Crown and Dragon

crown-and-dragon-toronto

Crown and Dragon (website, Twitter)
890 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4W 3P4 (on the west side, between Church Street and Frichot Avenue, the nearest intersection is Yonge Street and Davenport Road) 416-927-7976
Google Maps

Canadian Basement Gothic.

Crown and Dragon (they seem to dislike the definite article) has been on my radar for a number of years, but I’ve always kept on walking as it doesn’t really seem that inviting and given its location, it’s more the destination than a drop-in spot. (It’s also beside the prettiest facade in all of Toronto — the former Ridpath’s, the facade is being partially retained in the building’s next reincarnation.) The patio for (the) Crown and Dragon is cramped, the televisions all show sports, there is a faint leakage from the Yorkville crowd, it’s loud, and it’s a lads’ pub. That said, I did go back to Crown and Dragon and I will go there again if I happen to be thirsty and nearby.

There seemed to be a lot of regulars and a cacophony of cackling hags the first evening we went to (the) Crown and Dragon. There is a variety of seating in the pseudo basement-styled pub, with benches and movable tables, and high-top tables, and its dartboards, but it’s crowded or cramped depending on the time of day. However, Crown and Dragon’s claim towards “the art of pub” (again, missing the definite article) is a bit pompous for a place that isn’t that inviting and lacking a wide selection of drinks, more like the art of basement bar.

Number of visits by yours truly: two visits, most recently on a weekday afternoon in December 2016
TTC information: a four-minute walk north from Bloor-Yonge Station or a six-minute walk south of Rosedale
Booze selection: 11 beers including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: this pub is known for its wings and lays claim to “Toronto’s Best Wings”. (We were not impressed with the wings, but we are in the minority.) These said wings are available in unusual flavors, such as Classic Coke, Foghorn Leghorn, Bloody Mary, and Killer Bee. They also have other pub classics on their menu
Service staff: a bit negligent
Prices: expensive
Toilets: clean, but cobwebs on the ceiling and a bit scary around the toilet near the floor. Apparently the men’s has the sports page pinned next to the urinal
Patio: rather small, east and on Yonge Street
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: six, all showing sports
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Virgin Radio

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

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Firkin on Bloor

Firkin on Bloor Pub

Firkin on Bloor (website, Twitter
81 Bloor Street East, Toronto ON M4W 1A9 (on the south side, between Yonge Street and Church Street) 416-962-4228
Google Maps 

Location, location, location!

From the ashes of the Spotted Dick pub has arisen the phoenix that is the Firkin on Bloor. The Spotted Dick was run down, a little tired, a little ho-hum, but its location ensured that the nearby business crowd went there at lunchtime. The reason I kept going back for more at the Spotted Dick [insert joke here] was because it was easy to get to.

Alas, with such a prime location at Yonge and Bloor you’d think that the Firkin juggernaut might tone down its brand and not try so hard given that they can hardly lose. However, that just ain’t what the Firkin brand knows or understands. During the recent rebranding of Yonge and Bloor the mediocre Spotted Dick closed and the Firkin brand took over in May 2015, literally — the Spotted Dick was in the basement and shared the building with a restaurant, while the Firkin on Bloor is now on two floors with a rooftop patio to boot. The Firkin on Bloor is very loud and more like a dance club than a pub, it’s very large, apparently the largest Firkin in Canada, and full of Union Jacks and Cool Britannia decor. Tony Blair would be so proud!

As my dining companion said of the Firkin on Bloor, “the corporate rebranding [of the Firkin brand] has taken away everything that is distinctively English about an English pub and has replaced it with over-sized portraits of Winston Churchill and a bulldog, as if this will somehow compensate.”

Number of visits by yours truly: two visits, most recently on a weeknight in late November 2015
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station is just a two-minute walk at the most
Booze selection: they have 30-odd beers and Brickworks and Somersby ciders (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin selection
Service staff: good
Prices: Firkin prices
Toilets: cramped, too few for a pub of that size. My co-diner gave up on using the men’s as the wait was too long! Yes, you read that correctly
Patio: rooftop
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: tonnes! 
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Bee Gees

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

The Bishop and Belcher

The Bishop and Belcher (website)
175 Bloor Street East, Toronto ON M4W 3T5 (however, it is actually on the northeast corner of Church Street and Hayden Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Bloor Street East) 416-591-2352
Google Maps

Well, we’re movin’ on up, to the east side of Yonge. To a deluxe pub on Church.

