by Sheldon Birnie
I was down in southern Ontario last week and I wanted to go see a country show. Luckily I knew just the spot, a little juke joint on Ossington and Dundas. Talkin’, of course, about the legendary Dakota Tavern.
I’d last been to the Dakota maybe four years back, and I can’t recall who we saw up on the little stage. But the place left an impression on me. This summer, Winnipeg Folk Festival attendees were treated to a little taste of the place when The Beauties hosted the “Down at the Dakota” workshop with some of their pals, like Dustin Bentall and Elliott BROOD and Bahamas. I spoke with the owner of the bar, Shawn Creamer, who also does double duty with the Beauties every leading up to those five days in July, and became more convinced that if I was ever in Toronto, I’d have to spend a goodly amount of my time and booze money down at the Dakota.
The place itself is a nice little basement bar, which proved difficult for me to get down into on account of my bum leg. Difficult, but certainly not impossible. Myself and a couple pals made our way there for three sets of Colonel Tom & The American Pour. It was good. The place was tightly packed, the decor reminiscent of western Canadian bars at the turn of the century stuffed into a time-machine and dropped back in downtown Toronto. Very much a Times Change(d) vibe, with a little more woodgrain on the walls.
The whisky flowed, and beer chased, and soon it was time to blast out of there. Back at the hotel, I discovered my wallet was gone. Luckily, when I called the next afternoon, they’d found it and put it behind the bar for me! Talk about luck, and good people! At worst, it gave me a little anxiety for a few hours, and at best, another excuse to drink a few cold ones in a beauty venue.
If the Hillbilly Highway ever takes you down to Big Smoke, don’t hesitate to check the place out, friends. While you’re stuck in Winnipeg, though, make sure to keep hitting up the Times or the ol’ Rose N Bee. They’re all good people.