Editor’s Note: Last night 416 was hosted by Bar Stray for an amazing night. While this article is not about last night, it’s still about the overall awesomeness that is Bar Stray. Thanks Jillian, for making Bar Stray the #1 place for real cocktails!
Bar Stray finds a way to combine upscale artsy with classic biker bar. It’s a blend that shouldn’t work on paper, but melds into something glorious when attempted in reality. The team at Stray effortlessly mix high end food and drink options, with a carefree and welcoming atmosphere. The result: something that can truly be called a “Toronto Biker Bar”.
A Toronto Biker Bar is somewhere a grizzled Harley mechanic, white beard stained with oil, knuckles raw from bashing against bolts daily, can have a pleasant chat with a mid town graphic designer with a perfectly quaffed moustache, and less free skin space than inked. It’s a concept many thought impossible. But, Bar Stray has developed it, mastered it, and created Toronto’s best biker bar.
Pushing through the door was a tail pipe slap to the face of nostalgia. Industrial style and minimalist, the immediate impression is a chill blend of we-know-what-were-doing, and do-what-the-hell-you-want. It’s an industrial-chic that seamlessly blends biker lifestyle with an authentically welcoming and warm vibe.
You might find your eyes drawn to the big ol’ bike that sits in the front. Or the free-to-play pool table that takes up a good portion of the smallish space. But, it’s behind the billiards where you will find the true star of the night. The bar.
Pics and Tastes The bar tender, Alex, is one of the nicest drink slingers I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the city. Decked out in a classic jean vest, bushy beard, and, as my father would say, built like a brick shit house, this man knows how to mix a drink and brings a very real biker feel to the place.
A rule of thumb for testing the quality of a bar is to try their Old Fashioned.
Alex did not disappoint. He muddled like a master, used a mixing glass right out of an episode of Mad Men, and each drink was stirred the precise amount (you can see him count each turn of the spoon). But, seeing him whip out a full-on blow torch and blaze some cinnamon was when I knew this was a true master who knows how to harness elegance and brute force.
The Old Fashioned, or Joe Frazier as they name it, was then placed on a golden plate, and covered with a glass dome, looking exactly like a much better version of the rose from beauty and the beast. As the dome filled with smoke from the still smouldering cinnamon, Alex watched with expert eyes. Until, as the drink reached the perfect level of smokiness, he ripped the dome away, revealing the drinks with a satisfying puff.
That drink was the most photogenic cocktail of my life. And it was so damn good. Smokey, refreshing, and a hint of citrusy crispness, I had to order three more just to keep the experience going. By the time we got to ordering shots, I couldn’t remember the name of what was in my glass. As good as the drinks look and taste, I was caught off guard by how damn strong they are.
Spend Some Time In the Loo
Speaking of photogenic moments, don’t be surprised when your friends take a little longer than normal in the bathroom.
Each stall has a unique them. There’s artistic, chalkboard, and best of all, pornography. I walked in and was greeted by a 360 degree view of classic playboy centre folds in all their unshaven glory. At first it was jarring, and then it was my most popular instagram story off all time. Plus, it sticks to the vibe. No biker bar was ever complete without a few pics of naked ladies on the walls. Bar Stray just takes it to the next level.
People are So Nice?
I like to judge a bar by its staff. I don’t care how good the food is, if the waitstaff purposely turn their heads every time the walk by my table, or have the facial expressions of someone who just smelled themselves after forgetting to shower for a month, I’m not coming back.
Bar Stay has the ultimate kind staff. When I went up to request a Sublime song from the DJ, he hugged me not once, but four times. And it was a genuinely warm and loving hug. The likes of which I haven’t felt since I surprised my mother by coming home for Christmas. The bar tenders were all constantly smiling. Like, all the time. They seemed really happy to be at work. And the mix master himself had a great time explaining his new Kawasaki to me as we chilled outside over a puff.
I’ve met some nice staff in my time. But, there was always the feeling that they are being paid to make you feel good about downing that 7th shot. The staff at Bar Stray just seem to genuinely enjoy being at work. It was awesome.
Although it’s the closest description, calling Bar Stray a hole-in-the-wall biker bar does not do it justice. The cocktails are amazing. The food is simple but overly delicious. The staff want to be there as much as you do. And, the vibe is intoxicating. Check it out asap!