In this, the third installment in our groundbreaking five-part series, which involves me visiting independently owned coffee shops that are walking distance from my house -- I stop by a newbie called the White Squirrel Coffee Shop.
My hopes are high for the place because until recently, co-owner David Ginsberg was one of the guys behind Aunties & Uncles, which still remains one of my all-star brunch spots.
The White Squirrel's bi-level space is beautifully designed, all sunlight and communal tables with a focal point wall-sized Toronto Archives city map, which will come in handy should you decide to take advantage of a springtime stroll downtown, or some fun in the expansive Trinity Bellwoods Park, right across the street.
While the White Squirrel has lots of homemade, affordable snacks, including lemony cornmeal muffins, mandelbroit (AKA Jewish biscotti), giant gingersnap cookies, brownies, crusty sandwiches and cupcake-sized crustless stratas (like a wee quiche), "I want to be known as a coffee shop first," says Ginsberg. To that end, lattes are made from fair trade organic beans; a custom blend that Ginsberg devised, consisting of four different beans making for a medium dark roast. It's all smooth and nuanced and tastes like coming home.
Afternoons bring additional baked pick-me-ups; some days it could be empanadas, others, whole wheat pizzas. There are also 10 flavours of Greg's ice cream on tap, and with the coffee shop's location being spitting distance from the park, well, the whole Greg's thing is a bit of genius. After all, explains Ginsberg, "Now that summer's almost here, we have the biggest patio in the city."
Lattes: $3.25, Cornmeal muffin: $1.50
Pro: Tasty snacks and ice cream and you can't beat the location.
Con: The framed photos of the cafe's namesake albino squirrels of the Trinity Bellwoods park, are somewhat disconcerting.