Toronto residents who have been to, or walked by, the George Street Diner will find Windsors’ Phog Lounge highly familiar. That is, both are tiny, rectangular cafes that are only just bigger than shipping crates. Just imagine that the George Street Diner has one corner dedicated to live music - this is pretty much what the Phog Lounge is like.
Located at 157 University Ave. West, Phog Lounge (established in 2004) has won CJAM 91.5 FM's Jammy Award for "Best Bar in Windsor" nine times in a row. In 2009, Phog was also awarded Best Live Music Venue in Canada by CBC Radio 3. In 2019, when Maclean’s conducted a Canada-wide survey to find the most popular small music venues - as judged by university students - Phog Lounge was voted in the top 10.
These are some impressive accolades for this 60-person capacity, tiny red box of a venue located on a relatively empty lot. But the venue’s success dome down to a few factors: first, there’s the location. As an indie/artsy club located in one of Canada’s most well-known border cities, Phog Lounge serves as a “cultural hub … aimed at supporting and connecting artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, students, entrepreneurs, small business owners and more to the greater Windsor/Detroit community to enrich the city as a whole” (from phoglounge.com). The Phog is a great venue to see lesser-known artists from States (such as Detroit’s JUUNI) perform a Canadian gig.
Second, there’s the merit of the venue itself: sure it’s small, but much like the George Street Diner in Toronto, Phog Lounge makes up for its humble size with vast amounts of charm and a stellar reputation. The outward appearance is eye-catching - it’s bright red exterior is partially covered by an explosion of colourful, graffiti-esque art. As far as the interior is concerned, the walls are adorned by a rotating roster of work from local artists (all of which is for sale). The T.V. screens display a cycle of photos taken of patrons inside the joint - priceless, embarrassing, and entertaining snapshots of people enjoying the Phog’s events (such as Monday’s open mic night, the monthly coaster-throwing contest, and regular poetry readings). There’s no “stage,” per se, but bands can occupy a nice little corner in the back of the venue when they play - and sometimes an act will bring in a wee platform to stand on. The majority of the acts they book are from Windsor (and surrounding areas from both sides of the border), such as Datsunny, Thrillsmith, Dale D’Amour and the Homerockers, Trophy Knife, The Stereo Division, David Spade and the Noise Complaints, Psychic Void, and Yukon Blonde. That being said, some acts come a very long way to play the Phog: such as Tokyo’s own Acid Mother Temple.
Phog Lounge is able to keep local music healthy and strong because they book their stage seven nights a week, and are open 365 days a year. In addition to a non-stop lineup of music, this venue can be rented out for art shows/exhibits put on by local creatives. To keep guests fed and liquored, the Phog offers an extensive collection of microbrewed beers from Guelph, Windsor, and Toronto; and they serve eight different varieties of poutine that Facebook user Bryan Datoc “recommend[s] to everyone that hasn’t ever tasted one” (2018). In fact, Datoc goes on to say that “there are so many reasons why this place has been one of the longest standing bars in Downtown Windsor… but the best thing about [Phog Lounge] is every time you visit, you always find another reason why you should go back again” - we couldn’t put it any better than this.