Bean and Baker Malt Shop is a 50’s style soda fountain malt shop that opened on June 2, 2015 at 326 Harbord St. (Harbord and Grace) and it’s been a neighbourhood favourite ever since. They serve coffee, meat pies, sandwiches, pastries, desserts, shakes, and homemade sodas. I’m a huge fan of sodas and really all things sweet, so this absolutely seemed right up my alley!
I can’t say enough about the décor. It’s fantastic inside and out. Let’s start with the exterior — first off, it’s a corner shop with a very clean, yet old school look, a wonderful logo and a nice cozy location. I love Harbord St. not just because I’m a cyclist; it’s a beautiful street with lots of cool shops and restaurants. This spot in particular is great because it’s right across the street from Bickford Park, which has recently been renovated with a neat off-leash dog area. Who wouldn’t love a shake or ice cream while taking a walk through the park on a beautiful day? Inside the décor has been meticulously chosen, with checkerboard flooring, a tin ceiling, old fashioned stools, and old-timey wall decorations that look like they were pulled straight out of the ’50s. I love it! Even the music never breaks theme… all I heard were songs like “Charlie Brown” by The Coasters, “What A Man” by Linda Lyndell, “Coney Island Baby” by The Excellents, some Sinatra songs, and more from the 50s and 60s. So fun. All the employees wear classic white shirts, red bowties and soda jerk hats! Even their name is meaningful… Bean and Baker Malt Shop is a husband and wife owned operation and “Bean” is the barista, Brennan Anderson, while the “Baker” is Liezel Anderson. Awesome.
Carrot Cake w/ Cream Cheese Icing ($4.95)
Co-owner (and baker) Liezel recommended this one to me, and I was not disappointed. A fully-flavoured carrot cake with delicious icing and I believe candied nuts (walnut or pecan? I forgot to write it in my notes!) on top. Fairly rich in sweetness, but nothing a sweets lover can’t handle.
S’Mores Tart ($5.97)
Look at this thing? So beautiful. I had to order one as soon as I saw it. The good news? It’s just as delicious as it looks. A salted tart crust made from graham cracker crumble perfectly complements the sweetness (and boy is it sweet!) of the chocolate ganache and marshmallow meringue. Mmm… it’s making me drool just talking about it. My only negative thing I can say (and it’s not really negative) is that it’s REALLY rich. It’s not a large tart, probably 3-4 inches in diameter but it certainly may be too much for one person to eat… it seems like a great sharing treat. That being said, I ate it all by myself… and only felt slightly guilty.
Warm Apple Pie Pocket ($3.75)
Do you like apple pie? I know I do. This pocket actually takes all the things I love about apple pie (the filling) and takes away what I like least about apple pie (the sometimes think pie crust). It’s got a soft and flaky crust with just the right amount of filling. They also hold together well, and don’t make a mess when you cut them into bite size pieces. These are made in small batches daily and because of that are super fresh any time you order them.
Montréal Smoked Meat Sandwich
It’s got tasty smoked meat, fresh bread and hits the spot for a nice lunch sandwich.
All Day Breakfast Pocket ($4.25) — bacon, cheddar, egg, red pepper, onion
This pocket had a delicious crust and the savoury filling was satisfying. I liked everything a lot except the egg… but I think cooked eggs in baked goods are hard to do. It still tasted fine, but I think I prefer my eggs kinda undercooked in pastries, if that makes sense! Still a solid pocket.
Veggie Breakfast Pocket ($4.25) — spinach, goat cheese, egg, red pepper, onion
Ok, this was basically an improved version of the bacon and cheddar pocket. I love the spinach and goat cheese and it actually made me not notice the egg texture (or maybe it was different?). I absolutely loved this one.
Steak and Cheese Pie (from Wisey’s) ($6.85)
These Kiwi-style meat pies and sausage rolls come from Wisey’s. I quite enjoyed the thick but tender steak chunks in the filling. My only other exposure to similar style meat pies are from the Aussie meat pies from Kanga and while this pie was good, I must admit I prefer the buttery crust and rich filling in Kanga’s version.
