Nightowl in Little Italy has insane cocktails, cheap eats, and arcade games. Separated into two floors, the space is well-used and well-decorated. An illuminated sign reminds patrons that the night is ours and works of Toronto artists, all for sale, are hung around the room.
The bar is situated in the middle of everything, with a dining space located up a few steps. Down in the basement, there's a big open space with a modest stage that is used for open mics and small performances.
Nightowl has a list of cocktails named after different areas of Toronto, each embodying the persona of the specific neighbourhood. I decided to try the Eglinton West ($9), a blend of rum and mango. The drink was delicious and refreshing, thanks to the fresh mango-infused rum.
The bar also serves up boozy floats, a great way to relive your childhood if you grew up in a town where the main pastime was daring each other to tip cows but refusing, after much discussion, because it was disrespectful to Mother Gaia (Guelph represent).
I tried the creamsicle float ($11), a mix of orange soda, vanilla ice cream, and vodka. It was amazing - like drinking the Orange Bacardi Breezers, but less artificially sweet and more socially acceptable for someone who doesn't need to use a fake ID anymore.
We also sampled some food, choosing the calamari ($6.75), the sliders ($8.75) and the mac and cheese ($5.75). The food came out quickly, with surprisingly generous portions for the prices. Toronto's Annie Leibovitz , Jesse Milns , called the sizzling calamari "good, really good, really crispy and good with the sauce...what is this sauce?" ( It's hoisin sauce, Jesse ).
Upon biting into a juicy-looking slider, he said it "tastes great, really good homemade smoked ketchup... it doesn't taste like the patties have breadcrumbs in them, why do you ask?" ( Because I have celiac disease , Jesse ).
After digging into the decadent mac and cheese, he stated "it's really creamy, so good... I really like the cheese and breadcrumbs on top... Wait, are you writing this all down verbatim?" ( Yes, Jesse ).
Nightowl is great because it helps to fills a bit of a void. Little Italy is home to tons of students, but so many of the bars and restaurants are either too high-end or too lowbrow.
Nightowl is hip and exciting but still reasonably priced. With a cool vibe and solid food and booze, it seems like the ideal place for hanging out and having fun without the pretension you might expect.
We left Nightowl with satiated appetites and our BAC at just the right level for a Wednesday night. Just before stepping out, we played one final arcade game - Rampage , an interesting perspective flip featuring King Kong and Godzilla (possibly formulated by animal rights activists).
It was super fun and a neat throwback but in the end I let Jesse win. He had just heard me talk about celiac disease for several hours and was never going to be the same again.
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Early bird tickets will be on sale from Aug...