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Bar Radio

Photo: Dennis Marciniak

Posted by Todd H / December 26, 2010

Wilson 96 is a new-ish bar on College that really is a breath of fresh air in what has become, to me anyway, a pretty tired strip of Toronto night-life. While there is no doubt some incredibly good food along the way (including the new Woodlot), when it comes to finding a simple, welcoming place to kick back and have a drink without feeling like you're either on a date or in a restaurant/dance club/tiki bar, Little Italy is a desert.

Open since May, Wilson 96 comes to us from the mother/daughter team of Siobhan and Gail Power. They've completely remade the shockingly green interior of its previous inhabitants into a den of exposed brick and dark wood creating a very warm, cozy, and relaxed atmosphere that makes anyone feel invited (although their signage could use some help).

A long 10 seat bar made from the floor of the old Wilson Lanes bowling alley stretches into the middle of the space, backstopped by a fridge stocked with about 25 types of beer (wish that were true with all bowling alleys - note to The Ballroom). There are a couple booths along the wall and some plush arm chairs at the rear that get rearranged for live music nights - of which there are currently three - Monday (Jazz), Tuesday and Thursday (alt country with Samantha Martin and the Haggard).

Come the new year, they'll be adding an early Sunday evening show and will also start up a short film screening series for budding auteurs. If that isn't enough, they also have old school pen and paper trivia on Tuesday nights. The rest of the time, the music is your more ubiquitous ipod shuffle, but in this case, it really is a shuffle as friends and patrons are encouraged to make their own lists and share.

Food is a relatively minor occurrence, but you do have lots of options, including bringing your own (a whole homemade lasagne was spotted recently) or choosing from a smaller menu prepared by next door neighbour La Forchetta.

The drinks list is a nice combination of old school cocktails and with 4 beers and a cider on tap there is sure to be something you like, but make sure you bring cash as it's currently all they'll take.

Open 7 days a week from 5pm - 2am, Wilson 96 is a much needed addition to the College Street shuffle.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Mill Street Organic, Warsteiner, Steamwhistle, Guinness, Sir Perry’s Pear Cider
Signature Drink:
Dark and Stormy – Rum, ginger beer, lime $8
Bar Snacks:
Bring your own
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Little Italy locals
5pm-2am daily



Steve / December 28, 2010 at 9:30 AM

I moved into the Little Italy area last spring - A Desert? Try getting a seat on one of the many patios here in the summer without lining up - and so far this fall/winter the street is bustling with people of all types- the Douchebag Quota is low for an area that has this much night life

Richard / December 28, 2010 at 11:09 AM

I've lived in Little Italy all my life and its not the best its ever been, but its far from a 'desert'.

I'm guessing the same genius who strung that sentence together also thought it'd be a good idea to make every review 2 clicks away from the main posting on the front page.

read In replying to a comment from Richard / December 28, 2010 at 12:49 PM

the quote is:

"when it comes to finding a simple, welcoming place to kick back and have a drink *****without feeling like you're either on a date or in a restaurant/dance club/tiki bar****, Little Italy is a desert."

And, it's true.
And, the "douchebag quota" for the area is very high in my opinion.
And, yeah, the two click thing is very annoying - but, gets blogto twice the amount of all important page views for the advertisers.

read In replying to a comment from Richard / December 28, 2010 at 12:52 PM

oh, and, thank you for opening a place like this in the desert! I'll be stopping by soon.

Tony / December 28, 2010 at 2:02 PM

I have almost completely given up on the Little Italy Desert of Douchebags around 2007. I have lived in the area since 1993 (in the epicentre from 2001-2006), and its heyday was in the 90s, in my opinion. Regularish type spots like Southside Louie's are fine for the softball team, or last-rays-of-sunshine patio-time and lining up for the Dip patio is a tradition of sorts, but the overall trend there has been increasingly fly-by-night and just lame. Pretty sure Souz Dal allows patrons to bring food in, but the vibe in there is perhaps too cocktaily for all occasions.

Dolce / December 28, 2010 at 2:27 PM

Hey, assholes, I've lived in Little Italy for two years now and I love it. I love the houses, the trees, the restaurants. There douhebags everywhere and the neighbourhood wars are getting tiring at this point.

Nikki / December 28, 2010 at 3:07 PM

I personally love Little Italy. I can always find places to eat and to hang out with friends and there are places for people who love cocktails and people who enjoy beer and pub settings. I love that the streets that reside just off of College are full of trees and old, nice houses. You can be right in the hustle and bustle of the city or you can step aside in be in the calm. Love, love, love Little Italy and I have never been to Wilson 96, though I will check it out now.

randy / December 28, 2010 at 3:07 PM

I bought a house on Clinton St. back in 1995 and LOVE this area- i have lived in the Beach- Foresthill- Summerhill-Leslieville & Queen W -This is by far the best area of all for me- Sous Dahl, Andy Poolhall , Kalendar ,Gato Nero & Sidecar are my Fav's - I have not seen too many "Fly By Night" spaces but I have seen places open up that just do not fit and do not last long due to limited support - I will check this place out now as well.

geneva.b / December 28, 2010 at 3:22 PM

I can't even get through this review there are so many grammatical errors! If you need an editor, hire me. PS: I'm new to Little Italy, and Toronto in general, this neighbourhood is totally vibrant and always has people strolling around, even in cold weather. If you want a true social "desert", go hang out in Vancouver! Nothing to complain about here...

