Article written by FLEUR BOOMSMA
Imagine this: You and your friends are going to your all-time favorite artist’s concert at the Danforth Music Hall and are in the mood to grab a bite to eat before the show. You want to be nearby in case the venue opens early and you can get a good spot to watch the show. But where can you go?
There is a solution to this scenario; Adam Gill and Jeff Bruits, the owners of the Danforth Music Hall, opened up Danforth Sidebar at the end of 2017. It’s a casual fine dining restaurant that serves unique and your favourite dishes and cocktails. Most importantly, Sidebar is located right beside the music hall.
Thanks to the subway tiles and the exposed brick, it gives an intimate and cozy feeling. It’s a dimmed atmosphere that has a bar and sit-down dinner style tables.
Khephra Ahounou, Sidebar’s (former) general manager has been there from the start. From choosing the menu items like steak frites to old fashioned cocktails; she’s seen the restaurant change the Danforth night scene from an area that generally tends to be sleeping at night to a more alive and entertainment neighbourhood.
“When we opened Sidebar, we didn’t have an exact formula as to what we wanted to be,” Ahounou said. “We had the opportunity to build it and that was the most fun thing about it.” Whether you’re looking at the brunch, dinner or cocktail menu, the Sidebar team were able to construct everything themselves.
The music hall already brings a massive entertainment to this area. A lot of the restaurant’s business drives entirely from the music hall next door, which makes it hard to pinpoint what kind of clientele Sidebar typically attracts. Nevertheless, they also have many regulars who come on a walk-in basis. The staff and customers know each other on a first-name basis but also know their orders. Ahounou says that they also want to build another clientele with Sidebar Saturdays, they have a DJ that plays all the music you want to hear.
What’s on the menu?
Sidebar is known to be a classic cocktail bar. If you look at the menu and its ingredients, they serve all the classics such as the Dark ‘N Stormy, which consists of Gosling’s rum and Gosling’s ginger beer. Gosling has trademarked the Dark ‘N Stormy name, therefore you must use their products in order to call the drink by that name. Sidebar is committed to use the best quality ingredients to create their cocktails (and food). Nonetheless, if you want something that’s not on the menu, the bartender can make almost anything upon request.
“Our chef gets all our food and produce locally,” Ahounou said. “We want to support local businesses, so we get products delivered two to three times a week.” The restaurant gets fresh bread daily from Cobs Bread bakery on the Danforth and order the fish from the local fisher’s market. “We also debone the fish ourselves so there is not a chance that it used to be frozen,” she said.
It doesn’t stop there, Ahounou says Sidebar also offers $1 an oz. wine on the menu. However, in some cases customers want to come in and bring their own bottle of wine. “They want to entertain friends and guests but don’t want to do it at home and may not want to cook,” she said. “We want to give the people the opportunity to do that. Bring your own beautiful bottle of wine and have an amazing meal and fun here.” They charge a $20 corkage fee and after 8:30 p.m. they lower the fees.
What’s in store for Sidebar?
“The plan was to become a boutique hotel, which is something the Danforth doesn’t have,” Ahounou says. “A lot of people who come to these shows don’t have anywhere to stay on in the area, so to have a boutique hotel and not be very expensive would be a really big thing.”
When the Broadview hotel opened up it became really big and popular. This motivated the Sidebar team to continue with their boutique hotel plan on the Danforth. They’re currently waiting for the city to approve permits.
“We want to build something that doesn’t negatively impact our neighbourhood, but also something that can positively impact our business,” Ahounou says.