Salt & Tobacco owners transform dollar store into a chill cocktail spot with wallet-friendly drinks, saucy wallpaper, and a Cheezies-centric snack menu
By Natalia Manzocco
Jun 5, 2019
Super Bargain (441 Parliament, at Spruce, @superbargain_cabbagetown) is a low-key cocktail and beer bar, the only one of its kind in Cabbagetown.
The owners, Gavin Brown and Michelle Blattner, would know — they’ve lived in the area for nine years.
Blattner and Brown, who also own pizzeria Salt & Tobacco up the street, used to cap off their evenings at a cozy jazz bar called the Cobourg. Since its closure a few years ago, the neighbourhood has mostly been dominated by sit-down restaurants and pubbier watering holes like Stout, the Irv and House on Parliament.
“I think a lot of people would say the same thing – that there’s nowhere to go to just get a cocktail,” Blattner says.
Brown saw a solution in a former dollar store on Parliament, keeping the name (and the sign), but adding in retro checkered linoleum floors, Muppet-fur-covered industrial chairs and – most strikingly – wallpaper featuring ladies cavorting among palm fronds.
The result is fun and eclectic, but not overly trendy or fancy. “Because Cabbagetown is such a diverse neighbourhood with so many dimensions, I wanted to make it as approachable for many people as I could,” Brown says.
“There’s a lot of income diversity, ethnic diversity, different orientations. I didn’t want a place that had a virtual velvet rope, because that’s not in the spirit of the neighbourhood.”
With that in mind: Prices start at $6 for domestic bottles. Pints start at $7, and cocktails (each between 2 and 3 oz) will run you a flat $12. Most mixed drinks are familiar classics like Paper Planes, with a few new spins courtesy of the spot’s bartenders.
“I thought making it quirky, fun, a little bit unique, would be making it better than making it a theme, or super-highbrow,” Brown says. “I don’t want to be the best cocktail bar in the city. I don’t have aspirations for that – I just want people to feel comfortable with a beer and some Cheezies, the old-school kind we got as kids.”
Those Cheezies (the classic ones from W.T. Hawkins Ltd.), along with Pringles and pepperettes, have the distinction of being the only available snacks, but takeout is allowed, and Brown and Blattner are considering making Salt & Tobacco pizzas available through the bar if there’s enough demand.
A month into opening, weekends at Super Bargain boast more of a party vibe (the kind that doesn’t often happen in Cabbagetown), while weeknights are a little more relaxed, with plenty of locals and service industry folks from the area stopping by.
So far, Brown says, people from the area seem pretty into it. “I drop my kid off at school every morning, and I get great feedback.”
Here’s a closer look at the menu:
The Dark & Sour, invented by bartender Alastair Junio, is a cocktail version of a Dark & Stormy, featuring lime juice, ginger liqueur, dark rum and egg whites with a dehydrated lime wedge.
The Oaxaca Old Fashioned combines tequila, mezcal, agave syrup and bitters.
From the classic drinks menu: A straight-up Paloma with grapefruit, lime, El Jimador tequila and soda.
Natalia came to NOW as the food writer in 2015 before taking over the lifestyle desk in 2019. She has written about food, style, technology, life and travel for the National Post, Sun Media, blogTO and Metro. She enjoys thrift stores and bad puns.