Hours: Eight p:m - Two a:m
249 Ossington Avenue,
Toronto, ON M6J 3A1
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Bright orange walls (from its previous life as a punk rock club) have been replaced with barn doors and salvaged wood from a farm just outside of Stratford, Ontario (a photo of the barn sits behind the bar). Records, old games and knick knacks were scrounged up from the owners’ parents’ cottage, as well as occasional donations from customers.
Where: 249 Ossington Ave. just north of Dundas Street.
The Crowd: The Dakota’s crowd is surprisingly diverse; made up of local musicians (especially from the bluegrass/country circuit) but the crowd varies from west-side scenesters to young professionals, middle-aged patrons and friends just looking to partake in a quick game of Scrabble. If you’ve misplaced your used Wrangler shirt, have no fear -- you don’t need to look like you’ve stepped out of a saloon to fit in at this place. It may be a country bar, but everyone’s got their own style.
The Music: Country, loud country, bluegrass, roots music and more. Regular acts include Elana McMurty and the weekly Barn Dance under the disco ball. Live acts are booked regularly but The Dakota is becoming better known for impromptu performances from local musicians. When you look at the twinkling little stage with its lonely wooden chair and microphone, you can’t help but want to get on up there and play.
On The Menu: The Dakota’s signature drink is the Mint Julep: a potent mix of fresh mint leaves, bourbon, sugar and ice. They also have a good selection of beer with draught favourites like Guinness and Wellington’s. Their food menu has a Mexican twist, offering steak burritos, fish tacos, guacamole and quesadillas. On Sunday afternoons, check out the One Table Bluegrass Brunch where guests can share a giant table and check out a different bluegrass act and brunch menu each week. Now that’s small-town spirit!
The subterranean spot (once the Trin Port Sports Bar &: Grill) has been fitted out like a New York tavern, with room enough for 130 to gather at big wooden tables or impossibly comfortable bar seats (not stools).
There's food, too – and, blessedly, there are no deep fryers involved. A 10-item menu has soup, salad, guacamole, queso fundido (baked cheese with chorizo, mushrooms and jalapeños served with tortilla chips) and the Finger Pickin' Plate for snacks. Five mains include already-popular fish tacos, four-cheese mac and cheese, vegetarian chili, steak burritos and jerk chicken quesadillas.
Even more compelling is the Sunday bluegrass brunch from noon to 4 p.m. It's $12 per person, kids are welcome and the menu changes weekly. Last week's inaugural brunch – eaten to the rousing clatter of Washboard Hank – was a souped-up version of the Finger Pickin' Plate (rounded out by eggs, refried beans, corn muffins, fruit, coffee and juice).
The Dakota is now the northern anchor of the burgeoning Ossington Ave. strip.
VIBE A charming little country bar in a basement at Dundas and Ossington. Most nights you can hear live bands playing various forms of roots music, along with the occasional DJ also playing something with a bit of twang. The crowd is younger than you might expect, the atmosphere relaxed and friendly.
PAST LIFE Last known as Club Trinport, a Trinidadian/Portuguese venture that hosted everything from metal concerts to indie dance parties until it went under last year. Picture a similar layout, but with a saloon feel.
VALUE A pint of domestic beer will run you $5, and there's generally no cover except for the occasional special event.
CAN YOU DANCE? If you're looking for a hoedown, there is a small area in front of the stage that seems designated for dancing.
NOW | JANUARY 25 - 31, 2007 | VOL. 26 NO. 21