Quaint, Unique and Downright Delicious: A Guide to Cafes Across York, Durham & Headwaters

It is no secret that I love coffee. And not in the stereotypical “I’m North American and I need it” kind of way or the “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” kind of way. I love coffee for its bold flavour, strong smell and the quiet companionship it provides me with on a daily, twice daily or even sometimes thrice-daily basis. 

This is why I’m so disappointed, and frankly shocked, by how many places get coffee wrong. Since I prefer to drink my coffee free of cream, milk or sugar (no offense to my double-double friends), I tend to focus a lot on the attention to detail placed in coffee when I have it. And I have a mild bias surrounding the treatment of coffee. I’ll give you a hint: those giant glass carafes of lukewarm coffee sitting for hours on warmers behind the counter until the last drop of them is finished “and then and only then we’ll brew more” coffees don’t do it for me.

So now that we’ve established that I’m only mildly obsessed with the procurement of this delicious beverage, let’s get to the good stuff: where is a better place to enjoy a great cup of coffee (or a signature tea, or perhaps an Italian soda or whichever type of beverage floats your boat–I tried to expand my options in this list) than in a quaint, cozy and high quality cafe? Perhaps with something sweet on the side. We are spoiled for choice of cafes across York, Durham and Headwaters, but I’ve done my darndest to narrow down some of the best cafes region by region. 

York Region

Elpida Cafe & Roastery

Keswick, ON

Elpida Waffles

This cozy little cafe in Keswick serves coffee from some of the world’s best Organic Fair Trade farms. They pride themselves in remaining true to the name “roastery” in their title, as they freshly roast all coffee per order in house. They refuse to sacrifice quality in both their coffees and teas. If you’re looking for a cool beverage, I’d try their Elderberry Hibiscus Lemonade with either a Jerk Chicken Hot Dog or one of their Elpida Waffles if you’re looking for something sweet. 

The Roost Cafe

King City, ON

The Roost Cafe

The Roost Cafe is a quaint little cafe in central King City specializing in hand-crafted coffees, smoothies and treats. They make a point of using natural ingredients in what they offer where possible, and often. They have so many tasty choices for those looking for savoury or sweet. The Roost frequently mixes up their selection of daily specials and salads as they go, so you can be sure that you won’t tire of their fare. Keep an eye out for their Raw Pad Thai Salad if it comes available or their Pinto Bean Chilli. If you’re on the hunt for something sweet, you have to try a slice of their Homemade Chocolate Cake or their Blueberry Lemon Cake. I would aim to have one of their classic lattes as a pairing with whatever delicacy you choose! 

Vici Bakery & Cafe

Woodbridge, ON

Vici Bakery & Cafe

This is the singular true family-run Italian bakery and cafe on this tour through the regions. Specializing in so many tasty foods and drinks, they are sure to meet your needs at Vici. If you’re on the hunt for a main course, try one of their homemade pastas. You can’t really go wrong, but their seafood linguine is top notch. Quite honestly, I’m not even sure where to start with sweets. They do incredible cakes if you’re looking to bring something home with you, but their traditional Cannoli and Zeppole are pretty outstanding. They also offer gelato if you’re looking to cool off on a warm day. I would be remiss to not suggest you have a traditional Italian Espresso after your main and with your dessert, to top of this quintessential Italian experience. 

Durham Region

Piano Cafe

Port Perry, ON

The Piano Inn

A longstanding favourite to many in the Durham region, Piano Cafe has more of a restaurant kind of feel with a full menu including everything from creative daily soups to oven-baked sandwiches. Keep an eye out for when they’re featuring their Brie and Lobster Mac & Cheese, which is a fan favourite. For desserts, cakes are their specialty. The Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Cake (which also happens to be gluten-free) is a showstopper, and feel free to have some Grammy Stone Homemade Ice Cream on the side. Since I’m writing this during the summer, I’d recommend having one of their fresh brewed Iced Coffees on the side, especially since they brew it with a hint of chocolate espresso. 

