POEM 034/100

September 18, 2012

The coffee became bitter

as it cooled, forgotten

behind a potted sprig of catnip

Things you see at the coffee shop

December 9, 2009

I walked into the Second Cup in St. Clair Centre for the first time since August. I used to be a daily consumer of double Americanos and they were my providers.

The manager there is a thin, polite, greying, middle-aged Asian man who always gave me a quiet smile from behind his employees as they served me. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him speak, other than a quiet “hi”, but he’s somehow managed to foster a bond between us. As if our brief hellos are a code for a secret knowledge we share.

Seeing me return, his smile was wider and more genuine than ever before. His teeth sparkled like polished sugar cubes, his eyes wrinkled in grandfatherly mirth. It was as if I were a prodigal son, returned from my travels. I even felt slightly guilty that I have no intention of moving back to this warm hearth of caffeine-laced comfort. My morning visit was a special occasion. A slush storm had weakened my resolve and battered my spirit. I needed two shots of deep espresso warmth and a dose of fellowship to keep me going.

While I waited for the barista to prepare my elixir, I could feel the subtle snare tightening around me. I was being lulled back into a comfortable, yet dysfunctional, co-dependant relationship. For $2.47 a day, I could have this feeling of ritualized familiarity; At the cost of a few twinkling smiles, this surrogate grandfather could have my $2.47 a day.

As I walked away with my paper cup of caffeinated cheer, I wasn’t even troubled the exchange felt equitable and not slightly pathetic.

Dundas Dining: Rebas Café revisit

September 28, 2009

Since we were shorted our coffees on our last visit to this café (we weren’t charged for it), this weekend we decided to go back to the punctuationally challenged Rebas for breakfast.

Though there is still no apostrophe in the name of the café, there was a different staff member behind the counter. A stout baby-boomer with a silver goatee asked us what he could get us. We ordered a pair of dark roast brews with a buy-one-get-onecoupon I got in the mail (okay, that might have been the real inspiration for our return), a muffin and a slice of blueberry pie. The muffin was the cakey, Costco club-pack variety but the pie appeared to be home-made. Not only did we actually get our coffee this time, there was about three slices worth of pie left but the man cut it in two and gave Mandi the larger of the two pieces. Sweet deal.

It was a bit crowded inside so we took advantage one of the last opportunities of the season to enjoy the patio. It was certainly a nice patio though, like many restaurant patios in the Junction, feels a bit like someone’s backyard. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just the best way to describe the atmosphere. You can sip your coffee, stare up into the neighbor’s second floor windows and wonder what it is they do up there all day and if they’re going to walk past naked or fellating a banana.

If death is the sort of thing bothers you, I’d suggest not peering through the fence. Through the crack in the fence we could see the hearse parked behind the Lynette Funeral Home next door. I’m not bothered by death, but I also like cakey, Costco club-pack style muffins. It was a win-win morning.

The pie was as delicious as it looked and the coffee was definitely decent. The Junction has a bit of a low bar for coffee so I’d say they rate well above average whereas in the grand scheme of all things related to coffee they rate more of a solid run-of-the-mill medium average.

The best coffee I’ve had in the GTA has been at Madison’s Cafe & Creperie in Ghettobicoke. It’s amazing. It’s like coffee beans are making babies on your tongue. I only mention this because it obliterates anything in The Junction. So Rebas coffee doesn’t really have to strive to be that good because it would stand out too much and get called a snob by the other coffees.  That can be emotionally scarring for a coffee. Aim for the middle, you’ll be happier.

4 missing apostrophes out of 5

Dundas Dining: Sunnyside Café

July 2, 2009

The newly opened Sunnyside Café (or at least its patio in the morning) is actually on the shady side of the Dundas/Quebec intersection. This would be particularly fitting in its previous incarnation as Free Time Coffee—an unlikely counterfeit of the vaguely unpopular Coffee Time Donuts chain—which was a hang-out for individuals who found themselves to have a lot of free time on their hands. Perhaps due to being employmently challenged.

