The Korova Milkbar sits between the restaurants of Little Italy and the hallowed grungy hangouts of Bathurst and College, and sets itself apart from just about every bar in the area. It's not that the décor or drink options are spectacularly unique, in fact rather the opposite. There's no discernible style or vibe to the place, which gives it an unpretentious and rather inviting air. The magnetic poetry sets scattered across the wall are a good metaphor for the fact that a night at Korova is whatever you make of it.
Manager Brittany Crick is a self-confessed literary junkie, and named her place after the infamous establishment in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange . Unlike that fictional bar, Crick's Korova doesn't serve opiate-laced dairy drinks, but a 750 mL bottle of Fin du Monde for $15 will get you where you need to be just as quick. If you'd like something a little smaller try their Burt Reynolds shot for $3.50, so named because, made with Captain Morgan's Rum and Butterscotch Schnapps, it has a tough exterior but a soft underside. More standard drinks include tallcans of PBR for $4.50, and bottles of Steamwhistle and Red Stripe for $4.50.
While the downstairs part of the bar is crammed with as many tables and chairs as possible and looks like a good place for an intimate evening getting sloshed with a few friends, the upstairs venue portion is another story. Active at least five nights a week, it's becoming a favourite party spot for Korova's growing clientele. Just as unassuming as downstairs, it looks as if someone's cleared their apartment of all furniture and laid a rug down at one end of the room to serve as a stage.
The setting is perfect for a crowded house party feel. Korova's booker describes the kinds of acts he books as pretty eclectic, everything from the anti-globalization music scene (whatever that is), to side projects by members of the Wooden Sky and Spiral Beach. When I stopped by they were setting up for something called a "Paranormal Groove Orgy." Alas, I did not stick around.
In addition to the upstairs venue, Korova has a third section: a small leafy patio out back that by all rights should be full every sunny afternoon of the summer months.
Having been open for three months, Crick admits she's still tinkering, and that's not a bad thing. She scrapped her martini menu because customers ordered martinis about once a week. Ditto for her brunch menu. But Korova's strengths are clearly its easiness and versatility. For quiet conversation downstairs or sweaty dance parties upstairs, it's a refreshing change to the regular College Street fare.