Coffee In (Toronto)

Perhaps I watched too much Diners, Drive-ins and Dives in my youthful years, but I love visiting little holes-in-the-wall restaurants that create delicious dishes and are little known to anyone but locals. Without a doubt, Coffee In fits this description. Firstly, it’s not even a coffeeshop - the name a relic of its earlier years – as the hot table and kitchen cooking Filipino food is what keeps people visiting. 

Well known for their batchoy ($7.99), a bowl of salty soup that’s hearty and rich from all the roasted pork pieces melding with other offal, the thin egg noodles are too soft for my taste but does soak up all the broth’s flavours.

The pig is supreme at Coffee In and their grilled pork belly is tasty as well ($14.97). After ordering slices from the hot table, they’re returned to the kitchen where they’re re-heated and cut into bite sized pieces that’s great for munching on. The dish tastes a bit like Korean kalbi, except not as saucy since there isn’t a sweet soy glaze and it’s also more tender.

If you’re strapped for cash, you can get a lot of food for less than $10. Such as their combos where you select two “ulam” items from the hot table and receive a sizeable plate of steamed rice for only $6.99. Since I was dining with someone who couldn’t eat beef, we stuck with pork and there was plenty to choose from. Despite looking spicy, the stewed pork and curry pork hock were both neutral; while the stewed pork cooks in a tasty tomato sauce and could pass for a lighter stew, the pork hock lacked any curry aroma or taste and was way too bland.

The wonton soup ($4.99 for a large bowl) is another budget friendly choice. Contained in a sizeable bowl, each wonton has a hefty portion of pork filling with additional chicken thigh pieces strewn throughout the broth. While the soup has a nice flavour, especially with a sprinkling of fried garlic, the texture takes getting used to as the dumplings are left in the chicken broth so the wrapper gets mushy.

While not freshly fried, their spring rolls (2 for $1) are tasty. Despite being cold, it’s still crispy and the pork filling is juicy and nicely herbed. At the size of a cocktail wiener, the spring rolls are dangerously easy to just have one more. 

Just a warning, despite the colourful sign stating that halo halo is available, it’s a summer only treat… I couldn’t try their rendition of this famous Filipino dessert. While there were other pre-packaged dessert items along the counter, our table of four was stuffed so we were satisfied even without a sweet. If Coffee In were to be featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, it would fall in the dive category. Yet, if you don’t mind the dated décor and lack of service, you can get some decent Filipino food for under $10.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2181 Lawrence Avenue East

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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