element bar (553 queen west, 416-359-1919)
VIBE Fits between a full-size club and a lounge. The basement is louder and the music more upbeat, while the upstairs has more seating and is mellower. The crowd tends toward early to mid-20s, but not exclusively. Rarely uncomfortably full (amazing what a liquor licence suspension can do), the club now attracts more music lovers then trend followers. Music: Wednesdays hiphop, funk and house; Thursdays house-oriented with a bit of breaks; weekends predominantly chunky funky house.
FEATURES DJs love the basement sound system: crisp, clean and full, but not so loud that you worry about your hearing. The lighting system is very minimal, but that's good -- intelligent lasers are so late-90s. International guests rock the decks a couple of times a month, but generally the DJ lineup is local.
VALUE Cover isn't outrageous, although it does go up when there's a guest DJ. Coat check and drinks aren't overly expensive either. Regulars eventually end up with VIP cards that mean bypassing the cover except for special events.
SECURITY Generally friendly and courteous, although if the guest list minder is absent the bouncers can get a little impatient dealing with everyone's claims. Searches are minimal, but then again, it's not a rough crowd.
BATHROOMS Small and badly designed -- the club's least endearing feature -- but they won't ruin anyone's night. Lineups on busy nights, so don't wait till the last minute.