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The Piston

Photo: Mauricio Calero

Posted by Jessica McGann / May 5, 2010

The Piston on Bloor near Ossington may finally be the tipping point for Bloorcourt - the up-and-coming neighbourhood that's been on the brink of up-and-coming for several years without ever really tipping over.

Hip bars like 3 Speed and Disgraceland, and a smattering of cafes and galleries along Bloor from Ossington to Lansdowne (Blossington to Blansdowne, anyone?), are symptomatic of the booming population of west-end yuppies in this popular starter-home area, yet Bloorcourt has doggedly retained its gritty inner-city feel. The Piston, however, just might be filling in the last remaining niche, signaling the neighbourhood's shift from centralized suburbia to destination strip.

The Piston's secret weapon lies, Wizard of Oz-style, behind the curtain at the back of the bar. Not just a comfortable and well-provisioned bar and restaurant, the Piston is also a fully-equipped music venue, boasting live music and DJs all week long in the separate venue area in the back.

It's less capacious than, say, the Horseshoe or the Garrison, but there's still room for up to 100 people in the well-appointed back room. Cozily draped with curtains, warmly lit and complete with a full bar, the space has a roomy stage with good sightlines and feels just right for getting the party started.

Asking nervously about the existence of open-mike nights, I am quickly reassured. It's not that I'm a burgeoning talent looking for exposure, you see. Quite the opposite. I like my live music vetted and approved by a venue I trust, and at the Piston, it's all about quality.
Entertainment is managed by club promoter, WreckingBall Entertainment, who promise both eclectic, and professional, diversions on live music nights (Thursdays and Saturdays).

In fact, there seems to be a particular standard of excellence applied to the music aspect of the bar. I am told that disappointing acts don't get asked back and that, no, there are no plans to host comedy or any other type of entertainment - the focus is purely on music.

Essentially it's a cool, laidback bar run by music lovers with a vision. And although there are DJs or live music every night, the divide between bar and venue gives patrons the full range of options, from quiet chats to raucous parties.

With its diamond-tiled floors and tidy leather booths, the bar evokes a bit of an old-time feel - a rocking 50s malt shop with shades of Parkdale's retro Cadillac Lounge. Pub fare and tapas are cooked in the open kitchen behind the bar. Rock and indie tunes are played just loud enough - and nothing you've already heard a million times. On tap you'll find Wellington, Big Wheel, and Steam Whistle. A full complement of spirits including a respectable whiskey selection is yours for the drinking. If you feel like a shooter, ask the staff what they can mix you up for a tasty surprise.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Wellington, Steam Whistle, Big Wheel
Signature Drink:
Ask for a shooter recommendation
Bar Snacks:
Pub fare and tapas
Patio:
No
Music/Genre:
Rock, eclectic, indie
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
Locals, music fans
Hours:
5:30 to 2am daily

Discussion

42 Comments

mp / May 6, 2010 at 9:22 AM
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We were there last Saturday to see the DJ set, and the back room was CRAZY loud. Like, we couldn't sit back there-loud, distortion in the speakers-loud. :(

eric / May 6, 2010 at 9:31 AM
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This has quickly become a favourite haunt for us, its great to avoid the attitude of other local joints and go somewhere with great food and drink. Highly recommend.

JM / May 6, 2010 at 9:53 AM
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I thought the music last Saturday was excellent.

M / May 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM
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So are there open mic nights? what days?

Lauren / May 6, 2010 at 10:53 AM
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BLUFFERIN FTW!

cultureshot / May 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM
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I live in Blansdowne and I love the new bars that are popping up around Bloordale/Bloorcourt. They don't have their head up their ass like Queen West. Maybe the progression will keep moving west? Blundas, anyone?

Dr.Bones / May 6, 2010 at 1:24 PM
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I wish I could agree.

After the Mens gold medal hockey game we went to 3 Speed in celebration. The bartender looked at us and asked what we were celebrating. When we told him about the win he went, "oh ya, I heard there was some sort of mens sporting event on today" and continued wiping glasses.

Really put me off that bar.

Moneesha In replying to a comment from Dr.Bones / May 6, 2010 at 3:49 PM
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I'm so glad that you're put off 3 Speed, Dr. Bones!

