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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



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).

Sara / March 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Do they have the vodka yet?

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Rossana L / December 31, 2013 at 3:34 AM

Was excited to see something open up on the "dead" zone of King St. One month ago my boyfriend ( West Indian) and his two friends (Black) walk in at 945 and was told it was last call. Looking around at the other patrons, my bf asked "really?" to which the man behind the bar stated. "Look I don't want any trouble." Shocked, they left, which is admirable compared to what I would've done. I didn't know opening a bar in an 1950's run pharmacy would have it's proprieters acting they were in the actual 1950's. Another example of the ignorance of what Parkdale really is.

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zardoz In replying to a comment from Rossana L / January 17, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Good story. I call bullshit. The staff are the friendliest dudes I've ever had the pleasure of encountering.

zardoz In replying to a comment from Rossana L / January 17, 2014 at 12:28 PM

I call bullshit. Based solely on the fact that you call attention to your boyfriend's race in your first sentence. The bartenders are the nicest guys anyone could hope to encounter in a bar setting.

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