Cannon Coffee Co.: The waffles are the bomb
There was no signage to speak of when we went, on the first sunny morning in days, to visit Cannon Coffee Co.
We drove and parked on Ottawa, and at the intersection with Cannon was a building with a big red Toyota ad affixed to the wall. The facade was wall to wall windows, and just refurbished, so I knew we were in the right spot when I glanced in and saw a bustling café.
Cosy is a word that appears a couple of times on their website/Facebook page, and it aptly describes the place. Warm light flooded in and enveloped the long wooden table in front; funky lights hanging overhead are made of what appear to be large PVC joints. The décor is mainly a mix of light and dark wood (light floors, medium table tops and dark for the front of the counter), surrounded by airy white walls.
Warm and welcoming, but also a bit snug: the big table seats about eight, and there are six other tables for two. I had heard from a friend that there is often a lineup, so my dining companion, our son and I got there at about 9:30 a.m. We didn’t have to wait for a table but within a half an hour, a line started that filled up the waiting area and remained constant for the rest of our stay.
When we sat, I borrowed an extra chair from another table to make it three, and thought about drinks. A framed chalkboard listed coffees, teas and iced drinks, along with the Wi-Fi password. We looked over the small menu and went to stand in line at the counter.
Low-key but compelling background music made me feel as if I were in a moderately important moment in an indie film. The vibe extended to the clientele as well: mostly thirty-somethings — a tuque here and a beard or a moustache there, and a couple of children taking a trip or two to the restroom.
My companion retrieved one of the full bottles of water on the counter, and three glasses. Then we sat for just a moment before being alerted that our drinks were ready.
I ferried a London fog and a kids’ hot chocolate to the table and my companion brought back a cappuccino. The fog was a sweet treat, creamy with flecks of vanilla bean on top; sophisticated comfort. The cappuccino had a similarly milky richness but with a deep, roasted coffee bean flavour and mildly bitter finish, which I liked. My son enjoyed the hot chocolate, which I didn’t find remarkable but was easy to enjoy.
The Cannon is serious about their coffee. On the counter at the register is a scale where their Chemex (the hourglass-shaped coffee filtering contraption that produces strength without the bitterness) sits. Whenever a restaurant measures its coffee, I know I’m in for a good cup. Their website shows featured brands, including Rosso, Reunion Island, and Detour. They clearly care about where their beans are sourced.
Just before the food arrived, one of the servers asked if my son and I could sit together to make room at the table next to us. There was plenty of room on our benches, and I was happy to help out. The table was a little full once the food had arrived but as long as you adjust to what I think of as an urban sense of space (dining elbow to elbow), then it is not a problem.
Waffles form a distinct motif through the menu. Besides the classic waffle, there are nine other waffle options. And as my companion put it: if you also like your eggs poached and you like avocado and bacon, you will do very well here.
We began with the classic, ordered for our son. If you bring kids here, they will be pleased with this one: the chocolate sauce overflowed, and a generous mound of whipped cream sat mid-waffle, all of it dusted with icing sugar.
In some dishes the waffle was the “bread” of the sandwich; in others, its role was similar to that of crostini in bruschetta. The waffles were a touch crunchy on the outside, which allowed them to capably support the toppings, and a little dense with a slight chewiness, like a good baguette. Not airy, not super fluffy, but solid and sturdy.
I had the waffle version of a California sandwich with tomato, bacon and avocado salsa. Although the menu refers to these waffles as “jalapeño havarti,” neither ingredient popped out at me. But with a dotting of the Dawson’s garlic jalapeño sauce offered on the table, the dish was a savoury, fresh hit.
My companion ordered the ‘Merican brunch, sort of a waffle-based version of a warm salad. Laying on top were mesclun mix, roasted sweet potatoes, avocados and goat cheese, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar. They were served on pesto waffles and again, I thought the flavouring in the waffles could have been a bit more assertive. However, the composition of the plate, each element barely overlapping another, made each bite distinctly different.
By now, with the amount of waffle I’d eaten, I was pretty full, so I took home some pastries (all made in house) to taste-test a couple of hours later. Their vegan blueberry pecan muffin was hearty without being heavy, with plenty of fresh blueberry flavour. The lemon scone was a bit overworked and a little tough but the ham and cheddar scone was made with a lighter hand. The chocolate chip cookie was right on, tender and bendable, a satisfying finish.
Looking at the lineup, Cannon Coffee doesn’t seem to need a sign, although we learned later that one is due to be installed by year’s end, as the landlord is renovating the exterior.
In fact, I’m sure regulars want to keep it their delicious secret — but it’s too late now: word is out.
The cappuccino was not for the faint of heart: full of dark, intense flavour.
The ’Merican brunch was a wave of flavours from sweet potato to goat cheese, to balsamic.