Aug 042017

One of the biggest differences between Henry and me, perhaps even greater than the age difference, is my crippling dependence on coffee and his extreme dislike of that beautiful brown broth-babe in the buxom mugs and….and…SORRY WHO TURNED ON THE COFFEE PORN?

I mean, just look at his grimace up there!

While we were in Toronto, I wanted to try and hit up as many cafes as possible without going into cardiac arrest. I had a half-assed list that I had prepared from various vlogs I had peeped and also my nemesis Yelp, but some of them were off-the-cuff.

Of course there was the obligatory Tim Horton’s stop on Friday, right before we got into Toronto, when I was having major coffee-craves and starting to picture visualettes of me cracking open Henry’s jugular and gulping on that to tide me over.

Friday evening, we were walking around Leslieville when I realized it was time for my third serving (I’d usually be on my fourth by now but I had beer with dinner instead because Henry wants to have couples beer bellies and pressures me to drink).

This is all fascinating stuff, isn’t it? Like a super personal inspection of my pathetic life? Can you tell that I’m just stalling because I’m not ready to write about the G-Dragon concert?

Ugh, the agony that is my life. It’s not easy being a sixteen-year-old zipped up inside the flesh-bag of an adult working professional.

OK, so Friday evening we stopped at Tango Palace, which I already mentioned on Friday’s liveblog but my OCD nature demands that I mention it again because everything needs to be organized or I’ll lay awake at night with a fluttering heart rate.

Which will probably be more from caffeine intake than actual prescribed OCD symptoms.

So, back to Tango Palace. I just had a plain cup of coffee because I hadn’t had a PLAIN CUP OF COFFEE ALL DAY and it’s not all about frozen mochas and halfcaf skinny soy lattes or whatever it is that the cool kids order so confidently while I’m in the bathroom reciting my order out loud in front of a mirror even though I’m going to end up stuttering it anyway when it’s show time because PRESSURE.

Yeah, so…it felt great to just walk up to the counter and say, “JUST COFFEE.”

Henry got nothing and then proceeded to sit at the table and pout.

I mean, it was just a plain cup of coffee so there’s not much to report on but the ambiance of that joint was supreme. I also noted that in addition to the barista being friendly, everyone in the place seemed like regular people, and by regular I mean that no one was dangling bangles of pretension and coffee snobbery from handlebar moustaches. It was a nice, cozy vibe and I’m glad I got my coffee in a mug instead of to-go. Sometimes it’s nice to just take a break and talk your boyfriend’s face off about an upcoming concert that you’re super stoked for, you know? As opposed to talking off the side of his face while you’re walking around being obvious tourists.

I don’t have a picture of it, but in the back of the cafe, there were two mannequins laying on top of a ceiling-thing. I was happy they were there.

Saturday morning, I tried to use the Keurig in our airbnb and wound up practically flooding the kitchen. Henry came out of the bathroom and actually thought it was from his shower, but nope — just me struggling with a Keurig when all I know how to use these days is a French press. Needless to say, I didn’t drink much of my busted coffee, so the first thing I did when we got to Koreatown that morning was stop at a small cafe called Hodo Kwaja, where I ordered a beautiful, refreshing 얼음 커피.

God, that’s iced coffee, OK.

When the friendly ahjumma handed it to me, she said, “You try first and tell me if it’s OK,” and then she gestured to the row of sugar packets and creamers.

I tried it and said, “It’s perfect” BECAUSE IT WAS.

I felt like singing a Bruno Mars jam to it.

Maybe I was just punchdrunk from being in Koreatown, but it was a wonderful way to the start the morning. Plus, Henry got a bag of walnut cakes with pat (red bean) filling and they were just delightful. Love you, Korea.

About an hour later, we were in the midst of a longer-than-it-was-worth walk to Sweet Jesus. We walked through Little Italy on the way and passed Voodoo Child, which was on my list! However, this happened right after I stepped on a loose pavement tile thing, which resulted in the cold, dirty water which had been collecting underneath it to splash onto my leg, and my mind immediately went to: IS THIS WATER OR IS THIS HOBO PEE and in my mind I felt I looked like I had just been sneezed on by Morla, but if you ask Henry, he’ll tell you I looked like less like a filthy Atreyu and more like I had one tiny dirt fleck on my shin.

Needless to say, we didn’t go to Voodoo Child after that because I was too busy limping under the weight of the filth I was now carrying on my leg.

A bunch of other things happened, but that will be another post.

In the late afternoon, we pub-transported it back to our airbnb, changed clothes, didn’t rest like I promised Henry we would, and then hoofed it to Hailed Coffee, which was about a 15 minute walk from our pad in Leslieville.

This place was on my list because “hailed” is Arabic for cardamon, which is added to this joint’s signature coffees. My heart bleeds for cardamom, so we had to go. Plus, they sell an array of dates! Henry and I love dates! The kinds you eat, not go on.

God forbid.

I ordered the Hailed Cappucino and urged Henry to scoop up some dates, but he was being a big coffee-hating bitch baby and opted to stare sadly out the window instead.

