The Prenup Pub

the-prenup-pub-toronto

The Prenup Pub (website, Twitter)
191 College Street, Toronto ON M5T 1P9 (on the south side, between Henry Street and Beverley Street, the nearest major intersection is University Avenue and College Street) 416-506-4040
Google Maps 

Being classy on College Street.

This pub used to be Molly Bloom’s, the embodiment of the student hangout. Molly Bloom’s was in dire need of an upgrade back in 2012, so I was not surprised when it was closed down shortly after my visit and became Pour Girl, which I never got around to reviewing. Then, in late 2014, Pour Girl evolved into the Prenup Pub. When I reviewed Molly Bloom’s, I was probably the oldest person in the pub by 15 years! For this visit to the Prenup Pub, it was practically the reverse. My companion and I were surrounded by lunching professors and gaggles of public service minions. I think I saw a handful of students in the two hours or so we spent there. We were there as it was the opening of the Trinity College book sale, so what better excuse than to check out a pub!

Perhaps, in an attempt to erase the lingering stains of Molly Bloom’s, the Prenup Pub has dark wood panelling, gorgeous light fixtures, and faux leather seats of various heights. The civilized atmosphere of the renovated pub confides its student dive heritage firmly to fleeting memory. Perhaps the only drawbacks are the too-small tables and the chairs which are slightly uncomfortable. The Prenup Pub is designed with different seating configurations in mind, so large groups can be accommodated (there is also a private party room available upstairs) as well as couples. There is also a replica of the famed Manneken Pis fountain that greets one as one enters and there are fountains outside as well.

Note, the Prenup Pub is owned by the same people who run the Village Idiot PubSin & Redemption, and The Town Crier.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last on a weekday afternoon in October 2016
TTC information: just a six-minute walk west of Queen’s Park Station
Booze selection: very extensive, with approximately 130 beers including his lordship’s favourite, Leffe Brune, and several ciders, such as Rekorderlig, Cornish Gold, Strongbow, Thornbury, Somersby, and Schöfferhofer Grapefruit
Food selection: limited, but fancy
Service staff: very friendly
Prices: expensive
Toilets: nice
Patio: on the street facing north
Wheelchair accessible: no, steps at front. The patio is also not accessible
Televisions: none that we could see
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Mr. Bowie’s “Heroes”

Rating: five pints (out of five) 

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Harbord House

Harbord House Toronto

Harbord House (website)
150 Harbord Street, Toronto ON M5S 1H2 (on the north side of Harbord Street, between Brunswick Avenue and Major Street, the nearest major intersection is Bathurst Street and Bloor Street West) 647-430-7365
Google Maps 

Here’s Your Great Canadian Cottage — In the City!

Like the nearby Victory Cafe, Harbord House is hidden away on a relatively quiet street near the bustling Bloor and Bathurst intersection. I only learned of this pub, or gastropub as it brands itself, quite recently from someone who works at the (also) nearby University of Toronto campus. Harbord House looks like it was decorated by someone pining — tastefully — for the great Canadian cottage — was that a loon I just heard cry across a misty lake in the early morning? Even the Harbord House pub sign has trees and a lake on it.

Harbord House appears to have two personalities, the downstairs was filled with students (and bookshelves) and was louder, while the upstairs had a quieter and older crowd, with art on the walls (we were upstairs) and a television that looked at first glance like a fireplace (it has those old chainmail curtains on either side). Apparently there is a third floor, but I saw no hint of that from my visit. Harbord House was worth the visit, so I will be back the next time I go to the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, which is where I was earlier on the evening in question.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a weekday evening in April 2016
TTC information: an 11-minute walk from Bathurst Station. I see no point in taking the streetcar, unless it’s right there. I suggest instead that you walk south down Bathurst Street, then turn east (left) onto Harbord Street, then five blocks east
Booze selection: about a dozen craft beers, mostly local, and Waupoos cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: fancier than most pubs with offerings of pickerel for dinner and crab Benedict for brunch. My dining companion rekindled a love affair with meatloaf while I was there
Service staff: nice (we recognized the waiter from another pub that we used to go to years and years ago)
Prices: good for beer
Toilets: two unisex ones upstairs 
Patio: one raised above street level and one above that, which apparently has lovely views of downtown Toronto
Wheelchair accessible: no way
Televisions: one upstairs, one downstairs
Live music: very occasionally
Piped-in music: so low I couldn’t hear it clearly

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

Mullins Irish Pub (Bay)

Mullins Bay Toronto

Mullins Irish Pub (Bay) (website)
1033 Bay Street, Toronto ON M5S 3A5 (on the south-east corner of Bay Street and Irwin Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Bay Street and Wellesley Street West) 416-963-3000
Google Maps

A friendly spot for a pint.

