The place to go if you’re in the mood for something Scottish, unless it’s your birthday.
Claiming to be the only authentic Scottish pub in Toronto, which I dispute as McGugan’s seems pretty Scottish to me, the Caledonian is a nice pub. It’s got wooden tables that can be moved, pictures of Scotland, and a fireplace in the back of the pub. The night we were there, there was a barrel-making demonstration on the patio, which was quite interesting.
My drinking companion of choice enjoyed the pub, while I beg to differ for the following reasons: why should you not go to the Caledonian for birthdays, you ask? Well, at the next table on the night in question, someone was celebrating a birthday and they started singing “Happy birthday.” We decided to join in and sing along. Anyway, our waitress, who turned out to be the owner, appeared moments after the song ended and hissed that she did not want us to encourage that type of behaviour. I kid you not. Later that evening, when another table on the other side of us celebrated a birthday we just sat there quietly. In addition, when we arrived, a man was letting his young child push around a chair and at one point the child’s dummy/soother (what a misnomer!)/pacifier fell on the floor, I pointed this out and the man just growled that he knew, picked it up, and sulked. Sigh.
I will go back to the Caledonian, but not for anyone’s birthday. The pub is sometimes closed for private functions.
Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not last, visit on a weekend evening in November 2013
TTC information: a three-minute ride south from Ossington Station or take the College streetcar from College Station, which will drop you after a 15-minute ride at Ossington
Booze selection: 10 beers or so, Magners cider (no Pimm’s), but lots and lots of whiskies
Food selection: Scottish (surprise, surprise) with several haggis dishes, scotch eggs, Irn-Bru, and deep-fried Mars bars (the menu is online)
Service staff: our waitress was highly stressed, but quick most of the time, see above
Toilets: the ladies’ toilets are in independent stalls and there was a lack of waste baskets
Patio: north and in a courtyard, so the noise gets trapped, but it looked nice
Wheelchair accessible: nope as the toilets are downstairs
Televisions: one in front
Live music: sometimes
Piped-in music: couldn’t make it out
Rating: four and half pints (out of five)
The Hole in the Wall
2867 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON M6P 1Y9 (on the south side, next to Post and Beam Architectural Reclamation, the nearest major intersection is Keele Street and Dundas Street West) 647-350-3564
The place to go for craft beers in the Junction.
The first time I attempted with my partner in crime to go to the Hole in the Wall, the pub had paper on the door glass and it wasn’t open, so I think it was either about to open or was undergoing renovations. We ended up going to the nearby Axis Bar and Grill, and if you have the choice, you should go here instead. Apparently the pub did undergo renovations recently, however you can’t really tell, it is really a hole in the wall, so kudos for being honest about the name.
The Hole in the Wall is very loud due to the wooden floors and tall ceiling, even at brunch time, so I dread to think what it’s like when they have their live music five nights a week. The pub is very narrow and you will likely walk by it twice before you finally locate it. One of my dining companions said that the pub is built in an old alleyway, hence its odd shape, location, and exposed brick walls. Despite this, the pub is bright due to its skylight. Groups larger than four will have a tough time finding suitable seating, so go with three of your closest drinking companions and enjoy yourselves.
Number of visits by yours truly: my first on a Sunday afternoon in late September 2013, but not my last
TTC information: take the Dundas West (Junction) bus north from Dundas West Station (seven-minute journey)
Booze selection: dozen or so craft beers, which change often, not including Strongbow, Wapoos, Sir Perry, Magners ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: we were there for brunch, so we only got that menu, which was pretty good
Service staff: good
Prices: not bad
Toilets: two unisex toilets, one was acceptable, one wasn’t
Wheelchair accessible: sort of, the toilets are on the ground floor, but I would be hesitant to recommend this as wheelchair accessible
Live music: five nights a week
Piped-in music: Arcade Fire, Neil Young, Billy Joel, Counting Crows (!)
Rating: four and a half pints (out of five)
More proof that competition is good!
Cam’s Place is a tiny pub on Yonge Street between Eglinton Avenue and Lawrence Avenue, which has no nearby competition, from what I can tell. However, like other Toronto pubs that take advantage of being the only choice for locals — and it did seem that my waitress knew nearly everyone who walked in — Cam’s Place makes little effort to cater to its customers.
The toilets were appalling and I went early in the day when I did my review, so I think the toilets were bad from the night or weekend before. Groups larger than six will have to go upstairs at Cam’s Place as there is no suitable seating downstairs and the room can be reserved for events. Downstairs, there are booths and tables. Basically, Cam’s Place doesn’t make an effort for its customers and you shouldn’t make the effort to go there.
(The picture, just so you know, was taken at eight in the morning on a Saturday, so that’s why the pub looks like that.)
