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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

Other Cities: Montreal