Coffee: dark, bitter, electrifying. While caffeine is officially a drug, it’s one that billions look forward to (and require) morning, mid-morning, noon, afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid-evening, late evening, and night. It’s hard to offer a new take on the age old elixir, but then again, there’s little need to; unlike most products whose markets have saturation points, coffee shops seem to be able line every door of (nearly) every street and still thrive. And while the big chains seek to standardize our experience of and exposure to coffee, the consumer craving for small, independent, and unique coffee providers is stronger than ever.
Enter Golden Café, a new coffee slinger in Toronto’s west end, uniquely placed just off the Dundas strip close to Roncesvalles that, while becoming known to area residents, is still somewhat of a sheltered pocket of post-industrial magic. Named aptly for the quaint street it’s on, Golden Café is housed in a converted two storey multi-wing factory space containing a melee of occupants ranging from such urbanely fashionable outfits as Rent Frock Repeat, Soma Chocolatemaker, Ninutik Maple Sugar, Rocket Science VFX, and tongtong, to architecture and design firms, and a school for dance, voice, and theatre.
The café, situated smack dab in the building’s gloriously sky-lit central hub, caters primarily to resident tenants and staff. Being off the main drag and with only a sandwich board out front of the building’s main entrance, Golden relies mainly on its internal clientele for business, though lacks nothing in the way of appeal or flavour to discourage walk-ins. High loft style ceilings reveal original wood framing and pipe work, no less than five large skylights, exposed beams and pillars, original brick walls repainted in a lush reflective white, and communal seating featuring an oversize wood dining table, and a tan leather couch whose plush luxuriance would befit a George Clooney Cigar Aficionado shoot. Oh, and they have free wifi.
Golden Café’s beverage and fare offerings are worth the extra steps from Dundas. Their finely crafted host of espresso based coffee variants use the beans of Calgary based coffee roaster/aficionados Phil and Sebastian (espresso/Americano, $2.75; cappuccino, $3.50; latte, $4.25), and they offer a fine selection of loose leaf teas provided by Sloane ($2.50). All are available to stay or to go, with a unique touch for the sweet toothed coffee lover; raw maple sugar (and syrup) from boutique maple syrup product provider (and tenant of 35 Golden Ave.), Ninutik. In addition to a Major League coffee lineup, Golden has homemade, gourmet-level salads, pastries, frittatas, desserts, and a host of bottled preserves. The cafe’s clean marble counters and stainless steel stove and appliances smack of modernity while not a few golden knick knacks dot the interior, combining to suggest a pan Latino, Chinese astrology, Egyptian King Tut-esque kind of vibe.
Piloting this stellar enterprise of caffeine, preserves, and baking wizardry are co-owners and childhood friends, Rochelle Basen and Ilana Speigel. Together, they craft foodstuffs that are replete with the kind of quality, attention to detail and, well —size—you’d expect from a catering company; which just happens to be what they do when not working the cafe (the duo offers full service catering for private and corporate events, from small to large).
All of Golden’s comestibles are made fresh in house, and the majority are perfectly fit for fingers, with most going down in an extremely economical 3 bites. The price is right, too. Their delicious goods range from $2 cookies to $3 muffins and frittatas, $3.50 dilly buns (savoury rolls with dill, cheese, and onion), $4 pizza slices, $8 mac and cheese, and they bake their own bread which, like their menu, varies from day to day.
Basen and Speigel’s jarred preserves sit atop the counter’s glass deli case and are appetizing enough to buy on appearance alone. There’s something about small jars of stuff with a cool label. They range in price from $4.50-$15, while homemade bags of granola ($20/500g bag) are also for sale. The preserves are made with in-season local fruit from 100km Foods. Be aware that the cafe is cash-only though, so if you venture by, be sure to bring some bills. In addition to freshly made fare for consumption, the dynamic duo also offer coffee and tea tastings, in addition to workshops and interactive discussions on topics from home-brewing coffee methods, to pie-making with Ontario summer fruit.
While their slightly covert location might be thought of as a drawback, Basen and Spiegel say that they enjoy their “off the beaten track” allure. And despite taking a bit of work to find, Golden Café is in fact somewhat strategically situated; with only a few competitors in the immediate vicinity, it stands to serve the area’s growing community of loft complexes, condos, and the existing plethora of homes lining the blocks both adjacent to Golden Avenue and those south of Dundas. With its scintillating interior, comfortable seating, and lush lighting, it’s easy to see Golden Café becoming just as much of a destination point (or more) as any other coffee shop in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. Add to that the brushed concrete flooring, exposed beams, and modern design of the building as a whole, and you get a space that begs to be experienced. Come for the coffee (and tea, and food, and preserves, and baked goods, and workshops); stay for the ambiance.
Meet the photographer: BEA LABIKOVA
Bea is a Toronto based musician, photographer, teacher and a multidisciplinary visual artist. Growing up surrounded by her father’s antique camera collection, Bea loves taking portraits of unique faces and always tries to capture the colours of the world around us. Her main areas of interest are documentary, performance and travel photography.