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Small lovely wine bar/cafe?

CH Gurus,

I've just relocated to Bloor West Village from Ottawa. In Ottawa my husband and I had a couple of favourite spots: The Black Cat Cafe for an indulgent meal (previously in the Byward Market on Murray, just relocated to Preston) and Cafe 104 wine bar (in the Glebe) for sitting and sipping an afternoon away.

Their most compelling attributes: small (10 or so tables), inobtrusive atmosphere (e.g. no pounding music), nice list of wines by the glass, delicious and well chosen small menus, not too too crazily priced (though I can be persuaded on this last criterion).

I'd love to find similar haunts in Toronto neighbourhoods - though likely not my own, as BWV doesn't seem to offer these particular types of places. We've tried Dr. Generosity's and it is great on many counts, but it doesn't fill the intimate/elegant but not pretentious/excellent wines by the glass niche.

My searches on this board have pointed to some possibilities: Carens Wine and Cheese on Cumberland, Pop Bistro on Queen E., Crush Wine Bar on King W., Table 17 on Queen E. and La Pallette in Kensington.

Any other stand-outs? Or comments on the one's I've pinpointed so far? I'm not looking for destination dining here - rather, in the first instance, a small neighbourhood restaurant offering delicious food in an intimate environment, and in the second, a cozy, charming and comfortable place to have a couple of glasses of wine and an afternoon snack in pleasant surroundings. Totally open to any location, as I see this as a delightful way of getting to know our new city.

cheers
t

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  1. i'm a pretty big fan of queen's pasta café. the food is delicious and reasonably priced. there are often huge lineups — it's a local favourite. villa is pretty good, too. both places are medium-sized.

    on roncesvalles, there's fat cat wine bar, which has a decent wine list and a great cheese plate, but the actual food is terrible. "marinated goat's cheese" is straight out of the container from no frills, but it's nice to have a local spot to enjoy wine and cheese.

    the best wine list we've encountered in the city is at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar on Church Street at Front.

    i've heard that Dizzy's Gastro Pub on Roncesvalles has decent food, and as it's more of a pub atmosphere, it might be better spot for "sipping an afternoon away". it has a little street-side patio. I've also been reading good things about Silver Spoon on Roncesvalles for a more indulgent meal.

    Crush has been getting terrible reviews. La Pallette seems to be faring better.

    Good luck! Have fun!

    -----
    Queen's Pasta Cafe
    2263 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S1N8, CA

    Villa Restaurant
    2277 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6S1P1, CA

    Silver Spoon
    390 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R2M9, CA

    The Dizzy
    305 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R2M6, CA

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sarah Cat

      I would disagree with the reviews about Crush and La Palette.

      I have been to both (I'm a Crush "regular") and I think it definitely fits the bill for an oenophile and/or wine lover much more than La Palette. La Palette has a much more extensive beer list and I would not classify it as a wine destination spot as per the OP's request.

      I've heard mixed reviews about both. More recently, Rabbit reported an awful service experience at La Palette and Geoprincess reported a bad experience at Crush. I've had nothing but good experiences at both spots however. And I would say for the most part, Crush has been reviewed favourably by several CH'ers on a regular basis.

      As most fellow CH'ers know, I am no fan of JK Wine Bar and it has more recently been unfavourably reviewed on here. I would agree that the wine list is good with a more specific focus on organic/biodynamic wines.

      I haven't been to Fat Cat in a while (its been over a year) so I feel I can no longer comment on its status.

      The wine list at Crush is exceptional-with many odd varieties that you just wouldn't see on any other list in the city-often by the glass. They have recently renovated and the bar boasts comfortable chairs and a lovely fireplace to sit by and sip some wine during the winter months.

      I should also mention that Cafe Taste in Parkdale has been getting good reviews although I haven't been myself.

      SWS

    2. You might want to try Fat Cat Wine Bar at 331 Roncesvalles Avenue, which is quite close to Bloor West Village. The website is here: http://www.fatcat.ca/fatcatwinebar.html. My wife and I have enjoyed our two visits.

      2 Replies
      1. re: vinojoe

        fat cat and silver spoon are not open in the afternoon. the dizzy is a sports bar and can be a very loud sports bar although they have a couple decent wines.

        1. re: robgm

          Agreed about the Dizzy - if there's no major sporting event going on, it might fit the bill, as I like the food (but have only had beer and whiskey there, not wine, so I can't vouch for that) and room, but it IS a sports bar once a game gets going.

      2. You might want to check out Cafe Taste in Parkdale (www.cafetaste.ca). Small, locally focused wine bar, with some cheese plates etc. for food. However (I see as I now check), not open until 5pm. I think for an afternoon glass of wine, JKWB might be your best bet.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Minnow

          If you are venturing to Leslieville, I would pass on Pop Bistro and Table 17. Perhaps try Pic Nic, a wine bar on the south side of Queen, east of Broadview. A decent selection of wines, and a reasonably priced mix and match cheese, meat and garnish plate. This spot is not in the Crush or JKWB class, but a worthwhile stop if you are in the east end.

          1. re: Minnow

            I really like Cafe Taste when I want a simple something and a glass of wine, but I have to caution you that it can be quite loud, BECAUSE it's so small and cozy. The first time I was there, they had live music, which was mellow folksy stuff with much more amplification than necessary - obtrusive would be an understatement. That was a while ago, though, so they may have found a better balance since then. Any other time, the feel varies with the crowd - it can be quiet and low-key, or more energetic and bustling if there's a big group there.

            That being said, I really enjoy their cheese and Jeremy, their wine guy, is knowledgeable but not pretentious. They lean towards either local or biodynamic/organic in both the wine and food whenever possible. Not a bad place at all to snuggle up for a sip and nibble.

          2. Trishna,

            As an aside, did you ever frequent the Wellington Gastropub during your Ottawa days? What a place! Lovely, composed wine list featuring some real interesting gems at what I deem extremely reasonable markups. AWESOME food-a true gastropub! And real, relaxed down to earth servers with a cosy atmosphere. It is my new FAV place (even though I don't live there). I would go to that place every week if I did. I was shocked last time I went when I saw a Sagrantino di Montefalco on the list! Now if only Toronto could get that vibe right...

            SWS

            1 Reply
            1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

              SWS - yes, I was fortunate enough to live right down the street from the Wellington Gastropub. That place caused a real splash when it opened and is consistently popular with locals. Ottawa doesn't have many spots like that, but it is coming along!

            2. it's a while since I've been there, but Caren's was nice. Surprisingly unpretentious given the location. The food menu is limited. They have a lovely patio in the summer. I like Crush, but it's a lot bigger, certainly way more than 10 tables!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: JToronto

                Yes, thanks JToronto for pointing that out-I forgot to mention that Crush is a much bigger space. But they've contained/separated the dining room from the more intimate bar area since the recent renos.

                1. re: JToronto

                  I will also give a vote to "Caren's" on Cumberland....nice atmosphere but the menu is quite limited as 'JToronto' has pointed out...haven't been to their Patio.

                2. thanks very much to all of you for these fab suggestions - it's a great problem to have, and just reading about the possibilities does my heart good!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: trishna

                    Also try Le Select. Best wine list in the city, though it's not always the cheapest. They are a great bistro and have a very personable and knowledgeable sommelier. Crush is definitely a great choice for a wine bar as well.

                    I live in the neighbourhood and haven't had problems at either.