I missed seeing b Espresso Bar for months because it’s just a half a block farther east than I normally go when I’m on Queen Street. It’s not the prettiest of blocks; the view out the windows is a parking lot across the street (also known as a future condo, because that’s what all parking lots in central Toronto are). Another block east and you’re at Moss Park. But a block west and you’re at Metropolitan United and two of the biggest and best camera stores in Toronto… plus a strip of pawn shops. Two blocks west of that is the Eaton Centre. This is not a neighbourhood “in transition”; this neighbourhood isa transition. It’s permanently between one thing and another, or maybe it’s just both and neither.
One thing that will strike you as soon as you come in is how tall the baristas are. You will soon realize that the floor level behind the counter is several inches higher than on your side. But they’re nice about it. And they make good coffee. You can get a large latte in a pint glass. It’ll keep you nice and warm on a hot day… which you’ll need, because the air conditioning is aggressive.
b Espresso Bar is not a one-off, like most of my coffice spaces. But the look and feel are about the same as a small indy that hired a decorator. The window shelves display small potted succulents; the seating is along long tables topped with pebbles in lucite. There’s also a cushy six-person booth off to one side. It’s a great place to work if you like overhearing several conversations at once, all of them close enough to be entirely intelligible. There’s electro music, too, if you can hear it over the chatter. I’m sure that there’s some time of the day or week when it’s quiet here; it seems like a place that is made to be quiet, and every eruption of conversation is just a temporary interruption of that quiet… but you can sit here for an hour or two and that temporary interruption never seems to stop altogether, though it ebbs and flows. This place, like its neighbourhood, seems to be permanently between one thing and another… or maybe both and neither at the same time.