Canada Specialty

Specialty city
Balzac’s Distillery District
1 Trinity St., Distillery District
This space is reminiscent of the kind of café you'd find down a Paris back alley—all the details look timeworn in the best way possible. Old posters line the walls, the checkerboard tile floor is a little scuffed, and the small round tables make conversation easy. With so many stellar coffee spots in Toronto, Balzac distinguishes itself from the masses with their unique coffee blends, our favorite being the Atwood (named after the Canadian author).
Blackbird Baking Co.
172 Baldwin St., Kensington Market
While this bakery looks fairly nondescript from the outside, rest assured, Blackbird churns out the best bread in town. With British chef April Blomfield (also of NYC gastropub The Spotted Pig) as an investor, no stone is left unturned in the quest for the perfect slice. Blackbird uses only the freshest, stone-ground, unbleached flour—older flour really does have a negative impact on the taste—made from a heritage Canadian grain called Red Fife. (Traditional fermentation methods are used to give their sourdough that signature sourness.) Lines wind down to the street come the weekend for Blackbird's baguettes, focaccia, spelt, and sesame loaves as well as their flaky pastries. For the ambitious at-home baker with room to spare in their luggage, bags of their custom flour are available for purchase.
Boxcar Social
235 Queens Quay W., Harbourfront
Intended to be a spot to linger over a drink—both caffeinated and alcoholic libations are available—and socialize, rather than rush in and out, the menu, décor, and ambiance at Boxcar make it hard to leave. The tasting flight (three different blends and types of coffee on a tray), is an exciting way to slow down and really taste the nuances in flavor between blends. Boxcar also offers a short menu featuring breakfast standbys like avocado toast and granola, alongside more inventive items like a particularly delicious ricotta and jam toast for those of us who like our sweet fix before 10am.
Earnest Ice Cream
1829 Quebec St., Mount Pleasant
There’s nothing whimsical or cute about Earnest Ice Cream; instead, the space is clean and modern, with a white tile counter and polished stone floors. While the usual suspects (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) are certainly available, Earnest is where you go to try something unusual, like elderflower-or spruce-flavored ice cream. Each flavor—made in small batches—is creamy perfection, and pints come packaged in returnable (and reusable) glass jars as part of the company’s commitment to zero waste.
Fairmount Bagel
74 Av. Fairmount W., Plateau-Mont-Royal
Bagels in Montreal are something of a point of pride—locals take them very seriously, and there's some debate about what spot is truly the best. A top contender? Fairmount (their "rival" is nearby St-Viateur), which was opened in 1919 by a Russian immigrant named Isadore Shlafman. Both spots sell fresh ones 24-hours a day. What makes these bagels different is both their size (they're smaller than the ones you'd find in, say, New York) and their sweetness—likely thanks to the addition of honey or malt syrup. There are several flavors on offer from blueberry and chocolate to whole wheat and onion, but no matter who you ask, sesame is the most popular. A tip: bagels are sold in a pack of six and can last in the freezer for up to a few months should you want to take them home.
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