Introducing: Churchill, the latest lo-fi bar on “destination” Dundas West
Remember West Queen West before it was a zoo? The folks at Churchill, Little Portugal’s newest bar, sure do. The owners of the new place are looking to resurrect that 2006 feeling, one street north. Churchill, staffed by Parkdale expats, joins Camp 4, Red Light and Brockton General in the glut of lo-fi-vibe bars that seem to be spilling off Ossington onto Dundas West.
If Lounge, the business that formerly occupied this space, was an upscale sports bar better known for attracting cops from a nearby precinct than the cool kids of Ossington. Churchill’s owners saw an opportunity to change all that. “They weren’t having tons of success with If Lounge, so they wanted to take a step back and give it a whole new style,” says general manager Kathryn Bates, who draws staff from a cocktail of Queen West hot spots, including the Drake, the Gladstone and the Beaconsfield (Bates’ own alma mater). “Now it has more of a west-end feel,” says Bates. “Some nights, I feel like it’s a Beaconsfield flashback from three years ago.”
Post-renovation, Churchill’s decor reads like a late-2000s trend guide: there’s a chalkboard wall and loads of reclaimed wood, all lit with neon bulb light fixtures and utility lantern sconces. The cheery, casual space reverberates with amped-up ’80s classic rock, ’90s R&B and nostalgic pop. Thirty-somethings looking for a throwback will swoon for specialty nights, like Wednesday’s Motown Philly with DJ Asia.
Behind the bar, signature drinks, served in no-fuss highballs, include the pucker-producing Dahna Grossi. The house favourite, which is named for a Beaconsfield bartender, is made with gin, Campari, grapefruit juice and cava. Beer is also big, along with bourbon and whiskey. A full menu is on the horizon (think simple, seasonal and locally focused dishes), but Bates is still searching for the perfect chef to make Churchill the complete package just off the Louboutin-beaten path.
“Dundas West is becoming a destination,” says Bates. “I think people are always looking for something that’s new and that you can call your own before it becomes public knowledge.”
Churchill, 1212 Dundas St. W. (at Ossington), 416-588-4900, Facebook page.