Driven in part by art-heavy Queen West scenesters to the south and some progressive entrepreneurs north on Dundas, three short blocks of Ossington have become the most elitist of all Toronto – if you’re into culture. They are now populated by the A.W.O.L Gallery, design/architecture firms, Babel Books & Music, Yoga Space and the vegetarian eatery, Get Real. But colonizing the formerly largely derelict commercial stretch (think Vietnamese karaoke bars and hardware stores) is thirsty work. The next installment in our cool bar series shows you where to meet chicks in cleverly bad haircuts and vintage dresses. And they have tattoos underneath. Real ones.
An inviting, spacious room, this neighbourhood watering hole combines eclectic memorabilia, folksy wooden booths, warm lighting and comfort food (not to mention a side patio) to create its “homey”presence – an anomaly on the increasingly hip Ossington strip. A great, laid-back meeting place for youthful local residents (students, artists, musicians and the like) who are treated to guest DJs most nights, occasional live acoustic sets, and Coronation Street brunch every Sunday afternoon from 1pm. Guy bonus: bring your vinyl on Tuesdays and play DJ! Crooked Star, 202 Ossington Avenue, 416-536-7271.
Sweaty Betty’s Bar
Red walls, framed vintage tattoo flash, a jukebox, and a bar stocked with, among other things, Absinthe. (Don’t worry. It’s not the stuff that makes you want to cut your ear off and give it to a prositute.) Anchoring the south end of the “new” Ossington at Queen (and conveniently located across from the men’s detox centre!), this small boozer is a fave haunt with locals as much for the casual vibe and private rear patio, as for the Cheez Whiz on toast on the food menu. (Yep.) The crowd is a lively mix of indie rock hipsters, students, artists, and local street colour – anything goes. Guy bonus: Asian action movies on Sunday afternoons, accompanied by sake specials. Sweaty Betty’s Bar, 13 Ossington Avenue, 416-535-6861.
Sure, it’s more restaurant than bar (they specialize in “modern urban cuisine”), but let’s face it, you don’t go to The Sparrow for the food. You go to see recent art-school grads in oulandish hipster outfits that looks as though they were carefully art-directed by an indie film studio. (“Hello, Central casting? We need a bushel of ironic 70s crossed with earnest proletarian, stat!”). Plus, you can impress your date with your knowledge of wine and good scotch in a vintage-romantic salon-type setting (think chandeliers, velvet drapes). Seating about 40, this smallish Sparrow is a warm and quiet experiment in drinking and dining. Guy bonus: cool new underground music on the stereo. The Sparrow, 92 Ossington Avenue, 416-537-0134
Next: alternatives in Drakeland.
It’s not just cyclists who irritate us. We are, as we have had occasion to mention, eager (if not avid) cyclists at XYYZ. So it pains us to point out that even in this green-box-laden, Jane Jacobs worshipping city, there remain a few die-hard A__hole Drivers who believe that bicycles should not be on the road. And it gives us no pleasure to have to remind them that if there is a bicycle stopped at a red light in front of you, and you, in your large metal car, want to make a right turn, you do not have the right to honk and gesticulate to get the cyclist to move out of the way. The bicycle is a vehicle with the same rights (and obligations) as a car. If there were a car blocking your turn, you would wait politely for the light to change, wouldn’t you?