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Bar Neon

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Robyn Urback / December 15, 2011

Bar Neon is one of those places that's just irrefutably cool. It's part the fantastic mural that spans the length of the bar, custom created by local artist Jeff Garcia. That and the mix of homey and industrial; the wooden tables with metal chairs, above which hangs a neon "Last Call" sign, which can be turned on via remote control. And then, the elementary school-esque water fountain, somehow fitting in unobtrusively in the middle of the space. And to top it off, there are the basement bathrooms, which are tiled with actual pennies, all laid labouriously, one by one.

The Bloordale bar opened just one week ago and is slowly being discovered by people in the area. Located midway between Dufferin and Lansdowne, the bar shares an owner (and name) with a relatively new Junction Triangle cafe. Niki Tsourounakis pursued both at the same time and is elated at how the bar turned out.

"It was a vegan restaurant, and before that, a shawarma place," Niki says. "And it was old, and kind of grimy." She tells me about the renovation as we bask in the glow of dozens of candles, recounting the terrible drop ceiling and three layers of wall removed to reveal brick. Lots of sweat and over 50,000 pounds of garbage later, Bar Neon was ready to receive its first patrons.

Food and drinks are obviously the focus here, but you're not going to find cheese sticks or onion rings. "We wanted to make good food accessible," chef Ivan tells me. "Available, and unpretentious."

The menu consists of tostas ($14) such as mushroom fricassee or salt cured ham, mini croque-monsieurs ($9), marinated sardines ($10) and Ivan's own truffles ($2). Drink specialties are bourbon-based and include a bourbon negroni ($9.65) and "Bourbon Snap" made with maple syrup, bitters, ginger, and orange juice. And on tap are Amstel Light, Mill Street Organic and Cobblestone Stout (~$7 including tax).

Barely open a week, the bar is clearly still finding its own, though it has already nailed down a few regular DJ nights. In my opinion, though, the best aspect of Bar Neon won't come to fruition until the spring, when its backyard patio (formerly a garden for the vegan restaurant) will be open and occupied.

Niki lets me peek into the back, where an old shipping crate hosts a neon "Bar Neon" sign, and might, come springtime, be oyster grilling and rotating spits. Until then, customers can enjoy drinks amid laid-back tracks, and resort to the fountain if they find themselves a few too many in.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Amstel Light, Mill Street Organic, Cobblestone Stout
Signature Drink:
Bourbon Negroni
Bar Snacks:
Oysters, mushroom fricassee, truffles, bread plates
Little bit of everything; hip hop, rock, house
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Bloordale locals
Daily 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.



Ben / December 15, 2011 at 1:12 PM

I suspect I'd prefer if Calico was still around. They had the most delicious food of anywhere in the city. If I'm going to go out for overpriced food and drink, I'll probably stick with 3-speed because I support bike-themed establishments.

Sokes / December 15, 2011 at 3:04 PM

This is a much needed and exciting addition to the neighbourhood! New is good. Change is good. Independent is good. Support local business that are born out of passion, sweat and risk.

Tostadas, oysters,'ll be hooked the minute you walk through that door!

And really, try a spot before you give an opinion!! It's only fair.

Ian / December 15, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I wouldn't really describe Three Speed as "overpriced." They charge $8 for a giant bowl of mussels. Where are you going that the deals are better?

peanutbutterandjam / December 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Looks like a cool spot for sure. Too bad the signage kinda sucks though. They really should have done it in neon tube lighting, considering the name of the place.

fbc / December 15, 2011 at 3:50 PM

love the bar...
the summertime there will be amazing.

management is booking great events already happening almost weekly.

so much potential for this place.
kind wish it stayed a secret for a bit longer!

andro / December 15, 2011 at 5:02 PM

I never really understood negative comments. Does it make one feel better?

Before judgement is made, remember you are speaking from your own point of view.

There is such thing as love and care, and quality. And unfortunately it costs more. If you don't want to experience that, then quietly visit other establishments that suit you. There are plenty of them.

You don't need to bash a place that has really hard working & great people behind its doors.

Mr T / December 15, 2011 at 5:37 PM

Went the first two nights they were open and will for sure be headin back. Place has really good food, drinks, music & a rediculously handsome chef named Ivan. Highly recommend checking out for yourself.

