First Look: Bar Hop, a new restaurant and craft beer watering hole on King West
By David Ort
Bar hopping on King West (Images: David Ort)
Barley and hops sit near the top of almost every beer recipe, so the owners of King West’s newest restaurant shortened both words to make Bar Hop the name of their new craft beer venture.
Rob Pingitore brings years of experience working at the former Entertainment District location of Smokeless Joe and, before that, The Academy of Spherical Arts to the venture.
Joining him as partners are chef Antoinette Sacco (Pingitore’s aunt), fomerly of Antoinette’s, a long-time neighbourhood joint in the Beach, and James MacDonald, fresh off a rigorous year of tasting 1,001 beers (that was literally his goal — to drink that many beers in a year).
Reflecting on the Bar Hop ethos — and the beer selection in particular — Pingitore desribes the concept as “a craft ale house with mostly local microbrews on tap, and then a wide selection of bottles that range from consignment, imported bottles and hard-to-get stuff, stuff you don’t get at the LCBO.”
“For the beer lover,” he adds, “we basically cover all the angles.”
The crowded, 24-wide row of taps (plus one cask handle) behind the bar has a definite local and craft focus. One-offs and selections that aren’t in the LCBO, like the Cameron’s Rye Pale Ale or the Church-Key Beechwood, anchor the list. After some gentle prodding to name a favourite, both Pingitore and MacDonald save a spot for the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Porter from Great Lakes Brewery on their long lists.
The bottle and can selection will vary depending on supply. It sits at around 80 labels deep right now. The beer list is eclectic, but there is some focus here on Belgium, Quebec and the U.S.
Much of the food at Bar Hop echoes favourites from the menu at Antoinette’s (such as house-made black olive spaghettini, $21.50), but the food also reflects the beer drinker’s desire to cover the table in plates and pints and sample from all. That the menu items are made by hand, in-house, is a point of pride.
At this point, two weeks after opening, the most popular food orders fall into the appetizer category, led by the Bar Hop Pops ($9). Chef Sacco dips housemade meatballs in tempura batter, deep-fries them and serves them with a bright, Parmesan-flecked marinara dipping sauce.
The vegetarian side of the menu is just as well-represented with dishes like curried sweet potato empanadas ($6). And it’s no surprise that beer finds its way into some of the recipes —including a “Beeramisu” ($9) that’s made with a local coffee porter.
Shellfish fans will be happy to find a seasonally-rotating selection of oysters and mussels. Currently, the oysters are Kumamotos ($4.25), St. Simons ($2.50) and Beach Angels ($2.75), and there are five preparations of mussels that all sell for $14.95.
The liquor license inherited from Libra Lounge (391 King West’s previous occupants) allows for a stand-up capacity of 107, but to keep things comfortable for sit-down dining, the seating is limited to about 60. There are another 14 seats on the small but people-watching-friendly front patio.
With such a broad and deep selection of craft beer and shareable, Italian-ish comfort food (for which Toronto seems to have a bottomless appetite), Pingitore and his partners hope they’ve found recipe for success in shadows of King West’s condos.
Bar Hop is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week; the kitchen closes at midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and at 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday.
Bar Hop, 391 King Street West, 647-352-7476