City Brief: The best spots in the new-and-improved PATH

I grew up in Australia, but for the past decade I’ve called Toronto my home. Recently, one of my younger, hip cousins flew into the city to pay me a visit. As we were making plans for her stay, she told me that she really wanted to see Toronto’s “famous underground city.”

For a few moments, I went quiet. Then I blurted out: “Oh, you mean the PATH!” At first, I was confused. Why would she want to see where I eat my lunch?

Then I did my research. Turns out, the PATH is the largest underground shopping complex in the world (according to the Guinness World Records, no less). If you walked through every tunnel, you would pass through 30 kilometres of underground retail and entertainment. All told, there are more than 1,200 restaurants, shops and services. I started to understand why the PATH would be a pretty unique attraction to foreign visitors.

Over the past half-decade, I’ve noticed something else about the PATH: it has gotten a lot cooler. The fashion and beauty shops are trendier; the restaurants and coffee shops have stepped up their game. Now, you can shop for new shoes and meet your Bumble date for a quick drink without leaving the underground.

But it’s easy to get caught in a routine, always hitting up the same spots. So here are my favourite places in the PATH that are worth a detour from your usual route.


For coffee: Sam James Coffee Bar

Arguably the best coffee joint in the city, Sam James made a smart business move six years ago when it opened a new location in the Sun Life Financial Building, right next to St. Andrew Station. It’s literally the first thing I see when I get off the subway in the morning. The line is often long, but it moves fast.

Back view young adult girl doing barbell squats

For workouts: Equinox

Yes, this gym is expensive (membership rates start at $181 a month), but the facilities are state of the art and, best of all, the bathrooms are stocked with Kiehl’s products. The location in Commerce Court is both convenient and comfortable: the club provides a welcome change to the other overcrowded, big-box gyms in the downtown core. It also caters to worker bees with classes that run throughout the day, allowing you to work out before, during or after office hours.

deciem-abnormal-beauty-company-icon-webFor skincare: Deciem

You’ll find this self-proclaimed “abnormal beauty company” in the Exchange Tower. In recent years, it has gained major traction in the beauty industry thanks to its bestselling product line, The Ordinary, which includes everything from moisturizers and antioxidants to sunscreen. The entire line is no-frills and budget-friendly. Deciem has six stores in Toronto, but its PATH location is particularly gorgeous.

Assembly-chefs-hall-icon-webFor lunch: Assembly Chef’s Hall

So this recommendation is technically above ground, but I don’t care. The Assembly Chef’s Hall, which opened last year next to the Richmond Adelaide Centre, is by far the best PATH-accessible dining experience. The dining hall is home to 17 of Toronto’s top chefs. You can eat at Tachi (for a 30-minute stand-up sushi meal), Little Khao (for Thai food from the people behind Khao San Road) and Nutbar (the second location of the Summerhill superfood café). Assembly also boasts an impressive outdoor patio (go quick, before it gets too cold!) making this epic food hall feel like a mini Chelsea Market, right in the heart of downtown.

Emma Gregg

Emma Gregg is an in-house counsel at Travelers Canada. She writes about both interior design and culture for Precedent and PrecedentJD.




This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.

Feature image courtesy of Assembly Chef’s Hall. Icons courtesy of Sam James Coffee BariStockDeciem, and Punch x Pepper, Assembly and Hibiscus

Grounds For Appeal: How to pick the right beans for perfect homemade coffee

“This morning, with her, having coffee.” Johnny Cash, on his definition of paradise. It’s the kind of quote that stays with you, mostly because of how true it is: a good day usually starts with well-made coffee and great companionship. And recreating Cash’s definition of morning bliss doesn’t even require a daily trip to a hip café. With the right beans, you can make high-quality coffee right in your kitchen. (You’re on your own for the companionship part.)

While you can get decent coffee beans at the grocery store, if you want a really unforgettable cup of coffee, you should buy your beans from a specialty roaster. Most independent coffee shops sell custom blends prepared for them by local roasters. (Or, you can buy directly from the roaster online.) Just a few examples are Detour Coffee Roasters in Burlington, Pilot Coffee Roasters in Toronto and Social Coffee & Tea Company in Richmond Hill. Some even offer coffee subscriptions, so you can try different beans every few weeks. If you pick a Canadian roaster, the shipping fees are usually pretty reasonable.
Wherever you get your coffee beans, ask these questions before picking up a bag.

What’s the roast date?

Brett Johnston, head of innovation at Pilot, says good coffee should have a roasting date on the bag and suggests consuming beans within about four weeks after they were roasted. “Not because coffee beans go bad,” he says, “but the flavour dissipates and becomes flat after a month.”

Will you go to the dark side?

You’re going to have to make a choice between light-, medium-, and dark-roast beans. But what do those even mean? “As coffee gets browner, it gets more caramelized, more chocolate,” says Sam James, of Sam James Coffee Bar in Toronto. “The flavour becomes simpler the darker it is. The lighter it is, the fruitier it tastes.”

The choice is yours, but don’t stress too much about the decision — nearly every roaster I spoke to said there’s too much emphasis placed on the roast level. Instead focus on what flavours intrigue you. Specialty coffee should always list its flavour notes, which can vary from blueberries to Reese’s Pieces.

Do you want to buy ethical?

You’ve got choices: fair trade, direct trade, certified organic and eco-friendly, to name a few. Their definitions are complicated, so I suggest you worry less about the formal certifications and ask the roaster which beans make a difference to the farmers and their communities.

Where are you going to keep the beans?

“Store your coffee in a cool, dark place,” says Geoff Woodley, head roaster at Detour. A cupboard usually works fine. He says the trick is to keep your coffee beans out of direct sunlight.

Contrary to popular opinion, freezing or refrigerating your beans does not keep them fresh. You just have to keep the oxygen out, either by wrapping them up tight in the bag or storing them in an airtight container.

Consider yourself ready to make coffee worthy of paradise. Now you’ve just got to carve out the time in the morning to make it.

Iman’s go-to coffee choices:

Coffee Choices










Iman AkoborIman Abokor is an insurance defence lawyer at Lawson LLP and Precedent’s coffee columnist.



Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is from our Fall 2015 issue.