Burdock

burdock-toronto

Burdock (website, Twitter)
1184 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M6H 1N2 (on the north side, at the corner of Pauline Avenue and Bloor Street West, the nearest major intersection is Dufferin Street and Bloor Street West) 416-546-4033
Google Maps

Hip and happenin’ in Bloordale. 

Although Burdock does not brand itself a pub, I am going to review it as it does have a microbrewery and more beers on offer than meals on the menu. (I’m not complaining.) Burdock opened in 2015 and billed itself as a restaurant, a microbrewery with beer-to-go service, and a live venue. So far, this politician’s approach of being everything to everyone seems to be working for Burdock.

Anyway, this review is of the restaurant/pub part of Burdock as the music venue was not accessible. There is limited seating in the pub, with only one table able to accommodate more than five people, but it is a lovely space with fancy tiles, which are apparently left over from the former restaurant there, assorted hanging plants, and clean white surfaces. On a recent Saturday night, we walked by Burdock and noticed that the establishment was very crowded.

Burdock does not take reservations and opens at five, so lunch will have to be found somewhere else. However, the beer-to-shop opens at eleven.

Number of visits by yours truly: two visits so far, my most recent in November 2016 on a weekday evening
TTC information: just a three-minute walk west of Dufferin Station 
Booze selection: 16 beers with rotating selections of their own brews. They also have cider and wine, but no Pimm’s
Food selection: fancy with a limited number of selections, but a high portion of vegetarian choices. The portions are small
Service staff: nice, but a bit aloof (for my latest visit I was the only person who was not seated at the bar shortly after five and when I sat down at a table for four, I was asked how many people were joining me. I said one more, and I explained that I was leaving before seven, so I was allowed to remain. I later noticed another small group dumped their coats at a second table, but did not appear to be chastened. Perhaps I still give off that bad-girl whiff of trouble.)
Prices: expensive
Toilets: downstairs, nice with tiles and wallpaper
Patio: east and very large
Wheelchair accessible: no, toilets are downstairs and steps at the front
Televisions: nope
Live music: every night, often two shows a night in a separate “acoustically panelled room”. Note, there could be a cover charge
Piped-in music: Dido/Portishead-like music

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

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Tall Boys

Tall Boys Toronto

Tall Boys (website, Twitter)
838 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M6G 1M2 (on the north side, between Carling Avenue and Shaw Street, the nearest major intersection is Ossington Avenue and Bloor Street West) 416-535-7486
Google Maps

One of Toronto’s better pubs!

A familiar name to those who read “Toronto’s best pubs” articles, Tall Boys has been around since late 2012, however it taken me all this time to review it. I must admit it’s the name that has kept me away, Tall Boys sounds cheesy, like Vickie’s Diner or a strip club. (By the way, I do know what a tall boy is.) Anyway, like any decent ancient Greek tragedy, I have been punished for my snobbery and Tall Boys was well worth the visit.

Tall Boys is one of those new-fangled hipster bars with wooden tables with lots of grey and splashes of red. Tall Boys was very popular the night in question, there was a line-up for tables, but the Toronto Raptors were in the playoffs at the time. However, it might be because according to their website, Tall Boys has ‘Toronto’s Largest Selection of Ontario Craft Beer” and “at any given time, we carry over 70 of the finest Ontario Craft Beer[s]”. Unfortunately, the Raptors lost that night, but my drinking companion and I had a good time there and will be back!

Note, cash only for bill under $20.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a weekday evening in late April 2016
TTC information: closer to Ossington Station (three minutes), but it’s a prettier walk from Christie Station (six minutes) 
Booze selection: their approximately 70 beers are sorted by type, which is something all pubs should do. They also have four ciders — GLB Pompous Ass; Coffin Ridge Forbidden; Pommies Farmhouse; Shiny Apple Cider
Food selection: burgers, tacos, and sandwiches. I had the Tall Boy Burger, which is three patties, as well as a fried egg and other not-standard condiments. The burger had a skewer through it to transport it and there was a hush as it honed into view of our table. I had to eat two of the three patties separately as there was no way I could have eaten the burger at once. My late father would have been so proud of me! 
Service staff: very nice
Prices: good for food, not so much for booze
Toilets: clean, but a bit smelly
Patio: an up-and-over door onto Bloor Street West
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: two
Live music: no. Comedy on some Thursdays and trivia on Mondays
Piped-in music: modern

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

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)

Henry VIII Ale House (Kingsway)

Henry VIII Pub Toronto

Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway (website, Twitter)
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, or Richard III, just because, 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) 

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 the Henry VIII Ale House — Kingsway, said establishment is across the street and while there noticed its competition. 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) 

Pauper’s Pub

Pauper's Pub Toronto

Pauper’s Pub (website, Twitter)
539 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M5S 1Y5 (on the south side, between Lippincott Avenue and Loretto Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and Bathurst Street) 416-530-1331
Google Maps

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 late ’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, the 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 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 details
Piped-in music: all ’80s including the Spoons’ “Nova Heart” and Michael Sembello’s “Maniac”

Rating: three pints (out of five) 

Museum Tavern

Museum Tavern Toronto

Museum Tavern (website, Twitter)
208 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M5S 3B4 (on the north side, between Avenue Road and Bedford Street) 416-920-0110
Google Maps

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 down the stairs.

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, but rather rude to my better half recently
Prices: fairly expensive, but generous portions
Toilets: classy!
Patio: south-facing the ROM
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: none!
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: yes, but too low to identify

Rating: four pints (out of five)