It was an ordinary weeknight and I was looking to go somewhere extraordinary.
I was tired of seeing the same kinds of people, in their same old checkered shirts and brand name clothes. I wanted to avoid the usual mind numbing mainstream garbage that almost every bar in the city seems to play nowadays. I wanted to find a place where people of different styles and tastes are celebrated rather than looked down upon.
I turned off my record player and texted a few friends, at the same time wishing they still sold rotary phones. I hopped on my vintage one speed, took to the streets and went on the hunt.
After riding by a few too many hot spots that used to be cool, we came across the place. It was surely one of the most unique spots in the city. You’ve probably never heard of it.
Inspired by pharmacies, Baldwin Barmacie serves many of its drinks and signature cocktails in long metal cups and medicine-like brown bottles.
The soft candlelight gives the split-level bar a comfortable vibe. The white table tops and bar counter on the first level give it a clean and simplistic look, all the while establishing a modern edge. The second level, meanwhile, provides plenty of seating along a white brick wall in a surprisingly spacious narrow looking room. The sultry decor is complimented well by the mix of electro and indie rock that plays from opening to closing.
What really stands out however, is the crowd.
Everyone seems to give off a really “authentic” vibe. The early to mid-20somethings who packed the bar didn’t shy away from wearing their thick, black square frame glasses of various sizes.
The ladies who were present that night did a good job of hiding their affluent backgrounds with a variety of raggedy dresses that seemed to fit just perfectly imperfectly. The men in the room, meanwhile, all seemed to study poetry or existential philosophy, evident by their one-size-too-small European-cut blazers and sterilizingly tight ankle-length jeans.
Likely due to the sophisticated pallets of its patrons, Baldwin Barmacie offers up a number of delicious house specialties. Wine and porto are used in many of the bar’s specialty drinks, such as the Pharmacien, which is so good that it might help you come to grips with the fact that Arcade Fire is slowly but surely selling out. Their mojito is one of the best in the city and the bottle service is relatively cheap.
If you start getting hungry, and aren’t afraid to stain your certified child labour-free clothing, Baldwin Barmacie makes, quite possibly, the best grilled cheese sandwich in Montreal. Who would have thought to use moutarde Ã l’ancienne?
For those of you who don’t care about the environment, or the respiratory well-being of those around you, there is plenty of parking within blocks of the bar.
There also happens to be a lovely New York alley-style terrace at the back for smokers, as well as oil burning heat lamps at the front for those cold winter nights.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. I went back a few weeks later, on a Friday, and the place was packed. What’s worse, I think I saw a guy in a baseball cap.
At least I can tell myself that I went to Balwin Barmacie before it got cool.
Baldwin Barmacie is located at 115 Laurier Ave. W. It’s open seven nights a week.