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College Street Bar


Posted by Martha Stortz / March 11, 2013

College Street Bar, though it's difficult to decipher from the weird and abstract name, is a bar on College Street. Located in the midst of Little Italy, College Street Bar can be found across from The Green Grind (not a marijuana dispensary) and down the street from Splish Splash (not a bathhouse).

College Street Bar, which has recently changed ownership, has a great website with information about the bar and possibly custom-designed fonts and social media buttons. Nothing reels in a mid-20s sarcastic artsy-folk like typography that looks like it was hand-scribbled. I'm not, however, one to be dazzled by typography (regardless of how many artistic Carl Sagan quotes I've added to my cart on Etsy only to abandon the purchase midway through the transaction because it's like 2am and I just bought really expensive business cards solely because they have chevron on them). I set out to examine College Street Bar About page to determine whether their claims are fact or fiction.

CLAIM #1: College Street Bar has no pretenses.

Fiction. (surely the most authoritative lexical and etymological source out there) defines pretenses as the act of pretending, as a false display. I chose to first visit College Street Bar on a cold evening in February. I planned to meet a friend there, but when I arrived, College Street Bar was closed. I was confused as I had checked the website, checked their Facebook, checked Twitter and tweeted at them. After waiting for about twenty minutes, I called the number listed on the website, and someone informed me the bar was closed until March 1st.

At the time, it wasn't a huge deal- there are tons of great places to choose from on College Street. It seems odd, however, that a business would go on sabbatical without warning potential customers. Also, they never tweeted back at me, which really hurt my feelings. As the beginning of March came and went, I decided to go back.

The website boasts a selection of great food, so I chose to go around the dinner hour to have some of their 'tasting plates' with a cocktail. Nothing is quite as cool as arriving at a bar at opening time, so I zipped up my mom jeans, slipped on my crocs with some thick socks and arranged to meet someone at 6 pm, when the bar opens.

I got to College Street Bar right at 6 and went into the bar. Good sign: the bar was unlocked and the lights were on. Bad sign: one of the servers informed me that the bar doesn't actually open until 6:30. Again, not a big deal - there are lots of things to do on College St when you have thirty minutes to kill (full disclosure: I went next door and ate a cannoli).

I came back to College Street Bar around 6:40ish, and the door was locked. I waited outside for a while until they finally opened a few minutes before 7. Maybe it's my Germanic roots, but punctuality is important in the service industry. At that point, I had been without a drink for an hour and was beginning to sober up. It wasn't the worst thing that happened that week (I accidentally sent The Colour Purple to my niece thinking it was a children's book) but the incorrect advertising of the opening time was definitely a false display.

CLAIM #2: College Street Bar offers a cozy bar scene with great affordable food

Fact(ish). I was slightly high with ecstatic awe that we had finally gotten in to College Street Bar and I ordered the cocktail of the day ($7), which was a Grapefruit Tom Collins. It was great - very sour, not too strong, though sadly against Gay-Straight Alliances in schools for some reason.

The drink list at College Street Bar is pretty good, though the menu presented at the bar is vastly smaller than the one (currently on the website). Drinks range from $7 for the Cocktail of the Day (sigh of relief) to $13.50 for a stronger cocktail (awkward little gasp when someone tells a racist joke in public) to $44 for a special top shelf cocktail (screaming while faking own death to get insurance money). There was a small hiccup when a beer listed on the menu was actually not available, but the server was gracious and knowledgeable about other beers on tap.

The ambiance in College Street Bar is the epitome of 'cozy bar scene.' The tables are small, the lighting is romantic, and the walls are hung with portraits of famous artists (plus that jerk Bono). The annoyance I felt at waiting so long to visit this bar was mostly alleviated by how relaxed and comfortable it was.

My companions and I shared the five 'tasting plates' for $25 deal. We chose the pancetta mac and cheese, the onion rings, the spring rolls, the wings and the riblets. The food came quickly and was delicious. The portions were much larger than initially expected, and there was tons of leftover food. If you've worked in the service industry, you know that most 'pub grub' is purchased frozen from the same companies. Therefore, most spring rolls and onion rings you get from one pub will be more or less the same at the next. This was not the case here.

While everything tasted great, I would highly recommend the spring rolls. The College Street Bar spring rolls are girthier than the average spring roll, and rather than being stuffed with a cabbage mixture, these have beans and other vegetables. Is it great food? Yes. Is it affordable? Definitely. The five for $25 is a great deal.

There was a small issue when we were overcharged $1.19 per item on the bill. We brought it up to the server, who said it was tax. No one wanted to admit that a) we weren't sure of the exact taxation rate in Ontario on restaurant food and b) that no one could figure out what percent $1.19 was of $5, so we let it slide (it should be noted that everyone's phone had low battery). Now that I am armed with information (restaurant meals are taxed at 13% and $1.19 is ~24% of $5), I would probably ask more questions.

CLAIM #3: Music from the likes of Noah Jones, Harry Cornnick Jr., members of the Rolling stones, the Rod Stewart Band, The Al Green Band, Nigel Kennedy, and the list goes on.

