I remember, not so long ago, when Dufferin and Bloor was a bit of an urban backwater. When creepy, outdated mannequins stood vigil in every storefront window and the dive bars really were dives - the kinds of places where men who wore trucker caps actually drove trucks. But it looks like good ol' gentrification is sweeping Blansdowne up into its arms at last, driving out the terrifying mannequins in favour of art galleries, restaurants like Calico , Starving Artist and Holy Oak , and finally, a hip bar.
3 Speed blends the chic look of exposed brick wall and fancy art pieces with comfortable retro-basement touches like faux wood panelling and tacky lamps. In fact, it hits the mark on all the of the usual dive-bar-that-isn't-actually-a-dive-bar indicators: insufficient signage, Labatt's 50 in the fridge, and indie hits playing in the background. That might be because the bar is co-owned by Paul Emery and Trish Welbourn of Communist's Daughter fame. Clientele-wise, I felt right at home among my own demographic: over-educated 30-somethings dressed up in their going-out wear: cords, glasses, knee-length skirts.
The bar isn't heavily stocked in the liqueur department, but has a robust selection of beer and wine, plus a specials menu of "Drinkies" posted by the bar. I had an Irish Rose off the specials menu and loved how the cider and Ribena mixture tasted as frou-frou as a cocktail, while still looking respectable in a pint glass. The menu is divided into three "speeds" according to price and quantity (hi, med, and lo) and offers a dressed-up selection of sandwiches, appetizer platters, salads and entrees at reasonable prices. There's no dessert, but a full dinner can be had well into the evening, in an atmosphere that is more upscale than a pub.
On Mondays, The Beauties come up from Dakota Tavern to play an acoustic set. Tuesdays is live lap-steel guitar, and on Wednesdays a DJ spins vintage tunes from as far back as the '20s. There's a patio out back that has the feel of a neglected backyard and gets staked out early by smokers. There are no mannequins in the window.
Writing by Jessica McGann