Sunday, January 11, 2009

B on The Dakota Tavern

The Dakota Tavern
249 Ossington Ave. (a few doors north of Dundas)

The Dakota Tavern’s bluegrass brunch was my suggested outing for T & B Toronto firsts, and as a girl from out west I can confidently say that The Dakota did not disappoint. Its d├ęcor is rustic and charming, and the staff was even wearing fairly authentic looking western shirts (which I know isn’t that impressive given the recent cooptation of western dress by the hipster community). There is a definite country feel to the place. Which isn’t to say that people who aren’t from the west can’t or won’t appreciate The Dakota (hipsters will love it too!).

T and I got there around noon and made our way down the stairs (the tavern is in a basement) and waited dutifully by the ‘please wait to be seated’ sign.

The set up for brunch reminded me of a family reunion: long tables with red and white tablecloths. We got a seat at the bar and the bartender gave us the low down. It’s 12 bucks for all you can eat eggs, blueberry pancakes, potatoes, and sausage, as much coffee as you can drink, and a glass orange juice, oh and the music of course. Our spot gave us a view of the bluegrass bands plaid backs. It was good seat I thought. It meant we could stare at everyone watching the band without feeling too creepy. I can’t recall the bands name, but it was three guys, the music was good – bluegrassy – and the banter wasn’t bad either. There were quite a few kids milling about and dancing, which made it feel even more like a family reunion.

Our food came quickly and all heaped on top of one plate. T and I then dished out what we wanted onto our own more modestly sized plates. The food was fine; it didn’t blow me away, and I would have liked some toast. But all in all it was a pretty solid breakfast. The problem (if you choose to see it that way) with having breakfast at a bar is that the urge to drink is very strong (for those of you who read my other blog you know that I likes me some breakfast booze). Especially when they give you orange juice, which goes great with vodka. After I was done the vodka I got a Guinness, a very nutritious breakfast beer. I’m sure you’ve heard that a banana and a Guinness give you all the nutrients you need for a whole day?

I like the Dakota a lot. I’ve been back a couple times since, but in the evening. It’s maintains it’s laid back atmosphere, the staff have been consistently friendly (but not over the top) and the music is always great.

T on The Dakota Tavern

The Dakota Tavern
249 Ossington Ave. (a few doors north of Dundas)

B, our resident cowgirl, was adamant about going to The Dakota Tavern for their Sunday bluegrass brunch. I happily agreed because I, along with the rest of Toronto, love going out for brunch.

B and I met up before heading into the Tavern together. The place is underground (literally), so the entrance can be easy to miss. We made our way down into the dark bar. It was weird; if I didn't know any better, I would have never known that it was day out. It was that dingy. Dingy is fine during the night, when I'm out about town for some drinks. But when I've lugged my ass out the door for some hangover brunch, I want some nice windows that let in natural lighting. Just not my day, I guess.

Sunday bluegrass brunch is $12 for all-you-can-eat. The deal included unlimited scrambled eggs, home fries, sausages and blueberry pancakes and a cup of orange juice. The food came to us in a heaping pile on a large plate. The scrambled eggs and home fries were quite nice. The eggs were fluffy and hot, and the fries were greasy and flavourful. I didn't care for the pancakes. They were pretty tasteless and dry. The sausages weren't spectacular either. In fact, they were kind of repulsive. Biting into the slightly wrinkly sausage felt like biting into a rubbery, slightly salty rod. Sausages should explode with piggy flavour! They should be oozing with grease! They should be salty! I just ended up eating a lot of eggs and home fries and drinking cups upon cups of coffee.

I noticed that the Tavern had a wide selection of beers on tap. Bryn took advantage of this and ordered herself a pint of Guiness (and this was after she ordered a shot of vodka to kick her orange juice up a notch). I was too much of a wuss to order breakfast beer, but I kept their nice selection in mind for future nights out.

The bluegrass band that played (because, you know...this is "bluegrass" brunch) was fun. Three plaid-clad dudes (duh), respectively playing a banjo, an upright bass and uh...a fiddle, I'm guessing. Bluegrass is always guaranteed fun. It was nice to start my day with live music.

