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Located in the energetic neighbourhood of Koreatown North, ON/OFF is the latest must-visit spot for colourful cocktails and fun, shareable bites.
Founders Jodye, Kira and Gordon are the young entrepreneurs behind the new “Chinese izakaya,” which takes inspiration from the Japanese izakaya concept, a type of casual snack bar catered for the after-work crowd.
“The idea behind ON/OFF is like a light switch,” says the team. “After a long day of work, people can come to ‘switch off’ and destress with their friends and loved ones.”
Although the bar’s dimly lit interiors are meant to help visitors relax, there’s a certain atmosphere inside that feels like a pick-me-up. Beyond the electric, red-and-blue glow of neon signs, lanterns, and ceiling lights, ON/OFF exclusively plays hip-hop music to liven up those 9-to-5 blues.
In addition to an extensive cocktail list of crowd-pleasers like Whiskey Sours, fruity Soju, and colourful mixes like the Blue Sky, ON/OFF also specializes in modern twists of Chinese and Taiwanese snacks.
One of ON/OFF’s signatures is their Guan Guan-style dishes, inspired by a traditional method of cooking stew in small earthenware pots that’s commonly found in the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi. Here, you can get Guan Guan dishes made with Beef Sirloin, Coconut Chicken, and more.
The most popular dish here, however, is probably the Typhoon Shelter Chicken Wings. Inspired by Hong Kong’s famous local dish, Typhoon Shelter Crab, the crispy wings are sprinkled with fried bits of garlic and hot peppers, creating an amazing, aromatic crunch with every bite.
Along with the Typhoon Shelter Chicken Wings, ON/OFF’s Fried Food menu has the perfect variety of late-night bar snacks, including Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken, another customer favourite since their first day.
If you’re feeling a bit hungrier than just bar snacks, they also have a modest list of entrées that are equally satisfying. The Curry Udon Noodles and Unagi Rice seems to be everyone’s top choices so far, but with another menu dedicated to seasonal items, it’s hard to say what everyone will be ordering tomorrow.
With a menu and décor full of tributes to East Asian traditions, ON/OFF is one of those places that bring out Toronto’s unique multicultural energy. Look around this Chinese izakaya and you’ll see the embrace of traditional lanterns, framed artwork of Chinese calligraphy, and other Asian trinkets, but what’s on the ceiling is equally hard to miss: huge block letters that spell “the six.”
“It’s an experience that incorporates different cultures,” says the team. “While we love that the Chinese community here can feel a bit of home, we also wanted to create an energetic, diverse atmosphere where anyone can come and have a good time.”
Grab your after-work drinks and late-night snacks at ON/OFF on 5463 Yonge St. in North York. They’re open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6 p.m. until late.