The Little Jerry, Toronto’s premier listening bar for serious audiophiles
Sort-of Secret: The Little Jerry, Toronto’s premier listening bar for serious audiophiles
The kind of secrecy: little jerrya wine bar in College and Bathurst inspired by Japanese kissas, or listening bars
You may have heard of it because: You’re a vinyl collector with a taste for eclectic sounds and wines – the playlist here is as rich and varied as the options by the glass
But you probably haven’t tried it because: It was launched just before Covid shut down the city for two years
Before the Little Jerry opened in late 2019, co-owners and life partners Jodie Dewald and Saad Qaatan spent countless hours over a period of months combing through audiophile message boards and gear sites. used stereo. Their dream: to build an audio system worthy of Toronto’s first listening bar, a drinking establishment designed not only around alcohol, but also the most efficient high-end audio systems.
The format is inspired by traditional Japanese jazz kissas, which have existed in the back streets of Tokyo for nearly a century and are now popping up around the world, including in London and Berlin. The Little Jerry was the first of Toronto’s audiophile lounges, followed by the Standard Time, which opened on Geary Avenue in August. These are spaces that eschew algorithm-driven Spotify playlists, satellite radio streams, or MP3 downloads: at Little Jerry, vinyl chosen by staff — all record collectors — is the only source of aural pleasure. . And, unless you know 80s Japanese pop; or Hamza el Din’s enthusiastic and plectrum interpretation of Nubian liturgical music; or the sounds of jazz-soul astronaut Andy Bey, this will probably be new to you. Guest DJs also come in to play everything from minimalist opera to New Wave to deep American disco-funk cuts.
Once Dewald and Qaatan assembled the components – including a set of rare Klipschorn floorstanding speakers, each weighing over 200 pounds, and a pair of Technics SL-1200 turntables, which they modified to fit the listening bar environment – the challenge was getting all the pieces working smoothly, and the pandemic gave them plenty of time to fine-tune everything to the finest decibel. Now the Little Jerry is finally living up to its ideal as an audiophile destination and neighborhood bar.
“There are still a lot of customers who come two or three times without even realizing how amazing the sound system is,” says Dewald. That’s a testament to the carefully tuned audio design, which almost always keeps the volume at a level that allows easy conversation. Later in the evening, things go a little sour. “You can’t help paying attention to it,” says Dewald. “The good news is that we live on the bar floor so no one complains about the noise. When our landlord offered us the residential lease, we knew the cops would be there every night if we didn’t take it.
Most new listening bars treat the drinks menu as secondary to the sound system, but Little Jerry’s wine, beer, vermouth, and amaro list is as neatly curated as its record collection. (In particular, be on the lookout for a luscious Villa Papiano Tregenda bianco.) Vermouth highballs are what to sip here if you’re looking for something closer to a cocktail.
Culinarily, chef Declan Edwards (formerly of Rasa) riffs on all the currently cutting-edge ingredients: an intricate trout crudo dressed in an orange-jalapeno sauce and pickled kohlrabi, roasted fingerling potatoes under a canopy of pink endives with polka dots. And, if pan-fried hen of the woods with steamed leeks, dashi and “überkraut” (dehydrated cabbage rehydrated in its own brine) makes a comeback, Dewald suggests pairing it with a glass of Georgian rosé. Take his advice: the two go together like Peaches & Herb.
418 College Street, Wednesday to Monday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., thelittlejerry.com