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Against The Grain Urban Tavern (Leaside)

Against the Grain Toronto

Against The Grain Urban Tavern (website)
87 Laird Drive, Toronto ON M4G 3V1 (on the east side of Laird Drive, between Esandar Street and Industrial Street, the nearest major intersection is Eglinton Avenue East and Laird Drive) 647-748-2840
Google Maps

The Pottery Barn of pubs.

You know sometimes how you find yourself somewhere several times over a short period when you hadn’t been there in months? Well, that was the case recently as one day I realized there was a new pub in Leaside. Technically within walking distance of the old abode (however, the pub had been open for two years at this point, but as I said, sometimes you don’t go to the old haunts for a while). So on the first warm weekend in 2015 I decided it was time to brush the cobwebs off the sandals and check out a new pub.

Against the Grain (Leaside) is a nice looking pub, but don’t be surprised when you find that they don’t sell throw pillows and coffee tables. Against the Grain has wood everywhere! There is a good mixture of seating available — booths, tables, high tops and a huge bar. The pub attracts an older crowd from what we could see. I think that might be due to the location of Against the Grain, both in terms of neighbourhood (Leaside ain’t cheap) and in terms of location as it’s not on a major road and surrounded by shops.

Against the Grain is part of the chain that brought you Foggy Dew, Pogue Mahone, etc., but note they have two Against the Grains, the other one is at Corus Quay.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, in May 2015
TTC information: take the Leaside bus north from Donlands Station (13 minutes) or the same bus eastbound from Eglinton Station (20 minutes), the pub is just a nine-minute walk south from Eglinton if you’ve just missed the Leaside bus
Booze selection: 14 beers, including Pommies cider and lots of wine (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: offerings are given with beer pairings, reading others’ online reviews, it seems that the food is not the reason to go to this pub
Service staff: friendly
Prices: expensive
Toilets: nice
Patio: a large one that’s west- and south-facing and a rooftop that’s sometimes open
Wheelchair accessible: yes, except for the raised area that takes up a third of the ground floor and the upstairs
Televisions: six downstairs
Live music: apparently they do have live music, but I guess it will be loud give the acoustics of the pub
Piped-in music: dance! dance! dance!

Rating: four pints (out of five)

The Churchmouse (A Firkin Pub)

Churchmouse Toronto


The Churchmouse (A Firkin Pub) (website)
475 Church Street, Toronto ON M4Y 2C5 (on the south-east corner of Church Street and Maitland Street, the nearest major intersection is Church Street and Wellesley Street) 416-927-1735

Google Maps

The Firkin take on a pub in Toronto’s Gay Village.

Regular readers of this blog will know that, in my opinion, Firkin pubs are the McDonald’s of the pub scene, you know what you’re getting in every Firkin as the menu is the same, they’re clean, they’ll do in a pinch, and they’re almost as ubiquitous as McDonald’s, but one Firkin is pretty much the same as the next. Fortunately, the Churchmouse (and Firkin) is different, but what else do you expect from a pub in the heart of Toronto’s Gay Village?

First opened in 2004, the Churchmouse is one of the recently rebranded Firkin pubs, so it has that new pub smell. It’s a large pub with a big and busy patio and an upstairs, accessible by two staircases. The downstairs has stools and raised tables, while the upstairs is a little more intimate with its own bar, Union Jack sofa, booths, and comfy chairs. (We were upstairs and had to leave after a while as the floor was being closed for a private party, but they let us stay until we’d drink and ate our fill.) What makes the Churchmouse a different kind of Firkin pub is the atmosphere, it’s a little more relaxed, the servers seem friendlier, the patrons seem more content. If you have to go to a Firkin, the Churchmouse should be at the top of your list.

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four, most recently in late April 2015
TTC information: a six-minute walk from Wellesley Station, but you’re feeling lazy, take the Wellesley bus from Castle Frank Station (a nine-minute journey) or a bus from Wellesley Station eastbound (a two-minute journey) and then walk south from Church Street
Booze selection: typical (limited) Firkin selection with Somersby, Somersby Blackberry, Keith’s and Brickworks ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: typical Firkin selection
Service staff: very good for a Firkin
Prices: typical Firkin prices
Toilets: clean, but a weird noise in the ladies’, and lots of men were using the ladies
Patio: to the north, perfect for people watching
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: not as many as one usually finds in a Firkin pub
Live music: no
Piped-in music: Ace of Base and Cyndi Lauper

Rating: four and a half pints (out of five)

The Quail (A Firkin Pub)

The Quail Toronto

The Quail (A Firkin Pub) (website)
1055 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4W 2L2 (on the east side between Rowanwood Avenue and Roxborough Street East, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Alymer Avenue) 416-962-0782
Google Maps

A quiet pub suitable for a pint after the rigours of the day. 

I’ve been to the Quail (and Firkin, which it dropped some years ago) several times since I began this blog way back in January 2011, however, I could just never get worked up enough to do a TorontoPubs review. The pub review sheet for the Quail would be relegated to the bottom of the pile again and again until I felt that I couldn’t remember enough even with my notes to give a fair judgement of the place. So I would recycle the review and dream of other pubs. I had someone ask me recently why I hadn’t reviewed the Quail as it’s pretty much in the heart of Toronto, so I thought I should try one last time, just for you, my dear reader. However, it’s taken me two months to write the review. I guess Firkin pubs are rather boring for this jaded reviewer. They’re too predictable and too corporate.

