Art Square Cafe
It appeared that folks come to Art Square café to see the art and randomly walk over to the café side. We saw surprised glances from the gallery visitors as our crepes were delivered to the table and we prepared to have a full meal.
An old Victorian house (much like the majority of buildings in the area) with a big glass facade proudly displaying artwork inside could be very easily mistaken for just another gallery. The cues of a café came with the large black pan structure as well as the illy logo on the side. Nevertheless, as we walked up the stairs and opened the door, the feeling of intrigue and inspiration took over us and did not leave us for some time. Having theAGO across Dundas with its gleaming, spaceship-shaped upper section contributed to this mood.
We walked through the gallery all the way back where the café was and wondered how many people might have actually never make it all the way back. Perhaps the experience is to wonder through the bright gallery area (white walls, black frames) and eventually end up at the café. It is a challenging task to remain a gallery and yet still try to operate a successful café without compromising on either. Our waiter was prompt to settle us in their fresh cafe area - with green walls, black details and warm wooden floors. After all our questions, the waiter ran us through the menu choices, which included an array of sweet and savory crepes as well as interesting coffees and desserts. The menu has plenty of stock photos and was spaced out on quite a few pages. As we both picked a sweet and savory crepe, we placed our order with a couple of glasses of their house wine. To our surprise, the crepes had an option of being made with buckwheat flour, which we gladly did for half of our orders.
We noticed a fairly strong detergent-like smell coming from our tabletop. Other than that, the setting was actually quite pleasant. If you are a fan of having ample personal space – Art Square might not be your best option. We were there on a rainy Thursday evening - the night of reception for the Ryerson Chang school gallery and some of the photographs were on the wall right above us. That supplied us with a steady flow of curious gallery-goers glancing over our heads. We enjoyed our simple L’ambiance glasses of blended wine, while listening to Sting. The wine was nothing special, except for the generous amount.
We had a Mediterranean Savory Crepe with red peppers, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, dry thyme and mint, topped with green and black olives. The combination of flavors was refreshing, Ma Cherie was a big fan of this crepe. However we wouldn’t recommend getting in on buckwheat, as it really dried it up. For our second crepe, we chose their Spinach and Walnut variety. It came loaded with baby spinach, feta cheese, walnuts, extra-virgin olive oil, black pepper and a tad of sweet paprika. It was a good choice for buckwheat as it was quite oily. The flavors were all quite subtle and the feta seemed also ricotta-like. The dash of paprika was a much needed addition, enhancing the taste for the dish. After about 5 minutes of finishing our first set of crepes, we decided to check on our dessert crepes, but the waiter had read our minds and had them out for us in no time!
For their dessert crepes, Mon Cheri was a big fan of the Homemade Jam and Brie Cheese crepe. It had excellent homemade strawberry and orange jam paired with the promised fresh Brie. The jam was not too sweet, yet the brie balanced it off beautifully. Some powdered sugar crowned the desert, but was there more for decoration purposes. The last crepe we shared was Chocolate and Pistachio with organic, fair trade dark chocolate. This somewhat bitter crepe was a great option, especially accompanying a Turkish coffee - another specialty of Art Square, which comes in a traditional turkish tea cup and with a side of Turkish Delight. We both were very content with this crepe – dark chocolate lovers you should indulge away!
Overall, we were very excited to see this unique space operate and try to bring a new experience to dining and art. It opens up a conversation around art in cafes being more than wall decoration. We also think there is unique opportunity for serendipitous encounters, it would be interesting for the cafe to encourage that somehow.
Art Square is an interesting spot to visit. It has a middle-eastern hint to it with their coffees, pistachio, and honey infused options, while having a decent selection of more contemporary everyday choices. The owners care about their clients and will try to make you feel comfortable. Art Square could be interesting for a late evening snack as well.