Handlebar has a motif that's obvious. In a city where the bi-wheeled are often maligned and fodder for near civil warfare, this Kensington Market bar is a haven.
There are bronzed bikes anchored on the wall, and for those who wear their cyclists' hearts on their sleeves, this place is almost cartoonishly perfect.
The space is long and narrow. In a room at the back, you'll find a stage that's small enough to be more appropriate for comedic stand-up than music. The seating area is split into small tables, and there's a roomy patio littered with season-appropriate poolside chairs.
Handlebar is not a space for those with fancy tastes. Beers ($6.25) and whiskies ($6.50 for a Maker's) are the focus here, which is not necessarily bad for the weary palate.
Their bar menu is similarly unpretentious, serving homey favourites such as spaghetti and meatballs or tacos. The dishes vary daily, but hover around $6.
There are places that go out of their way to push you out of your comfort zone, but that's not the case here. At Handlebar intimacy is not only possible, but seems to be encouraged.
Its Kensington location also proves to be an advantage; it not only works with all the other bars in the area, but answers to what they're missing.
In short, if the Embassy was larger, Cold Tea lower-key, and Ronnie's more put-together, you'd have Handlebar.
From Alanis to Hole, Garbage to Sheryl Crow. A tribute to the best female fronted rock and pop acts of the most righteous decade in feminist angst and joy, the nineteen hundred and nineties! June 9th, 9pm, Handlebar. PWYC.