Three Speed is a great little bar on Bloor Street west of Dufferin. Nice atmosphere and tasty pub food make this an attractive option to meet friends for a pint. It’s owned by the same folks who started Communist’s Daughter, which explains the cozy, raw urban feel. The bar seems to be doing very well and as it is one of the few such offerings in the area I’m sure it will continue to kick butt.
A sweet new bar opened on Dundas West of Ossington. The Red Light is unlabeled but the lamp in the window will give you the subtle hint that you’ve found it. With the same owners as Sweaty Betty’s it has a vibe similar to that of a 70s den (minus the carpet) : Cozy, kitchy and welcoming. I can’t get enough of those porcelain cats. Oh the purrrrr of sweet cocktails makes me blurry.
A cute new place opened up last week on the Dundas West strip, just east of Trinity Bellwoods Park.
The Black Hoof is a charcuterie, serving up cheeses, meats, and tasty snacks to accompany your beverage of choice. The Charcutier is Grant van Gameren who has worked as a sous-chef at Lucien, saucier at Amuse-Bouche, and cook at Canoe.
Their hours will be from 6pm -2am on Thursday though Mondays. If you enjoy wine with bread, cheese, olives and cured meats, then this is the place for you.
I like the fact they are open on lousy Mondays.
The latest project from Castor Design : OddFellows has just opened up on the corner of Shaw & Queen St. W. This “modern lodge” is now serving dinner from 6pm onward with drinks late into the evening. The place is well worth checking out for it’s design alone — not to mention the tasty fare Matt has created.
They are open from Tuesday to Saturday for dinner and Sundays for brunch.
Our friend thehandoftamm.com writes about places in Toronto from time to time.
I hope that you enjoy this cross posted piece:
(The vodka troika pictured below is at home, not Pravda.)
The old man and I made a pilgrimage to the Pravda Vodka Bar last night, as they promise an authentic, dedicated vodka appreciating experience. We met with something interesting, but which fell a little short of irresistible.
Pravda has high ceilings and high-concept soviet-era artwork, which mainly leans toward portraits of Lenin, Marx, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Mao, along with images of Red Army soldiers and noble workers. It’s also louder than a May Day parade in there, with a DJ that seems intent on making sure that any voices of dissent are immediately drowned out. There are sofas and high stools, plus a roped-off VIP section. No regular tables so, in spite of the dinner menu available, this is no restaurant.
ORDERING, DRINKING, EATING
We order a couple of rounds of the Premium “Russian Czar” sampler, which means we get three fine vodkas and a plate of blini with sour cream and caviar. We’re not fussy as to the choices, as the selection is vast (promising 70+ vodkas), although only slightly beyond what is regularly available at the LCBO. We also order steak tartar.
The vodkas arrive, along with the bread and pickles that accompany the “Red Army” tasting menu, not what we had ordered. They are withdrawn but this is mistake #1. Our waitress brings Pravda, Chopin, and Reyka vodkas. Good call on the Pravda -after all, it is the house-named brand. Our waitress informs us that it’s Russian for truth. Uh-huh, got it. But the hooch is from Poland, so clearly they’re willing to capitulate to capitalist marketing in Warsaw! It’s a five-times distilled grain vodka which goes down super-smooth with no burn and hardly an aftertaste. A little sweet on the lingering palate, perhaps. The water is said to come from a pristine source in the Carpathians.
Somewhere around this time our caviar appears. There are three kinds of caviar (sturgeon, tobiko, and salmon) and half a dozen blini, about the size of loonies. The caviar and blini are delicious. Full marks for the accompaniment.
The Chopin is a potato vodka from Poland. Again, well done for including a potato vodka but marks off for repeating Poland on two out of three. Are we to be served Meatloaf? It is four-times distilled and promises another unspoiled-by-man water source. It’s becoming evident that the waitress is giving us the mini-bios that are printed on the backs of the bottles. She’s not sure why it’s called Chopin but tells us it’s good for those with gluten issues, owing to the absence of grain. The vodka itself is smooth with a little more bite, thanks to the mighty spud. Not as heavy as a Luksosowa, the more brutish Polish potato vodka.
The tartar arrives and it’s very tasty. Not as flavourful as my grandfather’s recipe and I suspect it’s not the topmost grade of meat as I get a bit of tendon in my teeth so the care isn’t entirely there but it’s still enjoyable. A nice peppery finish but the range of flavours aren’t present or haven’t had time to properly mingle.
