The Port on Dundas west of Ossington has shaken most of its former self. Once Ports Cafe Bar and Grill, new owner Danny Ribeiro took over the old Portuguese bar more than a year ago and did a complete overhaul, revealing a trendier, warmer, and more laid back space this past October.
Walking into The Port, it certainly has that lower Ossington feel with thick dark brown booths, high stools and raised tables, and a soft red glow filing over the length of the bar. But unique little pieces are scattered throughout; an upholstered wooden armchair is sitting by the stage, a vintage lamp sitting in a nook opposite the kitchen, and, of course, the old-school Pac-Man arcade game near the back.
Yes, Pac-Man. And while the old Ports Cafe Bar and Grill paid homage to European soccer players with posters covering every other inch of wall space, the only remnant here is the World Cup Soccer pinball machine, which, actually, was brought in by Danny. So really, it's more of a tribute than a remnant.
On weekends The Port hosts local bands, with monthly performers including jazz band Rambunctious, regular DJs, as well as other rock, techno, and gypsy/electric bands. "But when it's not too busy we usually play a lot of Motown," Danny tells me. Any particular reason? "Nah," he says. "Just into it right now." Those not into the band can make use of The Port's two billiards tables, or else Pac-Man, of course, and I'm gonna assume there's always a line-up.
As for drinks, $5.50 seems to be the magic number at The Port, where most everything (pints, imported bottles, mixed drinks--including The Port's signature hurricane made of black Sambuca and Tequila Rose) is at that price, except for domestic bottles, which are $4.50.
The Port has the standard bar staples--fries ($4.99), poutine ($7.99), and onion rings ($4.99), for example--but its most notorious menu item is The Sword ($12.99). Appropriately named, it is a two-foot skewer of grilled steak suspended above your table. The bartender hauls out the mechanism to show me what it looks like, and sure enough, the clamped contraption (medieval torture device?) successfully suspends a massive skewer above the table. "People always take pictures of it," she says. "And it tastes really good too!"
Though native to the original Ports Cafe Bar and Grill, The Sword is fast becoming integral to The Port bar of new. And the local art on the walls, new music, menu-in-the-making and fresh clientele is helping to push the progress along. But hey, at least there's still World Cup Soccer, if only in pinball form.