Troubadour, a term coined in the Middle Ages to refer to French and Italian poets and musicians, is also the name of one of Toronto's newest hidden gems. Besides being an intimate live music venue, The Troubadour is a simplistic, charming bar with a very cozy atmosphere. Located in The Junction , the bar was opened in 2007 by 30-something owners Kristy Hollidge and Alain Richer (a French musician himself), who have created a quaint little space that serves the community of the Dundas and Keele area, giving them a place to call home away from home, have a bite and a pint, and listen to performances by many great local bands and artists.
It's a Thursday night, and the band (a creative ensemble of songwriters called Us and Others) is setting up gear and instruments in the front room, placing themselves around the Robert-Johnson-era piano that sits against the wall, check-1-2-ing as the patrons sip their microbrews and their French Onion Soup, a Troubadour specialty.
As I drink my Creemore, taking in the sights and sounds, I notice the Christmas lights that adorn the walls of exposed brick, two red lampshades framing the bar, ceiling fans turning in slow motion, and the promise of a soon-to-be-here weekend lingering in the air.
Framed photos by local photographer Matthew Marigold hang on the wall - a series of clowns boozing it up (apparently friends of the bar, and other people from the Junction community who offered to have their faces painted), all on sale in support of the Contact Photo Festival. The friendly waitress/bartender, Clare, is kind enough to answer all my questions, even though she's working alone and serving the now-packed room, calling many of them by first name and never skimping on the smiles.
The Troub (as it's affectionately known) offers a very hearty menu - pub fare with a home-cooked twist - at a very reasonable price. The most expensive entree is less than ten dollars. On Mondays, the bar hosts Homecooked Monday's - a special night of hearty comfort food. They even have a kids menu, affectionately titled "Little Munchkin Food" (Munchkins get a free bowl of vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry!)
For those just in for a pint, the bar also offers a wide variety of local microbrews, a great selection of bottled beers, and monthly features. And for those with musical aspirations and a bit of guts, Sunday nights are open jam nights, so bring down your instruments!
The Troubadour will celebrate its two-year anniversary in October; here's to many more years to come. The bar serves one of Toronto's most up-and-coming neighbourhoods, and is building a loyal fanbase of regulars, some of whom return several times a week, even if it's just to stop in for a quick drink and a friendly hello from the staff.
Writing by Andrew Hanna