I absolutely hate hockey and hockey fans, so it's nice that I won't be seeing you at 3 Speed. Great to know that there are some people out there (i.e., the bartender @ 3 Speed who doesn't follow hockey) that don't feel compelled to follow the status quo.

Be gone with you, Dr. Bones (and other hockey fans)!

Simon / May 6, 2010 at 3:51 PM
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Didn't this used to be the Concord Cafe, doing pretty much the same thing? The Piston might be doing it (much) better, but it doesn't really herald a major change in the neighbourhood.

Dr.Bones In replying to a comment from Moneesha / May 7, 2010 at 5:19 AM
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Wow, so much hate. I’m sorry to offend you so much.

I had no idea that being a Canadian and cheering for your country during what may very well have been the largest sporting event in your generation can be “following the status quo”. I feel sorry that you have to live in a country where people could possibly support such an interest, or let alone show any pride during the Olympics.

Unfortunately for you I was indeed put off by said encounter but enjoy that bar too much to “be gone” I’ve been back many times. See you there!

Matt on His Bike / May 7, 2010 at 4:57 PM
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Don't worry Dr.Bones, you are not alone. I too live in that hood, love hockey, football, basketball, boxing, listen to and play music of all sorts, dig art in all it's mediums, read books, and often drink at 3 Speed (never PBR). If we are ever there at the same time I will buy you a beer because I'm a nice guy and we can laugh together at Moneesha as he/she judges us.

aces / May 8, 2010 at 12:44 PM
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Maybe I'm judging to harshly, but I went to the Piston with a friend on one of the first nights it was open as we both live in the area and we vowed never to set foot in there again. They were playing REALLY bad early 90's music and the bartenders acted like they were from a club on Richmond street. I may go back if a band I'm interested in is playing, but judging from the cheesy vibe I got that isn't likely.

Cookie In replying to a comment from aces / May 8, 2010 at 3:13 PM
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Hey Aces -- You were obviously there right before it opened and the owners let some friends throw a party there before knowing what those friends were going to do. They were playing Bad 90s and House and so on & it felt like a Cheesy Clubland place -- for the night. It was vowed that that would never ever happen there again. So no worries. That ISN'T what The Piston is about at all. Try it again sometime. Cheers!

LovesToDance / May 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM
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If it was too loud for you why didn't you sit up front where it was much quieter? The back room was rocking and the music was amazing! I don't think I have been to a better little party in years. Nice going, Piston. Welcome to Bloor W.

arromas / May 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM
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Love the food, drinks and atmosphere....oh yah and the chill bartenders. Will go back next time I am in town with my son who lives there and also enjoyed it all.

Erin Marchak In replying to a comment from Lauren / May 9, 2010 at 6:04 PM
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Love the Blufferin!

The Piston is awesome. I do Tuesday night Improv at the Comedy bar only a few steps away, and it's a necessary stop for a tasty drink. Either before or after. The staff are so chill without being stand-off-ish.

Giselle / May 11, 2010 at 10:38 AM
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I've seen their menu posted outside -- how's the food?

Gloria / May 11, 2010 at 10:46 AM
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Too bad the reviewer didn't talk a little more about the food. It's actually not standard pub fare (pear and cheddar plate anyone?). I was really surprised at how ambitious their menu was and how delicious the food is. I tried the pastrami on rye which was hot, drippy and fatty. Their house salad was equally delicious.

I will say the service was not great. I seated myself and had waited a good 10 minutes before I had to get up and go over to the bar to find a menu. Maybe it was an off night.

slippereyslope / May 11, 2010 at 11:51 AM
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Horrible place. I went last weekend with a few friends and after an hour we had to leave due to the obnoxious service and clientele. I guess it would be OK if we were there to pick people up, but if I wanted guys in baseball hats to saunter over and start making terrible conversation I would go to Little Italy. If that's your crowd you might like this place, but it certainly isn't mine and I'm hoping it takes a while before places like the Piston take over Blovercourt.

