Get the Bombon.
It has condensed milk.
The Bombon at Red Eye Espresso is like a flat white, but it has condensed milk in it. Not a lot! It won’t kill you! But it makes a difference.
Oh, that’s not the only reason to come to this cute, arty little coffee place on McCaul south of OCAD. There’s also the fact that it’s cute and arty. When I say “cute” I don’t mean cloying or twee. It’s just the sort of place that fine arts students feel instantly comfortable in. (I know: I was one.)
I’m sitting on an old metal-and-naugahyde stool (drafting studio refugee, perhaps?), one of four at this window counter that’s really just two boards that you shouldn’t lean too hard on. If I lift my head I see the little potted plants suspended in macramé hangers in the window. There are more plants and more macramé on the side walls, plus some art, not the expensive kind. Behind me is a long, solid, finished wooden counter-style table that you can lean on as much as you want while you sit on one of its eight hard-assed drawing-studio-refugee stools. Against the wall by the door are three unpadded flip-down seats that appear to have been souvenired from the renovation or destruction of an old concert hall. And back there, three or so metres directly behind me, parallel to the window, is the counter at which the baristas do their stuff. And it is good stuff. And they suit the place well. They have some pretty entertaining conversations with their friends sometimes too.
They have baked goods, by the way, though not a lot of them. Soup until it runs out, I’m told. But this place is here for the coffee. And for people to come and either work, converse, or – very often – both at the same time. Not too many people at once. Math will tell you that it seats fifteen, and any knowledge of Canadians will tell you that there will never be someone in absolutely every last seat. (There are five thrift-store refugee chairs of normal size out front, but any knowledge of Canadian weather will tell you that those are usable only certain times of the year. There is an overhang, though, so they’re out of the rain.)
The people-watching – through the window and on the premises – is great. You’re between OCAD and Queen Street. If I need to explain that any further, you’re not from around here and won’t be coming to this place anyway. And if you’re not from around here and do come to this place, you’ll see.
The music is a bit of a crapshoot. It follows the tastes of the baristas, and if it starts playing something you really like, they may change it mid-song. Live with it. It comes with the turf.
There are no steps, not to come in, not to go to the washroom (which is behind an unmarked door directly facing the front door). If you have mobility issues, you may not like the seating options, but at least you can come in and get a Bombon.
Did I mention that it has condensed milk?