The Ultimate Coffee Shop Search – Hamilton and Toronto, ON

I recently spent some time online, looking up coffeehouses in both Toronto and Hamilton…the two cities where I spend the majority of my time.  Ever since I left Halifax in 1999, I’ve been looking off and on for a cozy coffee shop, comparable to where I used to spend my time on the east coast.

I lived in Halifax NS for a couple of years in the late 90s and I spent many, many hours in a cafe downtown called The Mokka. (Below is the only picture I could find…it is borrowed from Flickr and I have linked back to the source as it isn’t my shot.)

The Mokka in Halifax, NS - No longer there, sadly 😦

The Mokka was an awesome place to go and hang out.  Mismatched tables and chairs, some plastic and hard, others cushioned and comfy.  It was as though any furniture put to the side of the road had found its way there.  The front portion was a bit more ‘cafe’-like.  That’s were you’d see workers from the area, sitting over their lunch hour, having a sandwich and shooting the shyte.

It seemed the further back you went into the venue, the more eccentric the crowd, which worked for me!

Downtown Halifax, for those who don’t know, is on quite a slope:

So many of the shops are built, slanting upwards, or sometimes with extra floors that are more of a half level.  The Mokka had a curving metal staircase at the back that led to the second (perhaps more accurate, 1.5) floor.  That area was 19+ as the bar was up there.  It was darker, no windows at that point and a small stage at the back where they held open mic nights (called Oral Fixation!  How cool is that!) and performances, etc.  The walls were bare brick, rough and untreated.  Half way up the stairs were platforms with tables and chairs that were about two feet (if memory serves) above the main floor.  Overtop of one of those tables hung a dentists light…my favourite place to sit.

Oh, and let’s not forget music.  They played a lot of ambient stuff, alternative, jazz, blues….I found myself being introduced to a lot of music on the premises…notably The Cranes, the Twin Peaks’ Love theme (which to this day I think is a gorgeous piece of music), among many others…not to mention my appreciation for Jazz greats such as Billie and Ella began there.

It was cozy.  Dark but not too dark.  The ambiance was welcoming and friendly yet somehow cut off from the world outside.  You could nurse a coffee for hours and never felt as though you should vacate if you weren’t going to buy anything more….(although their oatmeal cakes, half dipped in chocolate, were divine and you couldn’t help but buy one, maybe two, or even three so you could take some home!)

I moved to Ontario in ’99 and I assumed finding a cozy coffeehouse in one of Canada’s largest cities would be an easy thing to do.


Every so often I’ll be out somewhere, have some time to kill, and will look up nearby coffee shops, hoping I’ll find one that suits me, as the Mokka did so many years ago. I have heard of coffee shops, had names dropped and suggested, but as most of them were somewhat out of the way, I never visited.  Recently, I decided to start a list of shops both in Toronto and Hamilton; a list of places that I would actively plan to visit.  What better way to make sure I do so than to blog about my experiences?

At one point awhile back, I asked people on Facebook to suggest cafes that I could visit in my attempt to find the perfect location.  I spelled what I was looking for, and what I was not looking for.

First off, an independent, non-franchised coffee house was preferred.  Mainstream coffee shops have their place and I admit that I do visit various franchises on occasion. My preferences are (somewhat in this order): Timothy’s, Second Cup, Williams  … while Starbucks doesn’t really make my list.  (I don’t particularly like Starbucks coffee so my visits to them are few and far between.)  Timothy’s and Second Cup are somewhat tied…due to different products, such as the chai at Timothy’s and the chocolate cherry oatmeal cookies found at Second Cup (SO yummy!) and the fact that Williams has a coffee house on the waterfront in Hamilton wins it some points… BUT this post is about trying to find an indie cafe, that is unique and eccentric, where I could go for hours to sit and read or write, so back to the topic at hand.

