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The Swan (A Firkin Pub)

The Swan Toronto


The Swan (A Firkin Pub)
 (website, Twitter)
2205 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M6S 1N5 (on the south side of Bloor Street West, between Runnymede Road and Kennedy Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and the Kingsway) 416-767-9222

Google Maps

It’s like a “Firkin Chuck E. Cheese” due to all the children.

I’ve been to the Swan (and Firkin) a number of times over the last couple of years and have taken several different sets of notes on the pub, but I’ve lacked the enthusiasm to type them up and post it. However, it’s a new year and I should clear the backlog of pub reviews weighing down my corkboard. The Swan is very much like Hemingway’s in Yorkville — without the rooftop patio, it’s just like every other (Firkin) pub, except with children everywhere!

Like more and more Firkin pubs, it’s been refurbished with the Cool Britannia theme. (Did Monty Python really have this in mind when it created the Ministry of Silly Walks?) The one time we tried to sit upstairs at the Swan (and Firkin), we were told it was full, which it was. I asked if I could have a quick look and I was shadowed the entire time. One time I was there, a child fell off one of the tall chairs and understandably screamed its head off. The pub does offer a variety of seating, but perhaps it was the only seating available for the family? Another time I was with two ladies and a single dad took over the nearby sofa area with his child and ignored the child while he played on his mobile device and drank. I wondered if he thought we were watching the child for him. We weren’t, we were judging him and feeling sorry for the kid.

If you have a choice, go to the Yellow Griffin across the street.

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four, most recently in late August 2015
TTC information: just steps south from Runnymede Station
Booze selection: typical (limited) Firkin selection of about 27 beers with Strongbow and Brickworks ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: typical Firkin selection. According to one dining companion, don’t bother with the chicken as it’s more bone than chicken
Service staff: okay, but I seem to recall waiting for service
Prices: typical Firkin prices
Toilets: not bad, but not clear if vacant or not. Poorly designed
Patio: street-level facing north and rooftop, which is very popular
Wheelchair accessible: nope as the toilets aren’t accessible
Televisions: at least seven that I could see 
Live music: “sometimes”
Piped-in music: early Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, Daft Punk, Lenny Kravitz

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

The Friar (A Firkin Pub)

Friar and Firkin Toronto


The Friar (A Firkin Pub)
(website, Twitter)
160 John Street, Toronto ON M5V 2E5 (on the west side of John Street, just south of Queen Street West, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street West and University Avenue) 416-340-9459
Google Maps

The Firkin’s take on a Queen Street West pub.

Way back, when I was cool (or at least tried and sometimes succeeded) I sometimes hung out on Queen Street West in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I know I went to this watering hole for drinks over the years as it’s a good central spot and I seem to recall it was never too busy, however, when this one became a Firkin, I can’t recall. This Firkin is located across the way from the iconic 299 Queen Street West building where MuchMusic (“the nation’s music station” as I remember it) broadcasts and, now in my dotage, it’s important to me today that this pub is near a Michaels (at John and Richmond).

The Friar (and Firkin) is one of the smaller Toronto Firkins, possibly even smaller than the nearby Flatiron and Firkin and the Fox and Firkin (which for some reason I have never reviewed) on Eglinton. Despite being rebranded with the whole heartless Cool Britannia look in the last couple of years, the Friar (and Firkin) still has some of that nice dark warm pub feeling, which hasn’t been surgically removed. This is probably due to the fact that this Firkin is in the basement, so the darkness and tiny windows make this difficult, thank goodness. The pub offers a variety of seating — booths, benches, tables, etc. — but large groups will have trouble finding a spot without a reservation. This pub is quiet in comparison to other Firkins, which is ironic given its location.

Number of visits by yours truly: a dozen or so, most recently on a weekend evening in September 2015
TTC information: five-minute walk west from Osgoode Station, no point in waiting for the streetcar as it will probably be full!
Booze selection: more than a dozen, including Somersby, 501 Queen Street, and Brickworks ciders (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: good
Prices: decent
Toilets: not bad at all
Patio: small one on the street facing east
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: at least seven
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Selena Gomez and Blue Rodeo, together at last

Rating: four pints (out of five)

TorontoPubs’ East Danforth Pub Crawl

https://goo.gl/maps/mRBi3bTJRCM2

Notes on this pub crawl: the walk (1 km) takes about 12 minutes in total taking into account traffic signals. Keep in mind that all five pubs are small and you might have difficulty getting a seat. Local 1794 is a little further east than the other four pubs, but worth the walk.

Notes on pub crawls in general: consider at least 45 minutes per pub visit and let your server know that you having just one drink and then moving on into the fizzy night so she/he knows that you’ll need your bill quickly. Pay by cash so you aren’t waiting for the credit card/debit machine and tip generously as you may be back one day for longer than just one drink. Check the pub’s website/Twitter in case they have an event that night. Also keep in mind the day and time, Saturday nights with the FIFA World Cup’s final on is not the best night for said pub crawl.

