view of the front of the Olde School Deli & Café in Essex, Ontario

The Olde School Deli & Café | A Unique Café Experience in Windsor/Essex

A hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Southern Ontario; the Olde School Deli & Café is like a trip back in time. Located in an old school building, the café truly embraces its roots with a retro schoolhouse feeling and a themed menu. You truly need to see it firsthand to experience all it has to offer!  

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Earlier this year a friend and colleague referenced a small café here in town when planning a meeting to ‘talk shop’. I had seen the signs many times in passing but never actually stepped foot in the building, so it was safe to say I was intrigued.

Sharing a parking lot with the local arena, located in the back of a medical building, I had always written Olde School off as being the same as every other café out there. Not that there’s anything wrong with cafes, I have spent a significant amount of time working in various locations throughout my travels. They are a great place to grab a cup of coffee and get a little work done, but they’re all relatively similar – an assortment of coffees and baked goods, smaller bistro-style chairs and tables, laid back music…

However, I learned quickly that Olde School Deli & Café was in a league of its own!

view of the interior of the Olde School Deli & Café in Essex, Ontario including chalkboards, booths and vintage lunchboxes

Inside the café, they have spared no expense in recreating that vintage schoolhouse feeling. An impressive collection of lunchboxes from years gone past line the walls, reminding visitors of their schoolyard days, regardless of how ‘young at heart’ they may be.

The back wall of the café is a blackboard covered in mathematical equations with a café style spin (known as ‘Deli Algebra’), a coffee-themed English class, and even lines from detention, stating: “I will always eat at Olde School Deli & Café”.

The café itself offers a wide variety of meal options for a hearty breakfast, a much-needed lunch break or simply a quick bite on the go. Even the menu follows the vintage school theme, with menu items such as the ‘Debate Club’ sandwich, ‘Graduate Grilled Cheese’, ‘Recess Reuben’, and more.

They also offer a selection of soups each day (my go-to lunch treat) including some delicious vegetarian options. The biggest hit for me was my all-time favourite soup, roasted red pepper. Not sure which soup you’re interested in on any given day? Just indecisive by nature? They’ve got you covered too! Olde School offers a ‘Ruler of Soup Flight’ which includes 3 different soups each served in a smaller portion and laid out for display on an actual ruler.

Moscow Mule served in a beaker glass and a flask
Moscow Mule

Recently Olde School Deli & Café made a big announcement – They have obtained their liquor license. As a result, they released a new drink menu titled ‘Chemistry Exam Drink Menu’. Sticking once again with the school theme, the menu is designed to replicate a school exam with each category displayed as a multiple-choice question. Drinks are served in beaker style glasses and flasks, adding for a fun and unique touch.

On Tuesday and Friday nights the café has extended its hours for ‘Olde School After School’. This is an opportunity to swing in and enjoy this new chemistry menu with your friends, for a date night out or even just grab a quick drink before enjoying the Essex 73’s game at the arena nearby. Of course, my husband and I had to stop by for the first Olde School After School to check it out for ourselves!

Caesar served in a beaker glass alongside a strawberry daiquiri served in a flask
Scientific Caesar and Valedictorian Strawberry Daiquiri

My husband stuck to the ‘Beaker Beverages’, ordering a Moscow Mule and a Scientific Caesar. Each of these drinks was served in a beaker style glass with a corked flask alongside containing any remaining drink for you to top it off at your leisure.

Meanwhile, I decided to branch out and try the Valedictorian Strawberry Daiquiri from the ‘Cocktail Chemistry’. My drink came served in a boiler flask with a straw. While some establishments like to serve weaker drinks in order to stretch their alcohol further, I was happy to discover that this wasn’t the case here! No one wants to feel like they are being ripped off, after all… Right?

We couldn’t drink our way through their new menu without checking out one of the Mad Science Shooters, and we were definitely impressed. This was, hands down, the most creative presentation I have ever seen when ordering shots. We had the ‘Chemical Reaction’ which included pineapple juice, tequila, blue curacao and grenadine, served in an Erlenmeyer Flask. Have you ever seen anything like it?

shorts served in flasks as part of a chemistry theme
Chemical Reaction shots
shots served in a flask being held by two people doing a 'cheers'
Cheers! Chemical Reaction shots

Of course, I can’t share all of this without including something for the beer drinkers among us… After all, I am married to a craft beer blogger! Included on the menu are a few beer options including Guinness, Molson Canadian, Bud Light and Sleemans Clear. However, the most exciting part of the menu during our visit was the craft beer of the month. Why? This is a joint project with the owner of the Olde School Café & Deli and my husband John from The Intoxicated Review.

A craft beer blogger with a love for the local craft beer scene, my husband has been reviewing and sharing craft beer options alongside his friend Jack on their craft beer blog ‘The Intoxicated Review’ for 2 years. During this time, they have sampled, critiqued and discussed hundreds of different beer options, breaking down their experiences for everyone from the craft beer aficionado to the first-time craft beer drinker.

Now, he is working with the Olde School Café & Deli to select and share a new craft beer selection each month. This is a great opportunity for the local craft beer community to come together.

menu from the Olde School Deli & Café in Essex, Ontario

Not a beer drinker or interested in the liquor options? There is also a cider of the month and selection of different wines.

My final thoughts?

If you’re in the Windsor/Essex area, I can’t say enough about the Olde School Deli & Café. It’s definitely worth the trip to the small town of Essex to check it out for yourself! You won’t regret it…

A collage of photos from Olde School Deli & Café in Essex, Ontario

Interested in learning more?

Follow the Olde School Deli & Café on Facebook and Instagram.

Do you have a go-to café in your area? What do you think makes a great café? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

20 thoughts on “The Olde School Deli & Café | A Unique Café Experience in Windsor/Essex”

  1. How unique! Love the “Deli Algebra” and the whole chemistry drink presentation. Very quirky and clever. This would be my regular hangout. Thanks for sharing the fun.

  2. This is such a cute idea and cool place. The closest I’ve seen to the flask is at a nitrogen ice cream shop. To me, the food, service and in this case (theme) makes a great cafe!

    1. Exactly! This place has every element in place – great food, served with a smile and a theme that just adds to the fun

  3. I’ve never eaten at a diner or a themed restaurant (unless you include Chuck E Cheese), and this is just the type of place I’ve always wanted to visit. I’m not much of a drinker, but the idea of selling drinks in chemistry equipment is genius. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Isn’t it awesome? The fact that they’ve stuck with theme so carefully, with such attention to detail, you can’t help but have fun!

  4. Oooh! It is great when you find some hidden gems. It is always good when there is easy parking. I like that this cafe looks like a school with the chalkboard. The food offerings look delicious as well. The drinks look fancy too! Thanks for sharing this cafe!

    Nancy ?

    1. They are walking distance from my house and one of the soup offerings happens to be my favourite soup of all time – roasted red pepper…
      I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last time I’m there hahaha

    1. There is SO much to see. I honestly don’t think they’ve overlooked a single detail in their effort to create the retro schoolhouse theme!

    1. Isn’t it great? I can’t wait for my next trip there (which will be soon! It’s also one of my favourite places to just go work during the day)

    1. Isn’t it so creative? I love that it’s not like anything I’ve seen anywhere else… it’s a one of a kind place right here in the small town that I call home 🙂

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