Clinton's, on the corner of Bloor and Clinton, has a timeless kind of charm. A pub in front and a kickin' dance hall in back, Clinton's is the kind of place where modern young folks can dance the twist, the mashed potato and the locomotion without looking ridiculous. Every Saturday night, Clinton's dark back room transforms into a high school gymnasium of yore for Shake a Tail : a sock hop for poodle-skirted hipsters and oldies lovers alike. Although retro themed events often flirt with precociousness or pretention, Shake a Tail does neither, offering good times and smile-inducing tunes from the 60s to a wide variety of patrons.
In business since 1937, Clinton's is the second oldest tavern in the city (the Wheat Sheaf is the oldest). It has survived the Great Depression, World War II, the turbulent 60s and the horrors of 80s fashion by understanding that patrons of any era will respond to good food and good music. Clinton's attracts patrons as diverse as its Value-Village purchased decor, young and old, polished and flaky, newcomers, old timers and all between.
In the 60s, Frank Sinatra kept a private room upstairs, visiting whenever he was in town. In later years comedian John Candy would stop by for drinks, too.
These days the front room is classic tavern kitsch, with wood paneling, leather-tack chairs and of course, the mismatched Value Village bric a brac. On the menu are modern classics like poutine, spring rolls, BLTs, burgers and fries. Vegetarian options abound, with hummus and guacamole making frequent appearances in a variety of offerings.
With capacity for 200 party people, the back room can be rented at a steal. As a result, several local bands have launched their careers at Clinton's, including The Cowboy Junkies, The Barenaked Ladies, The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Blue Airplanes and Die Mannequins. The first live show at Clinton's was in 1980, headlined by Jeff Healey.
In summer months, the adjacent sidewalk turns into a full service patio, extending the fun into a whole other realm and providing an outdoor spot to sample some of the 13 beers on tap.
I go to Clinton's for two reasons: 1.) to dance the night away at Shake a Tail and 2.) to grab a snack and a pint before heading upstairs to sing karaoke at XO. No matter which, I always have a blast, and in each case end up singing old songs, dancing, and of course, shaking my tail. Clinton's is in its 70s, and still having fun, and I hope that one day I can say the same!
Writing by Devon Scoble