There’s a reason I’m always careful to name a favorite, a top of the list #1 pick. Because as soon as I do, I find a reason to re-think it. Over the past couple of months, I’ve found a new challenger for my favorite cafe in Toronto. Tango Palace Coffee Company, you still hold a dear place in my heart and are a very convenient place to meet up for writing sessions, job interviews, late night caffeine and focus pick-me-up’s, but there’s a new contender in town: Flying Pony.
Flying Pony caught my eye a long time ago as I started exploring more of the Indian Bazaar. It stands out on the corner of Ashdale and Gerrard, just a block west of Coxwell. By stand out I mean neon colors, bright patterns, and a yellow sign that beckoned me in with the promise of fair trade, organic coffee and freshly made pastries.
I had always wanted to explore it, but on my trips to and from the grocery store, I never had time. Then during the Indian Bazaar’s South Asian Festival, Flying Pony served $1 croissants in a booth outside. I had one dollar . . . the croissant tasted better than what I’d paid for it. I made it a point to make Flying Pony the next cafe to visit.
Inside, though they display rad new art and only serve certified organic coffee with their offering of normal and vegan-friendly baked goods, it doesn’t feel like a hipster hang-out. Though I can go in there and concentrate, I also watched as a couple with their infant son played and talked with a neighbor. People from all walks of life, including a man clutching a wall-mount clock, felt comfortable coming inside for a bit of hot coffee on a cold day and speaking to any of the patrons inside. University students met up to take over the back room with their notes spread all across the table, and at the front counter, I watched as primary school kids rushed inside to buy hot chocolates and brownies with their saved change. Flying Pony’s main table is communal and covered with children’s, travel, coffee table, mystery novels, and other books.
There’s always something to look at, even if the cafe is empty because the space also doubles as an art gallery. Now I know most cafes carry art–even Starbucks used to display and sell some pieces, if I remember correctly–but Flying Pony’s art actually arrests my attention. When I came in this month, I was almost sad at first to see that they were showcasing a new artist. R.U.N.T.’s paintings and cartoon-like canvas portraits seemed like part of the building and its charm. Then again, the art on Flying Pony’s walls is never boring and obviously chosen for its visual interest, never to “go” with the decor or avoid offending anyone. I know by my next visit I’ll already be used to the new artist.
Oh yeah, and their food and bakery offerings . . . I haven’t tried their soups yet, but since each bowl comes with one of their homemade scones, they are sure to be hearty and delicious. I wished during Canadian Thanksgiving that I had an excuse to buy one of their really large apple or pumpkin pies. As I sat there trying to write as much as I could before the cafe closed early, I watched patron after patron come in to pick up the pies they’d ordered. I guess I’ll have to make dinner plans next year just to have an excuse . . . or else I’ll just buy one and pretend I’m having a large party . . .
I don’t know how Flying Pony managed to create such an open place, especially in such a changing and diverse neighborhood, but I love the picture of Toronto I experience when I’m there. I’m a little sad that I don’t live quite as close to it as I did last month. But the glass-half-full part of me says that this way I have yet another excuse to come back and visit the neighborhood where I first felt at home in Toronto.