Written by Brandon Ware.
Whether you’re new to King West, or have been living, working and playing in the ‘hood for the past 12+ years like I have, finding great espresso can be a challenge. Thankfully, your options are plentiful in King West, as there are no shortages of excellent locations. The real problem is finding a spot you can be loyal to, as there are so many options to choose from.
If you enjoy Starbucks, you’ll be comforted in knowing that you can still bounce over to King/Brant and grab your triple-pump, extra hot, non fat, venti machiatto (or whatever makes you happy). This location is moving to the Thompson Residences (from what we know) and will be one of the locations serving booze. If you get a bit more passionate about the type of bean you drink, the temperature of the milk in your cortado, or the amount of cream (or lack thereof) in a shot of your fave morning drink, this blog entry is for you.
Bar Buca – 77 Portland Street – Just south of King on the east side of Portland.
No drip coffee served here. Rob Gentile demonstrates that his love and passion for food extends to espresso as well. These guys (and gals) are the real deal serving espresso in true Italian style. Stroll in, grab an espresso, cannoli or biscotti, and chat with the barista at the bar. Don’t plan on doing much people watching here unless you grab a seat on their patio (it gets extremely busy). I think any lover of espresso would trade quality beans over watching King West’ers in their native environment (ie. hustling to get to work).
Quantum Coffee – 460 King Street West.
Located at King and Spadina, this cafe serves excellent espresso and drip coffee in one of the most interesting cafe environments in the ‘hood. Their collaborative workspace means you’ve almost always got a place to sit and get some work done, and they have regular brew classes (workshops) for those who are seeking to improve their cupping or french pour over knowledge. The space was efficiently designed to maximize the flow of coffee lovers, and to minimize the wait times for their favourite morning or afternoon jolt of caffeine (shout out to Max for her design skills). If you’re into people watching, grab a pastry and sit at the bar, or on the patio overlooking King Street.
Portland Variety – 587 King Street West.
This super convenient spot is a go-to for a quick flat white, cortado, or cup of coffee. You probably can’t find a better location to sit on a patio in King West. Their bar that runs along the patio is a perfect spot to sit and take 10 minutes to relax. Don’t forget to grab one of their double stacked chocolate chip cookies. Hands down, one of the best accompaniments to your espresso.
Jimmy’s Coffee -107 Portland Street.
They’ve been a staple in King West since their inception about 6 years ago. Because they are located just off King, they’re easy to miss. Most people don’t venture onto their back patio so I often find myself chilling and enjoying a cortado without the noise of people who don’t know how to use ‘indoor voices’ (yes, I realize that I’m on a patio, but even still…). Super busy in the mornings, but good spot to grab a quick coffee and run. If you’re looking to say hi to the original ‘Jimmy’, you may be waiting a while (psst…he doesn’t exist).
Atlas Espresso Bar -550 Front Street West #59.
Almost covertly tucked into a commercial space on Front Street, they are easy to miss. Walking in, you can tell that these guys are focused on their craft, as their space isn’t huge. Don’t let that misguide you to believe that their beans aren’t great. Serving beans from Trebilcock roasters, my cortado was smooth and powerful. They are clearly committed to their craft, and it’s worth the walk down to Front Street.
I’m always on the prowl for new spots, and this list isn’t a comprehensive list of spots in King West for great espresso. Shout out to Forno Cultura, Her Majesty’s Pleasure, and all the other spots I’m regularly frequenting. Let me know if you have a favourite spot so I can check it out too.