As a re-branded Firkin pub, the Quail has the Cool Britannia (that’s so 1997) style down with pseudo punk embellishments, Union Jacks galore, London Tube signs, and various things that scream “God Save the Queen!”. The Quail has a raised seating area at the back that can comfortably seat eight with a sofa and fancy chairs. There’s a pool table right at the back and a mixture of seating including stools with backs, which always worry me if I know I am going to be enjoying my company and booze that night. Large groups won’t have trouble getting seats together unless it’s prime pub time. I can see this pub being a popular summer one with its patio, but summer in Toronto is all too fleeting.

Number of visits by yours truly: my third or fourth visit, most recently on a weekday afternoon in May 2015
TTC information: just a block and a half north of Rosedale Station
Booze selection: about 20 beers or so, including Somersby apple and blackberry, and Brickworks cider (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: friendly
Prices: standard Firkin prices
Toilets: not bad
Patio: west-facing on Yonge
Wheelchair accessible: yes, except for the raised seating/pool table area at the back
Televisions: nine televisions
Live music: probably not given that it’s so open and part of a building
Piped-in music: James, The Who, The Cure, Oasis, Phil Collins

Rating: four pints (out of five)

Henry VIII Ale House (Kingsway)

Henry VIII Pub Toronto

Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway (website)
3078 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M8X 1C8 (on the north side, just west of Brentwood Road North, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and Royal York Road) 416-237-1444
Google Maps

Traditional pub on Bloor West.

One of the smallest pubs in Toronto, the Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway is one of two pubs with that same name within a 30-minute walk (just two subways stops or five-minute drive away) on the same road. Both pubs are owned by the same people. The pubs’ website is a little confusing as to the differences between the two and sometimes fails to mention that there are actually two pubs with the same name. Example: “Welcome to Henry VIII Ale House, Toronto West’s best kept secret. Our exciting, comfortable and charming space is a place to escape to at any time of the day to relax.” Shouldn’t this be pluralized? Named after one England’s nastiest monarchs (responsible for two divorces/annulments and two wives executed, the execution of a 67-year-old woman, the destruction of great chief ministers, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, etc.,), perhaps the owners of the Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway should have done a little research beforehand and named the pub after Charles II, often known as the Merry Monarch, instead of going with name recognition.

The Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway’s deep red walls were covered in images of Henry VIII, including a poster from The Tudors mini-series. On the day of my latest visit, I was there for lunch with a friend and the pub was full at one point and very noisy. The waitress ignored us for several minutes, long enough for me to change my mind from ordering a second pint to just asking for the bill. I would recommend the Monk’s Kettle across the street instead.

Number of visits by yours truly: my third or fourth visit, most recently on a weekday afternoon in April 2015
TTC information: a four-minute walk west of Royal York Station
Booze selection: 17 beers including Cornish Orchards cider (they have “seasonal” Pimm’s). They also have lots of scotches and whiskeys
Food selection: traditional pub grub including one of my favourites, steak pie and Stilton
Service staff: poor service
Prices: expensive
Toilets: cleanish
Patio: no
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: one
Live music: on Tuesdays
Piped-in music: jazz

Rating: three and a half pints (out of five) 

Local 1794

Local 1794 Toronto

Local 1794 (website)
1794 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4C 1H8 (on the north side, between Woodington Avenue and Glebemount Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Coxwell Avenue and Danforth Avenue) 416-463-1794
Google Maps 

Proof that someone reads my blog and also knows that East Danforth needs more good pubs! 

Local 1794, apparently owned by the former proprietors of nearby Taps & Tales, opened earlier this year in January in an area that is now filling with pubs (Wren, Morgans, the Borough, and Sarah’s). I am personally delighted as this part of Toronto has been crying out for more pubs for a decade or more.

Local 1794 features a long wooden bar with seating for about 20 people and the booths have their own electrical outlets and Apple ports. There is also regular table seating and elevated bench and high top tables. The walls feature a suspended fireplace at the back and large old black-and-white pictures of Toronto. There is an area at the back of Local 1794 that can be reserved for larger groups.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last on a weekday afternoon in April 2015
TTC information: equidistant between Coxwell and Woodbine stations, a five-minute walk east from the former and a six-minute walk from the latter
Booze selection: more than 40 beers, with a focus on Ontario craft beers, as well as Magners and Strongbow cider (they have Pimm’s). They also have scotches and lots of wine
Food selection: gastropub with specials such as “lobster, shrimp, and spinach terrine with lobster bisque lemon beurre blanc sauce” and pizza from a wood-burning stove. The menu, which is online, is presented on a clipboard-like device using Robertson screws
Service staff: good and in fancy attire, our waiter made a beer suggestion a beer for our second round and made a good choice for us
Prices: not bad
Toilets: clean (no toilet paper in either stall and we arrived early enough that I knew the toilets hadn’t been checked before opening, our waiter did rush in with bog roll after I let him know — can’t let the sisterhood down)
Patio: south-facing and an up-and-over door for that yummy car exhaust flavour inside
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: two, one playing an old gangster movie from the 1930s
Live music: considering having at brunch
Piped-in music: modern

Rating: four and a half pints (out of five) 

The Imperial Pub

Imperial Pub Toronto

The Imperial Pub (website)
54 Dundas Street East, Toronto ON M5B 1C7 (on the north-east corner of Dundas Street East and Victoria Street, the nearest major intersection is Dundas Street and Yonge Street) 416-977-4667
Google Maps

The pub that time forgot.

