New Kid-Friendly Cafe in Toronto
It’s a curious experience to be pushing a stroller up the ramp at 73 Harbord Street, the former location of the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, where fifteen years ago I used to venture for university textbooks and copies of Bitch and Bust magazines.
Since mid-June the address has been home to Redfish Bluefish Creative Cafe, the latest parent/child-friendly cafe in the city — after Smock on Roncesvalles and Playful Grounds in Little Italy. And while the stroller is indication that in the last few years my life has changed as substantially as the tenants of 73 Harbord, the space continues to offer a kind of sanctuary: a vital and friendly neighbourhood stop.
In its first few weeks of business, Redfish Bluefish’s standout feature is warm and excellent service. Each customer is welcomed upon entry by the staff behind the counter, and upon repeat visits we are greeted by our names. My four-year-old is beginning to see the place as an extension of our living room, feeling at-home enough to test out behaviour both preciously-adorable and atrocious, and cafe staff didn’t bat an eye at either.
My daughter likes to order a “Fluffy,” a milk drink with sprinkles on top. I’ve sampled the teas and my husband goes for a coffee, which he declares is pretty good. We are all obsessed with the oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies (from the Desmond and Beatrice Bakeshop) though there are muffins, scones and brownies on offer as well. The menu also features soup and simple sandwiches, along with bite-size snacks for little ones such as raw fruit and vegetables.
The space is bright, clean and minimalist, with white walls and sunshine pouring through the windows. Two fish bowls on the counter are home to a red fish and a blue fish, and so it’s not just a clever name. French doors open onto a spacious and appealing backyard patio. But little ones will probably be reluctant to be dragged outdoors, occupied instead by the fantastic craft area tucked into a back corner.
For no charge, young patrons are welcome to dig into the feathers, googly eyes, sparkles, pipe-cleaners, paper and markers on offer to create their own imaginative works of art. While arts programming will be taking place at Redfish Bluefish throughout the summer (check their website for details!), this free-for-all approach to crafting is most inspiring.
As crafters are waiting for the glue to dry, however, they are also free to check out kids’ books and games available to play with. The cafe also features a small, well-curated selection of toys for sale. Underlining their kid-friendly approach and savvy, Redfish Bluefish keeps their bathroom well-stocked with supplies for diapering, and the craft area includes a small sink for hand-washing.
While kid-friendly cafes are certainly a trend at the moment, there is no denying the importance of these kinds of spaces for parents and children to enjoy together, each in their own respective ways. With a newborn baby in our family, we are thrilled to welcome Redfish Bluefish to our neighbourhood, and we foresee many afternoons spent here throughout the summer, our new big-sister indulging in some child-centred fun while her parents partake in the essential pleasure of caffeinated beverages.