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.
60s Mod Soul Reggae Record Dance Party
DJ Nico (Vinyl from the Crypt CIUT 89.5FM)
DJ Magnificent (Ottawa's Double Barrel)
Sponsored by Fred Perry Toronto & Kops Records
$5/$10 cover, 19+