Nexus Coffee Company

Uxbridge, ON

Nexus

Nestled in historical downtown Uxbridge, Nexus Coffee Company works closely with Ontario-based companies and local producers to bring their delicious drinks, baked goods and even gelato to life. They are known for their specialty coffee and tea, but they also offer plant-based smoothies if that’s more your speed. They bake both savoury and sweet pastries daily with both gluten-free and vegan options available, and they also have a delectable variety of gelato to satisfy your sweet tooth. The cherry on top of this organization is that they recently received a “Bicycle Friendly Business” award from Ontario By Bike, and they are motivated to reduce the carbon footprint of their business. Keep an eye out for their authentic Turkish Baklava! It’s the real deal. 

Brew Wizards Boardgame Cafe

Oshawa, ON

A cafe priding its ability to bring friends together with good coffee, yet potentially even “end friendships over a game of Risk”, this board game cafe is a fun and welcome addition to the Durham region. Brew Wizards offers drinks from several types of fair trade coffee to sixteen rotating taps of beer, so you are sure to find the beverage you’re looking for somewhere in the mix. Their food selection focuses more on classic pub snacks with a twist, like loaded tater tots or gourmet hot dogs, and sweet treats like lemon squares or cookies. Keep an eye out for their events and fairs that they host on site frequently. They often host local art fairs with plenty of wares for those looking to boardgame and shop! 

Headwaters Region

Higher Ground Cafe

Belfountain, ON

Located in the countryside of the Niagara Escarpment, this cycle-friendly espresso bar serves up a lot of flavour to the Headwaters Region. Serving coffees and teas of all kinds, there is sure to be one that speaks to you when you come by. For the fairweather days, Higher Ground has an adorable sitting area outside complete with Muskoka chairs for relaxing. Inside, their walls are covered with art done by local artists and feels quaint and cosy–just as a coffee shop should. They have an assortment of classic freshly-baked treats and also offer ice cream for the sweet lovers out there. If you are passing through the Forks of the Credit, you should definitely stop by this spot! 

Mochaberry Coffee & Co. Ltd Cafe and Roastery

Orangeville, ON

coffee

Self-described as a “cosy, funky cafe”, Mochaberry Coffee & Co. is truly a cosy cafe located in historic Orangeville. They offer a full menu of teas, specialty coffees, Italian sodas, lattes and even cocktails and other alcoholic options and beyond. Aside from the classic cafe beverages, their Matcha Lattes and Frozen Peach Bellinis are both appealing for entirely different, yet equally exciting reasons. In addition to their selection of drinks, they also have a sizeable all-day breakfast menu including their classic Eggy Thing (egg, black forest ham, cheddar and tomato on an English muffin or a bagel), plus delicious lunch options like their rotational Daily Quiche. Keep an eye out for their Coconut Curry Soup, followed by one of their many sweet treats on offer. Macarons or a slice of homemade carrot cake are always some of my favourites! 

Butter & Cup Coffee Co.

Caledon, ON

Butter and Cup

This cute cafe nestled in Caledon serves up a lot of exciting things in the Headwaters region. Butter & Cup offers a sweet selection of food choices for the savoury and sweet tooth. Try one of their pressed sandwiches, such as their Turkey-Asiago, or choose from their range of sweet treats, such as Date Squares or Butter Tarts. They also place a special emphasis on their delicious variety of scones. Keep an eye out for their Raspberry-White Chocolate Scone–I love this combination! As is expected, they have a tasty selection of hot coffees, lattes and teas, and they also offer iced coffees during the warm months. To mix it up a bit, I’d recommend trying their Elderberry Hibiscus Tea.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this list. I’m sure I’ve missed a few hidden gems on the list. Feel free to add comments about this article on the York Durham Headwater’s share of it on Facebook. 

Written by Bri Mitchell

Bri Mitchell is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. She has travelled to over 50 countries and loves to learn a little more about the world (and herself) with each trip she takes. Bri currently lives in Toronto with her partner in life and travel, Christopher Mitchell (travelingmitch.com), and their Turkish street cat turned Prince of the Great White North, Kotu. You can follow her travels and meanderings around Ontario and beyond on Instagram @mstravelingmitch or her Facebook page.

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