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The Grape Lounge

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Chandler Levack / October 28, 2011

The Grape has been open for 56 days on a strip of Bathurst and Dupont notoriously absent of a bar scene. Steps away from the Vesta Lunch, The Grape's biggest competition comes from the old man pub environs of Mayday Malone's.

Owned by Sal (he only wanted to provide me with first name) who used to be a wine seller in Calgary, The Grape aspires to an intimate lounge feel with its blood red walls, mirrored wall and dark wood. (Previously the space was a shisha bar.) A notable twist is a long bar entirely varnished in blackboard paint, which allows patrons to easily scribble their digits down or play impromptu games of tic-tac-toe.

Tonight on a quiet Tuesday evening, there are a few autumnal drawings of leaves, leaving the small lounge blaring Biggie feeling a little like a kindergartener's classroom. Owner Sal feels like it separates the space from feeling too King West aspirational, though he states proudly "people who own investment firms are my clientele here."

It's obvious that The Grape wants to be a neighbourhood local for the upwardly mobile. Sal has titled a list of 11 martinis after his friends, and plans to book bachelorette parties, CD launches and a James Bond-themed Halloween party in the basement lounge, which is equipped with a dance floor and DJ booth.

His exhaustive wine list is idiosyncratic and innovative, with rare wines from California, Australia and New Zealand ranging from $12 to $19 a glass. (When asked about his pricing, Sal says bluntly, "Do you know how much the houses are worth in this neighbourhood?")

At The Grape, the amicable bartenders Candace and King will pour you a 2009 "6th Sense Syrah" from California's Michael David Winery, or a blueberry and meat juice-scented 2004 Small Gully from Australia's Mr. Black's Concoction, a truly fabulous red The Grape has bottles of. Martinis and mixed drinks are also available, made with care.

I told Sal to make me a cocktail and was served a $12 "Lorenzo" martini in a chilled martini glass with a hot pink sugar-studded rim. Though I was a little insulted to be served such an obvious panty remover (sugar-rims are for sorority sisters and Carrie Bradshaw only), the fuchsia cocktail was a deceptively sweet combination of Hypnotique, Alize and a splash of cranberry juice. And then it knocked me completely on my ass.

The Grape apparently gets popping on the weekends, when the small lounge is crammed with patrons and it turns into a mini-bar dance party. Whether you'd rather experience the bar straight up during the weeknight for a quiet red, or with a twist is up to you.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
None
Signature Drink:
11 signature martinis titled after the owner’s friends, including the “Nestle,” “Lorenzo” and “The Dave Erner”
Bar Snacks:
Lollipops only
Patio:
Yes
Music/Genre:
Mixture of hip-hop and house
Live Music:
No
Who Goes There:
Swanky Annex locals, ballers
Hours:
5:30 to 2am daily

Discussion

24 Comments

Barth / October 28, 2011 at 9:47 AM
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WHAT? No Steigel or PBR? I'll never ever drink here!

Courgette / October 28, 2011 at 9:54 AM
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I don't know many ballers or "swanky" locals in the annex, and I've lived there most of my life. G'luck to him though.

Jem / October 28, 2011 at 10:05 AM
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That drink sounds gross. Hypnotique and Alize? This place has no idea how to make a good drink, please stick to wine.

gr1 In replying to a comment from Barth / October 28, 2011 at 10:09 AM
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you're hilarious. what next, a joke about fixed gear bikes?

Mark Evans / October 28, 2011 at 12:09 PM
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Grape should have beers on tap given there are few bars in the neighbourhood. It would probably help to drive weekday traffic.

JH / October 28, 2011 at 12:16 PM
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Looks very King-West-meets-Ikea...

Trudie In replying to a comment from Mark Evans / October 28, 2011 at 1:19 PM
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Why? So that you can sit and make notes about the mouth feel and the herbal, hoppy bouquet of a cask ale all afternoon for $6?

mr. hood / October 28, 2011 at 11:00 PM
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The area needs a place like this, although the owner mentality of assuming everyone with money is ok with being fleeced simply because of the neighbourhood housing value..

Trane studio down the road is just as good, minus the top 40 hip hop and house music.

An alize, hypnotiq and cranberry martini is straight outta the 90's early 2000's and they should've just named it the SEX IN THE CITY martini. a place serving $19 a glass wine should have no need for bright pink martini rimmer.. If the wine list is decent, perhaps someone should have consulted a mixologist in order to keep the menu in check..

i feel this place may get lost simply because those who spend frivolously dont frequent their neighbourhood, and those who do, simply will find the prices a bit steep..

M / October 31, 2011 at 10:30 PM
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Oh my poor poor Annex! Will you ever get it right???

I feel like his is the kimd of place that makes Insomnia look hip.

