By: Devra Charney

 

3 out of 4 beans

Address: 1020 King Street West (in Westdale), 905-777-8100

Hours: Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Coffee in Westdale often means one place: My Dog Joe. On any given day, this locally and independently owned coffee house is packed with students huddled over laptops and friends catching up over a cup of joe (pun intended). Food produced locally or on premises, accompanied with an eclectic collection of used furnishings and paintings by local artists, accounts for MDJ’s appeal to hip university students – and the free WiFi doesn’t hurt either. Due to its popularity among students and members of the community, it can be difficult to find a seat on weekday evenings, and so a placard at each table gently reminds customers to limit their stay to 45 minutes during peak hours.

Owners Alice, Bruce, and Roger proudly proclaim on their website that they “sell only fair trade, organic, shade grown coffee” and use “as many local, natural and organic products” as possible. Although this pushes most drinks and baked goods onto the more expensive side of the scale, there are still affordable options available. A variety of teas ($1.75) complements pricier drink options such as flavoured mochas  ($4.15). A stylized blackboard menu bills the food as “hearty and healthy,” ranging from decadent treats, like the vegan macaroons ($1.50), to full meals, like the four-cheese and spinach quiche ($7.75).

Their three-cheese Panini ($3.95) is what keeps me coming back on a regular basis. Like all of their Panini options – which include Turkey and Brie ($7.95), free-range chicken ($7.95), and vegetarian ($5.95) – it is grilled on a 9-grain bun with garlic mayo. Served with ketchup on the side, it has all the comfort of homemade grilled cheese, but with a gourmet flare. House specialty muffins are available in sweet ($2.50) or savoury ($2.75). Moist and dense, the cranberry-blueberry muffin is bursting with juicy berries and yet subtle in its sweetness. For those seeking an alternative to standard coffee (large $2.09) Caramel-vanilla ($4.15) balances the flavour without overpowering it. Along with most of their other specialty drinks, it is available either hot or iced.

The only variable factor at My Dog Joe is the service. While many servers are knowledgeable and attentive, some give me second thoughts about staying. Upon asking for less ice in my drink, I was given an abrupt “No,” followed by a condescending, “that’s what the recipe calls for.” My receipt was then crumpled and discarded before I could ask for a copy. Despite occurrences like this, though, polite service is just as common. Many servers are willing to accommodate customers’ needs, and in compensation for this incident, I was given a voucher for a free coffee on my next visit. It is the consideration of servers like this, coupled with consistently high quality food and drinks, that ensures I remain a regular customer.

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