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Trinity Bellwoods welcomes The Lucky Penny, a new café-general store hybrid with a 25-seat patio

Lucky-Penny

(Image: Ron Piano)

Debbie Rix’s original intention wasn’t to open The Lucky Penny in the midst of a polar vortex. The first-time entrepreneur was beset by a number of physical and bureaucratic delays, but we doubt the neighbourhood will complain: the Shaw Street space was vacant for nearly 20 years before Rix turned it around. The new café and general store, which opened last Sunday, is a one-stop-shop for Trinity Bellwoods park-goers, offering groceries, sweets, sandwiches, coffee, dog toys and more—even comic books. Nearly all the comestibles are sourced from local purveyors (such as Glory Hole Doughnuts, Sanagan’s Meat Locker, Blackbird Baking Co. and Moo Milk Bar), but the biggest sellers, so far, are jawbreakers and Pixy Stix thanks to the nearby public school. Once the city thaws, The Lucky Penny will open its 25-seat patio and get into ice cream, too.

The Lucky Penny, 189 Shaw St., 416-516-9666

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A dainty new café and brunch spot in Cabbagetown

The Scullery

(Image: The Scullery/Instagram)

The Scullery, the latest addition to Cabbagetown’s hip new ranks, has a charmingly Parisian vibe: pastel walls, spindly tables and a tiled countertop crammed with cookies, cakes and bouquets of colourful house-made bonbons—the type of dainty fare Amélie Poulain might nibble on while sipping a leisurely cappuccino. At lunch, the café caters to neighbourhood locals with salads, quiches and lovingly wrapped sandwiches secured with twine. The weekend brunch menu includes more decadent dishes, like classic eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles topped with caramelized pecans.

The Scullery, 200 Carlton St., 647-748-5000, thescullery.ca

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Introducing: Go Lounge, Parkdale’s new board game café

Introducing: Go Lounge

(Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

The never-ending line for a table at Snakes and Lattes convinced Samantha Lerner and Alisa Sadler, friends and patrons of the Annex café, that the appetite for board game–centric spots was far from sated. Although Leslieville initially seemed like a good neighbourhood to launch their own contribution to the genre, the pair finally settled on the western edge of Parkdale for Go Lounge, which opened last week (given the recent ban on new openings on the strip, it’ll be one of the last places to open there for a while). Lerner and Sadler are aiming to keep the café a kid-friendly space during the day, while at night—especially after their liquor licence kicks in—a slightly rowdier crowd of board gamers can take over.

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Balzac’s Coffee almost set to open in the Toronto Reference Library

The head office at Balzac’s Coffee has confirmed with The Dish that its newest location (hot on the heels of the recent Ryerson shop) is set to open in the Bloor-Yonge area, in the Toronto Reference Library building. The store could open as early as next week, but they suspect it’s more likely to be welcoming its first coffee-loving guests closer to the end of the month. (As Post City explained, this expansion tear is fuelled by Dragons’ Den money.) Soon enough, the library’s many users will no longer need to walk the 50-odd metres to the always-packed Tim Hortons and Starbucks to the south.

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Introducing: Smock Café, the new Roncesvalles spot for coffee, kids and crafting

Smock on opening weekend (Image: Yves Freypons)

One day prior to its opening a couple weeks back, a mosaic of pint-sized hand and nose prints adorned the glass front of Smock, Ronvesvalles’ new tot-focused café. “It’s like the kids knew this was going to be a space for them,” says owner Sara Wood. While child-friendly cafés aren’t new to Toronto (Lil’Bean N’ Green, Playful Grounds), Smock takes the concept even further: there’s no charge for kids to play with the toys, but should parents want some downtime to gab and sip espresso, they can ship the kids off to the craft corner, where, for $8, a facilitator will make sure they’re occupied. For those interested in more than a drop-in craft session, Smock is also offering summer courses in things like print-making (for 4- to 7-year-olds) and Campanimation, a chance for 8- to 11-year-olds to make their own short stop-motion films.

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Introducing: Tori’s Bakeshop, a pretty new vegan bakery café in the Beach

Victoria Vaccher outside her new Beach bakery (Image: Yves Freypons)

About this time of year, the Beach starts to wake up from its winter slumber, which makes it a great time for Victoria Vaccher to launch her new vegan bakery café, Tori’s Bakeshop. Vaccher became a vegan seven years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that the concept of an eat-in vegan café and bakery occurred to her (previously, she’d had aspirations of a career on Broadway). When she took over the space, there were paint marks from miniature hands all over the primary-coloured walls (it was previously The Art Garage). Almost eight months later, the space looks like something designed by Martha Stewart’s Anthropologie-loving niece. We dropped by to check it out.

