I’m sitting on some old crocheted thing provided to pad butts that have planted on the plywood here. Plywood is the theme of Tandem, in tandem with bare brick. There’s a bit of bench and counter at front, near the window, but most of the seating is at six square plywood tables arranged in front of two plywood benches along the side walls of the back. The tables also have one cheap chair each, of the kind found in underfunded schools and community centres: formed plywood on metal frames.
That’s not the only thing from my childhood that Tandem calls forth. It also has mugs mismatched with saucers from the seventies, some of which are of the same kind as my parents had. There’s also this creeping vine cascading over the black garden wall at back. I don’t know what it’s called but my mom had some too.
On the other hand, the music is jazz, of the easy listening kind. The coffee is good, and much more interesting and varied than what I could get as a kid. The location is on King Street, a block east of Parliament and almost next door to Henrietta Lane, though this joint and that one could hardly be less similar. Henrietta Lane has a classic English bar aesthetic; the aesthetic of Tandem surely gets some Japanese influence from its owners and operators, but it’s not Zen. There are shelves of collected things and thrift-shop finds, but it’s not twee. And though the benches at the back are up a couple of steps, the rest of it is no problem for people regardless of mobility, unless they can’t get through a standard-width door. The floor is wide open. The bathroom is commodious.
Sometimes it’s really quiet here. Sometimes it’s full of people talking with each other. In an afternoon you’ll get both, alternating. I find it a good place to work on things that need a functional mindset: dry overwritten prose that needs to be heavily slashed, for instance. I do think it’s more my kind of place in summer than in winter, but that may just be my own aesthetic preferences or temperature sensitivity. But if I don’t feel like staying, I’m not too far from several other spots, so…