[I just had to take a time out because Catherine was telling Lori about the time Jeannie let me cut her hair one night on late shift and Glenn was all, “Why would anyone let you near them with scissors” and then Lori said one time she had a Vietnamese lady dry cut her hair, and she pantomimed the motion of the blade sailing across a fistful of hair and I had SHIVERS. Like, the good kind. Because I am obsessed with the sound of dry hair being shorn. Oh when that sharp blade crunches down….BRING SOME HOME TO ERIN. And now Glenn and Todd are horrified.]

But um…back to the coffee! I think Hailed was my favorite of all the coffee I had in Toronto. There is just something special about cardamom and also, why don’t I order cappuccinos more often!? 90’s coffee culture is BACK.

I just wish we had gotten some dates to go with this bangin’ mug.

Much later in the evening, we were about to begin our walk back to the airbnb from somewhere stupidly far away. Henry had been complaining about having a headache all day and then suddenly realized he hadn’t had any iced tea. Because it’s OK for him to be addicted to tea but my coffee craze is a burden, OK cool. We were in Chinatown for the second time that day (we get around, guys), and decided to stop into Icha for some iced tea. I got classic milk tea because I’m more Asian than Henry. He got…something else, I don’t know. I quit paying attention to him once my bubble tea was placed in my mitts. I vaguely recall the tea blend being brewed in front of him in some weird mad scientist-looking orb thing.

They’re apparently known for their craft teas. I would highly recommend this joint if you’re looking for something non-coffee at some point, and the people working that night were so friendly and helpful! There is nothing worse than walking into a new place and making a rash decision because you’re so nervous about what you’re looking at.

OK, there are like a million things worse than that but it never feels like it when  you’re frozen in that moment!

He said he liked his tea, in case you were wondering. Hold on, I’m going to text him and find out what it was.


“I just got an iced oolong.” That’s his final answer.

The next morning, a/k/a Sunday, a/k/a my birthday, a/k/a G-DRAGON DAY, we left the airbnb first thing in the morning and walked the short distance to Boxcar Social.

The aesthetics of this place spoke to me in ways that lovers are just not capable.  However, I was nervous at first because the barista seemed like maybe he was going to be snobby, but he was fantastic and super helpful when Henry was perusing the tea menu (he finally found a way to enjoy cafes with me, or at least make it more tolerable for himself). I hate when you go to a coffee place and feel confident enough to ask, “Say, what’s good up in here?” and they just dump a bucket of shrugs on you.

A little guidance please!

I got a soy latte and it was divine.

Henry settled on whatever this fluffy pink thing is and I derived great pleasure from watching his thick, rough man-hands lift that delicate glass by the stem toward his bristling, tea-thirsty moustache, leaving behind a soft brushing of foam on the bristle-tips.

Who hit play on that coffee porn again?

I kept hoping one of these owls would transform into David Bowie. :(

I loved it here. They even do coffee flights! Just not when we were there. :(

This was the only cafe we stopped at on Sunday because the rest of the day mostly consisted of standing in one line after another inside the Air Canada Center. However, I did have an iced coffee that Henry fetched for me at some basic bakery down the street from our airbnb while I stayed back to have my obligatory “everything sucks on my birthday and no one loves me” tantrum even though the day was absolutely fine and I had no reason to feel this way but all y’all bipolars out there can feel me, I’m sure. Henry also came back with a butter tart which I made a point of not sharing with him because it was MY BIRTHDAY NOT HIS. And then suddenly I felt fine! Hey blood sugar, I see you.

I think my main take-away is that people in Canada just truly are nice. I never felt out-of-place anywhere we went, like I wasn’t vegan enough to eat at Hogtown Vegan, hipster enough to sit at the bar at Disgraceland, or trendy enough to order anything more than basic coffee at a pretty cafe. I don’t know where Pittsburgh gets off being so exclusionary, but that’s definitely how I feel in my own city — like I don’t fit in anywhere, and that deters me from going to a lot of places.  I didn’t get that feeling once in Toronto. Toronto, please adopt me.

So now you know where I got my coffee fixes at while we were in Toronto. I can’t wait to go back because we never made it to Strange Love and that was #1 on my dumb stupid no-good list.

Our next trip is a quick stop in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, so if any non-bot is reading this and feels like telling me where to go (AND DON’T SAY TO HELL), I welcome any recommendation!

  5 Responses to “Canadian Coffee Recap”

  1. Mmm, coffee porn. I loved this coffee post! And now I get to go brew myself a morning cup and doctor it with coconut milk.

  2. We have couples beer bellies. And I want to try all these places next time we’re in Toronto.

  3. Admittedly I had the same experience in Canada, everyone there is so nice. When people tell me Pittsburghers are so polite I think to myself “Compared to that, I don’t think so?”. I did not go on a coffee scavenger hunt like you, sticking with my Tim Horton’s every morning and stopping at a place called Blenz once on my way to locating my favorite geek bar, Storm Crow Tavern.

    • It was really such a pleasant experience! I think the only friendlier place I’ve been other than that is Canberra, Australia. Everyone I encountered there went above & beyond, it was nuts.

      But yeah I know what you mean—I always hear that Pgh is such a friendly city and I have never really gotten that impression. I mean, I don’t think the people here as a whole are TERRIBLE, necessarily, but I don’t get an overt friendly vibes on the daily, especially not downtown!

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