In the midst of my weekend shopping a couple months ago I ducked into The Ossington for some sustenance and shelter from the cold. The beautiful barista Danielle warmed me from the inside out with a Bailey's-spiked Americano. Danielle and Jimmy Mills, the DJ du jour, were contemplating the evening's set list. They had a sweet mix of hip-hop, R&B, soul, and funk lined up for their Saturday night crowd. It was the calm before the storm.
Manager Pat Colosimo was looking cool and collected behind the bar. When I commented on the 'calm before the storm' vibe he corrected me. 'This is more like when the thick black clouds gather together and start spitting rain,' he explained. Pat was juggling late booze deliveries and a last minute request to host a party for all the staff members of The Drake Hotel , The Beaconsfield , and The Kitchen . As I watched Pat take care of business in his nonchalant but caring way, I realized something. The Ossington is Ossington's next best thing.
Located in the old Gallery 61 just north of Queen on Ossington, the newish bar is appropriately dedicated to 'Keeping the Art on Ossington.' The place is staffed with a core group of the neighbourhood`s most flagrant working artists. Danielle the beautiful barista is a photographer. Jubal Brown, the barman, does weird and wonderful audiovisual art. He gets to show off once a week at his theme night called Intervention Monday. From heavy metal to Elvis, you never know what will surface at Jubal`s party.
Thursday is another safe bet for a good time at The Ossington. It's the bar's busiest night and is unofficially called The Shit Show. At The Shit Show artist friends are invited to take over the sound system and iPod DJ the night away. The resulting organized chaos feels like your best friend's neighbourhood house party without the Parcheesi or stale pretzels.
I wasn't the only one looking for shelter on that chilly Saturday night. Lawrence, one of the poverty-stricken locals, popped in for his daily Americano on the house. Danielle greeted him warmly and accepted a cigarette as payment. Lawrence comes by the bar every day for his coffee. He has been known to pay in pre-packaged chicken breasts and vintage clothes on good days, but tobacco is his usual currency. A strong pulse beats away beneath The Ossington's slick designer decor. West-enders will appreciate this pretention-free, community art hub with drinks and dancing to boot. Lawrence is only one of the many locals who call The Ossington a home away from home.
Writing by Jennifer Toole
Toronto Lit Up presents Pasha Malla and Fugue States:
Join Pasha Malla as he discusses Fugue States, the wild and poignant story of two young men who embark on a Don Quixote-like quest from Canada to Kashmir, in conversation with David Chariandy.
May 26, 6:30pm
61 Ossington Ave
Toronto M6J 2Y9