*edit, June 15, 2018 – I no longer visit Tandem. I will explain why below the original post, at ((oo.
I visit Tandem every week. It’s on the 504 line which I’m always on, both to go to work and just to get downtown, where I spend a lot of my down time. When I first came to Toronto in 1993, I had little to do but visit coffee shops. The indy coffee scene was off my radar at that time, but gradually I became aware of it. I began checking out the indy shops far and wide here in TO, but the indy coffee scene was in its infancy then and there were far fewer shops. There were virtually none on the 504 line east of Yonge Street. There was Bisogno, which was around the corner on Sherbourne, but that’s all it took for me to not notice it. For the longest time, I passed by that nice espresso bar that I one day discovered online. The owner up and sold it to new owners (including Luthie, who is fantastic), who renamed it Black Canary. It’s not bad.
Time flies. It seems like yesterday when Michie and her partner set up Tandem. Before that, Michie served me coffee at Rooster, down the street, and at Bisogno, before it was sold. I wish every indy coffee shop in Toronto had owners, and baristas, as nice as Michie and Eugene. Many do. Too many don’t. As a single person, I greatly appreciate not just the coffee (which goes up and down everywhere), but also the vibe and the most important contributor to that is the friendliness of the staff. A positive about small shops that are sort of out of the way (which in a big city can mean just being on one side of a street as opposed to the other; such is the nature of how nabes are) is that it’s easier to make yourself at home. I can chit chat with Eugene and Michie more easily than someplace busier. (I also go to Rooster down the street and, while it has some serious negatives about it – more than a few young baristas who play awful, dreary indy music far too loud and awful eats and cold drinks – most of the baristas there are stellar and conversation with them is never a problem.) Although I’m sure that Tandem’s owners wouldn’t mind more business. I only know that they deserve it.
Probably my favorite drink at Tandem is their macchiato. Michie, who usually mans the Synesso, makes an awesome macchiato! My recommendation, if anyone is thinking of popping into Tandem and coffee is what you are after, is a macchiato with a bit less micro-foam than usual, which is how I have it. You don’t want to drown the coffee in milk. Of course, to each his (or…) own. And for those who are interested, Tandem’s mochas are made with fair trade, organic chocolate. Parking is on the street as well as just to the west of the block that Tandem’s on, where there’s a small parking lot. If you park on the street, for sure check the signs. During rush hour in the morning, don’t get caught with your vehicle on the north side of the street (east of Yonge; reverse for west of Yonge, I think) on east/west roads. Rush hour after business hours makes parking on the south side of the street, east of Yonge, a ticket to a ticket.
One of my recent new finds in TO is Crepe T.O.. The owners, Aurash Gashgaei and Rez Zarafshan, are fantastic people. I don’t know them personally, but they are friendly and professional. The crepes are great and, in my view and certainly by comparison with some other eateries in downtown T.O. (like Planta Burger), great value. Crepe T.O. is on the 504 line (Church and King), a few blocks east of Yonge Street. Sometimes, I pair a crepe with my Tandem coffee. It’s a winning combo! I popped in to Crepe T.O. today after leaving Tandem and realized that I could pair Crepe T.O. with Tandem for this blog post which I hadn’t yet been able to give my full attention to, and so I asked one of the owners if I could take pics. He was perfectly okay with it.
On June 14th, 2018, I stopped into Tandem, as I usually do, on my way to work. I first stop here and then walk over to the Rooster coffee shop down the street a few blocks (east of Tandem on King St). It wasn’t busy. It’s not a hopping busy place, although it has its moments. I sat where I usually sit, on the bench in front of the counter where people place their order and pay. I do that for a number of reasons. I can’t afford data and so I don’t sit at a table at the back of the shop and play on my laptop, for one thing. Although, When I have the option, I prefer to socialize – wherever I am – rather than be on my laptop or smart phone. Since I’m rarely not alone in Tandem, I sit where, when the owners aren’t busy with customers or other things, I might engage them in a bit of chit chat.
Today, That was how this visit started, with me engaging in chit chat with Eugene. At the same time, there was a big guy sitting on a bar stool, to my right, at the front of the store. According to Eugene, he comes in from time to time and has always behaved. I don’t even remember the conversation, but I mentioned to Eugene that I don’t like rap music or anything that sounded like rap. And I don’t like being mugged in a dark alley, which is how I characterize rap music. The big guy, who I wasn’t talking to, interjected with a comment about the remark being racist. He’s wrong of course. I tried telling him that I don’t have a racist bone in my body, and at first – to have me drop my guard? – he was okay, reluctantly, with that. He explicitly said something along the lines of ‘Well, obviously you’re not’. The conversation continued because the big guy wanted it to and I wasn’t aware, yet, that he was attacking me. He resumed calling me racist because I don’t like rap. This was after he asked why. I told him that I didn’t even consider it music, and that, to me, it was the musical equivalent of twinkies. And I told him that I find it to be foul and hostile. It’s riddled with the vilest foul language. The big guy had a problem with that, or else just took that position. (This was either just another example of a ruined citizen or else it was that ‘and’ I was being targetted. If I was being targetted, How did your boy do, Gog?)
Now the foul language kicked in as he increased the hostility level toward me. His level of argument rose to the level of ‘Do you watch movies? Is there swearing in them?’ To which I responded with ‘Yes, But it depends. Also, If they’re entertaining, I get something from them, unlike rap.’ He couldn’t accept anything I had to say and said he thought he should have smacked me in the head. As the ‘conversation/attack’ continued, he called me a crotchety old white man who should be nailed to a cross. (Being white is a problem? Being old is a problem? And disliking a form of music makes you crotchety? Incidentally, the big guy looked Caucasian but uttered something about First Nations so Who knows? He didn’t say anything about himself.) After too much of this back and forth, in which I couldn’t say much at all before being interrupted in a hostile fashion, I called for us to agree to disagree. But he would have none of that and my friends, who weren’t busy with other customers and who were no doubt alarmed by this exchange, didn’t step in to call for calm or something. The man was clearly trying to provoke me and very well may have been working himself up to physically assault me. I finally stopped talking to him completely and moved to a table at the back of the store, but he continued cursing me out and talking complete trash. At one point, when we were still ‘talking’, I said that I even have black family, which I do. He responded with ‘Everyone who is accused of being racist says that’, implying that I was lying or implying that I was just trying to deflect criticism. I’ve never met the man before and he doesn’t know me, but then again starting a conversation with ‘I should have smacked you in the head’ tells you something about the kind of person we are dealing with here. Something was very wrong.
Probably the most hurtful moment came, though, when, after the big guy finally quit his verbal abuse, he placed his dirty cup or whatever where Eugene was hovering and said to him ‘Sorry about that’ and Eugene just meekly said ‘No problem’ and ‘Have a nice day’. Was I the problem? Then I moved to my usual bench spot and was talking to Eugene about it, quite upset, but happy the guy had left. Eugene listened for a couple of minutes – the place is dead – and then, with the coldest look on his face, told me he didn’t want to talk about it. He said it was over and ‘Move on’. A bully can verbally abuse me in Eugene’s coffee shop, in a very threatening manner (and I never responded in like because I don’t swear), and it’s okay, but when I complain about it to someone who I think is a friend who might at least sympathize, I am basically told to shut up?!