The service at The Dakota is great. The servers were helpful and all smiles. And I'm not talking about cheesy, irritating smiles like the ones at chain restaurants like Montana's or East Side Mario's. I'm talking about small, genuine smiles that are enough to show diners that their presence is welcomed at the joint. I didn't feel bad for asking for more water, like I sometimes would at other restaurants. At one point, our server had forgotten about my coffee refill, but I didn't feel the least bit irritated because she was apologetic and was on top of the refill right away.

I don't think I would go back for bluegrass brunch again, simply because I am a brunch snob and even good scrambled eggs and home fries just don't cut it for me. I would, however, go back to check out the night scene. Maybe there will be lots of lanky, gangly white boys in plaid shirts and tight girls' jeans for me to ogle. Mm-hmm!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coming Soon!

T&B go to Dakota Tavern for Bluegrass Brunch.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

T on Sweaty Betty's

Sweaty Betty's
Address: 13 Ossington Avenue (three doors north of Queen Street West)
Tel: 416-535-6861
Hours of operation: Open everyday ("except maybe Christmas Day") 5pm to 2am

For the premiere outing of T &B Toronto Firsts, I chose Sweaty Betty’s. It wasn’t difficult to convince B that it was a good choice. B is a sassy, sexy lady who loves her beer and Sweaty Betty’s, in my mind, was going to be just that – sass, sex and beer.

Maybe I was grossly mislead by the name of the establishment – Sweaty Betty’s. Sure, many of the patrons might have been sweaty, but that was probably because the place was so small. I sure didn’t see very many “betties.” Anyone resembling a betty was with a huge posse of indie rock-looking boys or so engaged in conversation with another potential betty that I couldn’t even see their faces. I thought Sweaty Betty’s was a dyke bar! And maybe it was, but I am just a douche who has a narrow and limited idea of what dykes look like (oh, you know what I’m talking about).

The bar was packed when we arrived. We couldn’t get a seat in the “lounge” area at the back of the bar, which was really unfortunate. The lounge was a world in of itself. Maroon walls and heavy black curtains; lush, stuffed sofas; warm-lit lamps with detailed lampshades; and countless framed portraits of tattooed individuals from past eras. It was gorgeous back there, somewhere I would have loved to spend a late Thursday evening. The lucky bastards who managed to snatch a seat in the lounge were all engrossed in lively conversation with one another, which was exactly what I was looking for. I’m actually a closeted pretentious fuck who just wants the finest things in life; to consume cappuccinos during the day, expensive beers at night and cultural theory all day.

We ended up sitting at the bar, where B bought me a Red Stripe (thanks again, B!). Unfortunately for us, we sat next to some creepy leery dude who wouldn’t stop looking at us (who later called B “sweetie”). Seriously, out with the creeps and in with the betties! Come on now. Blegh.

I still can’t decide whether I found our bartender’s up-sale eagerness irritating or charming. I have never been to a bar where the bartender brought over second rounds of the same drinks we were still finishing, in an attempt to get us to buy more alcohol. Okay, in the span of that last sentence, I decided it was a turn-off, but also recognize that it’s just something you do as a pro-active bartender who wants to go home with that much more tips at the end of the night. So props to him for hustling.

Sweaty Betty's also hosts regular events, including Sake Sundays. On Sundays, at 3pm, you can catch Asian action flicks in the back room for free. Oh, and sake is 25 per cent off, all day and all night. This is definitely something I would like to check in out in the future. (If anyone would like to join me, please email me at

My time at Sweaty Betty’s ended earlier than B’s. Some of B’s friends from work came to join us and seeing as how little seating there was, I gave up my seat and headed out to make another appearance at my next destination.

I would definitely check out Sweaty Betty’s again. It’s a great little spot. I can see myself getting attached to this place, eventually turning into one of those cranky, bitchy Friday night regulars who doesn't think anyone else is good enough to be there. Whatever happens, this time, I am getting a spot in the lounge and channeling my elitist self.

