Entering Café St. Viateur, on a trendy corner of Queen West within menswear brand Frank & Oak’s flagship Toronto store, you understand almost instantly the world that you’ve entered. Through a glass and steel vestibule, over a floor woven with a black and white checkered pattern, you approach a copper and walnut bar to order your drink. Frank & Oak has a strong online following in Toronto for its masculine and stylish menswear. Walking through the cafe, you enter the main attraction, filled with Frank & Oak clothing and other items placed throughout that indicate exactly what type of man they are catering to. There’s a copy of a biography about Leonard Cohen, “I’m Your Man,” on a table filled with sweaters, and at the end of the store, a small barbershop. Coffee, books, menswear, and a barbershop. You’ve just entered modern-day fancy-man heaven on Queen West.
Back in the cafe, I order an espresso and capp from Keaton Ritchie, formally of Café Myriade in Montreal, who just moved here a month ago to open and run the St. Viateur component of the men's store—not a difficult transition, perhaps, from Myriade's sunny second location on Montreal's St.-Viateur Street, which incidentally shares space with a fancy-men's goods store.
“You came on a Hairbender day,” Ritchie tells me, “we usually serve single origin espresso.” St. Viateur brings in beans from Stumptown‘s Brooklyn roastery, with an affinity for the brand was reinforced by the recent dearth of Stumptown offerings in Toronto. Richie says that the most important aspect of working with Stumptown for him is their history and commitment to transparent sourcing and Direct Trade.
My Hairbender shot is just how I remember the blend: malty with notes of dark chocolate and a surprisingly juicy mouthfeel. The espresso really shines in my cappuccino though. It’s velvety and smooth, a great balance between milk and espresso, and kind of tastes like a warm cup of melted Malteasers: malty, chocolatey, and sweet. As I sip my drink, I can’t help but notice the stream of well-dressed people coming through the door. Apparently, Frank & Oak picked the perfect spot to gather its tribe of stylish West Enders.
The large windows on three sides of the shop offer the perfect perspective to sit and watch people on the street rush by, a reprieve from the rush of Queen West—and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a good mix of slow jams and 80’s pop divas playing in the background. Richie tells me that the design of the store and cafe is meant to reflect the men’s brand but also be balanced with “elements that aren’t traditionally masculine.” I spy Dieter Rams’ “As Little Design as Possible” on a shelf behind the bar, and I can feel that reflected in the space itself. While the design could easily shift to feeling cold and sterile, or altogether uninviting to those not interested in buying stylish menswear, the plants and wooden details make the space feel inviting and inclusive, a part of Queen West while still offering a place to escape the hustle of the street.
St. Viateur also plans to be open in the evenings serving a small selection of bitter cocktails, wines, and charcuterie. The shop offers a rotating selection of Rishi teas, an assortment of pastries, and a toast menu with choices of toppings and breads. And what more could you want in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Toronto besides menswear, cocktails, coffee, and topped toast?
Elyse Bouvier is a Sprudge.com contributor based in Toronto. Read more Elyse Bouvier on Sprudge.