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The red-tape brigade comes to The Pinball Café—but the owners are appealing

That was fast. We’ve received word from Jason Hazzard that the Toronto red-tape brigade is planning to put the kibosh on has got a few problems with his brand-new Pinball Café. Hazzard told us that his business license has been revoked because, although there’s no problem with running a café in the space, he’s not currently licensed to run an arcade. city officials have told him that the café is located in an area where the zoning does not allow “Places of Amusement.” “It’s the remnant of some 1950s-era law,” Hazzard explained. Apparently, pinball was illegal in many big North American cities until the ’70s because it was equated with gambling (there were even pinball raids!). As it stands, the café is not exactly a site of corruption and degeneracy: yesterday, it was filled with couples on dates sipping milkshakes and lonely hearts wiling away Valentines Day on Supersonic. Hazzard is contesting the revocation of his business license is applying for a zoning variance, a process that will take three months. Until the hammer comes down, he plans to stay open, spreading the pinball gospel to all those with a spare quarter (and even those without—Skylab is free to play).

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Year in Review: each of 2011’s weekly lunch picks, ranked

Trying to choose a selection of our favourite lunch picks from the last year proved too much like choosing a selection of our favourite children. So instead we present a complete year of lunch picks, ranked by price, from a humble porchetta sandwich (a reasonable $6.75) to a somewhat less humble five-course feast (treat yourself for $100).

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Coffee and Tea

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The rise of the indie coffee mini-empire

Dark Horse's new Queen and Euclid location keeps it real (Image: Jon Sufrin)

For Toronto coffee lovers, 2011 started in much the same way that 2010 finished: with further proof that the indie coffee craze shows no signs of slowing down. A third incarnation of Dark Horse opened at Queen and Euclid on January 2nd, joining Lit and Crema B Espresso as burgeoning mini-empires, with three locations each (a third Crema location is in the works). All of this, of course, raises the question: with indie cafés thriving due to their personal touch and attention to quality, will expansion mean selling out?

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Introducing: Sense Appeal, a cafe with a “director of coffee extraction”

This is the first cafe for the Nobleton-based roaster (Image: Jon Sufrin)

With an undeniable indie cafe explosion taking place, it’s only a matter of time before Toronto’s coffee scene enters the realm of molecular gastronomy. With Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters, which opened near the corner of Spadina and Adelaide last month, we’re getting closer. Head barista Sameer Mohamed, for example, only half-jokingly refers to himself as “the director of coffee extraction.” He argues that coffee is more complex than wine, but far less explored. “There are 1,000 volatile compounds in coffee that contribute to aroma and taste,” he says. “We have the capacity to manipulate 33 of those. With wine, there’s 200 compounds, and you can manipulate 15.” We’ll take his word for it.

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Introducing: The Abbott, yet another coffee shop in Parkdale

“Coffee shop opens in west end”—it’s a story we’ve been able to write not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times in November. And now, number six: The Abbott.

The latest addition to Parkdale’s caffeine scene is truly a locals’ coffee shop (and shouldn’t be confused with this Abbott or this Abbott). The owners and the manager live within walking distance, and they opened the café to give their neighbours a place to hang out in the ’hood besides the seedy bars that line King Street west of Dufferin. The space, a former dry cleaner, is tucked around a corner on Spencer Avenue. “I saw the space, and I thought it would be silly not to open something,” says co-owner Fadi Hakim.

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Krispy Kreme is open for business at Bathurst and Harbord

Kids from Central Tech coagulate around the new Krispy Kreme (Image: Fraser Abe)

Long, long ago, there was a magical presence in Toronto, gracing food courts and office buildings like gleaming, artery-clogging jewels. We’re talking, of course, about Krispy Kreme, the American doughnut chain that shuttered its downtown locations in 2004 when stocks tumbled. Well, sweet seekers who have had to make do with Cinnabon, stale KK treats from the gas station or long drives to Mavis Road can rejoice: the chain has opened a tiny shop at Bathurst and Harbord, right across from Central Technical School.

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Toronto’s 13 new cafés: board games, Bohème and a resurrected waffle house

(Image: one2c900d)

These days, the arrival of a new indie café on Queen West or in Leslieville is about as novel as a Gap opening in a mall, which is why we’re pleased to inform readers that the newest coffee houses in town aren’t located in hipster hubs. Since our last café census in March, we count a total of 13 new spots for Hogtown’s java lovers.

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Introducing: Snakes and Lattes, the Annex’s clever new board games café

Not since the opening of Sam James have we seen so many re-tweets and wall postings about a new café. But it’s not the coffee that’s generating excitement for Snakes and Lattes, it’s the concept: customers can choose from more than 1,000 board games and play all day for just $5.

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“Coolest espresso machine on the planet” is coming to Toronto

Excitement brewing: the Slayer espresso maker (Image: slayer-espresso.de)

Slayer is coming to Toronto.

No, we’re not talking about the speed metal gods who brought us “Angel of Death,” but a much-hyped and curiously named espresso machine. This is not one of those hammered-copper eagle-headed art pieces from Italy. The $18,000 machine is raising eyebrows because it offers the barista a palette of pressure options to work with, opening the door to all kinds of experimentation with espresso’s tastes and textures.

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