(photo credit:

B on Sweaty Betty's

Sweaty Betty's
Address: 13 Ossington Avenue (three doors north of Queen Street West)
Tel: 416-535-6861
Open everyday ("except maybe Christmas Day") 5pm to 2am

I don’t really know where to start this entry. I feel like there was a lot that happened before actually going to Sweaty Betty’s that I could talk about. I could explain how T. and I decided we would go to Sweaty Betty’s at Sneaky Dee’s, and how we had also been talking about blogs, and how both those conversations seem to have merged, and now T and I have a blog. This blog. I could also talk about how we were under the impression that Sweaty Betty’s was a hip dyke bar (we were wrong).

I called T. from the LCBO around 6:30 to see if she needed anything. The plan was to meet at T’s house first for some pre-drinking. I justify pre-drinking with the argument that I will spend less money if I do it. The opposite is true. I’m not thrifty normally, and I’m certainly not counting pennies when I’m drunk. Pre-drinking gets me drunk, I’m sure you ca see where I’m going. T. asked if I wanted to eat at her place. I did. When I hung up I had to decide what I wanted. For some reason this was extremely difficult. It took me a really long time. I blame the Christmas music. That shit makes it really tough to focus.

At T’s we ate and drank. I met her roommate, and their foster cat Panther. We ate pesto and pasta sitting on the kitchen floor. I chugged three beers. Smoked a cigarette. We headed out a little later than we had planned. We were meeting a friend of T’s at Sweaty Betty’s and on our way T. got a text from her saying that she was there already. We picked up the pace, feeling bad for leaving her all alone. We ended up running into T’s friend on Queen Street. She had left the bar and was walking around ‘til we showed up.

Sweaty Betty’s is two small-ish rooms. The front room has a bar and a jute-box and a few two tops and not a whole lot of room. The back room feels like a living room, it’s also not huge and the seating is a maze of couches, there’s a chandelier. The bathrooms are in the basement. I’m always annoyed when single stall bathrooms have gendered signs. I’m pretty sure these signs are also a sign (ha) that Sweaty Betty’s is not a dyke bar.

We sat at the bar and drank red stripes. I’m not sure what we talked about. The whole place is very hip. There were two male bartenders (another sign! Although after the absence of lesbians I’m not sure it’s really all that important to keep track). I think the one bartender had a deep v t-shirt on. He certainly had an air of indifference about him. He was sooooo totally coooooooool. Lots of deep red and wood, heavy drapes, retro chairs, soft lighting. T. mentioned that the place looked just like the website suggested, and I agreed.

T. and her friend took off shortly after a few of my friends. They were going to a show at Wrongbar. My friends and I stayed at the bar for a bit, I believe there was six or seven of us total, eventually half of us managed to squeeze into the back, where I actually spotted a couple of dykes. Tattooed, stretched ears. Totally trendy hot dykes.

When I say squeezed I mean that literally, there wasn’t really any room for us. Lindsey was sitting on a box of some sort (or was that me?) and Jess and I were perched on the arms of sofas. Finally some people left and we took over a couch. Anton bought be a beer. Lindsey gave us all gummy candies. Then we moved on. We left and ended up going to a string of bars on Ossington.

We left Anton and his friends. We met up with AJ. Ending at a pub that was still serving food. I didn’t order any food but AJ and I split a pitcher. It was karaoke night (kar·a·o·ke a form of entertainment in which amateur singers sing popular songs accompanied by prerecorded music from a machine that may also display the words on a video screen). And who is karaokeing but my friend Guy’s friend Heather and she’s doing hilariously awesome dance moves.

Once she’s finished I ran up to say hi. Turns out she was on her way home from a party and just decided to stop in and sing a song.

I’d like to squeeze in here that I was just looking at the Sweaty Betty’s cite (for inspiration or something) and I noticed that on the home page it says “Don’t ask us to make you a frilly drink.” My initial reaction is YA! But then I think about the Rachel Maddow show I was listening to the other day where this guy was talking about how the art of bartending is dying, and we don’t use fresh ingredients anymore, and blah blah blah. So I’m conflicted. And then there’s the fact that I drink beer.

To wrap up what is supposed to be an entry about Sweaty Betty’s: I like it. It’s a nice hang out. That feels personal and private but still accessible. I will go back.