I recently connected with another mom, Amar R. of Midtown Moms Meetup Group. She has a daughter who is almost 3 years old, and has been OTG’ing it everywhere! (I’m sure she will reach OTG Expert status soon!). Just last week she went to Smock Cafe’s opening in Toronto’s west end, and I asked her if she wanted to do a guest post. Here’s her write-up with photos below. Thanks Amar!
Have you been to Smock Cafe? Please share your thoughts here!
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon when I headed out to an area I rarely venture into, Roncessaveles, otherwise fondly known as Polish Town, in order to pick up a custom cupcake and cookie order from a wonderful baker, Lindsey Bakes (more on her later in another review on kid friendly bakeries doing cakes, cupcakes, designer cookies and cake pops) for a children’s party.
As I was walking down Ronscessaveles, I noticed a whole slew of small children, mothers and the requisite strollers and baby carriers, going in and out of a storefront with a sign out front “Grand Opening, Free Cookies”. Before I could decide whether or not to check it out, my almost 3 year old daughter darted into the open doorway and within seconds was at play at the small toy Ikea kitchen situated just inside the doorway. My significant other and I followed her in because after all, who can resist free cookies?
Upon entering, I realized it was a new cafe and quite a large one at that. It was incredibly busy in there and the counter staff were doing a brisk business. I temporarily left my daughter and partner in there happily occupied, one munching delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and the other playing with new found friends, and went two shops over to Gurt’s Yogurt Bakery to pick up my cupcakes, cake pops and cookies, promising to hurry back. I received great service at Gurt’s by the way and they have the cutest Dora, Sesame Street and other character cookies and you can order whatever design you like.
Anyways, back to Smock. It actually took me going back into the cafe to figure out the name because it was simply so crowded in there. I had hurried back hoping my family hadn’t missed me. They certainly had not. My daughter had now gravitated over to the crafts area and was wearing a, you guessed it, Smock, and happily painting away with the friendly help of a young lady. I approached her to find out more about this new place. Upon questioning her, I found out Smock had just opened the day before and was doing extremely well so far. The arts and crafts were free for the opening days after which it will be $8 for the craft area where your children will be supervised by a facilitator.
The jars of craft goodies are lined up in huge glass jars on a shelf at the very back wall, sparkling like candy. It is a very cute set up. The facilitator is very attentive and easy going and all the kids seemed very happy. My daughter has a very short attention span and did activity after activity from drawing, to coloring to painting to gluing and glitter within half an hour. She had a blast doing it for sure. Children were running over to their parents with completed projects in hand, gleefully showing off their handiwork. It was so sweet to see the happy accomplished faces. The area would be great for birthday parties for children ages 4 and up in my opinion. After crafts, there is a handwashing station with stools and two sinks for the kiddies and adults to wash up. This is a great idea as the bathrooms are downstairs.
After chatting with the craft helper, I went to order some food and join my partner. I had a BLT which isn’t your typical BLT. Like most kid friendly cafes these days, it’s organic and amped up a little and has some twists. It was quite yummy and served with a small side of greens. I tried to order coffee or tea but they only have espressos, Americanos and the like right now. There are plans to get a liquor license and I hope some regular coffee and tea for those of us that enjoy the simpler things. There were a couple of soups on the menu and apparently they are quite delicious. I saw some baked goods too but with a car full of sweets, didn’t try any this time. The menu is available on line. There are the typical kiddy offerings like carrot sticks, hummus, etc., but they don’t have juice yet, only Pellegrino and it’s another thing I hope they get soon.
I spoke briefly to the counter staff who served me and they were friendly and happy to be there and one pointed me towards the owner. I didn’t want to bother her right then as she was being interviewed by BlogTO, so I went to check out the downstairs after I ate. There is a big open space at the bottom of the stairs with two comfy chairs right now. More furniture is going to be added and it’s a nice private space to breastfeed or unwind. It’s outside the studio that will be used for classes so it can be a space to sit and wait for your class or those coming out without being in the bustle of the cafe. I think this is a great idea. There is a change table outside the washroom and the washrooms are nice and the ladies is decorated with paper oragami butterflies made by the owner. It’s a sweet and lovely touch that I appreciated.
Ironically, I was approached by the interviewer of the other blog about what I thought made Smock unique. My answer was that instead of your typical play area, they offered arts and crafts which had a facilitator. Also, they were charging for supplies and someone to help your child instead of just a space for your child to play, which is what another child friendly cafe in town does. The classes are offered downstairs and not in the main area, allowing the cafe to stay open during them and for those in the classes and those enjoying the cafe, to be separate. The cafe itself is quite large and there seemed to be plenty of room for everyone to move about and it didn’t feel as though the children were underfoot all the time.
I spoke briefly to the owner and she was grinning ear to ear, as well she should. We discussed ideas and I suggested child paparazzi photography classes for parents wanting to take better photos of their children and a few other suggestions. She was quite open and interested in hearing them and made me feel comfortable. She mentioned that they will try to stay away from music classes, sign classes and the such, since they are offered all over the city and at other cafes. They are looking to fill a different niche and concentrate on the arts. That is an admirable goal and I wish them all the best.
Overall, my daughter and I had a great time at Smock and I would definitely be back to enjoy it again. For more information on classes, workshops and birthday parties take a look at their website or by calling Sara at Smock directly (416-530-0888).
I do believe more child friendly eateries are needed in Toronto and affordable and different activities in general. It will be interesting to see how Smock does and I do hope they thrive and manage to do well,
I definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the area. They are open Monday to Saturday and closed Sundays for private parties.