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bars

College Street Bar

Photo:

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. TheFreeDictionary.com (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:
Patio:
No
Music/Genre:
Live music is jazz, DJ music is pop/Top 40/HipHop
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
Anyone who loves pancetta mac and cheese, 80s rock band cheese, Richard Cheese
Hours:
Wednesday-Sunday 6pm-2am


Other Cities: Montreal