I made it out to Cherry Bomb on Roncesvalles. That latte too was weak, though not so weak as Dark Horse's, but it was also thin and bitter, and not so creamy. Incidentally, Dark Horse on Queen E. gave me a *much* stronger, richer, more flavourful, overall much better latte than the Spadina outlet did.

                  So I'm still searching. Sam James, Lit, Bulldog, and Crema are next.

                2. re: Canadian Gourmand

                  I am Sorry Canadian Gourmand but I have to disagree with Bulldog Coffee. I think it is way over rated not to mention the attitude they throw around which has been reported by other fellow posters here as well. Nothing in my opinion warrants this attitude and people are better off taking their money somewhere else.

                3. The best coffee that I've had in Toronto is from Te Aro on Queen East. The espresso blend here has the most amazing sweetness to it. They have also won some awards (forgot what exactly) for some of their single origin offerings. I really like Peter at Communal Mule - they use counter culture. He is a no nonsense kind of guy, but pulls a mean shot.
                  Oh, and Crema is just amazing - they use Parallel 49, Terroir, and Te Aro.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jwhitereview

                    Can't wait to try Te Aro. Thanks for the advice.

                    1. re: jwhitereview

                      I agree about Te Aro - their coffee brand is Pilot, and it's roasted on Wagstaff Drive (off Greenwood Ave, north of Gerrard) in a smartly designed space that also serves coffee and offers coffee tastings and barista training.
                      My favourite roast is Brazil - has that sweetness you mention, rich caramel flavour, a coffee for coffee haters.
                      Pilot coffee is also served at Lazy Daisy's café at Gerrard and Coxwell.