The Friar (A Firkin Pub)

Friar and Firkin Toronto


The Friar (A Firkin Pub)
(website)
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)

Betty’s

Betty's Toronto

Betty’s (website, Twitter)
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: four pints (out of five)

WVRST

WVRST Toronto

WVRST (website, Twitter)
609 King Street West, Toronto ON M5V 1M5 (on the south side of King Street West, just west of Portland Street, the nearest major intersection is King Street West and Bathurst Avenue) 416-703-7775
Google Maps 

WVRST is one of the best. 

We attempted to go to WVST during June’s Cider Week, but there was a huge line-up that weekday, so we went to the nearby Bier Markt instead. However, I wasn’t willing to give up on WVRST, so we returned in the middle of a weekday afternoon when my better half was off work and we had the place practically to ourselves. Some might argue that WVRST is not a pub, that it is a modern German-style beer hall, they might have a p[o]int, but, as I’ve written before, those people can set up their own blog about pubs and let me enjoy this treasure all by myself.

WVRST has a code of conduct outside and makes a big deal about when the tapes were last cleaned, which seems to be every second week. There are only communal tables and benches or backless stools, including one table that is sort of private with a low wall around it (there is a serious lack of hooks for coats and hats, which will make things crowded in the winter). It might not be the spot for a romantic date, but it is the spot to go to for beer and sausages.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a weekday afternoon in August 2014
TTC information:
take the King streetcar west from King Station (seven- to ten-minute journey — according to a very optimistic TTC itinerary) or take Bathurst Streetcar south from Bathurst to King, which will take about 12 minutes and then walk east
Booze selection:
I counted 73 beers in bottles and 22 in casks, mainly Belgian (ah, Belgium, the land of beer) including lots of stouts and porters, as well as four ciders in bottles — Coffin Ridge, West Avenue, Southern Cliff, Spirit Tree — and four on tap, Hoity Toity, West Avenue, Twin Pines, and a scrumpy (no Pimm’s)
Food selection:
sausages, sausages, sausages, including kangaroo and guinea fowl (there are vegetarian choices), with fries that can be fried in duck fat and dipping sauce. You order the meal at the back of the room and they bring it to you on a metallic tray with paper liners
Service staff:
friendly
Prices:
 expensive
Toilets:
two, but only two stalls in each, which means that there is probably a line-up on busy nights
Patio:
nope
Wheelchair accessible:
nope (as up several steps)
Televisions:
a drop-down screen for some sporting events
Live music:
 nope
Piped-in music:
modern

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

TorontoPubs’ King Street West Pub Crawl

https://goo.gl/maps/nCYaV

Updated: 2017.01.17

Notes on this pub crawl: the walk (1.1 km) takes about a quarter of an hour in total or you can take the King Street streetcar and hop on and off. Keep in mind that Fynn’s of Temple Bar is a little posh, WVRST and Bar Hop can get busy (hence the lack of TorontoPubs reviews of the latter — hopefully that will change one day) and the Banknote is small and kinda boring. TTC directions back to the subway are available on each pub’s individual review.

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 (links in TorontoPubs review of establishment) 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, but it is one of the best times to be in a pub.

Printable PDF of this TorontoPubs’ King Street West Pub Crawl with map.

Bar Hop
391 King Street West

The Firkin On King (TorontoPubs review)
461 King Street West

Fynn’s of Temple Bar (TorontoPubs review)
489 King Street West

Bier Markt (King West) (TorontoPubs review)
600 King Street West

WVRST (TorontoPubs review)
609 King Street West

The Banknote (TorontoPubs review)
663 King Street West

The Wheat Sheaf (TorontoPubs review)
667 King Street West

The Foggy Dew Irish Pub (TorontoPubs review)
803 King Street West

Unfortunately, this pub crawl is not wheelchair accessible.

Bier Markt (King West)

Bier Markt King West

Bier Markt (King West) (website, Twitter)
600 King Street West, Toronto ON M5V 1M3 (on the corner of King Street West and Portland Street, the nearest major intersection is King Street West and Bathurst Avenue) 416-862-1175
Google Maps 

A great patio on King Street West with great beers. 

We ended up at here because WVRST was full due to June’s Cider Week and I needed some liquid refreshment — stat! So, fortunately, the Bier Markt just down the street fit the bill and an evening’s plans that seemed derailed was quickly set right. My partner in crime and I had been to the location several times before when it was the Amsterdam, but we hadn’t been to it since it became a Bier Markt. We sat on the patio, which I usually avoid, however, the weather was so nice, I risked a tan and agreed to a spot on the patio. We enjoyed a free beer sample and enjoyed the people and car watching.