Our next vodka is Reyka from Iceland, which is again four-times distilled. It’s quite drinkable and smooth and the filtering process is through lava rock instead of charcoal. The bottles feature native wildlife, most often the Arctic Wolf. The vodka is clean with a slightly medicinal finish.
Our vodkas are done, our food is done. We’ve only been at the bar for 30 minutes so let’s have something else; something which might prompt us to linger. Unfortunately, the music is getting only louder and it’s getting harder to shout over the overheated dancefloor anthems. This is not a restaurant and vodka-tasting establishment. It’s a disco meat market. The clientele are a mix of cougar women and American Psychos who look like they just left their brokerages minutes earlier. They’re mostly drinking mixed cocktails and Czechvar beer. The vodka theme is barely in evidence outside our table, apart from the impressive rows behind the bar.
We order a couple of “Russian” beers. What arrives at the table is Zywiec, which is from Poland. I ask the waitress what’s up and she tells me that they’re out of the Russian gear (Baltika). I figure she didn’t really know herself to begin with or hoped we wouldn’t notice. Staff knowledge/disclosure is becoming increasingly suspect, not to mention their clear Polish leanings. Does Lech Walesa have a stake in this joint?
We hadn’t tried a Russian vodka in our set so order a couple of shots of Youri Dolgoruki and ask for a plate of the Russian dark rye and pickles. The vodka is silky smooth and most like the Pravda. The pickles are nice but the bread is pumpernickel, nothing like Russian rye. More deception/lack of authenticity/attention to the details.
By now the bar is packing in with people and the music is so loud we can’t hear one another so we’re reduced to comical hand gestures to summon the bill. Daddy-o produces his gag Russian Express credit card and the waitress kinda doesn’t get it. Oh well, that one played big in the ‘80s. The cold war is only a curiosity for today’s youngfolk.
THE LASTING IMPRESSION
Bottom line is that the Pravda vodka bar has a great theme that they’re not holding themselves to with sufficient diligence. They lack the eye for detail that would make them something more than a regular club with a wide vodka selection and hammer & sickle artwork. They haven’t searched the world for off-the-LCBO-map vodkas (although they did have three from Japan which we didn’t try on this time out). They have good food but make it unfriendly for dining. They’re somewhere between a bar and a nightclub.
For my card, Pravda gets two out of a possible four red stars. Food was good and vodka was cold so a little tweak here and there and it could be transcendent, transporting the customer to Red Square on Wellington. Maybe management needs to be threatened with a trip to the gulag for some reeducation.
Pravda could be building the Hermitage of vodka-appreciation rooms but instead they’re sliding into the excesses of the Politburo, not caring for the proletarian man who wants to reach for the stars through vodka.
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Pravda is located on Wellington Street E, west of Church.
I’m at the Beaver Café, with the sun gently shining through the window, gulping down a crisp cold pint of beer. Lunch has just arrived — mmm, soup — and the place is buzzin’.
Sadly, all this is really a dream/hallucination I am having from my bed. Oh, what I would pay to be at the good ol’ Beaver Café right now, guzzling that pint. A double-damned cold is nipping at my heels and keeping me from doing anything at all, be it productive or entertaining.
Away, nasty cold!
Soft Latin rhythms waft from the window as you near the door of Olivia’s at 53. This cozy little house of delicious food now offers 3 nights a week of live Latin jazz to get your blood flowing on crisp winter evenings. Match the music with a great glass of wine and a bite to eat and you may well feel like you are on a delectable vacation. Olivia’s is located just off of the College Street stretch of Little Italy. Oh, and did I mention that they have great brunch on Sundays? Otherwise they are dinner-focused from Tuesday to Sunday.
Yet another great place to hang out in Parkdale. More good news: soon this place will be an evening hangout as well as a daytime hangout. As of January Salvador Darling will be open as a funky lounge serving up beverages to thirsty Parkdaleites ’till 1:30am. Last spring the space was transformed from a full time funky vintage shop to a café that serves all the local artists mean lattes and an assortment of fantastic sandwiches. The vintage is still happening on a special event basis through a mailing list. Sign up for the mailing list while you are in the café to stay informed.