I received a fairly comprehensive list of names and addresses from my request, which I have listed below.  If I have visited a place and reviewed it, the cafe name will be linked to that review further down in the post.  Otherwise, I haven’t gone there yet (or I haven’t gotten around to writing up my thoughts on it! *grin*).

Would love to hear of other suggestions or your opinion about any of the places on the list!



Cafe 260
260 Richmond St East
Wifi: Yes

Crema (3 locations)
3079 Dundas st w
53 bloor st east
140 Spadina Ave

Jet Fuel Coffee Shop
519 Parliament (north of carlton)
7am to 8pm daily
Wifi: Yes

Tango Palace Coffee Co.
1156 Queen st E @Jones
Hours: 7am – 11pm daily
Wifi: Yes

The remarkable bean
2242 Queen St East
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-10pm
Wifi: Yes

The Rooster Coffeehouse
479 Broadview Ave
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-7pm Sat/Sun 8-7 Sun
Wifi: Yes

Sideshow Cafe
1300 Gerrard st E @Greenwood
Hours: Mon-Fri 8-8 Sat/Sun 9-5
Wifi: Yes


Java House
537 Queen St West
Wifi: No
7am-midnight daily

30 St Andrew, Kensington Market
Hours: Mon – Sun 7am – 9pm
Wifi: No

Crema (3 locations)
3079 Dundas st w
53 bloor st east
140 Spadina Ave

Tequila Bookworm Cafe and Books
512 Queen W (between spadina/bathurst)
Wifi: Yes
Hours: Mon-Wed 11am – Midnight, Th 11-1am, Fri/Sat 11-2am, Sun 11-Midnight

The Roastery
401 Richmond, just off Spadina
Wifi: Yes
Hours: M-F 8-7, Sat 10-5

992 Queen St West
Until 7pm daily Wifi
37 Baldwin St (between McCaul and Beverly)
Hours: Daily until 7pm
Wifi: Unsure

326 harbord st (between bathurst/ossington) christie station
Wifi: Yes
Hours: Mon-Thurs 7-7 Fri 7-11 Sat 10-11 Sun 10-5


The Only Cafe
972 Danforth Ave @Donlands
Hours: Mon – Fri 11am-2am sat/sun 9am-2am
Wifi: Unsure

Snakes and Lattes
600 Bloor St W
Hours: 11am-2am everyday


Mulberry St Coffeehouse
193 James St North
Hours: Mon-Sat 7-10. Sun 8-10
Wifi: Yes
Blog review:

Bread and Roses Cafe
27 King William St Hamilton, ON,
Canada L8N 1A3
(905) 777-8102

Heart of the Hammer
937 King St East(recommended by Gus Maple, his niece’s place Rebecca or Sally) near Sherman
Tues/Wed 8-10 Thurs-Sat 8-11 Sun 9-2
WiFi: Yes

Williams Coffee Pub
Located in Harbour West
Foot of James St North
47 Discovery Drive, Hamilton
Open Daily 8am to 10pm
Wifi: Yes
NOTE: Yes, this is a franchise and doesn’t necessarily meet all the qualities I’m looking for in a cafe, but the fact that it is on the waterfront and near miles of walking/biking trails make it a lovely spot to spend time.

My Dog Joe
1020 king St West
Mon-Fri 7-10 Sat 8-10 Sun 8-8
Wifi: Yes

*To clarify the Toronto portion of the list and have it be a bit more practical, I have grouped the cafes by location, using Bloor/Danforth and Yonge as the boundaries.


About Amanda Pants

A bit odd, a bit eccentric, a bit loud. Kinda goth, kinda alt, kinda geeky. Crochet/cooking/reading/writing/big stompy boots/journals and a Cheshire grin! All recorded on Wordpress ;) Learning to cook with a Dash of Daring and a Pinch of Panic: Sewing and fibre arts, creations made by moi: Random rants and other bits and pieces: View all posts by Amanda Pants

One response to “The Ultimate Coffee Shop Search – Hamilton and Toronto, ON

  • Flower Pryce

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