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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

La Merceria: We had a Notion to go for Lunch

On a gray damp day early in the summer we decided it was time to check out a little storefront we had noticed a while back-- La Merceria. In fact, we had been so intrigued when we first saw its facade that we did a little research and ended up becoming a "Liker" on Facebook (check it out yourselves, here)
It seemed a little odd, seeing that they are very close to the office, that we would follow them via social networking without having ever set foot in the place. So we set off to remedy that.

The business is part cafe, part boutique. It is run by an Argentinian couple which we thought bode very well for both the food and the coffee. With (some delightful) exceptions, the goods are primarily of the bed, bath, and stationary variety- what one might in the old days have called Notions. And we assume it's no coincidence that if you check a Spanish dictionary for the translation of the term "merceria" you will encounter the words "notions store, haberdashery, hardware store". (We saw no hats, and the only hardware in sight was that gleaming espresso machine on the front counter!)
And yet the term notions doesn't really do justice to the non-consumable products on offer. A carefully edited selection of beautiful things tempts at every turn. Belying its diminutive storefront, this shop goes deep! As you wander back in the space you might encounter perfect little notebooks, delicious looking bath soaps, small pieces of handmade pottery, buttery leather clutches, a small and well chosen selection of greeting cards, even a couple of rolls of wrapping paper available by the meter. And throughout the space are interspersed small tables and chairs. It is, all in all, simply delightful!
Alas, though, we were there for sustenance, and it was this on which we really focused. Amongst the small array of goodies in the display case were empanadas (naturally) and slices of a savory baked tart with pastry crust & top (which looked yummy), plus salads & sweets. We opted for a couple of empanadas. They took a while to be reheated, and while we waited we thumbed the interesting magazines scattered about & watched the laptoppers who were hanging out with their notebooks & coffee. When the food arrived the wait proved to have been worthwhile. Obviously home made (the owner's mother or grandmother? It was mentioned, but we can't remember), they were delicious. And best of all, they were served with a brilliant green chimichurri sauce that added just the right garlicky tang to complement the pastry & chicken filling. The sauce was not a condiment that we'd seen used in combination with empanadas before, but it's an inspired pairing!

We grabbed a cappuccino for the road; the coffee had great body and the barrista did a fine job of blending. A tall drink of Argentine agua himself, he shared with us his opinion of steak in Toronto (lacking) but confessed that he had learned to adore sushi since moving here. With a flash of blue eyes & white teeth he sent us back out into the drizzle!
Since that first visit we have returned in the hot weather to get ourselves an iced cafe con leche, which was strong & bracingly cold. While there we stumbled upon a featured beverage: Iced Mate Lemonade. We sampled while we waited for our coffees, and we will definitely return for a full Tall One! For those who are unfamiliar, mate is a tea made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate plant, and it's consumption borders on obsessive ritual in Argentina. Combined with that tart lemon, it reminded somewhat of Iced Tea, and yet to these tastebuds it was more refreshing.
Of course, no Argentinian cafe would be complete without alfajores, the delightful coconut-coated biscuits sandwhiching a dollop of Dulce de Leche. Yet another reason why we MUST return to La Merceria!
Oh, and also for the Friday lunchtime barbeques that we hope will become a regular occurance (since we missed the first!)

 La Merceria
506 Adelaide Street West, Toronto


  1. LOVE IT! Now I want to go to Toronto just to visit that store ;)

  2. And well you should! You're more than welcome any time!