I still remember the backlash from the community when Alanis Morrisette continuously misused the word ironic on the hit song with the same name of the “Jagged Little Pill” album. They argued that things like rain on your wedding day and a fly in your chardonnay are not ironic but in fact nothing more than shit luck. Bar Fancy, on the other hand, is a basic example of irony. Everything about the place fits the blueprint…I mean, the bar is far from fancy. In fact, it’s a bit of a visual atrocity; a mix between a garage and a bachelor apartment. I would take it a step further and argue that what this Queen West eatery does is beyond irony and actually is more burlesque. Often associated with extravagant and over the top entertainment antics in movies like Moulin Rouge!, the word burlesque encompasses general exaggeration and ridicule. Bar Fancy has a stupid website that has no copies of the menu and gives you nothing more than an address, hours and a picture of a neon tiger which shows you the way to the semi-hidden entrance. Once inside, they have a potluck menu (along with the token extra-large and stupid expensive steak) hand written on a sheet of paper.
I arrived for happy hour and sat at the kitchen rail with a good view of the kitchen. A couple of hipster guys were behind the counter, dressed in no way like executive chefs, waiting to prepare menu items to order. The beer and wine menu is intentionally small. I asked for a cocktail list and was told they really didn’t have one but all the classics were available. I asked for a recommendation and a black manhattan came my way.
Although not the largest happy hour menu, I’ve concluded that half price oysters and $2 a piece fried chicken are a good way to spend the pre-dinner hours. The chicken met all the criteria of a good bite. While I was there, I watched the kitchen with great interest. Each dish was meticulously prepared from scratch by plaid dressed peons with decent knife skills and obvious culinary comprehension.
I remember doing a project in university where I had to interview a restaurant whose ironic tag line was “warm beer.lousy food”. Since then, the use of irony has evolved in the food industry. Hipsters bars have embraced irony and have raised the bar by making things burlesque by exaggerating all the elements of the experience beyond just a simple catch line.
Bar Fancy is an example of a bohemian burlesque. You feel you are at a house party in somebody’s bachelor apartment. Hipsters prepare potluck foods while offering you a small array of beer and wine. They have no cocktail menu but can whip up any of the classics upon request. Fancy additions like egg whites and lavender shrubs are absent.
Although I’m generally adverse to the silliness of the concepts around hipster havens, I like Bar Fancy. During happy hour, I can grab an old-fashioned, half a dozen oysters and a couple of pieces of chicken for under $30. I love the lack of a complex cocktail list and appreciate the simple concept around their casual, made to order menu. I’ll have to give it a shot late at night even if it’s after a free ride when I’ve already paid.