Detour: go for the coffee, stay for the food
Usually, when I hear the word “Detour,” I think one of two things: I must follow that sign (usually begrudgingly) or I am headed toward an excellent cup of coffee (not at all begrudgingly).
This time, it happened to be the latter. My dining companion and I were hungry for brunch and looking for a place to warm up. So we drove past McMaster University into Dundas and parked on King Street West, just past the library.
Entering Detour’s charming Parisianstyle café taking up the ground floor of an old, two-storey building, we lucked out.
There was a party of three waiting, but a table for two was available. Feeling barely a hint of guilt, I leapt forward to claim it and sat down on a tasteful wooden banquette accented by white and black striped cushions.
Tall and narrow, darkly tinted windows dominate the front wall. Seating is set up in an L shape: along the east wall, the long banquette anchoring a series of square tables for two; booths across the rear.
At the front, a traditionally styled wooden counter with pastries displayed along with a La Marzocco espresso machine. Shiny and red, it was the only piece of flash in the place. Neutral wall colours and panoramic scenes of Hamilton by artist Paul Elia made me feel at home.
But the espresso machine did stand out, and rightfully so, since that is the raison d’être for Detour, which sells its coffees to stores and restaurants throughout the area. They also have a coffee subscription service through their website. (More about that later.)
I remember that in 2009, they were only open on weekends and roasted their coffee in the back of what is now the café that opened in 2011.
From speaking to the owners and checking their blog, it is clear that for this crew, coffee is right up there with wine or Scotch when it comes to complexity, variety and refinement.
When the cappuccino came, I was in heaven. It wasn’t just the coffee; the milk was also high quality. The drink was full and soft.
The coffee that day, La Bolsa, was a blend from Guatemala, lighter than the Punch Buggy in the cappuccino but still offering plenty of character. Delicious.
We warmed up quickly and the server soon came to take our food orders. Gentle country music played over the speakers (think Alison Krauss or Lucinda Williams) to further relax us.
The menu offered basic items such as a breakfast sandwich, avocado and toast, BLT deluxe. The key ethos behind the food: local, seasonal and from scratch.
I had to try the bahn mi poutine. Like the coffee, an interesting and tasty combination. Mild curry gravy, pickled carrots and peppers, pulled pork and a creamy goat cheese, topped with spicy sriracha. It was meaty and creamy and the pickled veggies popped out just right.
My BLT came next, served with a slice of avocado in addition to tomatoes — roasted to bring out their flavour. The lettuce and bacon added fresh and salty notes; the rustic bread had been baked on site. I would have preferred less avocado on my sandwich to highlight the other ingredients, but was still quite pleased.
Kale was a surprise in the split pea soup that accompanied the sandwich. The soup lacked the typical smoky ham flavour but had a lightness that allowed the kale to shine through.
My companion ordered the super salad, which came with lentils and a crema dressing. What struck me was the raw integrity of the greens. This was no ordinary salad mix: chopped napa cabbage, chard and radicchio, all tasting fresh from the f arm. The menu described the salad as “ridiculously healthy,” which it was, even with the dressing and the feta on top. If only all healthy food could be so satisfying.
From there, we were ready to depart. Even I have a coffee consumption limit.
So we took pastries to go: a morning glory muffin, which was like a carrot cake without the creamy frosting (they do also offer carrot cake with frosting) and a cinnamon scone.
The scone was f antastic. Like the other pastries, they are made in-house and, just like the milk stood out in the cappuccino, the butter stood out in the scone. It rang true on my tastebuds and the texture was perfect.
So if you are hungry, take an alternate route (or a direct one) and head out to Dundas.
If you just want the coffee and can’t make the trip, check out their website, full of information about delivery subscriptions and their travels to source their core product.
I like good coffee at home but having the pros make it for me?
The bahn mi poutine, with pickled vegetables.
Inside the Detour Café in downtown Dundas.
Split pea soup, a light version with kale, came with the avocado BLT.