When I travel to a new city and decide to spend an extended time there in order to get a better feel for it, finding awesome coffee shops is an absolute essential on my list of things to do. As a blogger, writer and almost-location independent PhD student I can literally work from anywhere, and often combine play with work. My laptop is always there when I travel, and so is a huge list of things to do to stay on top of my workload.
When I recently went to Toronto and booked an awesome Airbnb for more than a week, I knew one thing for sure: I’d go on a quest for Toronto’s best work-friendly coffee shops. But what does a place need to meet my criteria and deserve a spot on this list? Well, it had to be cool with a mixed crowd of locals and other digital nomads. It needed to serve great coffee and food, and of course free WiFi was an absolute must. Ideally the music wouldn’t be too loud to allow for the inevitable Skype call or interview transcription session, and I would give away my heart to any place that had power outlets close to all tables.
I spent several days in Toronto doing nothing other than exploring new neighourhoods, hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop and working my days away whilst observing the city life inside and outside my specific workplace. Here is my list of 8 awesome coffee shops in Toronto which are perfect for blogging or other kinds of laptop-based work.
1) Hello Darling (Junction Triangle)
The funny thing about Toronto is that you can walk down almost any residential street and always find a cozy cafe close to a junction with another road. This little joint on Lansdowne Avenue is such a place, close to the Wallace Avenue crossing and it sure is a local favourite. Hello Darling is a prime brunch and breakfast spot in the Junction Triangle neighbourhood and it’s best to come here early to make sure you get a table! There is free WiFi available and a counter by the window to free up the tables for lunching guests. If you fancy a little something I can really recommend the Sunflower bowl with warm chickpeas, rice, beetroot, sweet potato mash, avocado and salad.
827 Lansdowne Ave, Mon+Wed-Fri 9am-3pm, Sat+Sun 10am-3pm
2) Kaffebar (Junction)
Initially I wanted to spend the morning hours in another cafe in this trendy area called Cool Hands of a Girl, but unfortunately they didn’t have WiFi, so I had to find another spot. Kaffebar was my saviour. This tiny space on Dundas St W in West Toronto was the perfect location for me; the counter by the window makes for a bright view, and the coffee smelled so good I could have gotten up and ordered another one every time the barista ground fresh customer for a new customer. This is more of a take-away cafe, but there are two seats by the window and two by the bar which makes for a very intimate experience.
2830 Dundas St W, Mon 7.30am-1pm, Tue-Fri 7.30am-5pm, Sat+Sun 8.30am-4pm
3) Quantum Coffee (Downtown)
While in town I managed to line up an interview with a film distributor who is an expert on women’s films and I wanted to interview her for my PhD project. Seeing that she was in town for TIFF I knew it would be easier to meet her if the coffee shop was super close to the epicentre of the film festival in downtown Toronto. Quantum Coffee turned out to be the perfect venue.
To be honest, I didn’t actually have a coffee here, but only an iced, unsweetened raspberry tea – yes, it was that hot – but in terms of workspace availability this was just my number one cafe all over. When you walk through the coffee bar area you enter a huge open space with tables scattered on either side of the room – it’s part of a neighbouring business called Brainstation. One side is reserved for people to eat, sit down with their coffee or meet others (no laptops) while the other side is the specifically designated work area where you are welcome to join the laptop gang. The only downside I’d say is the inconvenient location of power outlets behind the benches.
460 King St W, Mon-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat+Sun 8am-7pm
4) Dark Horse Espresso Bar (Downtown)
I wish I could have spent more time at the Dark Horse Espresso Bar because I simply loved their coffee and felt super comfortable at the large community tables that gave you the illusion of co-working without actually having to speak to anyone.
I spent an hour here before heading onwards to Quantum and I left for two reasons: the music was a bit too loud and I was worried my phone would not be able to record the upcoming interview clearly enough; and there were no power outlets available.
I can still recommend it though, as a place to re-charge your batteries and while away some time!
5) El Almacen (West Queen West)
I loved exploring the super-trendy West Queen West neighbourhood, especially for its many vintage shops, but as always when shopping – you get tired and eventually need a caffeine shot.
I didn’t actually sit down here with my laptop, and only got a takeaway coffee, but I used their free WiFi on my phone for a while and really liked the atmosphere. It felt something like a hideout from the busy street, far away from the bustle of West Queen West.
1078 West Queen Street, Mon-Fri 8am-9pm, Sat+Sun 9am-9pm
6) The Good Neighbour (Junction)
The Good Neighbour is another prime example of an awesome neighourhood cafe tucked away in a quiet residential street and completely unexpected. Again, I didn’t try the coffee here, but was looking for a healthy lunch and a peaceful environment to bring out the laptop.
I went for a grilled veggie sandwich which I devoured quickly, it was so good. There were several others around, some with laptops, some on dates, and the guests made up from an eclectic mix of the young in-crowd and older ladies meeting up with their girlfriends exchanging the latest gossip.
The Good Neighbour also has outdoor seating available!
238 Annette St, Mon-Sun 7am-7pm
7) I Deal Coffee (Kensington Market)
I visited this coffee shop for another interview for my PhD – my interview partner is from the city, so I thought I’d let her choose the location. I Deal Coffee is a beloved spot in the Kensington Market, more shabby than chic, but certainly a great spot to meet your friends for a catch up, read a book or simply have a delicious coffee away from the busy lanes of Kensington Market.
I simply loved the outdoor area and as the morning grew into noontime is got busier and busier. There is free WiFi available (of course) and if I were you, I’d try the raspberry scones!
8) L’Espresso Bar Mercurio (Museums)
I’ll give a little special mention to L’Espresso Bar Mercurio because I only came here for a takeaway coffee once and actually don’t know how suitable it is for a work session. It seemed very busy, especially around lunch time, but the coffee was just too good not to mention it.
Mercurio is your perfect stop between visits to the Bata Shoe Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum, which should really both go on your list if you’re keen to see something completely different!
321 Bloor Street W, Mon-Fri 7.30am-7.30pm, Sat+Sun 9am-5pm
My time coffee shop-hopping in Toronto has turned me into a real connoisseur when it comes to what makes a place perfect and worthy of recommendation. I hope you enjoyed my list of favourite places around Toronto, and that you’ll visit some of them next time you are in town!
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.