A new Canadian-themed bar and restaurant just opened near the Bushwick-Ridgewood border. It’s called UpNorth, and features the unlikely combination of poutine and cocktails. Along with Thomas Wilson, who provides the cocktail expertise, the concept is brought to you by Harold and Marcel Simoneau, two French Canadian brothers who hail from Rimouski, Quebec, and own Noorman’s Kil in Williamsburg. As the only Canadian working for Bedford + Bowery, I was asked to visit UpNorth and evaluate its “Canadianess.” This, of course, was no easy task. It involved rigorous taste testing and drink drinking, but the result is a strangely scientific rating system that will help you, the consumer, decide how to spend your hard-earned cash. Here we go!
The wooden motif of a ski chalet has been cross-bred with the polished elegance of an upscale cocktail lounge. There are two wall-mounted ram’s heads, dark handwoven blankets hanging from the wall, a bar made of solid ambrosia maple, and tables with whitewashed pine cladding. UpNorth is a tasteful homage to the homeland, even if it’s lacking in traditional Canadian iconography (read: hockey paraphernalia).
Rating: 8 Drakes out of 10
When I arrived at UpNorth on Saturday at 5:30pm, there were six patrons, other than me and my date. The manager told me that things start to liven up around 8pm. For now, the room is tranquil, except for music humming from the speakers. They play mostly 60s and 70s classic rock (The Stones, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits), which creates the typical ambiance of a Northern watering hole. Most Canadian bars have beer-stained floors and blaring 40-inch TVs. UpNorth doesn’t, thank god.
Rating: 6 jars of maple syrup out of 10 (before 8pm)
Food and Drink
I ordered the large Deluxe Poutine ($12) which is tender bits of smoked meat, cheese curds, onions, and mushrooms slathered in gravy, atop a bed of French fries. Poutine is usually served out of food trucks and in walk-up restaurants, the perfect eats for a drunkard stumbling home from the bar. The appeal of UpNorth, I think, is that you can eat poutine while getting drunk at the bar. To drink, I ordered a Molson Canadian ($6). My date ordered a small vegetarian poutine ($9), which is a similar dish with porcini gravy. Her Rose is a Rose cocktail ($14) was made with Dillon’s Rose Gin, cucumber, elderflower, pomegranate, and soda. The whole thing cost $46, and I tipped $8 (because my date was watching).
Rating: 10 Wayne Gretzkys out of 10
The most nostalgic part of the experience was the selection of Canadian chocolate bars. They serve Aero, Caramilk, Crunchie, Coffee Crisp, and other chocolatey treats you’ve probably never seen before. I hadn’t seen that combo of candy since Halloween ’06, when I splayed my loot bag all over the living room floor for inspection. The WIFI password is “ilovepoutine,” if you happen to live next door to UpNorth and can’t afford your own. And the bartender, who is from Connecticut, which is not in Canada, did look vaguely like Geddy Lee, the lead singer of Rush.
Rating: 8 Kid Rocks out of 10 (he’s not actually Canadian but that would be quite the twist!)
UpNorth, 17 Wyckoff Ave., 718-456-1700; open Mon-Fri, 4pm to 4am, and Sat-Sun, 2pm to 4am (brunch coming soon).