Every weekday afternoon I go work in a coffee place. Not the same one every day. I go back to some of them fairly often, but almost every week I try at least one place I haven’t been before. And I’m not close to running out of places yet. Toronto has hundreds of them, and I mean literally literally hundreds. This city runs on caffeine and not everyone gets theirs from Tim Hortons and Starbucks.
So I’m going to start writing about them because I feel like it. And also to taunt everyone who doesn’t live in Toronto or doesn’t have the chance to go work in a different coffee place every day. I’m calling this series Coffice Spaces because it’s for the squillions of text workers and other wandering drudges who use the co-office coffee spaces in town.
The first one I’ll write about is the one I’m sitting in as I write this, Art Square Café, which I have not been in before.
The entertainment in this place is three (3 (three)) things:
- Actual real art paintings of painted art, on the walls of the gallery space that takes up about half of this joint.
- The music on the speakers is jazz, as opposed to the adolescent angst and cat disembowelment that feature in many other coffee joints.
- This maybe 8-year-old kid is running around in the art space, playing hide-and-seek apparently with the paintings. I don’t think he comes with the space. You probably won’t find him here if you come. But consider that this is the kind of place where it’s even possible.
You have a view of the street through the windows if you’re near the windows. If you’re not, you’ll just have to look at the art. And the other, you know, people, like everywhere else.
They also have an interior courtyard where you can sit outside inside (there’s a canopy). It has tables. And more art. On a hot day, if you want to stay hot, that’s your spot.
The Art Square Café is right across Dundas from the Art Gallery of Ontario. I wouldn’t even have thought to come in if it hadn’t been Monday because, like 83% of everyone in Toronto, I have a membership in the AGO, and I was reckoning on going in there and sitting and working. But oh yeah it’s closed on Mondays. Lucky me. I found this place.
This location means your odds of enduring some damn business yik-yak from a nearby table are refreshingly low. Personal conversations are more likely. And, I guess, stuff about art probably. It doesn’t seem super popular with the laptop-worker crowd. This may be because they don’t know one huge thing about it.
I discovered that huge thing quite unexpectedly, when – as I was sitting editing someone else’s book – the nice young woman who sold me my brewed coffee came by my table with a pot and asked me if I’d like a refill.
Gonna repeat that. She asked me if I’d like a refill.
My cup was not quite empty. She did not charge me.
They do refills.
So stay the hell away from here. Because I don’t want to come and find it so full of you people that I can’t get a table. I think they’re doing OK staying in business. Don’t crowd them out.
Oh, also, they have a kitchen and they cook things in it and I spent the last hour in a Proustian fugue, swept back to my mother’s kitchen as she made chili con carne. Screw Madeleines; frying onions go straight through your nose to your brain, and any pharmacist will tell you that the nasal route is more directly active than the oral route. So if you don’t want to smell food and be back in Alberta in 1979 (or whatever), this place may not be for you and you should leave it to me.
Warning to people with mobility issues: There are steps up to get in, and the washrooms are downstairs in the basement.
Warning to the art-sensitive: If the art upstairs intoxicates you and your head swirls and you run downstairs to the washroom to vomit or sketch, you will discover there is a whole nother damn gallery down there too with more art.