Cocktail Bar may not be the fine dining restaurant initially expected from Black Hoof owner Jen Agg but it does deliver the well-crafted cocktails of which she has become famous, as well as a laid-back, speakeasy vibe that seems perfect for Dundas West .
Part of that underground cocktail lounge atmosphere comes from Cocktail Bar's sidewalk discretion. No, it doesn't have a back alley entrance like Goodnight , but its exterior is totally ambiguous, save for a small "Cocktail Bar" sign in the window. So hungry carnivores jonesing for some blood sausage and wandering aimlessly by the former home of Hoof Cafe may have been slow to notice the space reopen as Cocktail Bar about a month and a half ago.
When Hoof Cafe closed last spring, the plan was to open Black Hoof and Company (BHCO), a tasting-based fine dining restaurant in its stead. But the plan never materialized and Agg later parted ways with former Black Hoof co-owner and chef Grant van Gameren. Now, Cocktail Bar is quickly becoming known on the scene, especially for what's on--or rather--what isn't on its menu.
"The problem with vodka is that it's dumb," Agg writes in a February blog post . "It is not special or time consuming, has nothing to do with terroir and doesn't wear the character of its maker in subtleties of flavour."
I wish Agg was at Cocktail Bar when I stop in so I can ask her more about the favourite spirit of buzz-seeking teenagers, but since she's out of town, all I can do is scan Cocktail Bar's menu.
The bar offers classic white and brown cocktails, as well as craft beers (bottles) from local brewers. Among the signatures are Cocktail Bar's 3oz Manhattan made with housemade bitters ($16), and its 2½ oz martini (gin, obviously) for $11.
Though Cocktail Bar doesn't look dramatically different from when the space was Hoof Cafe (same layout, bar stools, lighting, and the same tin roof--though really, why would you want to change that?), it has a decidedly different vibe. Maybe it's the absence of the printed wallpaper, or the smooth '30s and '40s jazz (which sounds like Ella Fitzgerald, but the bartender tells me is not), that makes it feel very throwback and cool. And the candles in mason jars seem to work so much better with cocktails rather than brunch.
But since the Cocktail Bar's food options are limited just to cheese plates, patrons looking to pair their Negroni with some pork belly pastrami should probably head down the street .