POETRY JAZZ CAFE
224 Augusta Ave
Everyone has had those nights where you decide to “go out” and you don’t really have a plan on where you’re going. I found Poetry Jazz Café in — quite literally — a hole in the wall in Kensington Market about a year ago. On one of those nights, I, like many Torontonians, have walked down Augusta probably a million times in my lifetime, and in all those times, I had totally walked past one of the most underrated spots in Toronto. To a layman's eye, Poetry Jazz Café looks like any other boarded-up shop clad with a garage door that has lain uninhabited for years — and this is totally on purpose! In true speakeasy fashion, Poetry is only found by people who are looking for it.
As a disclaimer, I have to confess, I am a bit of a freak of nature — not in the sense that I live some wild double life, but that I’m quite the opposite of wild. Many people who have met me tell me that I am just a very old soul in a very young body — a 20-year old who does not like going out and getting trashed! Case in point, a great night for me is a small bar with good vibes and even better music. Poetry Jazz was created for people like me!
To avoid my over-enthusiastic gushing, here is a list of the reasons why this place is the bee’s knees:
Live music. Every. Single. Night: You probably won’t know any of the performers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t impress you. The stage is small, and seating near the stage is limited (so try to get there early-ish; poetry performances usually start around 7pm, whereas jazz performances usually start around 10pm). Performances are usually very intimate so you should feel very lucky if you get a good spot!
The atmosphere is everything: As soon as you walk in, you will be greeted by a multitude of action shots of Muhammad Ali — he’s even on the menu! If that’s not enough, his neighbours that decorate the walls include Amy Winehouse, Nina Simone, and Louis Armstrong, amongst others. The menus are all bookmarks inside various classic novels that can be found on every table — it’s adorable. If the book at your table isn’t to your taste, you can have your choosing from the gigantic bookshelf in the back. Yes, Poetry Jazz Cafe is where intellectuals go to get hammered.
The drinks are strong: I’m quite the wine mom on most nights; however, whenever I go to Poetry Jazz, I really take advantage of their cocktail menu. They all cost $11.50 and they ALL have 3 oz of alcohol in them. Need I say more? (I highly recommend the Poetry Dark and Stormy, it’s spicy and STRONG!)
The staff is incredible: The bouncer is a giant teddy bear, say hi to him for me! (There is a $10 cover) And the bartenders are very quick — a blessing.
There’s a patio: If the bar-area is packed and it’s summer and your Instagram needs some love, there is a patio out back! However, I really recommend seeing their live performances inside!
My Rating: 5 out of 5. If you go there and hate it, I’m sorry. I love it.
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