Mullins on Bay is a little run-down (it looks like a 1980s basement with wood everywhere and it’s about the same size as one), but this doesn’t detract from the pub’s popularity with its regulars. In fact, the four-seater snug is named after one such regular who apparently spent many, many happy hours there. Mullins on Bay likely survives due to its location near UofT’s Victoria and St. Michael’s Colleges and being north on Bay Street close for its high-rolling workers. Given its clientele of students and professionals, and its rather homely appearance, Mullins on Bay is not the place for a first date (unless you don’t really think you’ll be getting a second one), but it is the type of place that you might meet an old friend or two for a pint after a hard day on the stock market or to celebrate getting a A+ on your history paper on why Henry Tudor had the Princes in the Tower, err… removed.

Mullins is one of a chain of pubs, with one on College Street and another on Kingston Road, so be sure to note which location you and your companions are meeting at.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first on a Saturday afternoon in August 2014
TTC information: a five-minute walk northwest from Wellesley Station or a six-minute walk south from Bay. You could try catching the Bay bus from Bay station, but given the traffic, you should probably walk
Booze selection: 10 on tap and 12 in bottles, as well as Magners cider, both original and pear (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: custom pizzas, they don’t have a deep fryer (the shame!) so everything is baked and basic. Apparently they also do catering, but it seems that everyone does these days
Service staff: friendly
Prices: not bad
Toilets: crowded with empties
Patio: to the north
Wheelchair accessible: too narrow
Televisions: three
Live music: Wednesdays
Piped-in music: Bryan Adams, Led Zeppelin, U2

Rating: three and half 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) 

Bedford Academy

Bedford Academy (website, Twitter)
36 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto ON M5R 1A9 (on the north side, between Avenue Road and Bedford Avenue, one block north of Bloor Street West) 416-921-4600
Google Maps 

The Bedford Academy could be a great pub, but settles on being a reasonable watering hole instead. 

Over the years, the Bedford Academy has benefitted from the poor service of the Duke of York. The Duke has a problem with some staff members’ attentiveness and bookings or rather lack thereof and as a result, I’ve gathered my belongings and moved across the street to the Bedford. For a while we went to the Bedford — which was close to my beloved’s old work place —  instead of the Duke, but, alas, service seems to be a problem for both establishments. I remember on at least one occasion being ignored at the Duke, going to the Bedford instead, and being ignored there too. (I was sober — could it have been the worst half hour of my life?) I’ve been to the Bedford enough times to know that I would rather go somewhere else.

However, focussing on the times I have been served at the Bedford Academy, I have enjoyed myself. The pub is in a huge old house sprawling over three floors (the top floor has a private party room) featuring soft orange lighting, olive-coloured walls, Art Nouveau chandeliers, and a European flavour. The seating inside is varied, although I have spent most of my hours on the enormous patio of the Bedford. The Bedford benefits from its close proximity to UofT with its clientele and is open until two seven nights a week.

Number of visits by yours truly: two dozen or more visits, most recently in June 2012
TTC information: St. George Station’s east exit, within stumbling distance
Booze selection: 19 beers on tap, including Strongbow cider. They also have lots of wine (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: lots of burgers and pastas
Service staff: good this visit 
Prices: reasonable for being so close to Yorkville
Toilets: clean
Patio: one of the larger patios (seats more than 180) in central Toronto, you’ve got a lot of selection of locations as the patio wraps around the building 
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: not as many as you might expect
Live music: no
Piped-in music: jazz and blues

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

The Madison Avenue

The Madison Avenue (website, Twitter)
14 Madison Avenue, Toronto ON M5R 2S1 (on the east side, between Bloor Street East and Lowther Street, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue) 416-927-1722
Google Maps

Your frat home away from home.

Ah, the Madison, or as some call it, the Maddy: a labyrinth of rooms entwining three Victorian houses together, poor service, and more pretty young things than a cougar would know what to do with. I went to the Madison with a friend who arrived early and was “kicked out” of the downstairs part as it didn’t open until nine (there were no signs) and then apparently sat for 20 minutes upstairs before being acknowledged by our waitress only moments before I arrived. Our waitress was pleasant, but it seemed there wasn’t quite enough servers for the crowds. And it was crowded! Almost dangerously so, and it was only seven when we left. I think my friend and I were the eldest people in the Madison by the time we managed to squeeze our way to the exit.

The Madison has pool tables that are poorly located next to the toilets making the facilities difficult to access as you politely wait for people to take their shots. There are dart boards, fireplaces, and interiors in the British style (meaning interior glass, velvet seats, etc.). The pub, located in the heart of the Annex, is open every day of the year and until two at night! Perhaps if I were in my early twenties, I would be in love with the Madison, instead I entrust this establishment to future generations of budding pub lovers as I probably won’t be back.

Number of visits by yours truly: second or third visit, most recently on a Friday afternoon in April 2012
TTC information: just a minute east from Spadina Station
Booze selection: 20 or so beers, including Magners cider (no Pimm’s). The website claims 150 draft taps, so those beers must have multiple taps
Food selection: no surprises
Service staff: see above for my friend’s adventures
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: very cramped
Patio: west-facing and rooftop, apparently it works out to five different patios on various levels
Wheelchair accessible: no way
Televisions: not as many as you’d expect, but we were in a quiet spot. According to the website, the pub has more than 50 televisions
Live music: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, starting at ten
Piped-in music: not on when we were there

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