Just Opened: What Are You Looking At, an east-end bar with a west-end vibe

Just Opened: What Are You Looking At, an east-end bar with a west-end vibe

(Image: Signe Langford) 

Israel Sanchez and Stephan Poquet looked around Leslieville and saw a neighbourhood that has plenty of places to grab a drink, but none that were new or shiny or high-end. So they opened the standoffishly monikered  What Are You Looking At—or WAYLA, as it’s bound to be known—on Queen East, welcoming a cross-section of east enders as diverse as the area itself: ladies of a certain age, skinny boys who wear woolly hats year-round and giggly girls clustered around martinis.

Sanchez and Poquet—co-owners and life partners—bring 24 collective years of experience to WAYLA. Sanchez is a 13-year veteran bartender at the Arcadian Court, and Poquet is owner of the 11-year-old boîte Sauvignon in the Beach. “We thought we could make a place for locals to have a drink and listen to some good DJs without having to leave the neighbourhood.” To wit: the Sunday tea dance, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., allows patrons to drink, dance and get home in time to let the chocolate Lab out.

The long, narrow room—a patchwork of exposed brick, painted cement block and concrete—was once home to an oily carburetor shop. Now, a glance through the floor-to-ceiling windows reveals a modern parlour with twinkling red chandeliers and black leather chairs and sofas. But it’s the back room where the crowd congregates, beckoned by the burnt orange glow of the bar. The elevated glass DJ booth suggests wild nights to come, but for now, house beats come from a laptop and are turned down just enough to keep conversation possible.

“We took inspiration from French, Stephan is from Brittany, and the Spanish, [I’m] from Panama,” says Sanchez. “The French is more in the food, and the Spanish in the drinks.” There is a small card of dips, pâtés, brandade and cheeses, mostly ferried in from Sauvignon in the Beach.

But WAYLA is less about food and more about music, people and cocktails. A two-ounce martini is $8 and a one-ounce cocktail $5.50. West end vibe, east end prices.

What Are You Looking At, 996 Queen St. E. (at Carlaw Ave.), 647-938-2524, whatareyoulookingatbar.com.