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Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Jesse Ship / January 11, 2013

Pharmacy is a cozy little bar at the southwestern edge of Parkdale. Once a methadone clinic and pharmacy, it's now a quirky and eclectic bar stocked with buffalo heads, found furniture, vintage knick knacks pillaged from Value Village and back alley scavenging.

Owner and sole staff member, Chris Harper, is a bit of a legend in Toronto's west-end bar scene, having worked the taps for over a decade starting as the Communist Daughter's very first hire, to general manager at Sweaty Betty's and plenty others. And oh yeah, he also co-owned and even named a little place you might have heard of called Wrongbar. After a few years wandering in the metaphoric wilderness, Chris is back — taken in by the unlikely neighborhood's charms.

"I went for a walk one day down Cowan, saw this vacant pharmacy store front for rent, and thought it was cool," he tells me. After sitting on it for six months he figured, "Oh fuck it, I'll just do it. There was a mad scramble to secure the spot and the Ukrainian landlord thinks I'm crazy but he still likes me."

Approaching the bar, my taste buds leapt as I saw the new Mill St. Vanilla Porter ($6) on tap, which I'd been told tastes like Toblerone chocolate, but sadly, they had just ran out, so I settled on a mellow and hoppy Junction Conductor's Ale ($7). Pharmacy aims to bring a cornucopia of craft beers (ranging $6-$13) with bottles of Crabbie's Ginger Beer, seasonal Beau's like their Vassar Heirloom Ale, and another Jamaican favourite, Dragon Stout. Wine drinkers can also cheers as one of Harper's pet peeves is the lousy house wine selection at bars of Pharmacy's ilk. Instead, he's keeping well informed on LCBO trends and will not settle for anything less than above average. Currently on shelves, I spied a bottle of Bodegas Castaño.

Along with a well stocked spirits, bourbon and scotch list list, Harper hopes to bring in a home made vodka from Prince Edward County (real hooch?) and a menu of rustic bar foods. If you've got a hankering for pickled beets, herring, apples, cabbage, or celery, there's a good chance he'll have it. He's also had some mini pies and tourtieres from his friends at Woodlot.

But at the end of the day, it's really just a bar. "I don't have any DJs, TVs or video games. You can come and sit down; it's not too loud. I love this neighborhood and the people coming in. People are more appreciative than I expected. I was worried about Nicky's Pizza Bar next door, which serves a purpose [as an actual dive bar] but it's working out OK." He's even managed to make peace with local street dealers.

For the time being, it's a neighborhood spot for catching up with friends surrounded by funky furniture. And with a maximum occupancy of 30, it will be hard to be anything more than that (though a patio might eventually be possible). While Dundas and Ossington's Communist Daughter was once considered the world's end, Pharmacy could soon take its place, as the student has now surpassed the master!

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Mill St. Cobblestone Stout, Mill St. Stock Ale, Mill St. Vanilla Porter, Beaus Lugtread, Junction Craft Brewery Conductor’s Ale
Signature Drink:
none yet
Bar Snacks:
pickled veggies, tourtieres from Woodlot
Indie music from someone’s iPod
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Locals looking for something more than a dive, creative industry folk
8pm - close, seven days a week



daz / January 11, 2013 at 9:12 AM

WOO! Was waiting forever for this place to open, as it's across the street from me. Great vibe. Welcome to the hood, Chris!

jameson / January 11, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Wow. I cannot believe there is a bar here. It really has an unbelievable storefront.

Gord Perks must have lost his $%#$!* when he saw this application. Nicky's Pizza is the seediest place anywhere near here. I can't fathom the unpredictability of this spot. It looks interesting I'll give it that...

bernice / January 11, 2013 at 9:50 AM

That's a photo of Mill Street Vanilla porter, yet you mention twice in the article that it's Beau's.

AV In replying to a comment from bernice / January 11, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Look to the right of the Vanilla porter bernice.....

jesse / January 11, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Beaus also makes a vanilla porter. Maybe I had one too many! ;) Sorry about the mix up, it's been fixed!

Noah Mintz / January 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Chris Harper is a sweetheart of a man. I wish him the best with his new venture. I'm sure it's amazing. Can't wait to check it out.

GonzoC / January 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM

That's funny because my Girlfriend and I live a block away and we have been saying recently that this would be a great location for a wee bar for locals who don't fancy Nick's Pizza or Friends nearer Dufferin. This could turn into a nice local for us......When we get off our New Year detox.

wiwonder / January 11, 2013 at 3:26 PM

One thing missing would appear to be red plaid.