Number of visits by yours truly: two or three visits, most recently on a weekday evening in September 2013
TTC information: according to Google Maps, the pub is exactly one kilometre north from Eglinton and one kilometre south from Lawrence, so you could catch the Yonge bus, but if it’s not raining or snowing and you have only one bag, you are better off walking. You can hear the subway rumble underneath the pub
Booze selection: 20 beers, a number of martinis, and four ciders — Blackthorn, Magners, Magners Pear, Strongbow (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: limited menu, the onion rings were very spicy, almost too spicy (I nearly complained)
Service staff: the service is often slow after the initial enthusiasm
Prices: not bad
Toilets: the most disgusting I have seen in a long while and I think I go out more than the average person (and certainly more than most parents)
Patio: tiny and on the street, but the pub has an up-and-over door
Wheelchair accessible: not really as the entrance is so tight
Televisions: three downstairs
Live music: comedy last Friday of every month and live music occasionally
Piped-in music: Queen, Beatles
Rating: three pints (out of five)
I have an uneasy relationship with Pauper’s and it’s not just because they can’t decide if they have an apostrophe in the name. I first heard of Pauper’s (I choose the apostrophe) back in the ’90s, as it was the destination of choice for my better half’s colleagues. Over the years, I had my own invitations as the pub is centrally located, has darts, lots of space (but fixed seating), and a decent enough selection of beers. The pub is quite large with two floors, a rooftop patio, as well as a ground-floor patio. Like many pubs in Toronto, it used to be a bank, so it has high ceilings and the vault is now actually a snug. However, I have twice received poor, or, to be more accurate, no service at Pauper’s. Both times, the couples to the north and south of us were served, but we appeared to be in a no-man’s land. The first time this happened we left after nearly passing out due to dehydration. The second time I walked up to the bar and ordered a drink for myself and my companion, which I paid for there and took back to my seat, consumed, and then left immediately afterwards.
Having reviewed more than 100 pubs, I went back to Pauper’s recently to see if we could break the curse and review somewhere new for the blog. We were surprised to be served and also served well. However, they only reason we went was to give it a third chance. Ironically, we also went to the Only Cafe that same day to see if their service had improved and it was just as bad (see my Sarah’s review for details). That said, I would recommend the nearby Victory Cafe or Hrvati Bar instead as I don’t know if it was a glitch in Pauper’s system.
Number of visits by yours truly: half a dozen visits, most recently on a weekend in September 2013
TTC information: about three minutes from Bathurst Station
Booze selection: 40 beers including Somersby, Strongbow, and Magners ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: very standard pub grub
Service staff: good, for once (see above)
Prices: cheap for beer
Toilets: cramped and downstairs. The stairs are very steep, so watch yourself after a couple of drinks
Patio: east-facing and a rooftop patio
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: at least four in our section
Live music: open mike and live music on some night. See the website for deails
Piped-in music: all ’80s including the Spoons’ “Nova Heart” and Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”
Rating: three pints (out of five)
Hope for the Danforth!
Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that one of my greatest laments is that I live in an area devoid of pubs. However, I have hopes that this is changing as the Wren has opened. The Wren arrived earlier this summer (2013) and it was discovered by us one weekend on the way back from a visit to Sarah’s. With the opening of the Wren and Morgan’s on the Danforth, I feel that there is change in the air for my neighbourhood. We decided to go to the Wren the following evening and we were not disappointed.
The Wren looks more Western saloon than English pub, which certainly is not a mark against it. The Wren has a distressed brick wall with an original Coca-Cola advertisement (c. 1920s), tapestry woven pictures, wooden floors, and two long tables with benches that can each seat four, in addition to tables, booths, and a small snug at the back. The dining plates are mismatched, but that is no distraction from the food, which was very spicy, but good. One thing not in favour for the Wren is its policy of being child-friendly. Apparently they encourage snivelies! They will learn in time.
At this time, the Wren does not take reservations and they only take cash.
Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last visit, on a weekday evening in August 2013
TTC information: Greenwood Station, mere metres on the Danforth from the station
Booze selection: 12 local craft beers, which changes now and then, including Thornbury cider (they do not have Pimm’s)
Food selection: a rather small selection of Tex-Mex, which was spicy for both my dining companion and myself
Service staff: quick!
Prices: not bad
Toilets: very nice
Patio: south facing, but very small
Wheelchair accessible: yes!
Televisions: none (huzzah!)
Live music: nope!
Piped-in music: Mr. Bowie and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”
Rating: four and half pints (out of five)
A pleasant way to enjoy a pint on Toronto’s waterfront.
The first to greet us at the Watermark Pub were the pigeons that sneak in when the pub is empty and everyone is on the patio admiring the view. We sat near a lovely fireplace, with comfy seats and interesting prints on the wall. The Watermark is one of the largest pubs in Toronto and that doesn’t include its huge patios. The Watermark Pub has mixed online reviews, sometimes the service is good, sometimes not, the food is also hit and miss, with not a lot of selection. They apparently have a tiny kitchen, so you might arrive and be unable to eat as the kitchen is more than an hour behind with food orders. (The toilets are also small.) With a pub that large in such an ideal location, you have to plan accordingly, this could be a great pub, but it needs a larger kitchen and more staff. You can’t skimp on service!
The Watermark is a sister pub to the Brazen Head, Murphy’s Law, Pogue Mahone, and the Foggy Dew so if you like them, you’ll like this one. However, this one seems to be a weak link the chain, so don’t go in with high expectations.
Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not my last, on a weekend afternoon in July 2013
TTC information: according to the TTC, the quickest way to the Watermark from Yonge and Bloor, which is always the place I use as a start point for this blog, is taking the Bay bus south, which is a 23-minute ride. I would suggest walking from Union Station, but Google Maps won’t cooperate and let me work out how long it would take. I estimate 10 minutes, give or take traffic and/or construction
Booze selection: 30 beers, including Magners, Thornberry, and Somersby ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: not a lot of choice. The menu is online
Service staff: friendly
Toilets: clean and tidy, but only two (I seem to recall) stalls in the ladies’ for a huge pub
Patio: east and south, facing onto the Toronto Islands
Wheelchair accessible: apparently, but the toilet entrance is very small, so I would be hesitant
Televisions: three in our section
Live music: “on the patio sometimes”
Piped-in music: U2, the Cult, Chicago, Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” (which was cut off halfway to play crap and I heard someone howling like a dog from the bowels of the kitchen)
Rating: three and a half pints (out of five)