The Imperial Pub is in many ways your grandparents’ pub with its old-fashioned beer mugs, bright neon beer signs, ancient carpet, antique wooden chairs, overgrown potted plants, tin ceiling, etc. It also features a circular bar with a huge aquarium inside it on the downstairs level. However, the pub comes by its retro style legitimately as it was founded in 1944. (The pub has been updated since then, but probably not in the last four or five decades.)

The Imperial Pub is in an ideal location, just steps from the Eaton Centre, Ryerson University, and Dundas Square, all of which were established after the pub was built. As such, the crowd at the Imperial is a mixture of older patrons and young students. The pub has a back room that is used for concerts and other events (I went there several times a few years ago for board game nights, which they no longer seem to do — a pub blogger can have other interests than visiting pubs). The upstairs features a library with leather sofas, foosball and there is a jukebox that has jazz music selections.

Number of visits by yours truly: ten or so, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2015
TTC information: just a two-minute walk east from Dundas Station
Booze selection: 60 beers with Thornby cider (they don’t have Pimm’s). The beer is served in old-fashioned mugs
Food selection: not for those on a diet, but pub food as it is meant to be
Service staff: friendly, but the kitchen was a little slow with our order
Prices: inexpensive
Toilets: clean, but cramped and very minimal
Patio: rooftop with a view of Dundas Square
Wheelchair accessible: the toilets are too small for a wheelchair
Televisions: a few
Live music: sometimes and comedy on Monday nights
Piped-in music: Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, “Big band stuff”

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Court Jester

Court Jester Toronto
The Court Jester (website)
681 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4J 1L2 (on the south side of the Danforth, between Pape Avenue and Jones Avenue) 416-465-6247
Google Maps 

Pub and deli-dining together on the Danforth. 

This is a review of the new and larger location of the Court Jester on the Danforth, which moved from the west side of Pape to the east in December 2014. My friend and I checked out the new location shortly after it opened. I went to the old Court Jester a number of times over the years. (One of my sisters, who used to live nearby, met a boyfriend there.) From the outside, the new Court Jester looks somewhat the same with the same insipid jester creature, but it’s better on the inside with a lighter, more up-scale look and a variety of seating, including high-top tables. The new Court Jester features a deli counter at the front, called CJ’s Deli, which was very busy while we were there with lots of people getting take-out.

The new Court Jester is now child-friendly (le sigh) and features weekend brunch and all-week-long breakfasts. Although I have been there only the once, I would say that the new Court Jester is attracting a new clientele. Like the old pub, it has darts, a pinball machine, and board games.

Note: the front step was very slippery in winter and there is the Jester on Yonge, so make sure you and your friends know which one you are going to.

Number of visits by yours truly: five or six, most recently on a weekday evening in January 2015
TTC information: just a two-minute walk east from Pape Station
Booze selection: 16 beers including Strongbow cider (forgot to ask about Pimm’s, sorry!)
Food selection: the menu is online, not surprisingly with a number of deli sandwiches
Service staff: good service
Prices: not cheap, but lots of food
Toilets: no hot tap water in the ladies’, I verified this by turning on and off the two valves under the sink (what lengths I go to for you, my dear readers). Not impressed. Apparently the men’s was good, but freezing cold in the winter
Patio: I don’t think so, but the window in the front is an up-and-over door
Wheelchair accessible: not wheelchair accessible
Televisions: four televisions
Live music: I don’t think so
Piped-in music: Beatles, Queen, Coldplay

Rating: three and a half pints (out of five) 

Toronto Guild of Stitchery

The Toronto Guild of Stitchery was formed in 1975 to encourage and promote the practice of embroidery in all its forms. Our members enjoy a variety of techniques, including cross stitch, crewel, needlepoint, blackwork, whitework, Schwalm, Hardanger, pulled thread, drawn thread, stumpwork, goldwork, smocking, canvas work, mixed media, Japanese embroidery, and machine embroidery, among others. We welcome stitchers of all skill levels, from beginners to experts The Guild meets two days a month from September to June to share our knowledge and our love of stitching with each other. Meetings are held both during the day and in the evening, and members are welcome to attend either or both as they choose. Day and evening programs are often different. From the beginning, the Toronto guild has been a chapter guild of the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada (EAC). The founding chapter of EAC was Winnipeg Embroiderer’s Guild (1973), and the second chapter was TGS (1975) In addition to our regular meetings, members get together once or twice a year on a Saturday, to spend the whole day stitching. Semi-regular weekends away are also planned.




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