Little Big Guy Coffee

Little Big Guy Coffee

wpid-20140310_121341.jpgThis weekend I visited a new coffee shop on Lakeshore West, New Toronto to be specific. It was suggested to me a month or so ago by a local business owner who was adamant the coffee shop was a “super friendly”, “really nice” and “the best on Lakeshore West”. I didn’t want to argue, I have my bias, and instead made a mental note to check it out…one day.

I’ve driven by it a few times on my way to work. I’d slow down and peer towards the store in an effort to distinguish from my driver’s seat whether it was worthy of a “stop-and-see”. To be honest, it never looked open.

I decided this weekend was as good as any time to try it out and instead of turning right onto Lakeshore, I turned left.

As I walk towards the store it continued to look closed with the exception of the two jolly ladies sitting on chairs on the sidewalk directly in front of the shop. There are two doors to this coffee shop, one is for decoration, and the other is the actual door. Unlike regular doors of stores, this one had a door knob at the same level as my ears (or so it seemed) with a little sign above that says “pull”.

I pulled, the door opened and there I was standing inside the coffee shop. The room isn’t very big. There are 2 or 3 mismatched tables with mismatched chairs. Halfway along the left wall is a doorway that leads to the second side of the shop, the side that belongs to the door that isn’t meant to be opened.

Along the back of the first side of the shop is the coffee bar. Not one that you might expect, a low counter that crosses the width of the shop with nothing to distinguish it from a regular counter in a kitchen. It reminds me of a table at a fair where people showcase their goods.

Behind the bar is a large man. He is friendly just like the lady said he’d be. I ordered a “mostly-dark-roast” coffee and crossed to the second room to the left. There are more tables and chairs in this room.

An old drafting table with an array of counter and bar height chairs, a long interesting wooden table from an 18th century pub house (not really), including a bench that ran the length of the table, some leather chairs and regular height tables and more mismatched chairs.

The small metal encased radio sits on a corner shelf that is filled with books, pens, pencils and paper. Some of the pencils are loose, rolling around the floor. I’ve arrived in someone’s kitchen in an old farm house where I can put my feet up, fart and just be. The atmosphere is welcoming for sure with the 1980’s radio was blaring out 1980’s tunes, it’s antenna reaching for the ceiling.

The shop has a musty smell, a mix of old deodorant, unwashed hair and dirt stuck to the base boards. It may be the two older gentle men sitting at the front who are busy banging on the window, making faces and hand gestures to the women sitting outside, I can’t be sure.

Friendly, cosy, smelly, delicious coffee.

With a some cleaning TLC, a fresh coat of paint, an update to the entrance, a coffee bar that isn’t so confusing, I could then call it a hidden intimate gem, good for farting around 🙂

Après-work espresso

Après-work espresso

20131015-181602.jpgIt is a fitting evening for an after work jaunt into the fringes of Toronto to enjoy an espresso and more importantly a queij nata.

Don’t fret, I didn’t know what a queij nata meant either, I just knew I liked them and in my Anglo-Saxon brain, call them “custard tarts”.

When I look up queij nata on Google, it tells me I am eating cheesecake custard. That makes me feel a little confused and I want to know if this is a correct Portuguese translation or if this particular bakery calls them such an odd name on purpose. Google seems to disagree. I am therefore convinced it’s some local dialect from some region in Portugal and I really want to ask but I am worried about the outcome.

See I arrived at the café desperately needing to use the facilities. I promptly ordered my espresso and queij nata using English and universal sign language.

“I’d like that,” point to the showcase and continue, “ummm,” tilt my head and move my voice up one octave, “custard tart and one,” while simultaneously holding up one finger, “espresso.”

The girl behind the counter replies something back I don’t completely understand however well enough that suggests we both agree.

Sigh of relief and I dart off to the rest room.

I lock the door behind me when I notice something is missing. They are fresh out of toilet paper.

I return to the counter, this time to order an item not listed on the menu or showcased in their front display.

Using my universal sign language (you decide what that looks like!), I order up toilet paper.

The first reaction I receive is utter shock and when I re-iterate my request she understands and asks me to wait while she retrieves my “order”.

And here is what you get when you order toilet paper at a Portuguese bakery….it didn’t fit in the holder – thankfully a previous customer left a pop can behind for a size reference!

I love this place, I’ll be back only next time I’ll brush up on some of the more unusual words I might need in a café.

Pal-pel hee-genee-coo

🙂

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My Coffee Shop on a Long Weekend

My Coffee Shop on a Long Weekend

IMG-20130430-01190.jpgMy blog is feeling a little neglected the past month or two. Apparently, this is what happens post-retirement, when we go back to working and start making a living to pay the bills.

Sad, I agree.

This weekend has been a welcome dose of downtime. I’ve spent it pretending I don’t own a car and have done my share of walking.

I even found time to visit my coffee shop not only once, but THREE full-morning’s in a row.

The first morning, I asked my barista, “has it been busy?”, thinking to myself, ‘it’s a long weekend, likely a slow day.’

