Queen Street West is long and varied with many famous neighbourhoods and enclaves. Whether you find yourself near the centre, the Fashion District, or deep into Parkdale, we’ve got you covered with nine of the 6ix’s best independent coffee spots. (go ahead say that backwards)
Hot Black Coffee
The name says it all! That thing we all crave. Hot Black Coffee will catch your eye with its flashy red exterior and modern design. The over-all feel falls between a Harley Davidson hangout and an airy hipster cafe. Well-pulled espresso and homey baking make for a good snack or breakfast. Try the jam cookies for a treat that harkens back to childhood. This location being so close to University Ave. and the downtown core holds its own against the flood of chains who tend to pay the big bucks for rent on this central part of Queen Street
The Coffee Lab
Technically this is just south of Richmond off of Queen Street, but we love giving a shout out to quirky, small businesses. Walking by you may just see a guy and his espresso machine behind a glass display window where you’d expect a mannequin to be. You’ve found the right place! Pop your head in to order your drink of choice. You will always see the current roast and its origin displayed out front, part of the ‘transparency’ of the coffee concept. Don’t forget to grab a canelé if not sold out.
If you can find a seat, this is a popular spot to catch up with a friend, have a business meeting, or clock some time on your Mac amongst others working away remotely. Early bird not only masterfully extracts espresso, but they have all kinds of apparatus for cold brew, drips, and some things we may not even know in terms of coffee nomenclature. Clean, simple, and environmentally friendly.
One of the coolest names in the coffee game. The aesthetic of their locations, of which there are now 4 in TO, are all minimalist. You’ll dig the aesthetic which is both cozy and polished. The coffee here is fantastic, but truly you could come here just to hang out. If you were wondering about the smoke part of the name, it refers to their cannabis concept. They sell all kinds of modern and, dare we say, sexy pot paraphernalia. They are also one of the first online retailers to be given the go ahead to sell Cannabis in Ontario and Manitoba.
Right beside Sam James is this local favourite which helped define Queen Street. Those who live on the block swear and die by the White Squirrel, named after the bushy-tailed albinos you can often spot in the park. In summer time we suggest an affogato with toasted marshmallow ice cream. They stock Greg’s Ice Cream here, you will not be disappointed.
Famous around the city for his ‘Coffee Pockets’ that are squeezed into small places you wouldn’t even expect could be rented. Each location is all white, with super-simple cups and menu boards. Great coffee, and fantastic baristas, this place oozes hipster cool. However it will never make you feel like you are on the bad side of hipsterdom. Regardless, this location is across from Trinity Bellwoods Park, and we all know the diverse and trendy crowd that congregates in the area. Cash or Debit Only.
A great spot which is a little different than the aforementioned espresso-dominated pack. Buna is run by the owners of Nunu Ethiopian Restaurant and offer a true coffee experience. A venue easy to pop in for classic coffee, but if you want to enjoy the full ceremony of Ethiopian coffee complete with smoking beans and served with popcorn, you’ve come to the right place. Learn from the owners about the original regions for coffee cultivation in Ethiopia, and the way it is served and appreciated in the motherland.
The Tempered Room
Even if you dislike coffee, the tempered room is a must-visit in Parkdale. Priding themselves on their French Patisserie this is one of the best places for a sweet treat in the neighbourhood. The large, arched front window allows sunlight to flood the cafe and makes an inviting place to relax, catch up with a friend, or hunker down and get some work done. This is our favourite Parkdale spot for coffee and cake: an important part of a balanced lifestyle. (You may think we’re kidding. We are not.)
The bastion of Parkdale’s coffee scene. Therefore instrumental in beginning the evolution of neighbourhood. Resultantly it’s gone from a bit grubby to the trendy, inventive ‘hood that it is today. Above all they have perfected simplicity. Grab an americano and a croissant, or a cortado if you prefer milk and soak in the Parkdale vibes. Wherever you end up on Queen Street, don’t forget to support local, and tip your barista.