What? Sadly, there was no live music while I was at College Street Bar. I'm not entirely sure if College Street Bar misspelled Norah Jones and Harry Connick Jr or if there are possibly some Richard Cheese-eque parody jazz musicians out there. Even if there were parody jazz musicians, would they belong on the same list as the Rolling Stones? #Thingsthatkeepmeupatnight

CLAIM #4: Join us for a memorable evening of great music at the College Street Bar

Uncertain. College Street Bar was memorable (mostly due to the food), but it was an exhausting experience. Between the confusion of when it was open to things not being available to issues with food prices, it seems like there are a lot of kinks to work out. The food is great and the drinks are noteworthy, but I'm not sure if it's enough to make College Street Bar my regular hangout.

Basically, College Street Bar is like that really flaky friend that everyone has. She's super fun so you love hanging out with her, but she's never on time and sometimes you're not sure if she'll show up at all. Given that College Street Bar was taken under new ownership in October, the issues seem more forgivable than, say, someone who had a job for a number of years and never really understood how to do it. College Street Bar has a solid foundation and once the issues get ironed out, it will be a great place to go for a date or to hang out with the ladies.

That's a fact.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Live music is jazz, DJ music is pop/Top 40/HipHop
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Anyone who loves pancetta mac and cheese, 80s rock band cheese, Richard Cheese
Wednesday-Sunday 6pm-2am



Zelda / January 28, 2008 at 9:59 PM

Love this place!! Great place for food and funZ!!

Buster / August 6, 2010 at 12:28 AM

the manager sucks, she is cheating on bills for $100 and then gives some stupid apologies. Besides that people get threatened never come back because they discovered the the difference the in the bill and also she acts as a rasist. And we never come back!

Eric In replying to a comment from Buster / December 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM

What a slanderous thing to say. You may want to try spellcheck next time.

Eric In replying to a comment from Buster / December 10, 2010 at 3:10 PM

This place is awesome

yvonna / January 14, 2011 at 10:27 AM

wow the maneger is in no way racist..ifact i am west indian and she treats me like gold. She always treats her customers great and has a good following. I guess you had bad luck. you should try to go back. Can,t even picture her being that way.

Evana In replying to a comment from Buster / January 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM

Been going to live music every Sunday for years

Lillian In replying to a comment from Buster / January 15, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Extra dry dj,s are amazing

Mara / March 6, 2011 at 10:18 PM

Sunday nights have been fun for years. D.J.'s on the weekend are great. Love this place and food is also excellent. Feel great every time I leave this place

Jon / March 12, 2011 at 12:29 PM

The first time I went here with my gf they were rather busy. They offered us a seat in the "enclosed and heated patio". This was the middle of winter on a very cold day. We figured it'd be chilly but they said it was very nice back there. We went back there and it wasn't too bad. The heat was way up but the room was very drafty. This resulted in parts of you getting overly hot and dry while others would catch a freezing breeze every now and then. Not the most comfortable. Then they completely forgot about us. I didn't get a menu until I went to the bar and asked for one almost 15 minutes after we had been seated. Then it took another 10 minutes to get drinks. Once we got our meals they never checked on whether we wanted more drinks or anything

Second time we showed up the place only had 1 or 2 couples in it. All the remaining 2 people tables were reserved. All the 4 people tables were free. The hostess would not allow us to sit at a 4 person table. We were offered the crappy back room again or the bar. I just said nevermind and went somewhere else. I probably won't be going here again.

The food is pretty good. Not the best priced but it's not badly priced for how good it is. Doesn't make up for the terrible service though.

Kris / May 17, 2012 at 3:26 PM

One of the first lounges I have been in toronto and it is amazing. I am Kenyan. The manager and staff are always polite and friendly.

marital counseling / December 3, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Ditto. Thank you.

B / February 1, 2013 at 8:07 AM

such wonderful bartenders!!! I think I'd come back for them even if I hated the place :) but I don't

Cloudy / March 11, 2013 at 2:46 PM

What? There is a patio. The staff have always been nice and sit and chat with me (I'm Asian). And they're immigrants themselves so... And there's jungle, house and electro there sometimes. What're you, high?

Ben / March 11, 2013 at 2:53 PM

Second picture is badass, whoever took it. Nice.

evan / March 11, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Went there for my gf's birthday with a big crowd, and I had some prejudice about a big college street placeā€¦ but it was amazing. Music, food, and atmosphere were perfect, couldn't have asked for more. The bartender (that night) is formerly of Barchef and has all the skills. He made me a couple of the better cocktails I've ever had. Awesome place.

laura / March 11, 2013 at 7:28 PM

Great profile--hilarious and informative!

Ethan / April 15, 2013 at 1:54 PM

This article demonstrated how an ego-maniac can purchase a landmark Bar and totally screw it up. Just a matter of time before we see a For Lease sign by the landlord.

Lilly / April 15, 2013 at 1:55 PM

This place used to be hot. Until that is the new Owner took over

Leroy / June 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

No more soul left in this place.

Sal / July 19, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Boring, boring...yawn.
Hate the place went on a Saturday night.

John Carlo / July 26, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Hate this place. Was there for Taste of Little Italy. Waited almost two hours for my food but then returned two weeks ago to see if things had changed.

Don't waste your money...plenty of other places that are far better.

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