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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) 

The Fox and Fiddle (St. Clair)

Fox and Fiddle Pub St Clair

The Fox and Fiddle (website)
1085 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto ON M6E 1A8 (on the south side, between Northcliffe Boulevard and Lauder Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Dufferin and St. Clair West) 416-657-3691
Google Maps 

Why are Fox and Fiddle pubs so boring? 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not much of a fan of the Fox and Fiddle pub chain. The chain lacks charisma so much so that I even find it difficult to write a review about the various pubs because there’s not a lot to say. The Fox and Fiddle pubs are rather drab looking — with copious amounts of beer advertising, but clean enough — which is funny given the brand’s focus on the looks of their wait staff on their website and their menus.

Anyway, on with the review, this Fox and Fiddle pub has take-out and a regular clientele, booths of various sizes, a variety of seating, and a pool table. There are at least ten Fox and Fiddles in Toronto, and another dozen beyond, so make sure you know where you gathering.

Number of visits by yours truly: four or five visits to this location, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2015. (In case you are wondering why I’ve go back given that I’d rather go anywhere else, it’s because my beloved’s 93-year grandmother lives nearby and we met at the pub for dinner before heading over for cookies, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!)
TTC information: a 20-minute streetcar ride (that’s what the TTC says) westbound from St Clair Station, or take the Dufferin bus north from Dufferin Station, which will drop you after a seven-minute ride at St Clair West
Booze selection: more than 30 beers with Strongbow and Somersby ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Fox and Fiddle menu
Service staff: not bad
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: not bad, but not enough for the size of the pub
Patio: south
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: at least nine, but not all were turned on  
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Lorde, The Raconteurs

Rating: three pints (out of five) 

The Fox and Fiddle (Danforth)

Fox and Fiddle Danforth

The Fox and Fiddle (Danforth) (website)
535 Danforth Avenue, Toronto Ontario M4K 1P7 (on the south side of Danforth, between Carlaw and Fenwick, the nearest intersection is Pape and Danforth) 416-462-9830
Google Maps 

Decent sports pub on the Danforth.

I’m not a fan of the Fox and Fiddle pub chain — too many televisions, a little dark even for my gothic sensibilities, and the focus on looks (the first image on their website is of a woman holding two plates, but the food is out of focus and partly cut off and her nose and above is cut off, the camera is focussed on “The Fox and Fiddle” name on her chest). However, they could be worse and when Toronto had that huge winter storm in 2013 with the power outages, the Fox and Fiddle on the Danforth allowed its customers to charge their cell phones there as they had power.

The Fox and Fiddle on the Danforth features two pool tables, a party room in the basement, and games at the back. The seating is varied with high-back chairs, different size booths, a bench for 14, etc.

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four visits, most recently on a weekday afternoon in December 2014
TTC information: two-minute walk west of Pape Station
Booze selection: 40 beers with Somersby and Strongbow ciders (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard pub fare, the kitchen is open until 2 am
Service staff: good (We were chatting with our server and another patron who had just walked in immediately asked her for a beer while we were talking, she politely dealt with him and I watched him drink his pint in two minutes.)
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: the gender signs are on the door handle plates, which is not where you would expect them to be
Patio: north on the Danforth
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: lots and lots including several inside booths
Live music: likely not
Piped-in music: modern

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

The Bristol

Bristol Pub Toronto

The Bristol (website)
1087 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M6J 1H3 (on the south side, between Dovercourt Road and White Squirrel Way, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street West and Ossington Street) 416-901-5472
Google Maps

New World meets Old World.

I’m confused. It’s The Bristol on its sign, but its website calls the pub the Bristol & Bombay Pub and Restaurant, and its Twitter handle is BristolYardie, apparently one of the owners’ former pubs, which used to be on Christie Street. Anyway, I am reviewing the pub itself, located inside the Great Hall on Queen Street West, which open in June 2014. 

The Bristol is a rather nice looking pub with two chambers. It has Old World touches, such as a portrait of Queen Victoria, leather chairs, Tudor toby mugs, horse brasses, metal beer jugs, Union Jack bunting, a British police call box with an ATM, and lots of ships. However, it also has dark grey walls, a white tile floor, and several big screen televisions, so that’s the modern/New World bit (in my opinion). Like the old Bristol Yard Pub, the Bristol offers brunch on the weekends. The Bristol has a jukebox (featuring “a soundtrack of all things classic and quintessentially British”) and Scrabble, as well as a variety of seating, including benches, chairs, stools and a few leather-backed low chairs for longer stays.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, on a weekday afternoon in December 2014
TTC information: a nine-minute bus ride south from Ossington Station to Queen Street, then a four-minute walk west to Dovercourt, or take the Queen Street streetcar west from Osgoode Station, which will drop you after a 22-minute ride at Dovercourt Street
Booze selection: 10 beers with Waupoos and Cornish Gold ciders (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: traditional British pub with the mandatory curries, good fish and chips, but my dining companion felt they tasted a little metallic
Service staff: attentive
Prices: expensive
Toilets: three unisex ones — one was rather smelly and unclean. I warned my dining companion
Patio: nope
Wheelchair accessible: nope as toilets up some steps
Televisions: two in each room with a hidden one in the mirror
Live music: sometimes, check their Facebook or Twitter pages for details
Piped-in music: soul

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

Betty’s

Betty's Toronto

Betty’s (website)
240 King Street East, Toronto ON M5A 1K1 (on the north side of King Street East, between Sherbourne Street and Princess Street) 416-368-1300
Google Maps

George Brown instructors, this is where your students are.

