Last month, I lamented the gaps in some of Kingston’s busiest spaces. This month, I’m rejoicing over a new arrival: The Small Batch Café and Eatery. When Little Saigon left Princess and Clergy a couple of years ago, I was a heartbroken that I’d never again enjoy a small #15, beef pho. Where was I going to find a lunch under $10, so warm and filling, yet so fast and cheap? The food gods must have heard my prayers, because this adorable new café took over the space in early May.
Small Batch is a one-stop shop for filling sandwiches, the loveliest soups, a mean flat white, and up-and-coming teas. More than that: it’s an incredibly welcoming place to sit and work. While I spent the winter searching for cafes that were adequately heated, my ideal summer coffee shop isn’t overly air-conditioned. At Small Batch, the door is always wide open, letting in the fresh air and preventing me from feeling guilty for missing the whole summer by working indoors. This lovely climate plays host to an increasing number of remote workers on MacBooks, and it’s a pleasure to find a coffee shop that is so welcoming of people who want to sit and work for hours. A café with so many electrical outlets is a rarity on the downtown strip, and it’s that convenience that keeps people coming back, and plugging in, each day.
Of course, there’s so much more to this place than outlets. First off: it’s adorable. Succulents adorn the tables, local art covers the walls, milk and coffee are available on an antique-style buffet, and a giant mason jar of water sits atop the bar, infused with a different fruit or garden herb each day. Small Batch’s Pilot coffee beans and Pluck teas have gaining consistently positive word-of-mouth, partly because of the skills of the baristas serving them, and partly because the raw materials are roasted and blended locally in, you guessed it: small batches! I’ve heard many-a-neighbouring customer muse on whether they should order a second creamy flat white, an Australasian twist on the latte, but I’m a sucker for a their iced mochas. Between the deliciously nutty espresso and the Ghirardelli syrup that sweetens them, it’s clear that Small Batch is concerned with using only the finest ingredients.
Small Batch is definitely more than a coffee shop: it’s a lunchtime must. Every day, their menu changes to include fresh soups, salads, and sandwiches. Most of their sandwiches are panini pressed to order, but are presented in display cases covered in wax paper and wrapped in twine: the most adorable fare for the most adorable summer picnic. As a hot food person, I’ve been particularly excited about the fresh soups served daily. In particular, last week I was served some of the best chicken noodle soup of my life. Far from the fluorescent yellow Manischewitz mix that I cook to satisfy cravings for a taste of home, Small Batch’s soup was fresh, fresh, fresh! When I asked a barista about the soup before trying it, she was so excited to tell me that they had roasted a bunch of chicken the day before, covered in herbs, until the meat was falling off the bone. That’s right: it didn’t just taste like chicken, it was the real deal. The soup was loaded with chopped carrots and celery, populated with generous amounts of noodles, all flavoured by that outstanding roasted chicken. My only regret was not taking an extra order home to put in the freezer and IV into my veins the next time I catch a cold! Finishing my meal with the world’s greatest butter tart consoled me, however. It was drizzled with chocolate and came with a warning: you might want enjoy it with a fork and knife, on a plate. I realized that the warnings were not unfounded when, after the first bite, the butter tart began to ooze with buttery, maple-y goodness. It was definitely the perfect flakey to gooey ratio on this Canadian specialty, and something that I plan to order again many times before summer’s end.
What I love about Small Batch is that their food is made with the freshest ingredients: what you see is what you get. What you get is knee-weakening flavour, generous portions, and low prices: my soup, pesto pasta salad, and chocolate-drizzled butter tart rang in at under 10 bucks. With such a deal for such a world of flavour, it’s no surprise that the Kingston community keeps coming back for more!