So it’s November — you’ve got about a dozen papers due and for some reason all your professors scheduled their “finals” for the last week of class. You keep seeing Facebook posts with your friends in cool neighbourhoods all around the city, but who the hell has time for that? You’ve wasted September and October “making new friends” and “settling into classes,” and you feel so unhip.
Chill — neighbourhoods in this city are full of places to study, and usually with way better spots to take a break than anywhere on campus. Just take a day, a couple of readings or a paper you need to edit, and go exploring. Start with Kensington — it’s close, cheap, and full of almost purpose-built students spots.
Breakfast: Nu Bugel
Just south of Nassau Street on Augusta Avenue, this South American bakery specializing in Montreal-style bagels is the perfect launchpad for a day in Kensington. Montreal-style means a wood-burning oven, and the smoky-sweet bagels coming out of here are about as good as you can get in Toronto. A simple bagel with cream cheese is all of three dollars, but they also do a killer breakfast bagel with bacon and eggs. My personal favourite is a sesame seed with smoked-salmon cream cheese, made just down the street at Global Cheese Shoppe.
Even more amazing — show up before 10:oo am and get free coffee with your meal. Sit back, take out your first reading, and watch as endless rounds of dough fly out of the oven and out the door. By about 11:00 am, though, the place gets a little crowded — about time to move along, to get some more focused work done.
First study session: Jimmy’s Coffee
The standard working day in the market starts around 11:00 or 12:00 pm. Everybody, and I mean everybody, grabs a coffee at Jimmy’s before they start. Not quite independent but far from Starbucks, Jimmy’s offers a friendly atmosphere, eclectic art, and a damn fine Americano. Grab a coffee and situate yourself on one of their benches for your first serious work session of the day. They’ve got free wifi, if you’re into that sort of thing. Don’t worry about distractions though — the gaggle of hungry-looking hipsters running startups on their Macbooks around you will motivate some serious work ethic.
Lunch: Rasta Pasta
Once you’ve consumed an unhealthy number of Americanos at Jimmy’s, you should be feeling adequately jittery. Mellow out with the five dollar jerk chicken special from Rasta Pasta on Kensington Avenue. In rain, hail, or driving snow, Magnus stands outside his tiny restaurant minding a couple of oil-drum smokers.
Show up here after 1:00 pm because right at noon there’ll be a line stretching down the street. For five dollars you get a hearty helping of rice and beans, coleslaw, or steamed veggies and a full jerk chicken leg all slathered in West-Indian spicy gravy. The chicken is perfect: crispy on the outside but tender throughout, and never dry. The coleslaw is made fresh daily with a clean, crisp acidity that perfectly balances the spice of the chicken leg. The rice and beans provide everything you need in the way of afternoon sustenance.
Afternoon study session: Moon Bean
So maybe the wifi at Jimmy’s was a little much. You wasted the morning on Facebook and need somewhere to finish your problem set without distraction. Head down the street from Rasta Pasta and make a left past the fruit shop. Waiting for you there, like an island in time, is Moon Bean. It’s old-school Kensington — which is to say, it’s kind of weird. Weird is good, as is the coffee and tea selection. No wifi means uninterrupted productivity while well-worn wood chairs leave you just comfortable enough to work. If you’re desperate for a study snack Moon Bean does a killer boureka, a Bulgarian flaky filo pastry stuffed with cheese, mushrooms, onions, or potatoes — perfect for mid-afternoon snack cravings.
Dinner: Go shopping
Sure there’s a couple great sit-down restaurants around Kensington but they call it a market for a reason. Swing by Sanagan’s Meat Locker on Baldwin and pick up a pork chop, or some sausages, or even a steak if you did really good work that day. Everything there is locally-sourced and hormone free, but actually fits in a student budget.
Head down Kensington Avenue and pick up some fresh kale and a couple sweet potatoes from Kensington fruit market. The old-school Portugese grocer has far and away the freshest and best quality produce in Kensington. Around this time of year they get special stemmed clementines from Italy. There is no better dessert.
Look at that — you spent a day studying, and you got to chill in Kensington. The food was pretty good too, huh? Now go home and make your dinner, wake up tomorrow, and go visit Roncy.