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Photo: Mauricio Calero

Posted by Jessica McGann / April 24, 2010

Motel bar on Queen may look like a dark mystery from the outside, but don't let the neon "Prescriptions" sign in the window confuse you, Motel is no more a pharmacy than it is a motor lodge. Instead it's a small, non-descript, no-frills drinking establishment stationed near Parkdale faves the Stones' Place, Rhino and the Cadillac Lounge.

Word on the street is that the name Motel is meant to mirror the "hotels" on the other side of the Dufferin tracks - the Gladstone and the Drake. And it's apt enough, I guess, with its similar, if pared-down, approach to design yet relatively tiny size.

Still new enough that you can find a place to sit after 11pm, this quiet little hole in the wall will soon start drawing its own traffic, if only for the $4 pints of U.S. hipster favourite, Pabst Blue Ribbon. The black tables and chairs seem perfectly practical for sitting at, but at least
two people whispered to me, "These are from IKEA," which tells you something either about the bar or the company I keep.

If it's not Pabst, it's Okanagan Springs Pale Ale. Draft options may be slight, but there's enough of all the standard liquors to mix up a wide selection of cocktails. Music is a nostalgic mix of '80s and '90s hits on an enticing, illuminated jukebox - the main source of light in the room - and whatever the DJ/bartender is spinning on the laptop. A few hefty antique paintings adorn the otherwise plain walls.

Although darkly-lit and intimately small, the bar's patrons seem to be predominantly made up of people for whom the '80s and '90s were a stark reality and not a babyhood memory to be revived with irony, but I have a feeling that will soon change as the kids continue to make their way west.

There's no food, no mixologists, no hipsters (yet) and no bullshit. Go in, sit down, have a Pabst and just relax already. Motel opens at 9pm every day.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Pabst Blue Ribbon, Okanagan Springs Pale Ale
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Retro, Girl Talk-type remixes done for jokes, indie hits, jukebox
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Locals, Queen West creative types, soon: hipsters
9pm-close daily



d / April 28, 2010 at 10:23 AM

what a dump!!!

queefqueen / April 28, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Agreed. This place will fold in four months.

Langford / April 28, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Looks good actually, the walls could just be a little darker. Will probably check it out.

Well done with the photos.

AV In replying to a comment from d / April 28, 2010 at 12:04 PM

They're just being "ironic"....

amar / April 28, 2010 at 1:48 PM

They got the artwork and banners from the antique market on Queen West!

Mark / April 28, 2010 at 2:04 PM

I've been in a bunch of times now. Really cool spot (not sure what inspired the first comments). Everything else in that area is closed during the week (except for the busy pubs) so it's nice to have a cool watering hole in parkdale finally. Me thinks this place is going to do really well once established!

Zed / April 28, 2010 at 2:14 PM

"word on the street" has it this article came first

craig / April 28, 2010 at 2:16 PM

The first couple comments make sense in context. I know there were a lot of people (neighbours etc) that didn't want the place to open and worked pretty hard to stop it. That's ok. All very lovely people. Here's another review:

TS / April 28, 2010 at 3:20 PM

My girlfriend and I were in on the weekend andd really liked it... kind of in the genre of the red light on dundas. Funny story, it's got a pinball machine by the washrooms to which I think I'm physically addicted. We'll be back in for sure.

TS / April 28, 2010 at 3:20 PM

My girlfriend and I were in on the weekend andd really liked it... kind of in the genre of the red light on dundas. Funny story, it's got a pinball machine by the washrooms to which I think I'm physically addicted. We'll be back in for sure.

fiveteamers / April 28, 2010 at 6:40 PM

Why even serve PBR? It is not even a good beer.

the truth / April 28, 2010 at 8:46 PM

Why won't BlogTO explain why it's deleting my comments?

How come you don't delete
"what a dump!!!"
"Agreed. This place will fold in four months."
"They're just being "ironic"...."


terje / April 28, 2010 at 11:17 PM

my new speak easy! Great spot!

jugdish / April 29, 2010 at 10:14 AM

The space was better when it was a Korean video store.

liz / April 29, 2010 at 11:49 AM

looks really cool.

deeble / April 29, 2010 at 4:08 PM

I don't quite understand the negative comments. This place is surprisingly nice (and clean) considering some of the other bars in the area. The owners (brothers, I think) have been super nice when I've gone in, the prices are right, and the atmosphere is great. Again, I don't understand the negative feedback. I suppose some people like to talk trash regardless of reality.

Jackyboy In replying to a comment from fiveteamers / April 30, 2010 at 12:30 PM

You're a dumbass.

kingy In replying to a comment from Jackyboy / April 30, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Besides PBR being cheap, you must be a fan of beer that has similar qualities to horse piss. What a fun sexy time for you!

Saxby Chambliss / May 1, 2010 at 6:34 PM

I really like this place. Cool local watering hole. The place really isn't a dump, actually it's probably one of the nicest spots on Queen West. It's great to be able to get cheap beer without sacrificing a decorative/clean/non-depressing environment

Sg / May 3, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Great vibe, good music, cheap drinks.

vince / May 4, 2010 at 12:58 AM

I was in this place two nights ago. The pints are so cheap! Way better than anything else in the area.

vince / May 4, 2010 at 12:58 AM

I was in this place two nights ago. The pints are so cheap! Way better than anything else in the area.

della / May 5, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Beautiful place. Well done!

TJ / May 5, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Yay! I've been waiting forever for this place to open!

D / May 5, 2010 at 10:03 PM

Just a quick comment - I'm sure you want to promote your friends' bar but realize that us people on the other side of the bridge are fiercely loyal - Salvador's has been a staple for many years and has always been a great place to hang with friends and meet new people. You are doing Motel no favours by dissing established local bars. I have been in your bar and liked it but this review has turned me off - good luck.

S In replying to a comment from D / May 7, 2010 at 10:42 AM

I feel silly telling you this, but bar owners do NOT get to write reviews of their own bars. That line was written by the Blog TO reviewer, and likely says nothing about the bar in question. It seems an odd reason to be turned off of a bar.

H / May 15, 2010 at 10:32 PM

I have been in this bar many times and really like it, everyone is very friendly and it is a very relaxed atmosphere...they have great bartenders and an amazing pinball machine...and the music is great! Those that post negative comments need to get over themselves..the strip is large enough to house many great bars....

clint / July 22, 2010 at 11:12 PM

ok, so turn down the music so you can hear convo-sation - and make the effort to go past just pressing play on a cd - otherwise nice place and wicked cheap drinks. worth a visit!

Damien Walder / October 13, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Just had a nice time there after a show at Wrongbar (where the staff never get drinks right, amazingly) - by choosing Motel, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in a very relaxed and low BS kind of place. Strong, short mixed drinks for a good price, sweet attitude of the DJ (didn't have the song we asked for but we knew he bothered to make sure, played something just as good by same band) and the bartender made sure we'll be back.
I prefer functional furniture (even IKEA) to shot out/stained vinyl upholstered 'vintage' chairs, thanks.
Nice to find a clean Motel for a change!

Catscratch / July 13, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Well I'm excited to be dj'ing there for Convoy - Road music on wednesday the 20th. I'm going to go check it out tonight

randomlou55 / August 23, 2012 at 11:26 AM

So this is a bar named "motel", huh? From you description it sounds like a great place to go. I love little "hole-in-the-wall" places, they tend to have the best things there! It is a little weird, bars named after motels, though.

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