Beyond a Cafe Review: Dark Horse Espresso Bar (Queen East)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a cafe review and it’s high time that Toronto cafes and I get to know each other. Why? Because as a graduate student and a playwright, I feel like they are going to be my saving grace.

Thankfully, that’s how it started out today with my first planned cafe study trip to Dark Horse Espresso Bar.

Photo Credit: Blog.TO Dark Horse Espresso Bar Review

Photo Credit: Blog.TO Dark Horse Espresso Bar Review

I originally heard about Dark Horse, albeit the Spadina location, from the first Toronto user of Google glasses. He wrote an article in a local Toronto newspaper (darn if I could find that article again . . .) about using them in Toronto and using the map function to find Dark Horse. Well, that and the good reviews on blog.TO were enough to draw me in.

I love any excuse to ride the streetcar even part of the way to my destination. The subway may be faster, but there’s something so much more communal and connected about traveling above ground. Plus to me they feel friendlier and cleaner than the buses. But that might be perception. Either way, when I got off the streetcar at the doorstep, the cafe struck me as much smaller than I remembered it. The white shades down across the main front window made it look less striking from the outside. But once inside, I realized that there was plenty of room for me, my laptop, and my stack of Noel Coward research books at their large wooden table. I ordered my cappuccino and settled in.

At first I thought the big table would be really distracting. I ended up sitting next to two friends chatting over a pot of tea and it definitely distracted me for a few minutes (they launched into a discussion of the inner world of television journalism and then some complaints about the CBC, so I had to keep an ear over in their direction, right?), but then again, I came to a cafe so I wouldn’t feel so isolated in my room. It was nice to note the people coming and going around me, sitting down for a moment to read the latest issue of NOW magazine or hunkering down with their own Macbooks for serious work like me. The best member of the table: the plant in the middle. It took me a minute to read the long, semi-passive aggressive note on it that pretty much said, “If I look like I’m wilting, ask the baristas to water me.” Entertaining, and definitely fitting with the hipster theme . . .

Positive for the work, but I must say for once the coffee is probably the number one reason I’ll be back. Shocking, I know. Usually I don’t pay that much attention to the quality of coffee. It’s either good or it’s meh, but if it’s warm and just a touch bitter with the foamy milk, then I can’t tell the difference. Since I have whatever is the cheapest from the grocery store in my own little garage-sale-found coffee maker at home, I don’t have the palate developed for good espresso. And yet, this cappuccino had an extra kick of bitterness that the foam perfectly balanced that made me smile each time I took a sip. I didn’t even mind that it was a smaller mug than I first pictured. It tasted better than a bigger, mediocre cup and it kept me running on a great study/writing streak all morning.

Cafe-hopping Toronto, my first conquest is success.


About austinausten88

Playwright in love with Classic films, afternoon tea, and Noel Coward. She recently graduated from Rice University. In the fall, she will be exchanging her English major undergraduate status for that of Theatre & Performance Studies graduate student.
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