Oh wait a sec....

Joe Witts / January 11, 2013 at 4:33 PM

I love how the more of a dump the place is...the more hipsters love it. He shouldn't be worried about Nicky's Pizza.. pretty much the same clientele

Peter Steven / January 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM

I must protest the language in this article on the bar -- the Charles Pharmacy was a well-respected, neighbourhood institution (and it still is in its new location a few blocks east). To describe the pharmacy as a former meth clinic suggests that the neighbourhood used to be sketchy, but is now improving due to gentrification.

Mikey In replying to a comment from Peter Steven / January 11, 2013 at 8:50 PM

Some pharmacies are just certified to dispense methadone while others are not. And methadone is not always used to treat addiction, it also sometimes used for palliative care for patients with terminal illnesses. But yes, methadone pharmacies do usually reside in seedy areas.

That aside, I notice barely respectable selection of LCBO whiskeys in one of those pictures yet a quick "ctrl+f" of the word "cocktail" does not tell me whether or not any of those are mixed with likes of vermouth (either kind) to make some tasty stiff drinks.

Are they?

steve In replying to a comment from Peter Steven / January 11, 2013 at 9:09 PM

I believe the suggestion that the neighbourhood used to be sketchy is correct. About 20 years ago I had a hypothesis that any area with a Galaxy Donuts is sketchy. Is this the only one left? Ossington, Roncesvalles, and Queen and bathurst, are long gone

Becca / January 12, 2013 at 12:42 AM

My boyfriend lives a few feet away from this place on Cowan and we've been very curious as to what it was going to be! I took a peek through the window the other day and was bery intrigued! So happy this isn't a dive bar and I can't wait to try it!

Concerned Parkdale Resident / January 12, 2013 at 1:53 AM

To those of you talking shit about Nick's Pizza ... don't.

yes! / January 12, 2013 at 9:19 AM

If anyone can do a bar well, it's Chris. Great work. Great piece.

GC In replying to a comment from Mikey / January 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Mikey - In an interview with Chris that ran on another website, he said the following re: cocktails...

"I’m too arrogant and too lazy to spend 17 minutes making a cocktail that I’m going to charge someone 20 bucks for… there are other bartenders in the city who do all that stuff a lot better than I ever could, and some of them do it REALLY well… but I don’t really think that’s what this place is about…

I was asked by website She Does The City the other day “What kind of cocktails do you have?” and I had to say “You want some liquor? Mixed with pop or something?”… that’s more me… that’s more the vibe of this place."

rick mcginnis / January 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Love the Fela poster on the wall, Chris. I'd be a regular if I a) still lived in the neighbourhood or b)hand't turned into a boring old dad years ago. Good luck with the place - maybe Pierre and Tim and I will drop by on a quite night. (Speaking of old men.)

Junction / January 12, 2013 at 8:54 PM

I love the galaxy donut comment...especially since the junction just got one!!! Right on the corner of dundas and keele!!!! Lol. So my friend they are still around. Not that I will be hangin' there.
Good luck Chris!

Siobhán / January 13, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Visited this new local last night, Sat Jan 12, was packed by 8:30. Even with the jammed house, service was quick & the joint had a really great vibe.
Such a pleasant addition to my, STARVING for a good bar, part of Parkdale :)

I def forsee more visits in my (near) future ;-)

Kevin / January 17, 2013 at 2:26 PM

1. Chris Harper is a Golden God. Sticking his neck out yet again to provide good cheer for the rest of us. Leave a tip - he hasn't gotten rich serving drinks yet.
2. It will attract the red plaid crowd - can't do anything about that.
3. This is the type of development that happens in neighbourhoods that don't attract Starbucks and Milestones. Now all Parkdale needs is a new City Councillor.

Dan / January 18, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Friendly old punk rock dude behind the bar. Nice beers. Laid-back crowd. No attitude. Great music. It's clearly a labor of love. Would be an absolute tragedy for Toronto to douche this place up. Be nice.

mike in parkdale / March 25, 2013 at 6:19 PM

yep, it's a really nice place. It's rare to find a bar without TV's all over the place now. Great beers, and good recommendations to go with it. The barkeeper knows his brews.

Shame that the exterior photo with all the garbage makes it look like a dump (like literally, the garbage dump).

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