Seek out the refuge of the wilderness-filled back room.
If there is such a thing as hipster paradise among Toronto’s countless beautiful, highly walkable neighborhoods, Kensington Market may be the selection. Breweries, organic juice bars and coffee shops cram into a few blocks northwest of Old Toronto, attracting all manner of let’s-walk-slowly-and-savor-this-area couples hopping from spot to spot. Ronnie’s Local 069 is the area’s dive bar representative, the Toronto dive bar’s rustic exterior a nice break in a long line of ultra-polished offerings nearby.
The high-end trend of the area aside, Kensington Market is a great spot for a meandering stroll, so long as it includes places like Ronnie’s Local 069, a collection point for locals. Owned by Vicki Henton, the bar’s signature offering may just be its immensely inviting front patio, providing a front-row seat to every version of hipster encountered in Toronto. During the summer, Kensington Market transforms into a pedestrians-only street fair on the last Sunday of each month, only heightening the crowd-watching appeal of the Ronnie’s Local 069 patio.
To set the stage even further, somewhere in the Venn diagram of Anthony Bourdain and Jason Momoa sits Ronnie’s Local 069, both celebrities having visited the Kensington Market bar. The plain block lettering of the sign above the structure is alluring, to be sure, as are the umbrella-topped tables that dot the wood fence-lined patio space. The patio space is extended along the alley that runs next to Ronnie’s Local 069, another string of tables and chairs found here under crisscrossing string lights.
Named after its own address (69 Nassau Street), the Ronnie’s Local 069 interior is where the dive bar credentials are solidified thanks to an utterly chaotic space behind the bar populated by countless knickknacks, stickers, pins, hats and liquor bottles. That is not to say that the liquor selection here is extensive, far from it, but every major category is represented alongside a beer refrigerator that houses a fairly limited selection of options. The day’s beer offerings can be found along a small menu to the left of the bar and cans can be purchased here to go.
A handful of seats can be found in the bar’s front window for those interested in balancing people watching with air conditioning, but the balance of seating can be found along the long bar that runs the length of the bar’s main space. A pair of beer ledges and a couple of small booths round out the seating up front underneath a haphazard selection of paintings, beer signs and the occasional lamp. Not to be missed is the owl-themed bit of stained glass over the front door because why wouldn’t there be an owl there.
Most impressive and maybe easiest to miss is the Ronnie’s Local 069 back room, a secluded space with an entirely different vibe than the Kensington Market bar’s front room. Here, confines are cramped thanks to rows of wooden benches on either end of a slender space filled in with low tables and chairs. A pair of booths can be found in the rear of the space under a handful of faded, framed art pieces and a wooden shelve carrying a handful of odds and ends. The real tone for this almost hidden room is set by the wilderness landscape depicted in the mural that runs the length of the space. A single wall sconce interrupts a woodland scene that includes a family of deer. The setting feels more like a hunting lodge in contrast to the main room’s divey ambiance.
While no food is offered at Ronnie’s Local 069, patrons are encouraged to bring in selections from the many, many vendors that surround the bar. Kensington Market restaurants have also been known to deliver to Ronnie’s Local 069 on occasion. Thanks to the walkable nature of the neighborhood, a number of ATM options exist nearby, a welcome amenity due to the cash only policy at Ronnie’s Local 069.