559 Grand St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Rating: ★ ★ ★
Cards: All Major
Hours: Daily 5pm-4am
Subway: L to Lorimer St.
Booze: Full bar
Happy Hour: Daily 5pm-8pm: $3 beers and well drinks
NY Mag says:
Ontario Bar is a joint project from Andrew Benedict and Scott Frederick of Buttermilk, Boat, and Great Lakes. When Frederick was growing up in Michigan, he’d make beer runs across the border to Windsor, Ontario, where the drinking age was just 18. He discovered the joys of Herr’s ketchup-flavored potato chips, Molson on draft, and Moosehead and Labatt Blue in bottles, and he’s now serving them at Ontario Bar, along with ten varieties of Canadian whiskey (like the beers, which go for $4 a pop, they’re reasonably priced). The bar is simply decorated — you’re looking at old booths salvaged from an upstate Shriners club, a tabletop Pac-Man/Galaga machine, and, of course, a jukebox stocked with Canadian tunes from Metric, Great Lakes Swimmers, Arcade Fire, and Neil Young (there will also be D.J.’s spinning indie rock).
Time Out New York says:
There are a few persistent clichés about Canada, and for the most part, they’re true. One: Canadians are polite. Another: Canucks are touchy when it comes to defending their relevance (how many have reminded you that Mike Myers, Pamela Anderson and Anakin Skywalker are all from the Great White North?). A third: The national pastimes are hockey and beer. Ontario Bar, a new addition to Williamsburg from the owner of Brooklyn dives Great Lakes, Buttermilk and Boat, was conceived as a tribute to our genteel neighbors…which in this instance isn’t much of a compliment.
Located on a stretch of Grand Street in Williamsburg where there are already plenty of good dives (Clem’s, the Bushwick Country Club) and more civilized bars (Huckleberry, Iona), Ontario’s negligible edge lies in its cheap drinks (most beers and whiskey shots cost $5, $3 during happy hour) and that Maple Leaf gimmick. But it’s awfully similar to the others in its franchise (indie-rock jukebox, wood paneling, video games), and the nominal “Canadian” touches hardly set it apart. Deer heads are tacked to the walls, the bar hosts weekly Trailer Park Boys screenings, and there are more Canadian songsters on the juke than usual (Neil Young, Arcade Fire, a “[John] Candy approved” mix called CanFuckingDa). On the food-and-drink front, we found $4 shots of Black Velvet (one of nine Canadian whiskeys), ketchup chips (Herr’s, a Pennsylvania brand—strike one) and a slew of mediocre Canadian beers—Molson, Labatt and Moosehead—that were outshined by the Bluepoint, Brooklyn Lager and Sixpoint on tap. (Though a follow-up call revealed that the owners are working on expanding their Candian beer options, don’t expect any of Quebec’s yummy craft beers here.)
Why bother with the theme if it’s not going to up your game? Particularly un-Canadian was the bartender’s crappy attitude. After pouring us the kind of watery rye-and-ginger that reminded us of our college days in Montreal—ginger ale from a gun, Canadian Club and wispy ice chips—he clammed up when we asked him to extol the bar’s Canadian virtues: “This bar is named after Lake Ontario, it’s not supposed to be Canadian,” he sputtered (incorrectly). That explains a lot. This time, we won’t blame Canada.