We saw one of these dirtbag shitheels (to be perfectly blunt) as we sat sipping our coffee in a pleasant breeze. He had one of those sallow-faced and wiry junkie’s bodies and wore a wispy rat-moustache. He entered with his young and miserable son and then exited quickly muttering to his progeny, “It never used to be like that. I don’t need to hear her yelling at that guy in Chinese. Nying-nying-nyow-nying-nyow. I can go home and have your mom yell at me in English.”

The boy followed him away employing the same timid, resigned gait with which he’d arrived. Well, good riddance to you, sir. Things have changed around here and your presence is no longer required. I wonder what he does when wants to eat Chinese.

After dirtbag and son’s departure, we turned our attention to our coffees (before 11am it’s $.50 cheaper in a ceramic mug and not the paper to-go cup). They were cups of what could only be described as “joe” comparable, actually, to the Crema Coffee Co‘s (located kitty-corner) highfalutin specialty brew only bearing the advantage of a lack of pretence making the adequate quality a pleasant surprise and not a let-down. Once we were joined by the rest of our party, we re-entered the café to order our brunch. The interior is about as low-rent greasy-spoon as you could hope for, though entirely incongruous with their slightly more upscale “café” signage.

Ordering had a bit of a learning-curve as the menu boards, seemingly left-over from the Free Time, do not make a lot of sense and don’t seem to have a lot of variety. Risk of a poor choice is minimal though since everything on them is rather inexpensive. Interestingly, the man leaning on the counter does not take your order, the very busy woman hidden behind the sandwich counter does. But you do pay him, not her.

I had a grilled-cheese sandwich which was, to my less-than-generous amazement, made with real cheese and not Velvetta. It was as good as you could hope and only $2.29. Mandi had a tuna on rye which she said was “very good.” Our companions, Shara and Tom, had the breakfast specials (sausage, eggs, hash browns, etc) which also looked tasty and a little less dodgy than the interior of the café would have you expect. Shara was impressed it came with a salad and that the salad actually had red peppers.

Bottom-line: Decent food, good price, good patio, possible colourful clientele, weird and uncomfortable atmosphere (not entirely a bad thing).

3.75 shady patios out of 5
(5 awkward and confusing ordering procedures out of 5).

Project Dundas Dining: Rebas Café

May 3, 2009

As a new feature here in Mr. Dapper’s Splendid Online Diary, Mandi and I will be eating at every eatery in The Junction along Dundas Street West , Toronto, between Runnymede Ave and Dupont. We begin with Rebas Café.

The punctuationally challenged Rebas is named after the owners’ dog, Reba. She apparently gets walked in the morning as we passed her and “Helen” earlier in the day. I remarked, “That woman is wearing a dog-walking apron.”  We learned later it was a panini and, supposedly, coffee making apron. But at the time, she was only walking a dog. Reba.

Rebas (which I still want to pronounce “reh-bess”) is a cute little hippie coffee shop providing two tables and two reading chairs as well as a small bar. Apparently also a patio and art gallery (and Reba) in the back, but we didn’t venture down the narrow hallway.

The menu features soups and sandwiches (panini and regular) and beverages (teas and, supposedly, coffee). We ordered paninis and americanos. We didn’t receive our coffees. Which is kind of a problem at what is, supposedly, a coffee shop. Perhaps I sound bitter. I would agree and say I am being as bitter as the rich, dark americano, except I have no idea if their americanos are bitter. Supposedly, they are organic and fair-trade and quite tasty.

My panini was a simple, but quite delicious roast chicken and pesto where Mandi’s was a “pretty good” grilled vegetable version of the same. The goodly long wait for our (not unfairly priced) food and, supposedly, coffee allowed us to spot the book exchange shelf, which is always a good idea. There were also boxes of Trivial Pursuit  questions to help while the time away but, as Mandi pointed out, no Scrabble. The place could use a Scrabble  board.

When we paid, there was no mention of the americanos. As if we’d never ordered them. Which was, at least, less awkward than if she’d asked if we’d wanted them to go. Instead it was clear she had entirely no recollection of our supposed coffee order. We decided, though not an unpleasant luncheon experience, probably not one we’d repeat. Except perhaps to grab a coffee on the go, which supposedly they serve.

2 1/2 out of 5 coffee cups (to be reevaluated upon actually drinking the coffee).

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