Sam Aritan In replying to a comment from slippereyslope / May 16, 2010 at 3:08 PM
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Are you sure you were at The Piston? That is hardly the regular experience there or customers -- maybe one guy you didn't like talked to you or something -- perhaps you were obnoxious to the servers? but The Piston has always been a healthy mix of people - with friendly and good service. At least in my experience. You seem quick to judge anyway -- Oh well.

slippereyslope / May 16, 2010 at 7:57 PM
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It does seem to be the regular clientele as I live right by it and walk by on my way to 3Speed or Disgraceland. Since the servers at both of those places is great I think I can assume it isn't because I'm obnoxious. When the bartender takes your order and then chats for 3 minutes to somebody at the bar before bothering to pour your drink - that constitutes crap service.

lizab / May 16, 2010 at 8:37 PM
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Haven't been to the Piston yet, but it looks OK - I've lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years and it's great to finally have a few locals nearby that are not old-man sports bars.

One thing, though: what's with everyone calling the area Blufferin and Blansdowne and Blovercourt? Jeez. What's wrong with Bloorcourt or Dovercourt? That's what it's been called for decades and I think it sounds fine.

Blossington Post / May 19, 2010 at 1:04 PM
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I agree with Aces. I too am a neighbour and was looking forward to the interior of The Piston, which seemed like the only place that could compete with Disgraceland for my local love and attention. Cheesy music, coupled with a bad attitude from the Bartender, led me to vow that I would never step foot in the Piston again. It was disappointing as hell. Sorry, Cookie, but the reason you gave Aces, certainly doesn't hold true for my night. No legit excuses.

Cookie In replying to a comment from Blossington Post / May 20, 2010 at 3:28 PM
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Well, each to their own. Your experiences have definitely not been my experiences at The Piston. I have had both great and often poor service at Disgraceland - dependant on who served me. The music has always been top notch - with a lot of great music you often don't hear in bars -- these guys really dig music. And the food and service has always been really good and personal at The Piston. Oh well ...

TheSherman / May 23, 2010 at 1:21 AM
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I'm totally confused on what to think of this place! All the reviews I've read say it's great and then some people who comment on them say its mediocre at best while others love it. I'm mainly interested in going to see Astronautalis next Saturday (May 29) since my girlfriend and I have been in love with him since we met, it's going to be her 19th and she wants a 'quiet' night out, if we do end up going here are we going to have to deal with all the posers in town or will it be REAL people who actually love music and a good vibe? If anyone has an opinion please share, thanks in advance.

Snapcraklepop In replying to a comment from TheSherman / May 25, 2010 at 6:09 PM
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@TheSherman
if you want to see a band you should go. The crowd seems to be mostly young neighbourhood portugese boys predrinking, not a hipster bar at all. With a good band playing the crowd might be different, who knows. I've been twice-it's mediocre, but probably worth it if you're seeing a good band. Have fun

gregory / July 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM
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hey guys, where the heck do you find the piston on the internet?

Laura / September 10, 2010 at 6:23 PM
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The Piston is run by guys who are totally anti-establishment so for all of you who think that it is too "club land" for you, you are way off base. All of the owners are accomplished musicians who have been working in the restaurant biz for years. The vibe is laid back and welcoming. The service is likewise. Their clientele is geared towards the local scene and is not pretentious at all.

David Maccallum / November 21, 2010 at 8:12 PM
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Awesome place great vibe, will go again and again

m / December 17, 2010 at 11:18 AM
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Im a big fan of this place. Very wide range of music, it's like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get. Good beer selection as well.

cindy / January 6, 2011 at 10:42 AM
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I have gone here twice. First time the food was pretty good but the service not great. Second time I walked out because no one served me or even came to my table for 15 mins. I get its supposed be laid back but that to me is no excuse to be lazy. There was a party at the bar i guess and it looked like everyone knew everyone who was working. That turns me off. I will not be going back to this place.

Lane In replying to a comment from Laura / April 18, 2011 at 5:35 PM
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Being anti-establishment must make you hostile. Several friends have held events there over the past month, all terrible experiences. The owners treat bands, promoters and DJs horrendously compared to other bars in Toronto. Despite all of these people drawing large crowds for the bar, they were spoken to in a unfriendly, offensive manner. They were argued with and patronized without reason. I don't know anyone who will book there again. I hope the piston owners are able to set aside their "accomplished musician" egos, because nobody has fun in a bar with such awful staff.

Name / April 28, 2011 at 8:34 PM
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It's got a nice interior but the staff are far from friendly. Go further West to Drift. Nicer folks and cheaper beer. I've only been a few times to the Piston but unfortunately the staff need to cheer up.

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