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 its 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 flavorful 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 mouthwatering 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 Bloomfield (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 the 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 its flaky pastries. For the ambitious at-home baker with room to spare in their luggage, bags of the 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, Boxcar Social offers a menu, décor, and ambiance that 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 of different 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 10 a.m.
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.
5508 Chemin Royal, Saint-Jean-de-l'ile-d'Orleans
Confiturerie Tigidou has one specialty: small-batch jams. And the husband-and-wife team Catherine Trudel and Vincent Paris have honed them to perfection. The duo’s not-so-secret recipe allows the pure, natural flavors of the harvests to shine, unspoiled by preservatives or too much sugar. The season’s offerings are scrawled on a chalkboard; pick up the jars to go or have the fruity spreads smothered over house-made scones in the centuries-old barn with antiques and stacks of firewood.
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 from 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, graffitied walls, and seriously chic coffee accessories.
140 Yonge St., Old Toronto
The Dineen Building is an 1897 Renaissance Revival beauty that now houses the flagship outpost of this popular independent café. Dineen makes a solid matcha latte and macchiato, but really it’s the building itself that’s worth a visit. Double-height ceilings, mosaic-tiled floors, and plenty of natural light and seating means that a quick cortado can turn into a few hours reading and soaking in the warmth next to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows.
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.
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