Free Times Cafe

Free Times Cafe (website, Twitter)
320 College Street, Toronto ON M5S 2K3 (on the north side, between Major Street and Robert Street, the nearest major intersection is College Street and Spadina Avenue) 416-967-1078
Google Maps 

The place to go for live music at College and Spadina. 

Just north of Kensington Market, the Free Times Cafe has been around since the early ’80s. As such, I can’t quite recall the first I went there, but am quite sure I have been there several times over the decades. (I have a friend who used to be a band manager and a lot of her bands played there in the late ’90s and as a live venue I often hear on the radio “Such-and-such will be playing at the Free Times Cafe this Friday.”)

The walls of the Free Times Cafe are covered with art and the sunshine is defused by lace curtains. It’s bohemian and multi-cultural. Despite the cold of the evening in question, the pub wasn’t drafty and had a warm feel to it. Note, the booths at the front are a little tight, but then you don’t drop food on your lap!

Number of visits by yours truly: several times, most recently on a Saturday night in February 2012
TTC information: a six-minute ride south from Bathurst Station, and then a two-minute walk east, or take the College streetcar from Queen’s Park Station, which will drop you after a six-minute ride at College and Major
Booze selection: seven including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: Middle Eastern, Jewish, and Canadian. We’d been to Caplansky’s earlier for dinner and I had gefilte fish there, which I had never had before and was not that impressed. So I was eager to refresh my palate with something nice — like latkes — and the latkes at Free Times were good
Service staff: friendly, however, it seems that service can be spotty according to other online reviews
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: cramped but clean
Patio: south and on College
Wheelchair accessible: the Free Times Cafe website says it is wheelchair accessible, however, I would be hesitant as the toilets are cramped
Televisions: not in the bistro, which was the large room to the east
Live music: nightly in the back and very quiet for those in the front. In fact, we didn’t know there was a set on that night until we went to the toilet
Piped-in music: smooth jazz

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

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