After a long hiatus from the city, I spent this past Mother’s Day weekend in Quebec City. My mom had never been and so I flew her out since not having visited Canada’s oldest and arguably most beautiful city was a completely unacceptable state of affairs.
With the European feel and roots of the city, one would think that inviting cafes would be on every corner. Although coffee was available everywhere, there was a noticeable dearth of Paris-esque cafes within Quebec’s old city walls.
We stumbled into Paillard on the main downtown tourist thoroughfafe, rue St Jean. Paillard has some charm although it does feel like it’s copying the ‘look like a hip, independent cafe/restaurant/bakery’ template. Nonetheless, it provided a welcome afternoon break from the unseasonably cold and wet weather.
We had paninis, a decent caesar salad and passable curry carrot soup. The real delights were the cappuccinos and macaroons post-meal.
If you find yourself in downtown Quebec, you’ll most certainly pass by Paillard at some point. Take the time to get your caffeine hit and fresh pastry inside.
On a stunningly beautiful May day in Old Montreal, I quickly visited Olive and Gourmando for an afternoon cappuccino. The place had been highly recommended by a number of different people and was one of the last ‘must-visit’ locations on my list before I leave Quebec in a few weeks. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
It’s a small location that is always buzzing with activity on weekends and is perfect for a coffee, meal or just to people watch amongst Montreal’s creative and fashionable set.
I spent this past beautiful Saturday helping a friend move from his apartment in Westmount out to the suburbs in Montreal. After an exhausting and understaffed day, I enjoyed a leisurely Sunday that began in a cafe that I had noticed a few times before.
Jonah James cafe-resto looks suspiciously like a pub from the outside and slightly like a nostalgic diner inside. Regardless, the coffee is top notch and the pastries delectable. An attached shop stocks notebooks, alarm clocks and other random intriguing kitsch items. A couple of ladies who could have stepped off the set of ‘Real Housewives of Westmount’ talked sunglasses and running shoes, as the only other patron described her native city of Singapore to the barista. A truly cozy and unpretentious locale to grab a quality cup of joe and hang around unencumbered.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to head back to Old Montreal last weekend, even with a tonne of work to do and a dwindling bank account. I rented the cheapest car available near my training college and whipped into the city for the day.
My first stop was at a recommended cafe/restaurant called soupesoup. As the name suggests, the place specializes in freshly made soups and sandwiches. I had a wonderful curry cauliflower soup with a nicoise wrap that was accompanied with a glorious herb mayo. Since the crowd was small, I asked the owner if I could loiter and study for a while and she gladly consented. I desserted on a decadent brownie and cappuccino and put in a good couple of peaceful hours of study.
Soupesoup is another one of Old Montreal’s little treasures - well-known to locals and partially kept secret from tourists.
This past weekend I fell in love with Montreal again. I had lived there and left a few years ago and was happy to make peace with the city again. It’s not all that difficult considering the seemingly endless churches and cafes to visit.
My friends took me to Le Cartet in Old Montreal for Sunday brunch. It’s a sophisticated, cosmopolitan and buzzing location in the old Port. Locals and tourists dine indistinguishably. The coffee is excellent, decor hip, and food spot on. We ate on large family style tables, enjoyed refillable illy coffee and discussed the suave charm of the place and neighbourhood.
My favourite cafes, bar none, are ones found in Art Galleries: a confluence of two of my ideal public locations. The Art Gallery of Ontario is putting on a wonderful Picasso exhibition throughout the summer and has placed a temporary cafe right outside the exit of the exhibit.
Located in a recently redesigned window-walled corridor, the beautiful metallic blue espresso machine hummed out to my brain after a thought-provoking tour of Picasso’s personal collection. We sat with our coffees and treats, looking over Dundas Street in downtown Toronto and soaked in the impactful afterglow of the show.
After years of casual fandom, I’ve hit this year’s version of Toronto’s hotdocs film festival with a focused ferocity. I’ve bought a ten pack of tickets and have been watching documentary movies as though they were signposts on a marathon route. Last weekend, I saw a movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell Lightbox (aka - the festival’s home theatre) and took the time before to stop in at the attached cafe, called The Canteen.
The Canteen is a ultra-cosmopolitan resto-cafe that is as comfortable and enjoyable from the inside as it is enticing and cool-looking from the outside. I bought an espresso and small pastry and shared a table with a fellow movie-watcher. I so enjoyed the experience that I came back the next day for a full evening meal with a group of friends.
Whether or not you’re taking in a movie, the Canteen at the Bell Lightbox is a worthwhile stop - for food, coffee or just people watching.
One of my absolute favourite places in the world is the cafe and gift shop underneath the National Art Gallery in Washington. I’ve always found it to be a refreshing refuge during hectic DC days and could literally spend hours there every week.
The cafe was closing up just as we sat down for sorbet, red wine and key lime pie. I had my fourth coffee of the day and etched the setting deep into my memory banks, not knowing when exactly my next visit will come.
A not-to-be-missed spot for cafe lovers in DC.
My friend Jane brought me to her favourite DC cafe, Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse just east of Capitol Hill. Ebenezer is a welcoming cafe with a clean, modern-industrial feel of stone floors and exposed vents. The cafe employs under-privileged workers and truly embraces the concept of a cafe with a conscience. They also host musical and speaking events in an attempt to act as a vibrant community hub.
I can see why my friend so likes this place, and I could very easily imagine myself spending many happy hours there drinking coffee, reading or browsing online. A wonderful spot.
The first day of my DC trip was a typically beautiful and sunny Spring Day. We road-tripped to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate and there I found an unexpected and lovely cafe/restaurant. The cafe side was pretty standard; but artisanal beers, beverages and sandwiches were also on offer and the setting, with a gorgeous and refreshing outdoor patio, took the cafe from ordinary to extraordinary. I’ve always loved historical sites in the US, they are always well curated and preserved - including the gift shops and cafes, which are often my favourite part. Monticello proved no different.