Mr T / December 15, 2011 at 5:57 PM

Went the first two nights they were open and will for sure be headin back. Place has really good food, drinks, music & a rediculously handsome chef named Ivan. Highly recommend checking out for yourself.

westendor / December 15, 2011 at 6:25 PM

This place is great!! Finally something cool in the neighbourhood. Great vibe and everyone I met that works there is amazing! This place is off the hook! Not to mention the amazing food!

Pete / December 15, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Andro, to understand the negative comments that are a trademark of this site (and this city, perhaps?), you need to understand that the many of the commenters here are spiteful, envious and small-minded people. Far easier to cast aspersions in anonymity than to actually put yourself out there and do something like open a restaurant.

Kudos to anyone who puts their heart and soul into starting a business like this one. We need more people like this.

Rob / December 15, 2011 at 7:22 PM

Went there on the public opening night. Great staff, super friendly. The back patio will be amazing in the summer. Prices were good, and the food looked tasty.

Only complaint is the men's washroom. It's beautiful, but I still have a scar on my skull where I slammed my head walking towards the urinal. It's dimly lit (otherwise not a problem), and there is a 2 ft drop right where your head lands when you go to make a deposit.

Otherwise, awesome. Hope they flourish.

blansdowner / December 15, 2011 at 7:31 PM

cafe neon has great food and great people - i can only assume that this place will serve up more of the same - huzzah!
i'll stop by when 3 speed is full (as it always is)!

and, i miss calico too, a lot... but, then is then.

james / December 16, 2011 at 8:39 AM

drake north

Paul / December 16, 2011 at 12:12 PM

I live barely a hop, skip & jump from here and have done so since this was a shwarma joint. I think they've done a really nice job with the reno, and I'm really pleased to have another nice place to hang out when Three Speed is super busy and I'm too lazy to walk to Drift. Hopefully the competition will spur Ciros to step up their game as well.

They had Beau's on tap in place of Amstel Light when I was there. The food is very tapas-inspired and a nice change from the usual. Thumbs up!

Eggy / December 16, 2011 at 1:51 PM

This place is good.

You will only fit in the washrooms if you are under 5'. I also found that old, creepy neighbourhood people came in and harassed the ladies the last 2 weekends. A lot of ladies were not impressed.

D / December 18, 2011 at 1:55 PM

I went there last night for a birthday party and I admit we did not plan on going to Neon (nor staying til the very end) but we ended up having a blast! The atmosphere was so positive, and the bartenders showed us a great time.

The food was delicious as were the cocktails (and shots). The music at the start had an R&B feel, yet by the end it was catered to get you out of your seat and dance (we all did)!

I would definitely recommend stopping in to see Barry, Kelli and Ivan. They will put a smile on your face and you won't want to leave.

Salem / December 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM

First visit last night - great atmosphere, drink selection, taaaasty tapas and friendly conversation with fellow locals - Calico was fine but this is change for the better, welcome to Bloordale!

GreenEgg / December 22, 2011 at 9:11 AM

I trekked out here from the Annex (not that far in reality) and it was totally worth it. This bar blows me away. It's a really relaxing and welcoming environment, it's totally cool and unpretentious, and the staff is friendly but not overbearing in any way. Sounds like a simple proposition right, except that not that many places get it right. The food is really fun too!

Tracey / December 28, 2011 at 11:43 PM

Just got home from first visit to Bar Neon. Perfect. I had a Bourbon Negroni and a tosta. Good drinks, good food, good service, good tunes. The best spot in Bloordale to warm up on an icy night.

roger pepper In replying to a comment from Ben / January 8, 2012 at 10:22 AM

you support bike themed establishments? what kind of a ridiculous comment is that?

roger In replying to a comment from Ben / January 8, 2012 at 10:23 AM

you support bike themed establishments? what kind of a ridiculous comment is that?

Thomas / March 23, 2012 at 11:38 PM

This place is great. Good service, good beer, good food!

Linda / June 10, 2012 at 2:08 PM

Been here twice and have tried 2/3 of the menu by now. Lots of delicious things to choose from to create your own tapas-style meal. Examples: pulled-pork profiteroles, cod fitters, serrano ham flatbreads, oysters. Best service I've seen anywhere in a long time. Very accommodating and helpful!! And now they have a cute and friendly patio open. My new local for sure!
Judging by the interior and exterior, not an anti-bike establishment! ;-)

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