Ten Toes Coffee and Laundry elevates community with their space

Two people pose for a photo at the counter of the restaurant. Jars of tea are seen in the forefront.
Meghan love and Shirwa Ali work at the Somerset Ten Toes coffee shop and laundry. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Hannah Wanamaker

It’s 7:00 p.m. on a Friday night at Ten Toes Coffee House and Laundry. The rumbling of clothes in a washing machine can be heard as patrons sip on glasses of wine. In the front of the Little Italy-area business, tables of people have gathered to take part in trivia night. 

If this doesn’t sound like your traditional coffee shop experience, that’s because it’s not. 

Since opening their Somerset Location in Dec. 2022, regional manager Tarek El Khatib said they wanted to bring a new flavor to the street. The building used to house Hilltop Laundromat and Valuemart, which operated as Sang Video & Coin Wash before that. 

“We thought it would be a great idea to continue the legacy of the space and use it as a resource to the community,” said El Khatib. 

When entering the coffee shop, patrons are greeted with a colourful display of wine, craft beer, bags of local coffee and tea, vintage clothing and the weekly rotation of Sadie Beans ice cream. 

The vision for the cafe was to feature local products in addition to specialty coffee in a “restaurant meets coffeehouse” setting.

“We really wanted to incorporate a lot of local craft breweries,” said El Khatib. “We also wanted to bring in a lot of natural biodynamic wine that you wouldn’t find at the LCBO — which we do have at our other two locations.”

The Centretown cafe is the third addition to the Ten Toes franchise. 

The exterior of Ten Toes.
Ten Toes Coffee and Laundry is located at 837 Somerset St W. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Meghan Love, manager of the Somerset location, said it has been well-received by the community. Everyone from families and their dogs, to retired folks, students and people working in the area pop in to chat with the baristas or sample new menu items and products.

“Immediately we grew a beautiful clientele,” Love said. “I’d say like 80 per cent of the people we see on a daily or semi-regular basis. It’s really fun to meet everyone and hear their life stories and what they do in the area.” 

Ten Toes is also well-known for their partnership with Ottawa’s iconic fairtrade roastery, Equator Coffee Roasters. Rocanini, an adventurous third wave coffee roastery from British Columbia, has also recently made its way to the Ten Toes shelves. 

Kitchen creativity 

Since joining the Ten Toes kitchen team in 2022, Tim Alleway has spiced up the food menu. 

While working at the Glebe location in 2022, he introduced breakfast options and other creative additions. Less than a year later, Alleway moved to the newest location to continue sprinkling in creative dishes for guests to enjoy. 

Tim poses for a photograph in a kitchen next to pints of his ice cream.
Tim Alleway works in the Ten Toes kitchen and introduced ice cream to the menu. Photo by Charlie Senack.

When he’s not cooking, Alleway is the ice cream connoisseur behind Sadie Beans Ice Cream. His ice cream has become famous across the city for its four wild weekly flavours that hit the Ten Toes’ freezer shelves every Thursday.

“I’m constantly thinking about ice cream to a fault,” admitted Alleway. His pints usually consist of three or four flavour pairings that aren’t often found together. Though he prefers smooth ice cream, most of his creations are textured with thick sauces or crunchy add-ins that he handpicks. 

“People like the mix-ins. People like the chunkier, crunchier ice creams,” he said, adding that popular ingredients tend to include butter tarts, cereal, pistachios and chocolate peanut butter. 

Alleway also spearheaded the bar snacks menu of small savoury sharing plates for guests to munch on “that would be good with a glass of wine or beer.” These currently include candied or spiced nuts, olives, charcuterie and seacuterie. 

Bottles of wine sit on a shelf.
The local community gathering space sells biodynamic wines you couldn’t find in the LCBO.  Photo by Charlie Senack.

Music and trivia

Ten Toes stays open late for their weekend lineup consisting of Friday night trivia, a DJ set on Saturdays and live music on Sundays. 

Matt Floyd’s Friday night trivia has been another success the coffee shop has seen since opening. Regular competitors show up to tackle a load of laundry and join forces with friends in categories like geography, television and music. 

The game consists of three rounds of ten questions and at the end of each round, the top three teams send a representative to compete in the high energy lightning round. 

“I think every lightning round there is fun. That’s where the key to the evening lies,” said Floyd. “That’s the performance of the night, and that’s where I think the most people have the most fun.”

The last person standing at the end of the night wins a generous prize basket that includes items from other local businesses, often including Sadie Beans ice cream, selected by owner Graeme Bradley.

“What they’re doing over there is great. It’s a lot of cross-promotion. It’s a lot of working with the community. It’s a lot of helping other businesses while simultaneously having a good night – it’s great,” said Floyd.

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