SANDY DE ALMEIDA
at the Gladstone, 1214 Queen West, 416-531-4635
This tattooed Emily the Strange character holds her ground amongst the fashionista hordes taking over the West Queen West strip. She makes mixing drinks an art form and can make idle chit-chat even when juggling a trillion drink orders. Plus, she can handle a teeming bar on even the most slammed nights, and she's not scared to tell off douchebags who give her a hard time.
Best big club
270 Spadina, 416-599-5550
When this David Morales-backed room was Boa, it had the Best sound system in town. Well, the system's different now but it still sounds great, so perhaps the credit should go to the room itself -- an old movie theatre. It's big enough to feel like a real club, but not so big that they have to book lame mainstream DJs to fill it up. And, like every good underground club, it's definitely gay-friendly.
Best boutique club
425 Adelaide West, 416-913-3488
Footwork's a second-time winner here, partially because there's not much competition at this level, but also because the owners have continued to improve the venue and weathered that difficult first year as a new club. It has the feel of a larger underground club in a space that doesn't hold more than 200 dancers, making for a much more intimate experience.
In between touring the world's Best clubs, recording one of the better dance records of the year and cranking out a good number of the better dance-rock remixes, MSTRKRFT have also managed to make time to play a wide variety of Toronto gigs and rock the crowds consistently. Established dance music scenesters' initial suspicion regarding the duo's rock backgrounds appears to have subsided and been replaced with reluctant respect from the old guard. The indie scene always knew these guys were hot.
13 Ossington, 416-535-6861 For sheer variety and a surefire chance of hearing that one song you need to put on every mix tape you make (whether you're a West Queen West hipster or a crusty seasoned punk), you can't do better than the CD-selecting-machine at the bar that launched Ossington as a cool destination. From the Velvets to Metric, from Led Zep to Bloc Party, from Prince to the Constantines, Sweaty Betty's jukebox has the perfect balance of au courant Canadindie chic, retro classics and guilty pleasures. It's like a choose-your-own adventure soundtrack to the movie that's your life on Jager shots.
1192 Queen West
If you're looking for the kind of lounge where you can reserve a VIP booth and drop a few hundred dollars on bottles of vodka, this is not your spot. If you're looking for a place withdrag queen DJs where you can sit at the bar and drink beer while listening to punk rock tunes and watching Kenneth Anger films projected on the front window, this is it. Still in transition from its former life as a café to its current incarnation as an edgy, artsy and defiantly (but not exclusively) queer bar, the Beaver is definitely a night spot we're pleased to have around.
A MAN CALLED WARWICK
Despite fairly minimal promotion, A Man Called Warwick's monthly Turning Point party at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom continues to be an institution for dancers who dig deep tropical funk, Latin, soul, Afrobeat, Brazilian and old dusty 45s in general. No, he's not going to win any DMC turntablist championships any time soon, but that's yet to stop him from keeping a dance floor full.