Food & Drink

The most American tattoo in Ontario

Rayland Baxter at Ontario

How does a Nashville singer-songwriter spend the 4th of July in New York? If it's Rayland Baxter -- son of Bucky Baxter, a pedal steel legend who's played with everyone from Bob Dylan to Ryan Adams -- he starts the day getting an outline of the American Flag inked on his forearm by the Brooklyn outpost of Asylum Tattoo Studios, then ends it stumbling into Ontario, a welcoming Grand Street dive that, according to one regular, serves as a hangout for approximately six actual Canadians.

Rayland Baxter

Rayland took an unusual route to becoming a Nashville songwriter sitting at a Canadian bar in Brooklyn: he played D1 lacrosse at Loyola, but tore up his knees, preventing him from signing a lucrative contract with MLL (Major League Lacrosse, obviously). He never considered becoming a professional musician until his dad heard him whistling to a Polyphonic Spree song, and complimented him on his sense of melody. Then he honed his sound playing in a barn during an extended visit with a family friend in Israel. Who even knew they had barns in Israel?

Labatt Blue at Ontario

While Ontario offers three Canadian beers (Labatt Blue, Molsen, and Moosehead), Rayland stuck with a beer more suited to our nation's birthday. "I feel intensely American when I drink High Life. It's also the cheapest drink here." Not that he's jingoistic: "With every High Life comes a shot of Canadian Club. I'm one foot in, one foot back in the motherland."

Bartender at Ontario

Rayland's influences include Dylan and the late, great Townes Van Zandt, but he also professes a soft spot for Canucks Bob and Doug McKenzie (a.k.a., Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), whose album hangs on Ontario's wall: "Well, we go way back. Used to buy hash from their cousin back in Antagonism County, Nova Scotia. Two looneys for a weekend's worth, then we'd hit the poker run with Ralph's four wheelers, get cocked on Canadian brown water till midnight, head out on the lobster boat and pull in a string of mackerel. Life was great then, and that album was always spinning back at the rabbicat shack. I lost my virginity to a Canadian."

And of course there's nothing more American than that.