The Bier Markt is very dark inside, in part because it is in a basement, like her sister pub on the Esplanade. Is this a branding attempt? Seating is varied downstairs with high top tables with backless stools and tables against a brick wall. All in all, a decent pub with lots of beer.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first on a weekday afternoon in June 2014
TTC information:
take the King streetcar west from King Station (seven- to ten-minute journey — according to a very optimistic TTC itinerary) or take Bathurst Streetcar south from Bathurst to King, which will take about 12 minutes and then walk east
Booze selection:
well over 100 beers from around the world, with a focus on Belgian beers. As always with a selection this large, be prepared for a back-up order as they might be out of your first choice. For those who are cider drinkers, they have Somersby, Blackthorn, Magners, two types of Rekorderligs and the nectar that is Crabbie’s (alas, no Pimm’s)
Food selection:
fancy end with oysters, risotto and beer can chicken soup 
Service staff:
good, however, this news story about the front-of-house female staff having to wear skimpy outfits might be something to keep in mind. Yes, they changed the policy, but they still had it and enforced it until people complained. I am not impressed with sexism with my booze  
Prices:
 expensive for the most part. However, it is cheaper for some beers
Toilets:
nice, watch for the hidden ledge on the way to the toilet, I can see people stumbling over that in the darkness
Patio:
west and one of the best in downtown, great for people watching
Wheelchair accessible:
no
Televisions:
three
Live music:
 DJ on Wednesdays/something on Thursdays/live rock on Fridays/something on Saturdays (alas their website is useless at explaining what is happening on Thursdays and Saturdays) 
Piped-in music:
modern

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

TorontoPubs’ St. Lawrence Market Pub Crawl

https://goo.gl/maps/3ydcD5ceQXR2

Updated: 2017.01.17

Notes on this pub crawl: the walk (0.6 km) takes about eight minutes in total. Keep in mind that the Jason George pub is the weakest link in this crawl, so you might just want to skip it and C’est What is just too hip for its own good. TTC directions back to the subway are available on each pub’s individual review.

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 (links in TorontoPubs review of establishment) 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, but it is one of the best times to be in a pub.

Printable PDF of this TorontoPubs’ St. Lawrence Market Pub Crawl with map.

Scotland Yard (TorontoPubs review)
56 The Esplanade

Bier Markt (Esplanade) (TorontoPubs review)
58 The Esplanade

C’est What (TorontoPubs review)
67 Front Street East

The Flatiron and Firkin (TorontoPubs review)
49 Wellington Street East

The Jersey Giant (TorontoPubs review)
71 Front Street East

The Jason George (TorontoPubs review)
104 Front Street East

Unfortunately, this pub crawl is not wheelchair accessible.

P.J. O’Brien

PJ OBriens

P.J. O’Brien (website)
39 Colborne Street, Toronto ON M5E 1E3 (on the south side of Colborne Street, between Church Street and Leader Lane, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and King Street) 416-815-7562
Google Maps

Nice spot for a pint or two.

A sister pub to the Irish Embassy, which is only a minute or so away, but mercifully quieter, P.J. O’Brien has a cozy atmosphere and tablecloths. In some ways, P.J. O’Brien has a number of restaurant-type features with the aforementioned tablecloths and accompanying cloth napkins and bread for the table, but the number of beers and limited menu options push the establishment firmly into the pub column for the purposes of this blog. P.J. O’Brien, which is very close to the King Edward Hotel and the St. Lawrence Market, has several rooms, including two snugs and an upstairs area with a fireplace, the latter appears to be only accessible from outside on the street, so the place is a bit of a rabbit warren.

The major online complaint of other pub-goers is the poor service at P.J. O’Brien, a touch ironic given the slant of the pub’s website, which seems to be all about service and bending over backwards. I have to agree with the online crowd, it’s a nice pub, but the service can be poor. A few warnings: P.J. O’Brien doesn’t accept debit cards as our pubbing companions found out the hard way — which is also contrary to what they have on their website — and they aren’t open on Sundays, because… actually, there is no good reason for a pub to be closed on a Sunday. None. What. So. Ever.

Number of visits by yours truly: two so far, most recently on a Saturday evening in May 2014
TTC information: just a minute’s walk east from King Station’s south (Melinda Street) exit
Booze selection: more than 20 beers, including a number of whiskeys,  Magners and Strongbow cider (one night they had Pimm’s, the next they didn’t)
Food selection: limited, but the fancier end of pub grub, including a calamari salad that was a hit with our merry little band of pub-goers
Service staff: our food delivery was sometimes slow and we had to ask for a drink twice, we also had to wait quite some time for dessert, which was pre-made and probably pre-cut, and then our bills featured several items from our pubbing companions’ bill and they had several of ours. Fortunately, the amounts were very close, so we didn’t bother to ask for new bills. Unrelated, several of our servers were Irish
Prices: expensive, but the portions are big
Toilets: clean
Patio: no patio
Wheelchair accessible: nope, as toilets are accessible by stairs
Televisions: one in the front room and a large screen in the upper lounge
Live music: Fridays and Saturdays, with comedy on Mondays
Piped-in music: Tragically Hip, Joy Division, Daft Punk

Rating: four pints (out of five)