Caffeine & Wireless, Post #2: Downtown Roundup

18 Nov

You’ve read Post#1, of course. So let’s get right down to the reviews of where to go for wifi in T.O.

Wifi Paradise

Linux Caffé
326 Harbord Street (at Grace)

Linux Caffé is hands-down, the most laptop friendly coffee joint that I have ever come across in Toronto, Montreal, or elsewhere. Perhaps that’s not surprising, with a name like Linux Caffé. But even Café π in Montreal, which has high geek cred (chess boards and all) doesn’t follow through the way Linux does. Not only is free wireless available, but no matter where you’re seated an extension cord or power bar is within reach for refueling. Laptop rentals are also an option at the reasonable rate of $3 for the first hour and $1 for each additional hour.

I’m not a programmer, but if I were, I’d particularly appreciate the printed resources on hand: back issues of Linux Journal, books on code theory, histories of hacking, programming certification study guides, not to mention the parade of acronyms—FreeBSD, UNIX, PHP, MySQL, SOAP, GNU, XML, SGML—on the spines of myriad other volumes. The first time I came here, I walked in on a presentation on Python and Oracle and shared the back section of the café with the handful of participants, listening in on the Q&A.

Linux also has the virtuous goal of striving to be the greenest café in the neighbourhood. They’ve instituted practices like encouraging customers to bring their own mugs by charging a premium on take-away cups.

IN A NUTSHELL

Caffeine: Ideal organic coffee, variety of teas, astoundingly delicious hot chocolate
Wifi situation: free wireless and plenty of power bars to recharge a dying laptop
Snacks: vegan brownies, trail mix, breakfast and sandwiches
Sounds: highly variable, totally unpredictable, always wonderful. David Bowie to Johnny Cash to Portishead. Fairly loud volume.
Seats: some outdoor seating, tables/chairs, high counters/stools
Crowd: nerds and neighbours

cafwire.jpg

Tequila Bookworm Café and Books
490 Queen Street West (east of Bathurst)

I love the feel of this place: sophisticated but not too pretentious. Haven’t had the chance to visit more than once but I definitely recommend checking it out.

IN A NUTSHELL…

Wifi situation: free wireless access (weekdays only)
Tastes
: cappuccino, not too strong, with delicious foam; bar; desserts
Sounds
: mostly mellow: Sondre Lerche, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews
Seats
: tables/chairs, sofa/coffee table, outdoor patio

cafwire.jpg

Gladstone Hotel, Melody Bar
1214 Queen Street West (east of Dufferin at Gladstone)

The first floor of the Gladstone has two main areas open to the public: Melody Bar and the Ballroom Café. The Café was full the afternoon of our visit, so we opted for the Melody Bar. It offers the same menu and wifi access as the café across the lobby, with a grungier, more laid back feel–think Parkdale pre-gentrification.

IN A NUTSHELL…

Wifi situation: free, a few outlets to recharge the battery
Tastes: brunch menu, baked goods
Sounds: live music – country when we were there
Seats: big comfy booths
Crowd: old folks and 30-something hipsters (could it have been the country?)

In a pinch…

Aroma Espresso Bar
500 Bloor Street West (east of Bathurst)

Having passed by Aroma several times on jaunts through the Annex, I was excited to spend a couple of hours there on the laptop, getting some work done. So I was particularly disappointed to find that despite its smooth looks and advertised wifi, it was not the sort of place one would feel comfortable spending more than 30 minutes to an hour online.

There seemed to be only one working outlet for plugging in a laptop, the others having been deliberately disabled. In other words, although free wireless access is provided to all paying customers—a username and password is printed on every receipt at time of purchase, seemingly inviting everyone to make use of it—one easily senses it is possible to overstay the welcome.

IN A NUTSHELL…

Wifi situation: free. username and password automatically printed on sales receipt
Sounds:
yuppie exotica: Buddha-Bar-style instrumentals, bossa nova
Tastes:
espresso, alfajores (argentinian cookies), full menu
Pros:
nice coffee presentation and locale decor
Cons:
Bob Marley tunes watered down à la Muzak, the feeling of having to rush internet use.

cafwire.jpg

Rice Bar
319 Augusta Avenue (in Kensington Market)

I tried, but couldn’t bring myself to use the free wifi at Rice Bar. It was too pretty, there were too many candles and too many people were there on dates (Maybe. Or maybe they were just people not using wifi. Either way, you don’t want to be the one person responsible for ruining the mood.)

I read a book instead.

