Pretty Ugly is Parkdale’s best cocktail bar, offering libations of near-limitless creations from their insanely well-stocked bar. Evelyn Chick is in charge of the bar, concocting some of the city’s finest drinks, and all the accoutrements that go with them. Making tinctures, bitters, tonics and garnishes in-house, the care and time that goes into these creative cocktails is legendary. So it only makes sense to partner up with someone of the same pedigree for the food program.
David Huynh was dispatched to bring in his Vietnamese eats, from the popular Vịt Béo near Bloor and Ossington. The regional-inspired menu is a treasure trove of authentic eats, pulled from David’s heritage and family recipes, with a modern spin. He pairs the plates perfectly, keeping in step with Evelyn’s list of libations, both alcoholic or not. You can sip and slurp through the sharing-style menu, or select a few items to snack on. It’s flexible for whatever you’re craving, but likely you’ll end up ordering more than you bargained for. It is hype-worthy!
Seasonally inspired is a well-celebrated term, but here, it goes in line with the minimal-waste philosophy that Pretty Ugly holds itself to. It only makes sense to celebrate produce in season, and here, fresh Local Ontario asparagus ($7) is a winner. David explains that it’s a seasonal vegetable plate, and often in Vietnam the greens are swapped out with whatever is harvested that moment. Matched with caramelized fish sauce, puffed rice and five-spice cured egg yolk, it is a layered approach to the stalky veg, with flavours building and textures complimenting the dish. The Seabass Crudo ($8 above) is carefully orchestrated with borrowed ingredients from nearby Big Trouble Pizza supplying the red pepper jelly base for this pretty plate. Perfect for sharing, or a great plate for one, the crudo is delicate and high quality.
Spicy Beef Jerky ($5) is a fun dish, crowned with roasted peanuts and a side of sesame kewpie mayo. It is a perfect partner to the punchy Garden Party ($15) a gin-based cocktail with notes of blackthorn plum, Manzanilla sherry, pretty amaro and lemon properties. Served in a frilly and fancy glass, the high-class drink is garnished with a floral arrangement and candied citrus (see lead photo).
The BBQ Pork Belly Noodles ($12) can be biggie’d up with duck for an extra few bucks, and while either would be a safe bet, we dug into the hefty bowl with bok choy, garlic chives, scallion, peanuts, sesame and herbs, it’s satisfying, familiar and super delicious. We matched it up with the dynamic Love on the Brain ($14) a tequila-based cocktail tricked out with calvados, amontillado, lemon, sandalwood and mint ‘horgeat’ syrup which delivers an almond feel. Served in a tiki-esque glass, it’s party in a glass, but so beyond any basic bar batches, each cocktail is shaken and served with love and attention to detail. Evelyn means business!
The space itself boasts a few bars, banquettes and cozy corners to sip and sit. The moody vibe with kitschy birds and funky floral decor is spot-on for Queen West. This is a bar you can come to alone, have a drink and bite, and leave with new friends. Equal parts romantic and rowdy, we love the feel and vibe of the space.
Precision plates, thoughtful detailed drinks and a relaxed atmosphere seals the deal. Having David on hand to work the food menu makes this spot a perfect first place to meet up, or close the bar down, the food menu is served during bar hours, all the way to the wee hours. Because if you’re crushing a few hefty cocktails, there’s nothing better than a bowl of noodles to anchor it down with.
Small plates that satisfy, paired with punchy drinks that are artfully constructed will keep us coming back! The newly launched food menu offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free finds, priced from $5-$12, it is our new unofficial clubhouse.
Pretty Ugly is open every day from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 1237 Queen St W.
Thanks for inviting us in!
All photos by Libby Roach.