The Comrade
By YP Contributor

When In Rome

Looking for a friendly hideout in Toronto that specializes in hand-crafted cocktails, cool post-punk '80s music and savoury conversation? The Comrade, an enormous dimly lit once-upon-a-time hotel lobby in Leslieville, has been that place since 2006.

“We’re like the original lounge cocktail bar,” says general manager Jess Toombs, a pint-sized toque-wearing 20-something actress from Toronto who describes the neighbourhood as well as the bar and its lively cast of characters as something like British TV soap Coronation Street“The Comrade is a lounge for the locals,” she says, noting it’s as much a hot spot for Friday night cocktail folks as it is for the mid-30s party crowd and couples looking for a one-of-a-kind date night nook on Queen Street East.

Jess has been behind the bar, mixing drinks and mingling with the crowd just about every night of the week for the past four years. It’s her dream job. “Everyone is really cool and laid back,” she says. “Nobody’s uptight.”

The Comrade is a lounge for the locals. Everyone is really cool and laid back. - Jess Toombs, manager

B Is For Bourbon

Most patrons who frequent The Comrade are bourbon drinkers, and according to Jess, there a million ways to mix a cocktail starring this South American whiskey. Her favourite drink is the Stritch, while the favourite of many visitors seems to be a gussied bourbon sour called the R and M. “I’m a food and drink dork,” says Jess. “It’s kind of fun to introduce people to new drinks.” In fact, she says everyone on staff is a passionate connoisseur of the alcoholic beverage, whether it’s liquor, wine or beer. Each of them favours a particular drink and are experts in what they like. “We have a lot of fun,” she says.

If a server promises to mix great drink for a customer, something they have a hunch will be a hit – sweet or refreshing or warm – it never fails, the glass always comes back empty. “And if it does fail, the drink is on the house,” Jess says with a laugh.

The Comrade

Fancy A Feast?

Until 2013, hot food took a backseat to mixed drinks at The Comrade, which opened at a time when Leslieville was hardly considered a part of Toronto, and imbibers far out-numbered foodies in the hood. Jess says patrons could order a cheese charturie plate, a smoked salmon platter and dishes servers and bartenders could easily prepare. Not much more.

But the bill of fare is changing. “The owners are super passionate about food and it’s coming out in their menus,” says Jess. The mac and cheese is her favourite dish.

The Comrade
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