Orchard is an unassuming, low-key, local bar in Bloordale that was last Clara's Gourmet Burgers . As a tribute to the history of the neighbourhood, owner Jason Raabe (he also owns Haven Espresso Bar and North Haven nearby) named this place after the apple orchards that used to grow in this area in the early 20th Century.
Dimly lit, Orchard boasts a long and wide bar with reclaimed scrap metal on its sides, a harvest table in the front and four-tops along a wall that exhibits work by local artists on a rotating basis. There's even a bar mascot named Mason, a gift pet fish from Jason Campbell, the chair of the Bloor Improvement Group.
Raabe, who admits he's a bit of a hoarder, has also outfitted the place with a quirky collection of finds from various places (he got his chairs from Ciros and a lamp from Burdock ), including an old barber's chair, a popcorn machine and a currently nonfunctional jukebox in the back, and a sign that reads, "We help those who help ourselves" over the bar.
There are eight craft beers and a cider on tap, consisting of brews from Beau's, Clifford, Lake of Bays, Side Launch, Spark House and West Avenue Cider, with pints going for $7-$8 and the occasional $5 pint special. Bottles and tall cans include Modelo ($6), Cobblestone Stout ($7) and Woodhouse ($7) while a small selection of wines are priced at $7-$8 a glass.
Bar manager Franco came over from Drift , and has been managing restaurants for over 20 years. He wanted to transition from restaurants to a bar with food, and this place is just that.
At the moment, eats consist solely of savoury meat or veggie Wiseys pies ($10 each) delivered daily, with each accompanied by an organic side salad. I wash mine down with Lake of Bays' Pumpkin Session Ale, an appropriate drink of choice for fall, in my opinion, cliche as it is. More food will eventually be added to the menu when the back kitchen is sorted.
Music's a big deal here, with plans to host live shows at least three times a week. I take a peek at the bar's calendar and it's already pretty full for the next few months. During our visit, Blake Day, keyboardist of local band Gold Complex , is tickling the ivories of an antique, Canadian-made Bell piano in the front of the room (he also happens to work at Haven).
It's nice to see that this place appears to attract all kinds of people; patrons seem to span a range of ages and come from all walks of life (there are NDP federal campaign workers, professional architect/design types and even an extremely friendly and impressively bearded old lone biker man while we're there), perhaps because the vibe is comfortingly unpretentious here.
Impressively, Raabe tells me he's opened Haven every single morning since it first debuted over three years ago--he's never skipped a day (including all holidays). Now that he also has Orchard with intentions to open a bakery in its basement (since Italian and Portuguese bakeries used to stand in this space), he may never take a vacation ever again.