The Foxes Den (website)
1075 Bay Street, Toronto ON M5S 2B1 (on the east side, between Mary Street and Inkerman Street, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street and Bay Street) 416-961-1975
A nice place to go for a pint on Bay Street.
I have walked by the Foxes Den dozens of times, but I never went in until recently. This is partly to do with its location, I’ve never really hung out in the neighbourhood. However, a friend works nearby the pub and she suggested it for an after-work rendezvous. My first thought was, “how British can we get?” The Foxes Den has been around since the mid 1990s and was recently renovated, but it seems as though someone thought that being as British as possible in terms of décor was brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but that was the only idea they had.
The Foxes Den is quite large and has a variety of seating, so it’s good for groups and this is mentioned on its website, which is smart given that the pub is more of an after-work type of place than a romantic spot for dinner. Given its location, it’s a very bright pub (but there are buildings going up across the street). The pub also has darts and a pool table and is open until three every night.
Three things to note: there is also the Foxxes Den on Queen Street West (only discovered when I looked up the pub online — I swear), this review would have been posted sooner, but I lost the review when someone else cleaned, and our dear friend, the apostrophe, is missing from the pub’s name.
Number of visits by yours truly: first visit, which was on a weekday afternoon in March 2013
TTC information: a short walk from Bay Station
Booze selection: 16 or so, including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: fairly extensive, the menus are online. A number of other online reviews were critical, but I had no problem with our appetizers
Service staff: very good
Patio: south and west but rather both small (it says they can seat 50 outside between the two, but I can’t see it). The patios are very private with lots of foliage, however, that might change this year
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: at least five
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and Martika’s “Toy Soldiers”
Rating: three and a half pints (out of five)
Tequila Bookworm (website)
512 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M5V 2B3 (on the north side, between Ryerson Avenue and Dension Avenue, if coming north on Portland Avenue, it’s directly ahead) 416-504-2334
I belong to a cider appreciation society (it’s more a loose collective, but you get the idea) and it was through a recent event organized by the illustrious founder that I learned of Tequila Bookworm and their 16 ciders. Yes, 16 ciders. (By the way, I knew of Tequila Bookworm before the cider social, despite its attempts to hide with little to no signage, but I’d never gone in as I was usually on the way to somewhere else.) I have a feeling that Tequila Bookworm’s selection of ciders and beers rotate on a regular basis, so I won’t date this post with a current list, but apparently they go for the local stuff.
Tequila Bookworm is technically not a pub, it’s more a café, but as I’ve said in the past, if you don’t agree, you’re more than welcome to start your own blog. There are books along the top of the walls near the ceiling and it’s pretty crowded downstairs with lots of movable tables. Apparently they have free wifi, which is probably a bad idea as people don’t chat and don’t drink. Upstairs, there was a bordello red room with comfy seats leading to the patio and another room with old bus (?) chairs and a long bar.
Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a Thursday evening in March 2013
TTC information: a six-minute streetcar ride (that’s what the TTC says) eastbound from Osgoode Station, or take the Spadina Street streetcar south from Spadina Station, which will drop you after a nine-minute ride at Queen Street West
Booze selection: 12 beers, a number of scotches and whiskeys, and 16 ciders — seriously (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: lots of hamburgers
Service staff: very good
Prices: good for food
Toilets: could have been better, but could have been worse
Patio: upstairs at the back and tiny one at the front during the summer, the window at the front is an up-and-over door, so you might not be on the patio, but you can pretend
Wheelchair accessible: toilets downstairs, so nope
Live music: DJ some nights
Piped-in music: modern, I have no idea what was playing. You know you’re old when…
Rating: four and a half pints (out of five)
The Firkin On Yonge (website)
207 Yonge St, Toronto ON M5B 2H1 (on the east side, between Queen Street and Shuter Street, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street and Yonge Street) 647-345-0455
Is this really a pub?
The Firkin On Yonge is the brightest pub I have ever been in! Blindingly white walls! They also don’t have cider. I don’t know if they are being ironic, but having a picture of stick-thin Twiggy on a place that serves food doesn’t really inspire confidence.
The Firkin On Yonge is a relatively new pub (it opened in the spring of 2012), but it has a built-in reputation as part of the Firkin pub chain — so too many televisions, limited menu, and regular beer selection — but there’s more to pubs than that! The pub is long and narrow (it has an exit on the alleyway near Massey Hall). Downstairs, they have a long bar and lots of booths and upstairs can be a private party room. Apparently, the place attracts a business crowd during the day, despite the fact that they are across the street from the Eaton Centre.
