When we say small, we mean very, very snug and small.
There are dive bars with obscure signage or even no sign at all, and then there is the deceptive case of Toronto’s Communist’s Daughter, where a sign reading “Nazare Snack Bar” hangs over the front door. This misleading piece of wayfinding is a holdover from the Portuguese diner that occupied the space before Communist’s Daughter opened in 2003. A small chalkboard in the bar’s front window reads “Communist’s Daughter” but of course requires stumbling almost directly upon the sign thanks to the glare off of the bar’s front windows.
Once located, Communist’s Daughter is easily one of the most unique, most inviting drinking environments in a city filled with great options. Owner Paul Emery and wife Patricia Welbourne opened the Dundas West neighborhood dive bar at a time when the surrounding businesses catered to a slightly older demographic. Hoping to inject a little youth into the area, Communist’s Daughter was born, the tiny space conducive to the communal, low-key vibe that persists today. Though a Canadian television show bears a strikingly similar name, the Communist’s Daughter label comes from one of Welbourne’s favorite Neutral Milk Hotel songs.
Labeling Communist’s Daughter as small probably undersells the cramped quarters found inside, where a very short bar sits inside of a shoebox of a footprint with space enough for a couple dozen patrons at most. During the summer months, these snug confines become even more interesting thanks to a basically non-existent air conditioning system and the bar’s evergreen popularity. A small patio out back does provide a bit of reprieve, but the connectiveness of the interior environment is worth the trade off in comfort.
Sometimes nicknamed “The Commie,” live music has long been a staple of the Toronto dive bar thanks to rotating bands that occupy the postage stamp-sized space in the front window each weekend. Jazz bands are common sights during these weekend early evenings, though multiple genres are represented. Maybe even more in line with the vibe inside Communist’s Daughter, trumpeter slash bartender Michael Louis Johnson has long filled the small structure with sound while cranking out drinks between songs.
There is, of course, not much structure to fill thanks to Communist’s Daughter’s small stature, but some space is dedicated to a diverse, record-powered jukebox in the rear of the space. Every Monday from 5 PM to close, Communist’s Daughter hosts “Decide on the B-Side,” a bring-your-own-vinyl event where after listening to a record’s A-side, patrons debate whether to flip the record over or not. Alcohol and debates are, of course, old friends, making for a lively way to start the week.
Aside from the bar and its fixed set of stools, a limited set of low tables and chairs fill in the rest of the Communist’s Daughter space atop faded tile flooring. The drink selection ranges from affordable domestic standards to craft cocktails and everything in between. A rotating set of draft offerings can be found behind the bar and the food menu here is limited to a pair of time-tested dive bar staples: chips and pickled eggs.