If you ever find yourself with some time to kill in Toronto’s East End, I highly recommend you stop by The Dock on Queen. This coffee shop is more than just the coffee they sell (although it’s delicious); it feels like a tiny escape from Toronto the moment you step through the doors. As you might assume by the name, The Dock on Queen feels as if you are stepping into a cottage getaway with its wood panelled walls, well-used furniture, and massive canoe hanging over the front counter. The smell (partly chai, partly bonfire smoke) reminded me of Christmastime and cozy days in. It’s made complete by the boardgames piled in the corner and the artwork for sale on the walls. In other words, it feels like a home away from home.
When I met Mimi O’Bonsawin, co-owner of the shop, I was not surprised by The Dock’s interior. A down-to-earth musician herself, Mimi explained how it was important to her to create a space where creatives could come and feel safe. The aim of the shop was not to just sell coffee and baked goods but to create a community where people can feel inspired to create art.
It wasn’t just her identity as a musician that influenced the space, but her family’s heritage as well; “We’re an Indigenous small family business. We wanted to bring a little piece of home to the city,” she says. Everywhere you look within the space you can see pieces of her family; from the tables built by friends and relatives to her great-grandfather’s canoe. She even runs the business with family; her cousin is the other co-owner of The Dock on Queen, handling most of the groundwork of the shop while Mimi tours.
Its cozy interior and personal feel definitely make this particular spot different from other places in Toronto. Perhaps unlike bigger chains you might visit, you can tell that the individuals working at The Dock truly care about what they do. It was important to Mimi and her team to go to barista school to gain the proper education before opening their shop, bringing that knowledge back to share with their small staff that have all been there since its opening two years ago. They’ve also built an amazing relationship with their coffee roasters and through those personal connections, they’ve been able to develop a menu that will be sure to please anyone.
However, as I previously said, The Dock on Queen is so much more than the coffee they sell. “We are more of a community hub than just a quick-stop coffee shop. I like that about us. We wanted to be a bit more versatile,” Mimi explained, pointing to their liquor license and array of live entertainment options as proof. You can stop by to enjoy live music every weekend and sing your heart out during Karaoke Thursdays. Or, if you’re looking for something a little different The Dock on Queen hosts a free comedy show every second Friday. Their website highlights any upcoming live entertainment, which you can check out here.
So, if you’re in the neighbourhood or want to explore a new part of the city, definitely make sure to add The Dock on Queen to your list. You’ll love the intimate vibes, the delicious food, and everything else it has to offer. You can also support Mimi and her music career by checking out her Spotify page.
The Dock on Queen is more than just a coffee shop—it’s a drop of community with every cup.
Stay in the loop for all things Common by joining our newsletter!