What makes a great dive bar? Is it the understated charm, the lack of pretension? Maybe it’s the respite you get from clubs squeezing every cent from you. A big part of their appeal is the simple fact that they’re easy to make your own.
U of T kids squandering their student loans swear by Bistro 422 (422 College, 416-963-9416), a subterranean space with Regal Beagle 70s decor offset by the impressively contemporary music tastes of the two fabulously bitchy owners. A pitcher of the house swill, er, lager will run you 10 bucks, and shooters are usually on special for a toonie.
It’s easier to find an alien-shaped bong and a Tupac Shakur T-shirt on Yonge than it is to find a decent drinking hole. The Duke of Gloucester (649 Yonge, 416-961-9704) is a class act among downtown’s corporate Firkin clones because it actually feels like a real, roughed-up English pub. Years of pint-spilling soccer fans have left their mark, and the velvet booths look ravaged, but you can’t deny the welcoming atmosphere.
Ossington’s gentrification is freaking everyone out as galleries, bauble stores and upscale eateries spread up and down the once Portuguese-Vietnamese stronghold. Recently birthed Baby Huey (70 Ossington, 416-992-5462), however, is keeping it real. Previously a tinted-window Vietnamese karaoke café, Baby Huey has been siphoning the Social’s young clientele with its dirt-cheap pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon and low-maintenance vibe. Not to mention an influx of indie electro DJs running the decks.
Just walking by Grossman’s Tavern (379 Spadina, 416-977-7000) is enough to tell you the place is a long way from its glory days. Nevertheless, the historic blues shack where the late Jeff Healey made more than a few appearances carries on despite trends. Some might call the place grimy, others call it character.
The Boat (158 Augusta, 416-593-9218) has come a long way since it was transformed from a nautical-themed seafood restaurant into one of T.O.’s hottest indie clubs. There isn’t much you can do with those 30-year old bathrooms, though – they still reek. And the putrid shag carpet gets worse by the party. Still, if it ain’t broke….