Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Holiday Cup of (Coffee) Cheer!

As my first Grad school course comes to a close, tutoring for University English papers peaks and crashes, and the the holidays peek around the corner, I'd like to dedicate a post to Edmonton's best coffee spots, where I spend much of my free time. By 'free', of course, I mean the hours I spend planning my tutoring business, studying for Mcgill's Masters' program and relaxing with friends. Caffeine fiends, this one is for you!

Second Cup and Starbucks aside, (c'mon now, we all know they are the similar everywhere), here is a tribute to my ten favorite small businesses in e-town.

E-town's 10 Best Cafes

da Capo - 109th Street Southside

Cute and quaint, this little cafe is so Italian they close on Sundays and have the family running the show. In fact, they refused to buy paper cups for the first year of their operations; cafe, they told me, was for enjoying while seated, not on the go! Expensive but delicious, their paninis are also a carboholic's delight!

Leva Cafe - University Area

Just steps away from the University of Alberta campus, this perfect little cafe serves up $4 small cappuccinos, flatbread pizzas and gelato. Sunday breakfast is (tiny) but great, too. Mmmm, gelato!

Remedy Cafe - University Area

Open till midnight! Finally, somewhere other than Tim Hortons is open late! Second Cup lives in my heart as they allow me to take my needed coffee break after late night tutoring sessions, closing at 11pm. Midnight - that's unheard of for such a mid-size city. Thank you, Remedy, for your curry Indian-fusion inspired cuisine, giant cake slices, interesting musical mix and great service. One note for improvement though - expand so you can have more chairs. It's so crowded!

Tesoro - Downtown Oliver

Formerly a Caffe Sorrentino franchise, this Italian family "mangiaria cafe" has good pasta (I've heard), decent Paninis (hello, cheat meal!) and small but smooth cappuccinos. What's really great it, just click here, you can print off a coupon for a free latte!

La Pasta - University, HUB Mall

They knew me so well here in my university years, the owners called me "Cappuccino Girl". Hey, at only $2.50 a latte, when the competition is charging almost double, who wouldn't stop there every day? Not to mention, they have delectable veggie wrap, complete with real parmesan cheese and avocados.

Italian Centre Cafe - 104th Street & 51 Avenue

Oh, Italian Centre- I love visiting you! Every weekend on one of my tutoring breaks, I manage to sneak in there for a skinny lattee. They use Caffe Kimbo, and they are the only ones, I believe, in the city who do. Attached to the Italian grocery store, this cafe has scrumptious pastries (thanks to my weekly cheat meal, after 6 months of nothing at all, I can indulge in their chocolate croissants. Mmm, heavenly!

Transcend - Argyll Road or University area

While I have to admit I haven't been to their newest location, the Argyll location used to house their coffee production. Produced right here in Edmonton, AB, this coffee has a defined, unique taste. It's indescribable - you'll have to go give it a try. They travel the world, pick out the best coffees, and learn to brew them here. Their store is visually appealing and reasonably priced. Again, cafe owners that do webcrawling, here's a piece of criticism - service is SLOW. Not sure if that is intentional!

Bogani Cafe - 111th Street & 23rd Avenue, Southside

The reason Bogani's made my top ten list is only because of its history. It was, when I was 14 years old, Cappuccino Affair, a chain restaurant (way back when they allowed smoking sections in restaurants). The non-smoking section was always beautiful, with a library and comfy couches. Many a conversation, date, analysis of a teenage dilemma, meeting of a long lost friend or lover or gossip session happened under their roof. I once heard of an author who wrote a book based on pieces of conversations he heard in a coffee shop. If he had pieced together my conversations, I'm sure it would have been a comedic drama. Even after it became Bogani cafe, it retained its flair, as two older European ladies overtook the place. In the last two years, hands transferred to a Chinese family, who now adds unique items like Bubble Tea to the menu. Stephanie W & I claimed this as our spot for years, when we lived in the area. They, too, used to be open until 11pm, until new management took over. Now, they are even closed holidays..

Axis Cafe - 108th Street downtown

Although I've only visited this venue after working downtown, it is known for its night events, such as jazz performances and artist openings. In fact, if there is a show, they are open until midnight! Their coffee is smooth and average priced, and their baking is, from what I remember, delectable, especially the cookies. Mmmm, heavenly again! Haha, I can dream, right?

Blue Chair Cafe - Avonmore neighbourhood

I've been to this cafe once, but it made my list since it's walking distance from my home, and the most eclectic, unique cafe I've seen in Alberta. Janice and I stopped there for a "quick" coffee after yoga one morning last summer, and it definitely was not quick! They are very slow, cater to the senior market (I think), and are very European (don't ask for toast! French baguettes only!) From what I remember, the coffee was pretty good, though. Also, I'm reading their website now, and perhaps they've switched management, because there are new hours, 10am to 10pm half the week anyway, click here

The Mainstreams

Second Cup - Riverbend Square: Janice and I spend our Sunday nights studying together, her for a Library Science masters and me for a Teaching English masters. Go bookworms! I have to say the Riverbend second cup is the best in the city - it's the biggest, quietest and best serviced. Two little flaws though (ahem, cafe owners, you use blogcrawlers, right? ;) - you need more electrical outlets and you need to get that sweet free latte with $30 gift card promotion the other locations have :)

Starbucks - Mundane and efficient, Starbucks definitely has made its mark in the business world globally. I prefer the Canadian alternative, but I will admit that Starbucks' vanilla beats even the Torani syrup at Second Cup. Torani's caramel sugar free is definitely better than Starbucks' though - although the Monin syrup used at most Italian cafes tops them all!

(Oh, and I borrowed the pictures from Google Search. I'll be taking a photography course right away here, so there will definitely be more originals!)

Caffe Sorrentino - Popping up in South Common, West Edmonton Mall and other megaplex shopping centres, Cafee Sorrentino is an overpriced but decent cafe.

Steeps Tea House - University Area While this is also a chain, I'm sure calling it a coffee shop is against its mandate - but wow those Chocolate Chai lattes are amazing!

As I make this list, I realize how small Edmonton is- can I barely name ten worthy cafes in the entire city? (Coffee Snob, I know) There is a new one, Credo Coffee on 104th street downtown I'd love to try, but they are only open during banker's hours! Nevertheless, the ten cafes listed have their charm and bring a smile to my face in the midst of the stressful end of semester, tutoring, paper editing, end of year madness! Not to mention, they all provide welcome warmth from a wintery hell. Stay tuned for an upcoming Christmas post on my favorite cafes worldwide (there are a lot!!)

So, with a candy cane or gingerbread latte in your hand, welcome in the December Christmas season. This Coffee Snob wishes you warm and Happy Holidays!

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