Since I’ve returned to school, I have been consistently on the hunt for new, cozy study locations. The library is handy, but there is something to be said for studying beside a big window overlooking a busy, snowy street, while sitting mere feet away from fresh coffee, sandwiches and croissants, which can be served to you upon request. Sorry, downtown university libraries, you don’t make the cut.

Earlier this week, I met a friend for coffee and breakfast at Arts Café, a Mile End institution located on the corner of Esplanade and Fairmount. Admittedly, apart from a few brief stops at Arts Café for iced tea and patio-hangs during the summer months, I’d never really been inside for more than a few minutes. Decorated in a cozy, eclectic style (and recently renovated), the interior consists of several two-person round tables, accompanied by old, wooden school desks (you know, the ones with the ink well holes in the top right corner circa 1935) converted into larger tables. Beautiful black and white photography currently adorns the wall, and comfortable, tall seats line the counter/bar area beside a display of fresh croissant and pastries.

At 10:30am on a Tuesday morning, there were already several people studiously reading and writing at the tables against Arts Café’s big southern windows, Mac Books and coffee cups askew. My friend and I ordered tea lattes, coffees and grilled croissant-egg-cheese-roasted-veggie sandwiches that arrived with a side of fresh fruit. Everything was delicious and attractively presented, including our waiter (and seemingly, one of the managers as he is always, always working) who was very friendly and had gorgeous blue eyes. Ahem.

Older women sat nearby reading the newspaper and sipping coffee, a bunch of young guys stopped in for a bowl of coffee (yes, you can order your cappuccino in a bowl if you are so inclined), shaking hands and chatting with Mr. Blue Eyes on their way out.

The ambience was pleasant, quiet and relaxed – I can definitely see myself spending an afternoon of essay writing at Arts Café this spring, seated by the windows with the sun in my face. If you are looking for a new study space, or simply a great coffee date or breakfast location in Mile End, Arts Café is a fantastic spot to try!

Arts Café
201 Fairmount West

~ Tyler Yank