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World tour 

The humble One World Cafe reminds Liz Feltham why she loves a hearty bowl of homemade soup.

I’ve always been intrigued by One World Cafe—the little cafe that tries so hard to be so many things and by all accounts, has succeeded. In a very small space, One World hosts internet connectivity, English tutoring, spoken word and music performances, book sales and art shows. And that’s all before getting to the “cafe” part.

When I finally get a chance to visit One World, I am more than a little confused because it’s like sensory overload—there’s so much going on inside, and that’s just with the decor. It’s like hanging out in someone’s basement: In one corner, a dimly lit reading area with a couch and a couple of chairs is occupied by a couple who look like they’re trying to sneak in a make-out session before Mom comes down to see what’s going on. Scattered about are desks with computer stations, mismatched tables and chairs, plants, speakers and microphones. Walls are plastered with an assortment of photos and numerous flyers and posters. A counter is off to the right, behind which a gazillion different types of tea and much coffee brewing equipment sits. A fridge, stove and pot shelf have me thinking I’m in someone’s first apartment. Several people are sitting around chatting, and it looks for all the world like a house party. Such is the feeling of real community.

Food-wise, the cafe specializes in vegetarian offerings, with a wide variety of international “comfort food.” Mexican, Indian, Moroccan—One World really represents. A $5 lunch special changes daily, and there are great samosas from Samosa Hut ($2.25). Samosa Hut is the new incarnation of Iqbal’s Grocery, and makes what are my favourite samosas. The large triangles are chock full of potatoes, peas, and spices, including a generous helping of hot pepper flakes.

Tonight, I am having a parsnip and pear soup that is as unrefined as the decor. I expected a sweet, smooth soup, but instead a chunky, spicy, steaming bowl is placed before me. No food mill or straining for this soup—the rustic texture is befitting the atmosphere, and I mean that in a good way. In the first spoonful, I get a fibrous mouth-feel, a heat that I can’t quite pinpoint and not of hint of either parsnip or pear. As I sip more, the flavours mellow out and it turns out to be quite pleasant. By the end of the bowl, I still haven’t tasted the two main ingredients but I am, curiously, both full and fulfilled. Perhaps I’ve been sampling high-end fare so much that I have forgotten how comforting a simple bowl of homemade soup can taste. A raspberry tea with honey makes do as a sweet companion.

I only wish there could be baked goods. I can well imagine how a tea biscuit or slab of multigrain bread would set off this soup.

In keeping with the casual atmosphere, the service is warm and friendly and utterly relaxed—so much so, I’m at a loss for a word to describe the person who tends to me. She’s not really a server, a host, or a counter attendant. She’s more like an acquaintance.

By virtue of One World’s casualness, it sets visitors at ease and avoids the pitfall of clique-yness or exclusivity. One World seems truly universal once you find it online—along with a website, it has its own MySpace site, which features the entertainment listings, and a well-maintained blog where you can get your fill of the daily specials.

The north end is lucky to have such a place for artists, new arrivals and neighbours to gather. If only they could expand into my part of town.

One World Cafe2412 Agricola Street404-7378 Mon, Tue 7am-10pmWed, Thu, Fri 7am-11pmSat 9am-11pmSun 9am-10pm

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