She replied, “It’s been quite busy,” rubbing the sweat from her brow, “you see, Birds and Beans customer’s do not stray far from the coffee shop,” raising her hands to demonstrate a small radius, “not even on beautiful long weekends.”

Touché, is all I could muster for a reply.

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

Are your shoes some sort of plastic?

IMG-20130414-01161.jpg It has been way too many weeks since I’ve made time to spend a few hours at my coffee shop and to share a blog post.

Today has not disappointed.

I brought my new book “Lean In”, bought myself a muffin and coffee and found my favourite chair in the back of the shop.

I was quietly reading, when a woman appeared out of nowhere. She stopped in front of me and looked down at my feet and declared, “I really like your shoes. Are they made of plastic or something?”

Not letting me answer, she continued, “I have never seen shoes like that before. They must have cost a bundle.”

I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer or just wanted to tell me what was running through her mind so I smiled at her.

Turns out she just wanted me to listen as she sat down in the chair beside me and continued on a new train of thought.

Advice, and maybe advice I simply needed to hear from a complete stranger, “You have to listen to your heart. No matter what your mind is thinking, your mind and heart are intertwined,” and she demonstrated with her ring covered fingers.

She wasn’t done, “I like this place, it’s like coming home. You can put your feet up and just relax. Talk to people or just be by yourself.”

She liked talking to people, this was obvious as she sat there sharing thoughts and snippets of her life with me. It was a mostly one-sided conversation and I can count the words I said on my left hand.

She decidedly informed me, “You have a beautiful spirit and a wonderful heart and a beautiful smile, I bet you have a lot of close friends and a really good job”

Then distracted, she looked over at my phone that was blinking, “You should really get your phone, I bet someone is trying to get a hold of you.”

I nodded at her but she wasn’t satisfied until I reached for my phone. She stood up, smiled and said “You have a great afternoon.”

She disappeared as quickly as she’d appeared taking her many rings with her.

Act 3 – On Reading Material

I am happy to say, “Living History” is complete!  My only regret is that I did not pick it up sooner…9 years sooner.  Who can say how it may or may not have impacted my life, but what I do know is regardless of political allegiances, Hillary’s book was worth each minute and hour I spent reading.

With her book out of the way and after two autobiographies, I was looking for something a little more……fiction to read. 

Good thing my coffee shop acquaintance who had me demonstrating my inner clutz, spilling water and essentially tripping over myself as I tried my best to keep composed and adult about my utter childishness.

It was the second time we’d had a verbal conversation.  He was making fun of my choice of reading material and with great fervor, kindly suggested the next book I should read.

He promised me that I was “not going to be disappointed” and if I was, “you can come slap me on the side of my face.” 

And he demonstrated on the left side of his face, “Right here, you can slap me right here,”

He stopped, tipped his head down and to the side, looking at me shyly he said “..not too hard.  Just a little bit, but not too hard.”

“I promise you, everyone I have suggested this series to has LOVED it, nobody was disappointed and so far none of them have come to slap me on the face.”

He took a breath, “But if you don’t like it,” he reiterated, “my offer stands and you can come find me and slap me on the face and you’ll be the first one to do that.”

On his suggestion, the other day I picked up “Game of Thrones”. 

Let’s see how I like it 😉

The Toronto Blizzard…

The Toronto Blizzard…

IMG-20130208-01056.jpgThere’s a blizzard happening in Toronto. No the army hasn’t been called in…yet!

After my work laptop ran out of battery and my boss negotiated with me NOT to drive in to work; I decided the best way to fill the wintery afternoon would be a walk in the winter wonderland.

Deciding that I was able to survive many summer walks to the coffee shop, I might as well attempt it during a blizzard.

What I can confirm about Toronto blizzards is:

1. Men in sidewalk snowplows really are gentlemen. I swear he knew where I was going and went out of his way to make sure my path was cleared. Thank you.

2. Snow, and lots of it, gives people something to talk about. They laugh, they smile and they talk to complete strangers! We need more snow days.

3. Just because it’s a snow day doesn’t mean you can take up space in the coffee shop. “People treat that chair at the front of the coffee shop like it’s their living room or something. Now I am going to have to go find another perch or so the exasperated grumpy old man loudly told the barista when he saw me sitting in what I can imagine must be his regular Friday afternoon reading spot. This could have been Horrible Joe but he was too Horrible for me to bother asking 🙂

Horrible Joe

Horrible Joe

IMG-20121130-00925.jpgHorrible Joe is a regular at the coffee shop. I have likely encountered Horrible Joe unbeknown to myself.

How he landed his nickname, I can only imagine.

One of Horrible Joe’s past-times, besides hanging out at the coffee shop are his scratch tickets.

A week ago Horrible Joe won a significant amount of money from one of his tickets.

What do the coffee shop ladies feel about Horrible Joe?

“The day he won he gave each of us a $50 tip. I don’t call him Horrible Joe anymore, maybe just a little bad…”