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).
Bang Bang Ice Cream
93a Ossington Ave., Ossington
We have it on good authority that this is hands-down the creamiest, most flavorsome ice cream to be had in Toronto. Run by a pastry-loving brother and sister duo, Rosanne Pezelli makes the cookies and her brother Arthur handles the rest. Get in line for mouth-watering flavors like burnt toffee and cinnamon toast, sandwiched between two chewy cookies. Everything is made in-house and is so good that not even Toronto winters deter the crowds.
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.
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.
172 Powell St., Downtown Eastside
Pastry chef Eleanor C. Waterfall cut her teeth in several of Vancouver’s best kitchens before going solo with Cadeaux. The display cases are loaded with cakes covered in fairy-tale-looking icing, ice cream sandwiches, cookies, and croissants. Skip the straight chocolate and go for a mocha-pecan cookie or Earl Grey-infused London fog cake.
Dark Horse Espresso Bar
215 Spadina Ave., Chinatown
Big communal tables laden with newspapers and magazines make Dark Horse Espresso an equally ideal match for the solo coffee drinker, as it is for a group of friends catching up over espresso and baked treats. The pared back industrial café is soaked in light and a great spot to work out of for the day.
De Mello Palheta
2489 Yonge St., Yonge & Eglinton
This micro-roastery and coffee joint is named for Portuguese explorer Francisco de Mello Palheta, who introduced the coffee bean to Brazil. It’s an eclectic, jumbled sort of space with communal tables, graffiti’d walls, and seriously chic coffee accessories.
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.
East Van Roasters
319 Carrall St., Gastown
Coffee with a conscience is one way to describe East Van Roasters, who provide employment and training to local women who have fallen on tough times. The teeny space is straight out of Stockholm with a clean aesthetic of all-white walls interspersed with exposed red-brick, and a monochrome, subway-style tile floor. Small but mighty, East Van roasts all their beans in-house for the perfect cup every time and makes their own chocolate, too.
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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