As part of our regular feature, we will be compiling lists of the “5 best” in Liberty Village. Whether we list the best cafes, dinner spots, take-out joints or watering holes – these lists are never exhaustive or complete. We all know there are more the 5 of the best in each category and we will highlight all of them in this or other entries.
Without further adieu, here are Liberty Village’s 5 best cafes (in no particular order):
No. 1 – Barista Espresso Bar (Closed)
Barista Espresso Bar is located on the ground floor of the Liberty Market Building. The cobble-stone walk-way in front of this Italian cafe gives its authenticity more life, as does the superb espresso-based drinks and lunch offerings. I am a big fan of Barista’s coffee. They use an espresso blend from Italy called Haiti Roma which is made on a great looking baby-blue old-school Elektra espresso machine. Note to brewed-coffee drinkers. Barista does NOT make or serve brewed-coffee.
In addition to the great coffee, Barista has a selection of traditional panini served on great bread with toppings such as prosciutto, arugula, mortadella, mozzarella and various other Italian panino fillers. Try them all.
The service is friendly and Mike, the owner, always has a great story to tell. I’m a big fan.
No. 2 – Balzac’s Coffee Roasters
Located on the ground-floor corner of the Toy Factory Lofts, Balzac’s has been a Liberty Village staple since 2006 – well before many of the existing business and condos took shape. The prime vintage cobble-stone setting really does this cafe justice. The good coffee and artisanal snacks and cookies are always a popular choice. Sipping a house-blend coffee in this location can often evoke a feeling of Europe, so bring your passport.
No. 3 – Aroma Espresso Bar
The newest kid on the Liberty Village coffee block, Aroma Espresso Bar hails originally from Jerusalem, Israel. With a popular location at Bloor and Albany, Aroma has seen new locations sprout up recently. Liberty Village’s Aroma opened in February 2012 and looks, feels and tastes much the same as the popular Annex location. This is a good thing.
Aroma has become well-known for their pastries, bread, salads and sandwiches, all of which are house-baked, throughout the day. I’m personally a fan of the Israeli-style Power Breakfast. Served all-day, you get 2 eggs, a mountain of cucumber and tomato salad, fresh bread, olives, feta and cream cheese. If you’re looking for traditional greasy-spoon offerings like sausage and bacon you will be out-of-luck. Unlike a greasy-spoon breakfast, Aroma’s Power Breakfast will leave you feeling satisfied and healthy.
No. 4 – Liberty Village Market & Cafe
If you have never been to the Liberty Village Market & Cafe at the corner of Jefferson and Hanna Ave, you might mistake it for a mini-mart or convenience story upon first glance. Don’t let first impressions fool you. Liberty Village Market and Cafe has been a popular lunch and coffee stop for local workers for many years.
The cafe usually has 5 different brews at any given time and offers an inviting and comfortable seating area to pause during a hectic day. Let’s be honest here. Although the coffee is good, most people flock here daily because of the food. A wide array of soups, chili, sandwiches and prepared foods are offered from breakfast to lunch – and all for a reasonable price.
Highlights tend to be the homemade soups and fresh Asian-style salad rolls, and a lot of people rave about the pastries. You really can’t go wrong with anything here and it truly is a Liberty Village original.
No. 5 – Starbucks
What can I really say about Starbucks that people don’t know already. There are almost 1100 Starbucks locations in Canada and Liberty Village’s locations is one of them. Located in the Shops at King Liberty next to the LCBO at 85 Hanna Ave, the Starbucks is a high-traffic coffee shop for people who like reliable and consistent coffee-based drinks, baked goods and sandwiches.
Normally I would avoid promoting and/or reviewing a world-famous chain but let’s face it, it’s a successful and constantly busy coffee shop in Liberty Village. Probably our busiest. The easy-access location, front summer patio and available parking all lend to its popularity. Having Goodlife Fitness upstairs certainly doesn’t hurt.