Hay bales, hot drinks and heat lamps: This secret patio behind a secret bar is serving up boozy cocoa and fall-on-the-farm feels

Hay bales, hot drinks and heat lamps: This secret patio behind a secret bar is serving up boozy cocoa and fall-on-the-farm feels

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When industry friends Rob Granicolo and Stephen and Mike Gouzopoulos opened Cry Baby Gallery last December, they thought they had a winning combination: an art gallery storefront on a trendy strip, with a secret bar in the back. But then along came a global pandemic to throw their plans out the window. Over the summer, they turned a former parking spot into a slapdash patio space. And last month, the team debuted a new outdoor concept that pays tribute to all things autumn.

Step 1: When life serves you a season…

Like most bar owners, the Cry Baby team thought things were improving over the summer, but then the province switched last call from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. “That late-night push, after people leave restaurants—that’s where most of our money was coming from,” says Granicolo. Unable to serve customers inside, and stuck with an early (and soon to be earlier) last call, they wanted to come up with something that would be daytime friendly and popular with their twenty- and thirty-something demographic. “When you Google ‘fall,'” Granicolo says, “You get images of millennials in toques and blankets.”

Step 2: Farm out the décor

Creating the perfect pumpkin-spice aesthetic started with locating hay bales—not so easy a task in Little Portugal. “We found this guy on Kijiji who had a farm in Hamilton, so we went there with a pickup truck,” says Granicolo. Pulling double duty as both seating and design feature, the bales get covered every night—both for fire safety and because, as Granicolo explains, “wet hay is why farms smell so rank.” The gourds were also an urban import, picked up from a farm off the 400. “We’re not going for a polished Yorkville look.”

Step 3: Heat up your space…and your cocktails

Granicolo was able to borrow a heat lamp from a friend—no small feat given the lack of inventory all over the country. The new menu features a drink that’s a hat tip to the patron saint of the season, Neil Young, and a whole lot of other boozy hot beverages. The top pick is the Caliente Cocoa, a spiked hot chocolate made with oat milk, blanco tequila and mini marshmallows that get the tableside blowtorch treatment. The Live Free or Chai Hard mixes herbal tea with rum and Italian liqueur. And Them Apples is hot cider with a serious kick that comes courtesy of VSOP cognac. Not into hot drinks? There’s Jagermeister poured from an ice-encased bottle. “It looks cool and it’s a good way to warm up,” says Granicolo.

Step 4: Make it a date night destination

A couple weeks in and the cozy corner has proven popular with prospective couples. “We have one guy who has come in a bunch of times, always with a different date,” says Granicolo. To really impress that special someone, he suggests dropping into the up-front art gallery (currently showing a seasonally appropriate collection of horror movie–themed prints by Toronto artist Tony Smerek), and then coming out back for a drink. As of November 14, the indoor bar space will be allowed to reopen, but Giancarlo expects the patio will remain popular. “Everyone’s getting dressed in their fall gear, they’re really getting into the spirit of things.”

Cry Baby Gallery, 1468 Dundas St. W., crybabygallery.ca, @crybaby.gallery