Illustration by Matthew Daley/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
Let’s face it: Toronto has a well-deserved reputation for clique-ishness. Previously, nifty new cafés with fancy snacks were reserved for hipsters, bloggers, and left-wing pinkos in general. Board games and other socialized geekery were confined to comic shops—which, no pun intended, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea—or the games cabinet of that one friend willing to step up and be the designated dork when someone’s Catan needed Settlin’.
Enter Snakes & Lattes. We Torontonians may have never heard of a “board game café” before, but its appeal was instantly apparent even before it opened in August.
For one thing, Snakes & Lattes, on Bloor east of Palmerston, has an unswerving dedication to face-to-face, convivial, spontaneous, and public fun, a principle Torontonians have been known to stumble over. When customers are feeling outgoing, staff at Snakes & Lattes will even play match-maker to set them up with a table that has room for one or two more. It’s as good a way as any to meet new people, get to know them, and sink their battleships, all while softening the edges between social circles. For the strictly practical, It’s also the fastest way to a table on a busy night.
As another pillar of the café’s mission to make us all get along, Snakes & Lattes also makes us turn off our goddamned internet (for a little while); its no-Wi-Fi policy is a welcome, if mandatory, breath of fresh air. Broken only in cases of direst email emergency, it hammers home the owners’ commitment to getting customers out of their shells. If you need extra coaxing to abandon your laptop, Snakes & Lattes can ply you with everything you need to relax offline. Good coffee? Check. Quiche? They cook a mean one. A reasonably priced bottle of Fin du Monde never hurt an hour-long game of Pandemic, either.
At the end of the day, what counts most is that the innovative café is a huge hit. The day its doors opened, Snakes & Lattes was packed with excited people happy to pay the all-important $5 cover, and its popularity is undiminished. And what really sets it apart from this year’s other upstart restaurants is this: what draws the crowd isn’t a Pavlovian menu or snob appeal. It is the crowd. Co-founders Ben Castanie and Aurelia Peynet feel (and we agree) that Torontonians are better company than they give themselves credit for.
Besides, anything that chips away at the stereotype of the downtown, pampered, espresso-sippin’, Helvetica-recognizin’, art-installation-appreciatin’, elitist uberdouche is okay with us. We downtowners come in all sorts, and we’re not that bad, once you get to know us. But be warned: we will obliterate you at RoboRally.