Roasted Tomato Soup ($3.85)
Simple, nicely flavoured tomato soup! Not too salty and absolutely tasted nothing like the terrible canned tomato soup I make at home. The soup is also vegan and gluten-free which is fantastic for those with dietary restrictions.
Potato Leek Soup ($3.85)
I’m definitely a sucker for a good soup. This is a good soup. The broth was tasty and had a great thickness to it without being a creamy soup (like a cream of broccoli soup). I loved the cubed potatoes in the soup. I found them to be slightly crisp, which is just the way I want my potatoes to be in soup, not grainy or mashed potato like.
Root ‘N Cola Handcrafted Soda ($3.00, tax included)
All of the sodas at Bean and Baker are made with in-house small batch syrups and use Tableau Premium Filtered Sparkling Water, which is environmentally friendly (it comes from an authentic tap, not from a bottle). You have to watch the soda jerks (from my visits, co-owner Brennan, David and Gen) make these beauties right in front of your eyes. First, a shot of the syrup goes in, then a few jerks of sparkling water, then using a special spiral spoon, another shot of syrup is poured over the spoon, and stirred until you have a perfectly mixed glass of homemade soda.
As far as the flavour, I honestly was slightly disappointed in this one, in the way that I love root beer, and I love cola… but together, it was kind of a weird flavour! Still tasty though, and I still enjoyed it. The soda was perfectly crisp (likely due to their use of the premium filtered water!).
Real Orange Handcrafted Soda ($3.00, tax included)
This is the best orange soda I’ve had. It tasted like a real orange, as opposed to most orange sodas and didn’t leave me with an odd aftertaste like some syrups will do. A truly refreshing drink!
Gramp’s Ginger Handcrafted Soda ($3.00, tax included)
This soda is kind of like a cross between a ginger beer and a ginger ale. It’s sweeter than a ginger beer but has a real ginger bite unlike most ginger ales. I liked it quite a bit.
Egg Cream — chocolate syrup, milk, sparkling water
An Egg Cream is a traditional drink that originated in New York City and was found in malt shops from days past. You don’t really see this drink anymore, but it’s absolutely a treat! You have to dine-in to try this one, as the way it’s prepared and served it does not carry well. I’ve heard this drink isn’t for everyone… but let me tell you, it’s certainly right up my alley! I loved this drink. It was absolutely delicious. Carbonated chocolate milk? YES. It works so well. Gah… drooling again thinking about it.
Cherry Cola Float w/ Banana Boat Ice Cream (Kawartha Dairy) ($6.50)
Apologies to Bean and Baker for the melty shot — I took way too long to take the picture after receiving the drink. I promise you the presentation is fantastic. With the floats, you get to choose from the dozen or so flavours of Kawartha Dairy ice cream that’s available, or you can choose from two different coconut milk ice cream flavours from Coconut Bliss for lactose-intolerant or vegan/gluten-free types! I am actually lactose intolerant, but I love the flavour of dairy too much, so I always bring lactase pills with me. The soda was more cherry than cola, but I think that’s fine if you like cherry sodas! The ice cream was perfect set on the rim of the glass, which is great as it allows you to decide when to mix in the ice cream with your soda. The banana boat ice cream was delicious!
French Vanilla Maltshake ($7.00)
This was a milkshake made with French Vanilla ice cream from Kawartha Dairy and malt powder. I thought the milkshake was fairly thick and smooth but not as thick as the triple-thick shakes from McDonald’s… which I think is great. I love the presentation.
The coffee blend used in all of Bean and Baker’s drinks was carefully chosen by head barista and co-owner Brennan Anderson. The macchiato was smooth and left no bitter aftertaste.
Bean and Baker Malt Shop is a place every Torontonian should visit. One thing I haven’t mentioned is the incredible service EVERY employee at Bean and Baker gave me. They were all extremely helpful and friendly when I asked about items on the menu. I can also say that all of the employees looked very happy to be there. I think I now consider Bean and Baker my second home not just because of the close proximity to where I live but also because I feel like I’ve made friends with the soda jerks! The place is one-of-a-kind and would be a wonderful place to take a date. Check out Bean and Baker Malt Shop, you won’t be disappointed.