With Ossington Avenue getting crowned one of the coolest streets in the world, you might be thinking of taking a trip there to see what the fuss is all about.
Last December, Lowest of the Low release a new live album, Taverns and Palaces. Anyone familiar with this iconic Toronto band knows of the magical experience of watching them play live. They’ve left their mark on many lives, and many bars and stages across the city. They’ve crooned about the Carlaw Bridge, the Only Café, Kensington Market, and many other local landmarks. If there was ever a quintessential Toronto band, a strong case could be made for the Lowest of the Low.
The new album has been culled from the band’s incredible 30-plus-year run with the city’s unofficial punk-rock poet of the people Ron Hawkins leading the way.
Hawkins knows the city well, and when we last spoke with him we thought it would be fun to get a glimpse of his stomping grounds in his beloved Ossington neighbourhood. Use this list as your official tour guide next time you’re in the neighbourhood!
Rotate This, 186 Ossington Ave.
I’ll admit I didn’t know how much I needed it until the vinyl renaissance occurred. I thought all those beautiful pieces of wax wrapped in 12″ masterpieces were as extinct as the Dodo bird when I sold them for rent money back in 1990. But lo and behold they returned. I’ve been re-collecting for a decade or so, and a prime fixture in that journey home has been Rotate This. An absolutely perfect, no fuss, no muss experience. Wander through the racks and pick out a few albums blind, based solely on the artwork. Or ask for some expert help from the knowledgeable, unpretentious staff. Hi-Fidelity… in the best sense of the word.
Arockafellas Post Exchange, 2-216 Ossington Ave.
I have, on occasion, been referred to as “the man with a thousand hairstyles.” You can chalk that up to my impatience to some degree, but mostly to the inspiring and encouraging demeanour of gangster/therapist/Rude Boy/renaissance man Sergio Rodriguez. Serge threads the needle in his salon design creating environments that are at once nostalgic, and jaw-droppingly contemporary. The apothecary meets speakeasy vibe of the new address is a feast for the eyes. The environment is important but really the cut’s the thing, and Serge has given me my top 100 haircuts of all time. I don’t use the word genius lightly. Serge is a genius.
I Deal Coffee, 162 Ossington Ave.
I used to frequent the very first Ideal Coffee in Kensington Market back in the early oughts. As the, possibly apocryphal, story goes it got its name because it was located in a building where the upstairs tenant was a drug dealer. Thus, thumb skyward “he deals drugs… I deal coffee”. These days the cozy, quiet speed of I Deal on Ossington is exactly the place to start your morning. When I say “morning” I mean… late morning when the artists and gig economists in the neighbourhood stumble in like George A Romero characters and fuel up for the day’s challenges. Chat with Chris or Liam about old-school hip hop, cycling, or boutique guitar pedals. Or just get your coffee, slump into a seat and… abide.
Type, 883 Queen St. W.
Books are better than people! But what happens when books and wonderful people come together in one place? Well, you’ve got Type Books, my friend. Browse through this creaky floored, sunlit store and find what you’re looking for, what you stumble across, or what you didn’t even know you needed. Kyle and the staff will help you find what you want or will calculate your algorithms by eye and suggest something even better. And, as far as I remember, all the staff wear glasses so… smart.
Foxley, 207 Ossington Ave.
A sweet little joint on Ossington, Foxley is billed as contemporary pan-Asian sharing plates. But if you’re as bowled over by the aromas coming out of the kitchen as I am you may have to go back to JK and learn how to share with your friends all over again. Each dish seems more delicious and well presented than the last. The decor is cool, unfussy, and totally welcoming. Plates like sea scallop ceviche with kumquat and grilled jalapeños or lemongrass-marinated Cornish hen will keep you ordering… and ORDERING… and hopefully sharing.