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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Raising The Roof

Pioneer has spent many an hour describing the good eats here in the east, but something that we've focused too little on is live music. The reasons why are pretty obvious - there just aren't a lot of live music venues that can house the reverb of a full band. Pioneer is a believer though, as we've just experienced what can only be described as the tipping point....

The story begins this past Friday. Every year, we've looked askance at the sign that gets put up at St. Brigid's School advertising their Last Day Music Fest. Another well-connected Danforthista got our attention when she mentioned that a familiar face on Danforth organizes the festival and it's open to everyone - not just St. Brigid's kids. Chris Biagini owns Studio CPB, a punk-rock hair salon where all the cool kids go tucked in behind Sarah's Cafe. We had to get the scoop.

The scene of our impromptu live music chat.
Chris has been around the neighbourhood for 30 years and has seen it all. The door to his salon never stays closed for long and the phone rings off the hook. We could write this whole post just about him (beauty school, working the clients at Leone's back when it was THE place to get a 'permanent'....), but we digress! Chris started the Last Day Music Fest seven years ago, as a place to showcase young musicians including his daughter who plays a mean set of drums. Over the years, Chris has used his connections in the music industry to book legitimate bands like Done With Dolls, who play right alongside your neighbours kids, to make the event a real rock n' roll street party with about a dozen acts. Chris himself steps up to the mic with his own band Chasing Sand. It's happening this Thursday, June 27 from 6 - 10p.m. at St. Brigid's school yard and we wouldn't miss it. Come's $2!!

But that's not quite the tipping point we mentioned above. Weeks ago, an invite came in to check out a band at the Linsmore on Saturday night. As we blogged about here, the Linsmore is actually a decent (but small) place to hear live music - and as we were chatting with Chris he happened to mention the very same event. We got to talking about the Linsmore and Chris says he's sure it's destined for greatness with the new owners interested in music. So, as Saturday evening approached, Pioneer heard more and more buzz about this event around the neighbourhood. This was something new - a fever pitch usually reserved for new restaurants! We had to check it out.

Things really hit home when we pulled open the door of the Linsmore Tavern to see a jam-packed room and a packed bar of 20- and 30-somethings yelling for a drink. The band was called Train Wreck and they rose the roof on this ancient tavern of questionable origins.  Later on in the evening someone said to us "This is the new hipster bar..." and we really couldn't hide our look of glee. Ok, so we don't all need to run out and buy American Apparel, and there won't be a "General Store" attached, but this is the start of something new.

Disclaimer: we don't think it's a coincidence that a few of the members of Train Wreck are neighbourhood dads, as is Chris and his connections to the music fest!

We shouldn't end this post without giving a shout out to Red Rocket Coffee, who has a stellar line-up of smaller musical acts on Friday nights, and of course Relish and their almost daily line-up of entertainment.

We kind of like this new look that Danforth East is trying on.....good restaurants, amazing bars, and a growing selection of evening entertainment that won't bankrupt even the house-poorest of us all!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Wren is In Flight

We're hoping no-one has noticed that Pioneer took a hiatus for a few weeks - not because there isn't anything going on along Danforth East. Nope, we were waiting for the juiciest scoop, the hottest news in town and now we have it: The Wren (1382 Danforth) is finally open. No more paper on the windows, no more guessing games or secret stalking. The space that once housed a hair salon has finally been transformed into a cozy local that you won't want to leave (and trust us, we almost didn't....!).

The Wren is an enviable space - a vintage exposed brick wall, a handcrafted wooden bar, communal tresel tables, and elegant robin's egg-blue brushed wallpaper with framed needlepoints of the Alps hung over cozy tables of four. A look at what's on tap says it all - Beau's Lug Tread is numero uno on the list, followed by a stellar selection of craft beer and interesting picks like Watermelon Wheat Beer.

The wagon wheel chandelier is the first, and really the only, sign that there's going to be some southwestern food on the menu. The very simple list is a mashup of pub grub, tex-mex and southern comfort food with things like slow roasted pork belly sandwiches, wings and of course - you gotta have  the guac and chips.

News of The Wren's beef brisket sandwich has already started to spread. It's so good, that when Pioneer finally moseyed over to our new favourite spot for some grub, the brisket was sold out. Too bad, so sad, but the back up choice was nothing short of yummo! A deep fried pulled pork chimichanga was mouthwatering (but the lacklustre side salad is nothing to write home about). After hearing only grunts of pleasure from our dining partner, Pioneer stole a bite from their delicious Wren Burger to see what the fuss was all about. One bite, and you'll be drifting back in time to the kitchen of your childhood. The meat is spiced just perfectly and has a pleasant, home-cooking flavour too it - our mom's meatloaf is the best comparison.

Needless to say, The Wren was packed to the rafters when we visited - a major success for a resto-bar-pub that was only a week old. This weekend, they're kicking it up a notch with an official hootenany on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so get in early and keep a shine on that bar!

The Wren on Urbanspoon