Drift Bar is the latest in a string of new destination hangouts to pop up on Bloor West. Could this be yet another reason for Toronto's 30-something collective to continue its westward migration? Are we, like, so over Ossington? What was once rundown dive-bar central, Dufferin Grove (or Bloorcourt/Blansdowne) has found its cool factor.
Whatever you call it, that little commercial strip on Bloor roughly bordered by Dovercourt and Lansdowne has attracted a sexier new crop of beer-peddling tenants. But Drift isn't trying that hard. While neighbours like 3 Speed have that ironic-dive aesthetic typical of Toronto's hipper-than-thou haunts, Drift is what it is. Simply, a nice affordable place to gather and sip. The vibe is refreshingly unpretentious and staffers are chatty and accommodating. The menu alone makes it worth the trip.
Spinach and Onion Pakoras ($6) are served with earthy coriander chutney and a honey thyme yoghurt dip that is reminiscent of an updated Raita. These spidery deep-fried sides are crispy with a subtle fennel flavour, and the dish is substantial enough for sharing. My only complaint is the pakora-to-dip ratio. More dip, please! Several of the apps have an Indian inspiration, while sandwiches take a gourmet stab at home-cookin' classics like chicken salad ($7). Though the menu is limited, features are rotated periodically, including a homemade soup-of-the-day.
My posse of two chose to visit on the slowest night for business in the bar's 6-week history. Granted, it was Thanksgiving weekend, when even the city's hardest partiers were taking leave from elbow-rubbing for a bit of stuffing at Mom's table. At Drift, we had our pick of tables in the narrow space. Delightfully, they are crafted from salvaged bowling alley wood, complete with the little darts for lining up your stroke.
Owners and long-time friends Matt Michrowski and Damian Gaughan bought the wood from a North York alley and built the tables and bar with their own hands. The rest of the decor is simple - church pews, antique finds, graphic film poster prints - allowing the exposed brick walls to retain their rightful role as leading lady.
We swigged $5 pints of St. Ambroise Cream Ale (one of six on-tap domestic and craft beers at a steal) under retro-industrial lighting near the window. Black Keys and obscure Radiohead tracks provided ambiance without obliterating conversation possibilities. The experience was actually kind of romantic. On off-peak nights, Drift provides pretty ideal first-date surroundings. And with an antique hutch housing board games like Scrabble and Apples to Apples, the bar is conducive to group gathering, too.
While it's too soon to tell, the easygoing "ya'll come back now" attitude is sure to garner Drift Bar a hefty band of loyal regulars. I might be one of them.