Betty’s is a popular haunt with George Brown College students, although it is too dark for doing one’s homework. It also draws in a varied crowd of families with young children and older men with its cheap eats, including a weekend brunch, and attention-sucking televisions showing sports, sports, sports. The uncomfortable booths fill up quickly as you can serve yourself with one of the build-in beer taps.  The walls of Betty’s are crowded with handy maps (pointing out Leicester was a breeze), photographs, beer-branded mirrors, paintings, and posters. The pub also has a pool table.

Betty’s is not the place to take your love on a first date because it’s a bit of a dive, I found a dirty knife under my booth and the table was sticky from previous clients.

Number of visits by yours truly: two or three visits, most recently in December 2014
TTC information: a two-minute ride east from King Station on the streetcar
Booze selection: I counted 72 beers including two taps at one’s booth, if you are lucky to get a booth. (You might want to get your server to pour your first pint at the booth tap so you can watch how they do it, I attempted one and got a glass full of yummy foam.) There are also flights available. For ciders/ginger beers, they have Magners, Waupoos , Keith’s, Strongbow, and Crabbie’s ginger beer (I don’t know if they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: comfort food with gluten-free options. Most other online reviewers say that you go for the beer, not for the food
Service staff: friendly and a lot of tattoos (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but a tad forgetful, I never did find out if they had Pimm’s and our waiter had to be flagged down a couple of times
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: clean
Patio: north-facing and quite large, but there’s a skylight inside if it’s raining
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: at least four, but not that intrusive if you are trying to ignore them 
Live music: I don’t think so
Piped-in music: modern with Feist and Bedouin Soundclash

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

Louis Cifer Brew Works

Louis Cifer Toronto

Louis Cifer Brew Works (website)
417 Danforth Ave, Toronto ON M4K 1P1 (on the south side, between Hampton Avenue and Logan Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Broadview and Danforth) 647-350-5087
Google Maps 

Pub of the Future. 

Louis Cifer Brew Works has a lot going for it — catchy homonym based on the devil, large location in the heart of Greektown (you can see the painted Corinthian columns on the building’s corners), beer-to-go service, open weekday afternoons unlike some of its competition, and decent food and beer. However, a mark against this pub is that it is owned by the same people as Stout Irish Pub. Stout was a disappointing pub, very disappointing, and you deserve better. Fortunately, Louis Cifer is better, then again, almost anywhere is better.

Louis Cifer opened recently, circa October 2014, and it still has that new pub smell, as well as a few opening hurdles to get over. It has an upstairs area, large vats behind a glass enclosure (which still may not actually be working as apparently this part of the launch hit a few bumps), tasting notes cards, and a modern ambiance compared to most pubs, with leather chairs, shining chrome, stark colours, and tin ceilings panels.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not my last, on a weekday afternoon in November 2014
TTC information: within stumbling distance of Chester Station
Booze selection: 24 beers including six of their own brews, which are apparently being brewed off site at several different locations, Pommies cider, as well as a number of wines, scotches, hoptails, flights of beer, etc. (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: gastropub and traditional pub dishes, I had the crispy pork belly rinds and I will have them again. The menu is online
Service staff: not bad, but a number of other online reviewers pointed out delays they experienced and poor service
Prices: expensive
Toilets: fancy with naughty toilet signs
Patio: up-and-over doors and apparently they will have a small patio in the summer
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: four that I could see, one being a projector screen upstairs
Live music: likely not, the seating seemed pretty stationary
Piped-in music: Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones, Big Star

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

Monk’s Kettle

Monks Kettle Toronto

The Monk’s Kettle (website)
3073 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M8X 2B5 (on the south side, just west of Brentwood Road South, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and Royal York Road) 416-348-4848
Google Maps

Craft beer mecca for those thirsty in Bloor West Village.

I discovered the Monk’s Kettle last month while visiting another pub as the Henry VIII Ale House is across the street and I went there and noticed its competition. (I didn’t do a review of the Henry VIII at that time, but one will be done eventually.) Anyway, as my regular drinking companion and I were in the west end recently, we thought the Monk’s Kettle would be a nice place to visit.

The Monk’s Kettle is rather small, full of dark wood, and has sparsely covered walls, but then again I am a fan of the Sir John Soane decorating method. There are lovely lighting fixtures in the front and there are a variety of seating options available with benches, high chairs, and regular seating. The pub, from what I can gather, has been around for about three years and still looks new. By the time we left, which was late afternoon, the pub was quite full.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a Saturday afternoon in November 2014
TTC information: a four-minute walk west of Royal York Station
Booze selection: 17 craft beers on tap and a number of imported beers in bottles, as well as Thornberry cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: a bit limited, but you are there for the beer
Service staff: attentive and friendly, although a number of people have complained about the service in on-line reviews. When we indicated that we wanted a second drink, our waiter suggested a local beer (Black Oak Epiphany No. 1) which we both went for after trying the sample, we were warned about the alcohol content, which was high, but as we weren’t driving, it didn’t matter
Prices: beer is cheap, food not so much, but I prefer it that way
Toilets: lock in one stall doesn’t work (a simple five-minute fix would solve that) but tidy enough
Patio: windows fold out
Wheelchair accessible: no as toilet downstairs and doorway has a small step and is too tight to manoeuvre
Televisions: one over the bar
Live music: not likely as there’s no room
Piped-in music: the Beta Band, Arcade Fire, Pixies, Daft Punk, Velvet Underground, Echo and the Bunnymen

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

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