This story begins like many good stories, in Kensington Market at 10:30 on a Saturday night. Jessica and I said good bye to her friends after we ate some cheap Mexican food at Sneaky Dee’s — which is, of course, another way that many good stories begin — and we headed towards Kensington Market. Jessica asked where we were going, and I told her we were going to an unmarked bar that was just down the hallway of the Kensington Mall. “You mean, just down the sidewalk?” she asked. “No,” I said, “I mean just down the hallway.”
We walked through the door under the Kensington Mall sign and down a yellow and white hallway. The storefronts that usually line the hallway were blocked off by graffiti-covered garage doors, with dim light and sound emanating from a single door. This looked promising, but this was not where we were going. We were directed to a unmarked steel door by a bouncer who made no move to find out who we were. Hell, he didn’t even tell us where we were going, but I guess he assumed we had to know the name of the bar to find it.
The first thing I noticed when we stepped into Cold Tea was the overwhelming darkness. The second thing was the dim sum stand. We ordered Labatt 50 and whiskey on the rocks while a mass of people moved around us. The dark room was packed, so we proceeded out to the less dark patio. All manner of humanity was on the patio that evening, from hipsters to bikers to a man in a Burberry trench coat. A pair sat down across from us who I mistook for a couple. They introduced themselves as Shana and Fabio. Shana explained that Fabio was from Brazil and they had actually just met, though their at-the-table make outs suggested otherwise. “He’s as much of a stranger as you are!” she said enthusiastically to Jessica and I. “I think you know him a little better than you know us,” Jessica said. Our new found friends left, presumably to do more of what they had started without the audience. We remarked upon the friendliness of the people and sat back to see who we would meet next.
The rest of the night led us to a fine cast of characters. Aside from the man who looked a lot like a drug dealer who kept leaving his drink beside me, everyone was friendly and normal. Some of the people we met had talked to Shana and Fabio, which basically made us automatic friends. We talked to the groups of people we shared the communal table with, until we decided it was time to head home. We stayed long enough for one last dance party to “Get Lucky” — and no, this isn’t a bar with a dance floor — and then we headed out into the night.
If you’re looking for a good bar, just walk to the end of the hallway under the Kensington Mall sign. Once you get there, tell the bouncer that Courtney sent you. No, don’t tell the bouncer that. He didn’t look at my ID and he certainly didn’t ask me to introduce myself. But trust me on this one and go to Cold Tea. If your friends ask you why you’re leading them down a hallway in the middle of the night, that’s when you tell them that Courtney sent you. If I happen to be there too, the first round of Labatt 50 and whiskey is on me.
Song of the Day: Electric Pow Wow Drum by A Tribe Called Red
I’m spending three more months in Toronto before I move to Vancouver at the end of the summer. As part of my summer long farewell to Toronto, I’m starting a feature about some of my favourite places and events in Toronto. I’ve never been one to shy away from a good alliteration, so I’m calling it Toronto Tuesdays. If you have any suggestions about places I should check out, I’m always up for a good adventure.