Sipping local: exploring lesser-known Kingston coffee shops

Three cafes off the beaten path

Local coffee gems.

With Kingston claiming the title of highest per capita restaurants in the country, it’s no surprise the city is saturated with charming, small-town coffee shops.

Most Queen’s students are familiar with the well-known places—Crave and Balzac's—but a recent Facebook post about The Elm Cafe reminded me and my housemates of all the other Kingston coffee shops we should be hitting up in this difficult time for small businesses.

Next time you’re out for a coffee, skip the line at the Starbucks at Johnson and Division and try something new—it might just surprise you. Here are three cafes in Kingston that have become my staples:

The Elm Cafe, 303 Montreal Street

A little bit north of the downtown core, The Elm Cafe is certainly a contender for one of the quaintest coffee shops I’ve ever been in. The menu is relatively small, but with classic espresso-based drinks and made-to-order breakfast sandwiches, nothing you try will disappoint.

I got a BLT and a mocha, taking them for a walk since the Cafe doesn’t plan to have seating until the end of March. My mocha was infinitely better than any of the times I’ve put hot chocolate mix into my coffee at home, the whole grain bread of my sandwich was insanely delicious, and the ingredients were evidently fresh.

The pricing at Elm was similar to somewhere like Starbucks but given the quality of my sandwich and the fact that it’s a small business, it’s up there on my list of the best Kingston cafes.

BSE Skate Shop, 225 Princess Street

An unexpected discovery, BSE Skate Shop on Princess not only sells some skater essentials—it also holds a tiny coffee stand with an interesting selection.

The inside of this cafe has a unique aesthetic, featuring a huge variety of skateboards with some great art on the bottoms of the boards and an open barista bar so you can see every step that goes into your coffee as it’s being made.

I’ve tried The Hot Apple, Aunt Hazel, and the Maple Latte, and all three were delicious. However, replacing regular milk with oat milk brought my Maple Latte up to $7.50, so I’d recommend skipping out on this substitution unless it’s essential.

BSE Skate Shop is a great downtown option if you’re looking to try a new and unique drink and coffee shop experience.

Coffee Way Donuts, 472 Division Street

I’d like to warn anyone who’s thinking about heading out to this coffee shop: their donuts will ruin everywhere else for you.

At the beginning of my second year, my status as a resident of NOP (North of Princess) felt daunting. The prospect of walking an extra 10 minutes to class, begging friends to make the trek to visit me, and being further from downtown made me anxious about the upcoming year.

Coffee Way Donuts has dissolved that fear, replacing it with a love of donuts.

Priced similarly to Tim Hortons, Coffee Way Donuts has 10 times the variety and infinitely better quality. The coffee is nothing special, but it pairs perfectly with the Cherry Cruller, Toasted Coconut, and classic Chocolate Cake Glazed. 

It’s a bit of a hole in the wall, but as a place to walk to with a friend when you have nowhere to go in particular, Coffee Way is the best.

I’m a little biased in my love for Coffee Way, but the number of friends I’ve turned onto it speaks to how great of a place it is.


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