Charlie's Gallery

Charlie's Gallery on Harbord fits in perfectly with the area's mellow vibe - where its line-up of adorable restaurants and bars, but low-key atmosphere, make it feel like an inverse, alternate-dimension Lower Ossington. Mild-mannered Upper Annex residents have reason to be leery of a place that looks so promisingly hip, though. A lovely space with exposed brick wall, bold wallpaper and a tantalizing martini menu to boot, Charlie's Gallery gives the younger crowd a reason to make the trip up to Harbord.

But, the owners assure me, the patrons are solidly in the 28+ range, while the atmosphere is soothing and calm - despite trio Ike Smirnis, Gerry Katis and George Charilaou's various involvements in roaring College St. bars Touche and Wild Indigo, (as well as King West spot, Cache). Asked if live music was in the works, I'm told that they're looking at hosting live jazz in the open front window on warm summer nights.

The laidback feeling at Charlie's Gallery is one of the bar's strongest appeals. It's definitely a welcoming spot, with ambient music playing in the background and candles flickering on the low, lounge-style tables. A bright and modern cafe during the day, Charlie's Gallery echoes a bit of Souz Dal's dark, sexy vibe come evening.

Opening first thing, seven days a week, Charlie's Gallery makes it easy to find a reason to stop in. Pop by during the day for a panini and cafe-au-lait; at night, try a tasty Van Gogh martini or a glass of wine. There's something wonderfully uncomplicated about Charlie's Gallery, as the fact that it's pretty much always open - or the easy, friendly demeanour of the staff - can attest to.

If you're heading out to one of Harbord's lovely restaurants, like Tati or Loire , Charlie's Gallery makes a very nice stop beforehand for an aperitif. As the evening wears on, Charlie's attracts a crowd of its own, drawn by its inventive martini menu and intimate ambience. On weekends things get more lively, but only slightly more spirited than Harbord is used to. Charlie's Gallery can't help it, though. When you've got this much going for you, it's hard to deter the masses.

Writing by Jessica McCann

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