Most likely, my mistake was going to Rice Bar after dark. Worth a daytime visit to see how different the environment might be…

Just the Caffeine

ideal.jpgIdeal Coffee
162 Ossington Avenue (south of Dundas)

Spending time at Ideal Coffee feels very much like hanging out in a grad student lounge; the mismatched coffee cups, murals, and sparse vintage furnishings give it a similar laid-back feel. Customers order ground organic coffee by the pound, read the paper, or bury their noses in books and coursepacks. On a Sunday afternoon, it was dead quiet though packed with people reading, feet propped comfortably on chairs or an ottoman, or curled up in an armchair. You get the sense it is perfectly acceptable to stay as long as you wish.

IN A NUTSHELL…

Wifi Situation: currently no wifi
Sounds: jazzy instrumentals
Tastes: organic americanos
Crowd: low-key locals, students and professionals

cafwire.jpg

Moonbeam Coffee Company
30 St. Andrew Street (in Kensington Market)

I’m not sure whether wifi is available at Moonbeam. (Apologies for not verifying before posting– if anyone knows, please leave a comment.) I’ve stopped in on a couple of occasions with friends, but never stayed longer than an hour or so, and I’ve never come with my laptop. The vast majority of customers seated, however, looked very comfy in their seats, and appeared to be there for the long-haul. I spotted: an actor going over a script, a PhD student doing his readings, and an ink artist completing a portrait, pen in one hand, magnifying glass in the other. Linux wins in my books by fostering the wifi crowd, but Moonbeam has the overall atmosphere to beat. If I didn’t need wireless and lived closer to it, this is where I would spend much of my free time.

(Note: Clearly this only covers a minute section of the downtown. Feel free to contribute info and thoughts on other wifi spots and neat cafés in other areas of Toronto– it’s the only way to build a greater resource on the subject!)

In Montreal:

In Toronto:

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9 Responses to “Caffeine & Wireless, Post #2: Downtown Roundup”

  1. Jeff Schallenberg November 19, 2007 at 8:49 am #

    Well, it’s more like “Alcohol & Wireless”, but allow me to point out the Fox and Fiddle:

    http://bloorfox.com/

    It’s right in the Holiday Inn, which I discovered to my surprise when staying there on a trip from Montréal last May. It’s one of the 39 Wireless Toronto hotspots, so if you subscribe at one of their other hotspots, you can login at any other:
    http://auth.wirelesstoronto.ca/node_list.php

    The Fox and Fiddle is good pub fare, and the staff are laptop-friendly.

    – Jeff

  2. apt1801 January 25, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Lettieri, at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor, also offers customers free Internet.

  3. bunnyhero February 16, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    i often go to the aforementioned lettieri, but recently, about half the time i go there, the connection to the internet is spotty 😦 and i end up using some stray open wifi signal instead of the actually cafe-provided one. sigh.

  4. boywithnoname July 3, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    Williams Coffee Pub just opened recently along Queen’s Quay (245 Queen’s Quay West) in the PawsWay building, which is the new pet discovery centre that just opened up by the Harbourfront.

    Williams Coffee Pub offers free wifi and has pretty good food. When I went there, I got a Pomegranate Blast Drink.

    The only downside is that if you’re looking for a quiet place to work on your laptop it’s probably not the best place to go as PawsWay allows people to bring pets in so you’ll hear dogs barking and there may even be dogs in the cafe.

  5. boywithnoname July 7, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    I just wanted to add another coffee place I found today that offers some pretty good coffee & free wifi.

    The place is called Urbana. It’s on Bay St. just north of Wellesley. It’s a very nice place with large windows that let in the sunlight. And if you’re into people watching you can definitely do that here as well.

  6. anon August 10, 2008 at 11:23 pm #

    no wifi at moonbean.

  7. apt1801 October 16, 2008 at 11:54 am #

    Two more havens for free wifi: Greenavi Café – 490 Queen St. West (east of Bathurst) & Dolce Gelato – 697 College St.

  8. Rachel December 21, 2008 at 6:38 pm #

    bless you for this! I take it Insomnia Cafe in the Annex doesn’t have wifi anymore?

  9. apt1801 April 19, 2009 at 1:12 pm #

    Thanks Rachel! I remember when Insomnia had the ‘net cafe’ thing happening, with computers in the back – but not sure about the wifi. I’ll have to check! Blog TO also has a recent write-up on new coffeeshops, several of which have wifi:
    http://www.blogto.com/toronto/the_best_new_cafes_in_toronto_2008/

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