S / November 7, 2011 at 9:53 AM
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I live up near Bathurst and St. Clair, so was excited for a new bar within walking distance. I went on a Friday evening with another female friend. The owner came on much too strong for me, to the extent that I felt unsafe and weird about staying - he escorted us into the bar, introduced us to everyone there, and kept on touching me. Like, it started with him shaking my hand, then grabbing my wrist, then grabbing my shoulder, and then putting his arm around me and saying something like "We've got to get this one loosened up." I am a very small person and feel kinda threatened when a stranger in a crowded room feels that they can get a tight grip around my shoulders without any invitation. Not cool. He also took my coat off the back of my chair and put it with his coat over on the couch - when I asked for it back he said he just wanted to make sure it didn't fall on the floor. He added a plug for the bar downstairs, which would have been cool except that he added in a suggestive voice "But that's for later." I'm sure it was all fine and he was just trying to be friendly or awkwardly joking around, but the combo of all these put me on edge, enough that I felt like I had to text my friend that I wanted to leave instead of just telling her out loud. Definitely not the way to get young women to relax and have alcoholic beverages in your establishment.

S / December 1, 2011 at 1:50 AM
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The grape rocks.

The Lady Medusa / January 16, 2012 at 10:27 PM
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The Grape is a classy lil hole in the wall, and I'm happy to give this young bar a chance. The owner does come on strong, but it comes from a good place.

n In replying to a comment from S / February 27, 2012 at 7:09 PM
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sounds like a creep---i think your experience says a lot and personally i wouldn't support this owner after hearing this.

lko / March 14, 2012 at 11:18 PM
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After reading that remark this young individual wrote...I was pretty surprised. I am sorry but I was just there with a bunch of my girlfriends and not only was the service exceptional but I have never felt more comfortable in a bar enviroment
Maybe you have issues with dealing with people but I think the owner was very accomodating.
And as for the last comment....if you haven't been here than you shouldn't comment.
The owner is a young energetic person who dwells on service and treating his patrons well. He's from the west coast and maybe his methods are a little different but at least he knows how to put a smile on peoples faces. Maybe that's something bar owners in Toronto need to start learning.
The Grape is awesome! And I expect a lot of people to experience this place! You will be shocked and pleasantly surprised.

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Marley / April 25, 2012 at 6:50 PM
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I applied for a job at The Grape and I can confirm your assumptions that this guy is a creep! Before meeting me he asked for a photo. I sent him one thinking OK he probably just wants pretty girls serving at his bar. Then he asked for more, and more, and more. So I went on google and sent him some half naked pictures of some girl..he was happy about that, thinking it was me. He said I would probably "more than likely get the job". I was shocked that the man who wanted to INTERVIEW me for a bar position wanted nudes.. Kinda weird and COMPLETELY UNPROFESSIONAL! Needless to say, I never went for the interview.

beth / April 26, 2012 at 4:09 PM
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Wow. I find that hard to believe.

I also applied for a job there and not once did he ask me for nudes. I am sure the hundreds of girls he's interviewed would attest to that.

Sorry you didn't get the job Marley....move on. Get over it.

Guess what...I didn't get the job either. Infact I have a lot of respect for Sal.

I went in with my friends last week and had a blast.

Maybe you should try and take your anger out in another way. Better yet...go look for another job.

BarChef / May 1, 2012 at 12:38 PM
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Went by the other day on my way to Grapefruit Moon.....sign up saying closed for the night, underneath was an eviction notice....not surprised!

Bathfirst / June 18, 2012 at 11:36 PM
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Yep, I live in the area and I can confirm the guy's a creepster. Also, a request from people who live nearby, please please please upgrade/upgrade the music playlist! If I have to hear that bad late 90's/ early 2000's Madonna remix shit again I am going to cry.

Creepy / July 2, 2012 at 11:32 PM
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The owner is a total creep! He always asks every girl for their number...

Bob / July 30, 2012 at 4:15 PM
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It's not so much the owner, he is ok but it's one of his patrons. Don't know his name but man does he have stinky fingers!!! I think it's closed now. Too bad I liked the place.

Shill / August 5, 2012 at 2:41 PM
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Me's think that Iko and Beth=Sal

Shill!!!!

anon / September 25, 2012 at 11:21 PM
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This place is the worst.. applied for a job and when i went for an interview he tried to make me take my shirt off saying it would definately help me get the job because other women would....needless to say im not that desperate. crappy drinks and a crappy pervy vibe.

Cruz / February 1, 2013 at 1:16 PM
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lol at the owner's attitude and his fake versace medusa prints on that wall.

Fraudster / February 12, 2013 at 8:19 PM
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Not only was Sal a pervert he was a crook. Heard he borrowed money from many people and never paid them back. This guy should go to jail that's where he belongs.

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