On a cold and damp day last winter, having had to run an errand far west in Toronto and needing to end my afternoon at Exhibition Place, I found myself at King and Dufferin looking for an interim coffice space, preferably one that wasn’t a local metastasis of an international chain.
On the south side a block east of Dufferin, I saw a door that said “Louie.” Above it was a sign reading “This is a COFFEE SHOP.”
Talk about good signs.
I’m back there today.
Come in that door and you’re in an old brick building with sashed windows. It must once have been a factory or a school (but I repeat myself). Now there are bare bricks on the streetside wall. There are more bricks in the longer wall on its east side, which has small windows looking on a covered laneway, each window half-obscured by old paperbacks piled on the windowsills.
Below the windows is a long bench that looks like it was made by someone’s uncle with leftover plywood from his playroom project, but it’s finished and you can sit on it for quite a while. Even I, with my bony butt, can take two hours. Spaced in front of the bench are seven small round yellow tables that weren’t made recently, and each one has a consort of one of those stackable chairs with metal frames and wooden seats, the kind you had to sit on during school assemblies unless you went to one of those rich schools with actual auditoriums.
The other side of the place is dominated by the espresso bar, modern enough, white-topped, with all the necessary equipment. The black wall behind it is adorned with not a menu but an abstract map of the local streets. There’s bare ductwork overhead. The coffee menu is on a dog-eared sheet of letter-sized paper hanging from a clipboard on a pillar next to the cash register, which is an iPad with the usual e-payment extensions. (They do take cash as well.) The left side of the espresso counter has a glass case with cookies, squares, salads, pop, et cetera.
The music here is fine. Today it’s the Beatles. You’re unlikely to get anything that makes you wince (if the Beatles make you wince, I’m hard put to picture you even coming into an indy espresso joint like this).
There’s a small step up into the front door, but no stairs otherwise, and the bathrooms are fully disabled accessible – and roomy at that.
The traffic here ebbs and flows. I’m not sure what businesses or other institutions are closest, but every so often a dozen or more people will arrive within a few minutes; once they’ve come, gotten their stimulants, and left, the place goes back to the half-dozen people seated and working or talking or both who are probably here for as long as their asses will let them.
And when you’re done here, you’re an easy walk from Liberty Village, which in turn is an easy cut under the tracks to Exhibition Place. Or you can catch a streetcar or bus to elsewhere. Or even a GO train.