When asking my better half for his thoughts on the Firkin On Yonge, he said that he had nothing to add, it left no impression. Considering the location, you’d think they would at least try, but with substandard service, no cider, and no atmosphere, I really go anywhere else but here.
Number of visits by yours truly: first and last visit on a Saturday afternoon in March 2013. Second pub of the day!
TTC information: just north of Queen Station
Booze selection: 24 beers, but no cider! (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: not good, our server was too busy and it appears we aren’t the only ones who have noticed the harried servers. When we got our change back from our bill, our server gave us back two dollars too much, when I politely pointed this out to her, all she said was “okay”
Prices: standard Firkin prices, not expensive, but not cheap
Toilets: downstairs and clean enough
Patio: tiny smoking patio on Yonge
Wheelchair accessible: yes, they even have an elevator
Televisions: lots and lots
Live music: apparently they do have live music, but I could see no promotion of it
Piped-in music: Muse, Depeche Mode, and Tom Petty
Rating: two and a half pints (out of five)
Fionn MacCool’s (website)
1867 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4S 1X8 (on the east side of Yonge, between Balliol Street and Merton Street, the nearest major intersection is Davisville and Yonge) 416-484-1867
A decent Irish pub in the heart of uptown Toronto.
I saw this Fionn MacCool’s for the first time while waiting for the Yonge bus at Davisville station a few months ago and I thought that I should check it out, purely in the name of research. In terms of the big pub chains in Toronto, it goes like this – Pogue Mahone et al. at the top, then the Duke of York et al., then the various Fionn MacCool’s, then the Firkin pubs, and the Fox and Fiddle pubs at the bottom, so an evening at a Fionn MacCool’s is not an evening wasted.
This is a rather small pub, and you’ll be hard pressed to find seating for a large group as most of the tables are high top ones with stools (not the most comfortable of long-term seating). However, there are proper tables at well. The walls are covered in pictures of great Irish men, like Oscar Wilde, images of Ireland, etc. They have trivia on Tuesdays, which seemed to be what most people were there for that night.
There are five Fionn MacCool’s locations in Toronto: this one, Bloor Street East, University Avenue, Front Street West, and The Esplanade, so make sure everyone knows which one you are suggesting for your Friday night booze-up.
Number of visits by yours truly: my first time to this branch of the chain, on a weekday evening in late February 2013
TTC information: just south of Davisville Station
Booze selection: a section of 44 beers, with four ciders at the moment – Alexander Keith’s Cider; Magners; Rekorderlig Wild Berry; Früli (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: not that Irish given the theme of the place
Service staff: friendly, however, we did have to flag down the waitress for another customer
Prices: slightly higher, but you are dining at a Fionn MacCool’s
Toilets: one for ladies, one for the gents, and one unisex for those who need accessible toilets
Patio: west facing on Yonge Street, probably one of the sunniest late evening patios in the city as it’s across the road from the Davisville rail yards. I might have to confirm my suspicions in the summer
Wheelchair accessible: yup!
Televisions: four televisions
Live music: ”sometimes”
Piped-in music: traditional Irish music, Cranberries, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rating: four pints (out of five)
1216 Queen Street East, Toronto ON M4L 1C3 (on the north side, just steps from Leslie Street, the nearest major intersection is Broadview Avenue and Queen Street East) 647-352-7781
One more reason to move to Leslieville. Lucky bastards.
When Christopher Hitchens died in December 2011, I cried. The world lost a great writer and a great mind. So when a friend recently told me that a pub had opened here in Toronto named in his honour I had to go. (I also saw that Stephen Fry noted the pub’s existence.) Alas, we arrived at four in the afternoon on a Saturday and it wasn’t open yet! Fortunately, the East Ender was open and serving grown-up ginger beer, so the afternoon did not start on a bad foot. It would appear that Leslieville now has an unfair number of decent pubs in the neighbourhood — the chidfree Roy, the charming Ceili Cottage, and, as of early 2013, Hitch. It’s not fair!
Hitch is tiny, there is seating for a maximum of 30 people and they didn’t sacrifice the kitchen space for the guests as there doesn’t appear to be a kitchen as all the snacks and appetizers are cold and likely prepared off site. In terms of décor, Hitch is very minimalist, with grey walls and mason jar light fixtures. There is a long bench for a group of eight people and seating for four or five at the back, other than that you are looking at seating for two. The only drawbacks of Hitch are the small menu and a rather small selection of beers. That said, I will be back, at five.
Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a Saturday afternoon in February 2013
TTC information: a 12-minute ride eastbound from Queen Station on the Queen streetcar
Booze selection: 15 beers, including Magners cider, lots of whiskeys, bourbons, scotches, and cocktails, not surprisingly given Hitchens’ fondness for the drink (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: just snacks and appetizers, such as olives and pâté
Service staff: very friendly and chatty
Prices: expensive, but worth it
Toilets: two unisex ones
Patio: small one to the north
Wheelchair accessible: not really, it too cramped and the toilets aren’t really large enough
Televisions: mercifully none, but apparently there is a projector and they might show TED discussions
Live music: very likely not as there is seating for 30 maximum in the pub (somewhere else says 40, but they miscounted)
Piped-in music: “hipster-ish”
Rating: four and a half pints (out of five)
A classy way to end your day after visiting the ROM.
I have a friend who has spent many happy hours at the British Museum and probably a few more at the original Museum Tavern just across the road. I too have spent many happy hours at the Royal Ontario Museum (I have even stopped wincing when I see the crystal) and I intend to spend many happy hours at the Toronto Museum Tavern. Interestingly, the Toronto Museum Tavern took its name from the London one, but there is no salute to the original pub. When my aforementioned friend first brought the Toronto pub to my attention, we weren’t even sure it had opened yet (apparently it opened in August-ish of 2012). I have to admit I had the preconception that because it was a “tavern” it would be straw on the floor and rustic ambiance. Instead, gleaming black (but they could be dark brown) and white tiles were below my feet and a gorgeous cooper-colour ceiling above set my nervous heart to rest.
The Museum Tavern suffers a little from an identity crisis: is it a French bistro with its copper kettles and mirrors, is it a pub with its selection of beers and pubby name, or is it an American bar with its drinks selection and leather seats. Only you can decide. That said, the seating leads itself to a mixture of group sizes and it looks like the perfect place for a date. One can see why they chose to name the pub the Museum Tavern as the ROM dominates the skyline as you carefully navigate the stairs down.
Number of visits by yours truly: first visit, but not my last, on a weekday evening in January 2013
TTC information: equidistant from St. George, Bay, and Museum Stations.
Booze selection: 14 beers and Thornbury cider, a number of mixed drinks (they have Pimm’s — Allah is merciful)
Food selection: limited but unusual selections such as game based meals
Service staff: very polite and very friendly
Prices: fairly expensive, but generous portions
Patio: south-facing the ROM
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: yes, but too low to identify
Rating: four and half pints (out of five)
The Ben Wicks Pub and Restaurant (website)
424 Parliament Street, Toronto ON M5A 3A2 (on the east side, between Woodward Evans Lane and Doctor O Lane, the nearest major intersection is Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street) 416-961-9425
A lovely pub in the heart of Cabbagetown.
After a recent disappointing trip to the west end in search of a decent pub, we took the streetcar back across Toronto and on the way we passed the Ben Wicks Pub. I’d never been, so when the need hit for a pub visit, it was the first place I thought of. (Besides, Ben Wicks has a soft spot in my heart; his cartoons were charming and I remember searching for them in the newspapers as a teenager.)
The Ben Wicks Pub was full of regulars and nearly all were older men and, for a while, my better half and I were the youngest people in the pub. A murder of old men nobly held up the bar for the entire duration of my visit, making sure that it was never left alone or made vulnerable. The pub features a private dining area, which can be reserved for large groups. The pub itself has lots of seating for different group sizes and a snug at the front that apparently holds games and some books. The seating runs the gamut from booths to wooden office chairs on casters. The walls, naturally, are covered in Wicks’ cartoons. On the whole, I thought the Ben Wicks Pub was delightful and far more worthy of the locals’ interest than nearby Stout.
Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not my last, on a weekday evening in January 2013
TTC information: a seven-minute ride eastbound from College Station on the Carlton streetcar or a six-minute ride southbound from Castle Frank Station on the Parliament bus
Booze selection: 18 beers and Magners cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: “classic fare” including ice cream with exotic flavours, such as saffron (yummy) and bacon and eggs (no so yummy, but I still finished my bowl)
Service staff: very, very attentive
Prices: not bad for the food, my fish and chips was more like whale and chips; a little expensive for the booze
Toilets: nice smell
Patio: east facing and sunken, so likely to only get direct sunlight for an hour at noon at the most. Perfect for non-sparkly vampires
Wheelchair accessible: no way!
Televisions: two that I could see
Live music: never
Piped-in music: radio station playing Honeymoon Suite, Platinum Blonde, Supertramp
Rating: four and a half pints (out of five)