Drinkathons and Poorly Kept Secrets

After a night of dancing at The Boat, eating Chinese food at New Sky and nearly falling out of the cab when I realized it was 4:15 a.m, I woke up feeling… delicate. I also woke up to discover I was trapped in a snow globe.

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Still, I ventured out to meet my friend Melissa for a day of fun that started at The Lakeview. Look, breakfast!

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We shared a massive poutine and I ordered the “Freedom Toast”, an egg-dipped baguette stuffed with peameal bacon, brie, and havarti, and served with Québécois maple syrup. Soo basically a French Toast sandwich stuffed with cheese and bacon.

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The only sucky thing was the side salad that came with it. No one invited lettuce to this party, and yet it sat there, silently judging me as I overdosed on carbs.

We made our way over to The Communist’s Daughter, a cozy, kinda-but-not-really-secret bar that has live jazz music on Saturdays. This place is very easy to miss — and they like it that way. They still have the previous owner’s sign up which serves as a decoy, fooling all newcomers. You have to look twice to see their small, handwritten sign hanging in the window.

Not sure what I was expecting when we swung the door open, but it wasn’t 40 strangers silently staring at us. The owner shuffled over and welcomed us in with a smile as the jazz band played on. It was completely different from the bright, bustling world outside. Lit up only by the hanging Christmas lights, the bar was cozy, dim and gorgeous.

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The jazz music rung out loudly but no one spoke. Every single person was there for the music. And even in such a tight, packed place, patrons exchanged smiles and struck up conversations. It was the most welcoming, warm space I’ve ever been in.

The owner was a multi-tasker extraordinaire, playing the role of greeter, bartender, waiter, trumpet player and singer. During the bridge of the song, he’d switch beer kegs, take orders, bring people drinks, then sing his heart out.

He asked the entire bar who wanted a shot, and poured the ice-cold vodka. He brought everyone their drinks and gave a heartfelt speech about the injustices going on all over the world, the suffering so many endure every day, and how love is what keeps them going. When everyone finally lifted their glasses he said, “To the thing that makes life worth living. To kissing.” It made me smile.

Next we headed to La Carnita. There’s definitely nothing secret about this place. It was very busy, so we ate at the bar to avoid the wait. I ordered the incredible Pollo Frito taco with a side of So Fresh & So Clean, a yummy gin-based drink.

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Also, churros. Aaand key lime popsicles. Lastly, we did a shot of bourbon just for kicks, which seemed to earn the approval of the bartender.

(Side rant about cilantro, also known as God’s mistake. Fellow haters, join me in my rage. Cilantro-lovers, feel free to take this time to question your life choices. When I asked the bartender if this abomination was in my taco, he said “No” and I smiled. Then he said “Well you won’t taste it at all.” And that’s when my smile melted into a gritted mask of contempt. Luckily for him, I didn’t taste it. But how hard is it to just not add a herb and preserve the sanity of your customers, am I right? Of course I am.)

Then we went to Cold Tea, secret location #2 nestled in Kensington Market. For this one you definitely need someone who knows where they’re going. We walked down this fluorescent-lit corridor until we reached a door and a bouncer.

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Behind the metal door, an entire bar emerged full of people, drinks and awesome 90’s jams. It was very Chronicles of Narnia, but you know, with booze. I enjoyed my Negroni — just remember that it is cash-only.

Our last stop was at Nirvana, where I capped the night with a Hot Toddy and a Blueberry Tea. And just like that, I had been out for 10 hours, drinking and eating. Not too shabby for a hungover girl.

Torontonians often obsess over “the next big thing.” Everyone wants to go where the hype is, that new place everyone’s talking about. But sometimes, it’s nice to go somewhere no one’s really talking about.

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