Justin In replying to a comment from Dolce / December 28, 2010 at 4:54 PM

...and why exactly are you calling everyone here assholes? You didn't end up making a point. Care to clarify, quota raiser?

sezme In replying to a comment from geneva.b / December 28, 2010 at 6:22 PM

Great way to start your career, dear. Just up and call out the "so many grammatical errors" without citing any, and then offer your services. I'm sure they'll hire you in a flash, especially for your tact and humility.

Richard In replying to a comment from read / December 28, 2010 at 6:52 PM

Yes, I saw that full quote, and I still disagree with it. East of Roxton there are quite a few places that aren't for Ed Hardy cologne and perfume wearing 905ers.

sanjay / December 28, 2010 at 11:13 PM

it appears to blogto that unless there's 905 maggots filling up the place ... it's empty

sanjay / December 28, 2010 at 11:13 PM

it appears to blogto that unless there's 905 maggots filling up the place ... it's empty

Murg / December 28, 2010 at 11:45 PM

I don't know about grammatical errors but it is indeed pretty bad writing. Grok this sentence if you can: "They've completely remade the shockingly green interior of its previous inhabitants into a den of exposed brick and dark wood creating a very warm, cozy, and relaxed atmosphere that makes anyone feel invited (although their signage could use some help)." Yikes!

Matt / December 29, 2010 at 5:07 PM

No, no, no. I live above a storefront two doors away from here. and to anyone who thinks the douchebag quotient is low, you are wrong. Unequivocally.

The clubs and bars in the area almost exclusively cater to Jersey Shore rejects rattling up and down the street pumping Eurotrash dance beats to the neighbourhood.

It's a shame because this stretch of College has some great architecture, there's a wonderful mix of other amenities (movie theatre, grocery stores, bookstores, record stores, bakeries) and the residential streets are great.

But the nightlife sucks, as do most of the restaurants. A sort of mini-Entertainment District for crude, loud douchebags.

I'm moving in May, just a few blocks west, over to Dovercourt, but it's a different world over there.

randy / December 29, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Re Matt You sound like one of those old people that are on the residents association in the area- Bitter - There are great Restaurants in this area Woodlot, Sidecar, Franks Kitchen- LAB- and the Come As You Are Attitude is great
"Mini Entertainment District" ? LOL

jib-jeb / January 31, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Uh, this place is lame. It is about as empty as the picture portrays. Overpriced, no food. Somewhere else is bound to be better.

drinks 1 / February 21, 2011 at 8:47 PM

Love this joint! I had my Birthday party there and it was an amazing night. They are super cool and they have every beer I like. The food and music was great too. I don't know what that other guy is talking about but I am happy that he wont be there. It's a gem.

Disapointed / February 22, 2011 at 4:51 PM

My friends and I were so disappointed by this bar.We were trying to find a low key place to grab some drinks and catch up. I suggested the Wilson since it was half way between both our places. We really are not picky and hardly ever complain about service since the majority of us are in the service industry, however this was some of the worst service I have ever had at a bar. It was way overpriced compared to other bars with the same ambience and the service was absolutely horrible. I will continue my hunt for a chill bar between our places and won't be returning back there anytime soon.

o / February 26, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Was there last sunday, won't be back. It was a bit overpriced but that's not really the issue. I hate bad service, especially when there's only 10 people in the whole bar. Owner/bartender was openly hostile and rude. She ignored me while I waited to order last call (I was the only person standing at the bar, and she was busy chatting with 2 guys). Finally i interrupted her conversation to order and she barely concealed her irritation, then proceeded with her conversation. I got my drinks after 10 minutes, when she, i guess, decided the conversation was boring her? Was rude just generally from beginning to end, then told us to move away from the doors of her bar after we left (we were there for less than 3 minutes because it was cold); she basically yelled at us. Hey, if you're reading this, you're the owner, you should care that your customers are being treated well, because you want your business to succeed. There were 7 of us, we're not coming back. And we took our friends with us. And we live in the neighbourhood. Stupid, and incomprehensible.

Great bar / May 7, 2011 at 12:36 PM

We had a great night at this bar a few months ago and now it's our regular spot. The food was incredible and the vibe is really great. They play AMAZING music. I have been looking for a place like this since I moved back to Toronto from San Francisco and it makes this city bearable. The bartenders are nice, smart and without any attitude. Best bar in the city by far.

Not ever returning / March 24, 2012 at 9:28 PM

Went to a friends birthday party there and was met with extreme hostility through out the whole night. From asking the lady bartender for permission to pull together a couple tables for the party in an other wise empty bar and being rebuffed with "how about you can just wait until they arrive." to being berated for not tipping enough on extremely over priced beer (1.A tip is not mandatory although it has become a standard 2. Any money on top of the final sale amount is a tip and one dollar per drink is more than your attitude should have ever earned you 3. Maybe if you paid attention to our customers you might actually earn said tips and know who is and is not tipping) In other words WORST service and over all experience I have had at a bar to date. I would advise walking a little more west on college or, you know, anywhere but Wilson 96

What?? / June 20, 2012 at 11:23 PM

What?! I find these negative reviews so curious. I've found the owner nothing short of wonderful and friendly each time I've been there. Their trivia nights are great fun and I like the tiny size of the place. The staff make a point of introducing themselves and asking for your name too, it's super friendly!!

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