(2804 Dundas West, at Keele, 647-892-0271). Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and an iced coffee. Open Tuesday to Friday 8 am to 4 pm and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Open just over two months, Cool Hand is a very Queen-Westish addition to the Junction, complete with eclectic furnishings and the requisite artistic aspirations (they plan to show films in a space behind the café eventually), but without the too-cool-for-school attitude.
All sandwiches ($5.50) are served on Sacha bread with lettuce and tomato. The tarragon chicken is a juicy chicken breast in a perfectly perfumed tarragon sauce. The avocado and parmesan sandwich, is garnished with basil leaves and a lemon-pepper sauce, which like most of Cool Hand's sandwich spreads, has a vegan mayo base. Meaty slabs of tofu deliciously marinated in tamari and balsamic vinegar make for a stellar vegan option.
We are a little skeptical about the last sandwich we try, but the aged cheddar and homemade apple tomato chutney is surprisingly tasty.
The house salad ($4.50 on its own or added to a sandwich for $3) reminds us that there is life after the ubiquitous spring mix and its tag-along, the used and abused balsamic vinaigrette. There may be a few spring mix-ish leaves, but they're tossed amongst plenty o' cucumber pieces, grape tomatoes and shredded cabbage.
The best part of the salad is the turmeric-yellow apple cider vinaigrette, a satisfying balance of honey and the distinctive pungency of toasted cumin seed.
The only weakness is the soup ($4.50 à la carte or $3 with a sandwich), a not-so-refreshing chilled cucumber-tomato. It's not terrible, but it's as if there's a fight between the cuke and the tomato. Insteading of one emerging the victor or reconciling to a harmonious tie, they just keep dragging each other down.
Desserts at Cool Hand involve simple baked goods. Little spelt flour chocolate chip esspresso cookies (75¢), though not made in-house, are a guilt-free pleasure for the waist and the pocket. Even better is Cool Hand's own walnut-date coffee cake ($2), a moist, nostalgic pleasure that reminds me of something made by the warm hand of a grandma.