PDF of this TorontoPubs’ East Danforth Pub Crawl with map

Morgans on the Danforth (TorontoPubs review)
1282 Danforth Avenue

The Borough (TorontoPubs review)
1352 Danforth Avenue

The Wren (TorontoPubs review)
1382 Danforth Avenue

Sarah’s Café and Bar (TorontoPubs review)
1426 Danforth Avenue

Local 1794 (TorontoPubs review)
1794 Danforth Avenue

Unfortunately, this pub crawl is not wheelchair accessible.

The Borough

The Borough Toronto

The Borough (website, Twitter)
1352 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4J 1M9 (on the north side, between Linsmore Crescent and Monarch Park Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Greenwood Avenue and Danforth Avenue) 416-901-1429
Google Maps

Another excellent addition to the Danforth’s growing number of decent pubs! 

Fittingly named after Canada’s last borough, East York (1967-1988, requiescat in pace), and location of said pub, the Borough is putting the pub into gastropub. This is a touch ironic given that the borough of East York was dry for several years. The pub does have a focus on locally sourced food and takes part in the nearby East Lynn  Farmers’ Market. Like the nearby Wren, the Borough is child-friendly, but it doesn’t have a kids’ menu. It does serve Sunday brunch, but it doesn’t open until five during the week and on Saturdays. We found out twice the hard way.

The Borough has black-and-white pictures of said old borough on the walls, along with a three-dimensional miniature fairy door of 11 Downing Street, home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the sign for the pub looks very much like the street signs in London, itself full of boroughs. It’s a very bright establishment, despite the greys everywhere. Our welcome last-minute addition to the pubbing experience said that the Borough was, “Life in greyscale,” with flashes of red cushions and napkins. I should have replied with, “It’s fifty shades of grey on the Danforth,” but I didn’t and it’s not really that funny anyway.

A note on the picture, I took the picture at Christmas time last year as I had a camera with me and no-one was walking in front of the pub. They don’t usually have Christmas decorations up.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last on a weekday evening in August 2015
TTC information: Greenwood Station, mere metres on the Danforth from the station
Booze selection: a selection local craft beers, with Thornbury and Duxsbury ciders (they don’t have Pimm’s because it’s not local)
Food selection: the food is local and organic, with a focus on British comfort food. Be warned, it’s spicy — my note says “perfumed by a manifesto”. It’s in my writing, but I’m not that poetic even after a pint or two
Service staff: great
Prices: expensive
Toilets: the ladies’ was nice, but the men’s apparently left something to be desired 
Patio: south-facing
Wheelchair accessible: has steps to the toilet, so no
Televisions: one over the bar
Live music: no
Piped-in music: modern and electronic, could hardly hear as the volume was low

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

DeSotos

DeSotos Toronto

DeSotos (website)
1079 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto ON (on the south side, between Lauder Avenue and Glenholme Avenue) 416-651-2109
Google Maps 

The place to be on St. Clair West.

When my better half and I finally gave up on the nearby Fox and Fiddle, we decided that we had to find another place that served decent food and had half-decent service on St. Clair West. We quickly found DeSotos and were very happy, until the second time we went there and found that the place was closed for a private party. We had checked that very day that DeSotos was open on its website (as it was a Monday) and there was no notice. I would have checked their Twitter feed, however, their Twitter feed is private — why? I even looked at their Facebook page and nothing. Anyway, we had to go back to the Fox and Fiddle even though we were not happy there.

DeSotos is an interesting pub, it has apothecary jars, seltzer bottles, an aquarium, an old-fashioned fan, typewriter, cash register, and, inside a bookcase, a copy of Playboy Blondes. The pub is split into two rooms and has lots of dark wood, but it is quite bright nevertheless. Larger groups can be accommodated, but don’t be surprised if they can’t take care of your request at the last minute. Unfortunately, the pub is kid-friendly. (Don’t worry, I already know I will die alone, unloved, and unmourned.)

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four, my most recent in August 2015
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 and just a quick walk east from there
Booze selection: 11 craft beers with Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: Italian pizza, burgers, oysters, with aspirations to be a gastropub
Service staff: good for the most part, a bit neglectful at times
Prices: decent
Toilets: the locks are flimsy and it’s a little cramped
Patio: north and west, both on the street
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: one near the bar and a pull-down screen for television events
Live music: jazz on Sundays
Piped-in music: mellow “Delta blues” according to my better half

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

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 Quail (A Firkin Pub)

The Quail Toronto

The Quail (A Firkin Pub) (website, Twitter)
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 a while 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 Quail 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 pat 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)

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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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