Crawford is about to shake up the Little Italy nightlife. Two Saturdays ago nearly turned out to be a bust for me and my friends. While all the essentials (what we were going to drink and whose house we were starting at) had been figured out, a simple mistake nearly unraveled the whole endeavor.
One of my friends was under the impression that 90's Party , the retro montly at Neutral was happening that weekend when it was actually scheduled for this past weekend. Although there was another 90's party at Augusta House , I haven't been interested in going there since 2007 so we had to find a new spot and fast.
A couple of phone calls later, we heard that Bang The Party! was moving to a new bar on Crawford and decided to check it out.
Little Italy has not really been on the radar when it comes to hot nightspots for awhile. Sidecar , Wilson 96 and The Auld Spot are great places to grab a drink but the vast majority of venues tend to serve sugary-sweet "martinis" and look like third-rate lounges put together with delusions of King West grandeur. Ted's Collision is too dark. The Mod Club plays host to some truly excellent concerts but there's nothing for the crowd looking for something in between.
Crawford fills this gap very well. Opened by Jasmine T. Burns of Queen's Head Pub and 751 fame with Jenna Davies managing (and a crew pulled from the latter bar plus the Midpoint and Sneaky Dee's ), it looks to bring a little of that Queen West vibe to this College Street neighborhood.
That Jasmine settled one this particular space was a bit of a happy coincidence. A Google search for "bars for sale in T.O." led her to LOL Lounge which used to be Alto Basso, a favorite spot of hers. When a conditional sale fell through, she and fellow owner Stefano Gasparatto jumped on it.
My friends and I walk into the bar at one-thirty in the morning with no hassle from the bouncers to find it packed from wall to wall with a crowd of young-to-30-somethings dancing to old school hip-hop. The vibe is definitely friendly and approachable. I'd never been to LOL Lounge, the former occupant of the space, but Jasmine tells me that she completely overhauled the interior of the bar.
"Can you believe they put laminate over this gorgeous granite floor?" She shows me a photo of what it used to look like: boring, cookie-cutter, post-millenial lounge. I like it a whole lot more now. Exposed brick walls meet plastered comic book and music magazine pages and if you need to take a breather from dancing there's plenty of seating with couches and tables lining the walls. A couple of arcade games keep bored fingers busy.
Moving further along into the interior we come to an atrium with a stairway leading down into the guts of the venue. The music from the front of the bar doesn't bleed into the basement which is nice when you're throwing dueling parties. Passing by a satellite bar we enter into a narrow hallway containing the bathrooms. Another stairway takes us back up to the front of the bar which gives the venue a nice flow and prevents the atrium from getting too jammed up.
Drinks-wise, they've got you covered. Sapporo, PBR, Okanagan Pale Ale and Sleeman's Original Draught are on tap for $5 and bottled beers like 50 will set you back $4. Newer spirits like Jim Beam Red Stag keep the old standards like Jameson's and Jagermeister company. Jenna tells me that they're going to be doing different specials each week. This isn't exactly the place you'd order a cocktail but anyone who expects that is missing the point.
The kitchen that separates the main bar from the atrium will be serving pub-grub like patties and pogo sticks (2 for $5), chili, poutine and wraps (under $10) to help you keep down all the shots you'll be doing. Come summertime, there will be a patio out front where the smoking area is at the moment.
With Jasmine in charge, it's only natural that they'd be booked until April. When I came back by myself on a Tuesday, DJ Misty was spinning 50's/60's soul at the front and DJ HJ brought it forward a few decades with with 90's-to-now hip hop in the basement. For a mid-week party, it was pretty busy which should present a nice option for those of us who don't only go out on Saturdays.
The Black and Blues party I mentioned above which will showcase both Motown and hip-hop will be happening every Tuesday. On Sundays, Church will be in session with soul and funk. The first Saturday of every month will see an '80's party called Truth by Scott Wade and Co., the folks behind Smithfits and they have some other one-offs planned as well. Bang The Party! will be a monthly.
Scope out the check-out line at the Metro across the street on any given day and one can't help but think that this bar is going to prove to be a popular destination for anyone who's used to travelling down to Dundas or Queen for their fun.