416 Snack Bar
By Darcy Streitenfeld

For Toronto By Toronto

You may be greeted by a cluster of plaid-clad, tatted-up hipsters upon entering the infamous Queen West hotspot, 416 Snack Bar, and you may have to wait a bit for your table, but don't let that hinder you. These skilled bartenders and servers are Toronto's service industry vets, with skill and Toronto counter-culture style to spare.

Plates of east coast oysters, a bottle of bubbly from the Beamsville Bench, a myriad of snacks with Toronto’s vast multicultural influence and matching sets of young beautiful Torontonians lining every industrial-grade concrete surface; these glimpses of a new, trendy Canadiana are what you’ll witness at 416 Snack Bar.

Owners Adrian Ravinsky and Dave Stewart met as wee ones in preschool, but it wasn’t until junior high that the two became the close friends they are today. At the age of 16, the two chums had their first industry jobs together at an Italian joint on St. Clair. It was there that they fought and clawed their way from busboys to bartenders.  Dave and Adrian would end up going in separate directions, working for Toronto resto-bigwigs like Jamie Kennedy and Susur Lee.

But eventually, the two decided to venture out on their own to create the bar they’d always envisioned. After five years of squirreling away tips and a handy line of credit, 416 Snack Bar was opened on a shoe string budget.

This bar is Toronto, through and through. - Adrian Ravinsky, co-owner
Co-Owner, Adrian Ravinsky stands in front of his uber-popular night spot.
Torontonians flock in droves to 416 Snack Bar, even at 5pm on a Monday.

Diverse Authentic Fare, Not Fusion

Adrian and Dave worked with Executive Chef Dustin Gallagher to design a menu that is full of simple, delicious comfort foods with distinct, yet varying cultural influences; each proud to be itself. The French-style steak tartare, Korean fried chicken and the full jerked market fish for sharing are just a few of the crowd favourites. Don’t hunker down expecting anything fancy like forks or knives: 416 Snack Bar has been “cutlery-free since 2011.”

Locals flock for the bar’s comprehensive wine list, featuring all the Ontario wine country musts and just enough imports to satiate your sudden craving for a Sancerre. An impressive collection of craft brews that traverse the globe also fill the bar fridge; from Toronto’s own Burdock Brewery in Bloordale Village, to Montreal’s Dieu du Ciel, all the way to Italy’s premiere craft brewery, Bruton.

Cocktails aren’t found on a printed list, but instead 416 adopts the freer “what do you feel like” method of cocktailing culture. Tell the bartender your favourite booze, and how you’re feeling on a particular day and they’ll whip up something tailor-made to you. Of course, you can get all the classics mixed to perfection as well.

An infladita mexicana
Just the bartender that you're feeling pink and sassy, and they'll whip some magenta dream like this up for you.

Ready for Anything

With its rust-worn lockers, a vintage door reading “local calls” only and yards of weathered concrete, The functional yet trendy Snack Bar reads on first glance a bit like a bygone hardware shop meeting an abandoned 1970s schoolhouse. Taking a hyper-critical approach to the process of design, Adrian explains, "Everything is in its place with a specific function." A modest, but esoteric collection of bottles decorate the bar, while "the the art over the bar is always Toronto-centric, and ever changing," Adrian describes.

There is something for everyone here, and 416 Snack Bar’s dedicated crowd of regulars shows their appreciation for the tailor-made service. “We’re very lucky to have people coming a few times a week,” says Adrian, citing also that there is no real rhyme or reason to the bar’s busy times. “The first few weeks after New Years, when business should drop off, that's some of our busiest times. The regular rules don’t apply here,” he explains.

Adrian and Dave, never smug and always thriving to expand and improve, have since opened their second venture People’s Eatery in Chinatown with a similarly wild level of success. Dave and Adrian, however, keep their eyes on the prize. “There is absolutely zero room for complacency,” says Adrian, aiming to always be ready for the inevitable next hurdle in Toronto’s rapidly evolving bar scene.

A modest yet esoteric collection of bottles and an antique cash register.
An enviable selection of Ontario's best brews and wines.
The shiny tin exterior of 416 Snack Bar.
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