I went to the Bishop and Belcher a number of times over the years when it was on Queen Street West. (I saw a mouse when I was last there.) I only noticed that the Bishop and Belcher had disappeared from Queen Street West in the last year or so. Apparently they moved in 2008 (four years ago as of this writing) and I only discovered that they’d moved, as opposed to closed, recently. When my better half and I were on the lookout for a new pub after a week off for good behaviour, I looked at AllTorontoPubs.com (this is a good site, but it casts too wide a net and its information is out of date) for a suggestion for Thanksgiving Saturday afternoon and came up with the Bishop and Belcher. We got off at Sherbourne station and walked west and then south. We ended up at Yonge without finding the pub. I suggested that we try again, so we went back and discovered that we had walked right by it, but didn’t notice it as we weren’t looking for it in an office building. The address doesn’t help matters either, as it’s listed as being on Bloor, when it clearly isn’t. Alas, this means that I can’t create a Google Map link as that’s what confused us in the first place. Anyway, the near tragedy was avoided and happier times ensued!

The walls of the Bishop and Belcher are covered in all things English, pictures of Queens Elizabeth one and two, old engravings, etc., along with convex mirrors, which I love. It has several private spots and annexes for its guests, as well as games and darts. It was very quiet while we were there, but it was Thanksgiving weekend, but I expect this pub does well during the week. I will be back!

Number of visits by yours truly: my first to this location of the pub on a weekend afternoon in October 2012
TTC information: a three-minute walk east and south from Bloor-Yonge Station
Booze selection: about 17 on tap, including Thornbury cider on tap (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: typical North American pub grub
Service staff: very good
Prices: decent prices, the $8.95 poutine is a two-person job
Toilets: not bad, lots for the ladies
Patio: south, probably not a lot of sun during the afternoon due to surrounding buildings
Wheelchair accessible: appears to be, but could be a tight squeeze. Not accessible from the attached office building
Televisions: five and all showing sports
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Brit pop — the Sundays, the Police, Oasis, Pulp’s “Common People” (the censored version — sorry)

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

The Oxley

The Oxley (website)
121 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto ON M5R 1C4 (on the south side, between Avenue Road and Bellair Street, just west of Old York Lane) 647-348-1300
Google Maps

A charming pub in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville. 

What a lovely pub! The only thing wrong with The Oxley is the location, I am not a fan of oh-so-trendy Yorkville, but then again, you can’t have everything. From the William Morris-inspired wallpaper and the Cruikshank-like mural of a hunting party downstairs to the chairs upstairs that look so comfortable and the framed prints that appear like they might be from Punch, the details of this recently opened establishment make a pub fan with a penchant for interior decorating weak at the knees.

The Oxley was named after Frank Oxley, a regular at the Queen and Beaver, which is the Oxley’s sister pub. (I aspire too to have a pub, a classy one like this, named after me.) The two pubs have much in common, such as the eclectic British menu with homemade ice creams and Pheasant and Goose Liver Polony with Fine Beans on offer, and the charm that comes from being founded by pub lovers. Writing this review is making me want to go back to The Oxley.

Number of visits by yours truly: two so far, most recently on a weekday evening in June 2012
TTC information: just two blocks north of Bay Station
Booze selection: 19 beers at present with Thornbury and Spirit Tree ciders and more than 30 wines (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: fancy and yummy, the menus are online. (The Welsh rarebit was a disappointment as I was expecting  melted cheese on my toast, instead I got a kind of gravy, which was tasty, but not what I traditionally know as a Welsh rarebit)
Service staff: good
Prices: very expensive, but worth it for the most part
Toilets: downstairs and upstairs, the latter for the ladies is lovely, I think it might be as close to perfect as one can get (sadly, the upstairs men’s is just nice and unfortunately for the ladies there is only one toilet in the toilet). My grandmother would approve!
Patio: small one at the front, perfect for people watching in Yorkville, and a larger one at the back 
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: none!
Live music: I don’t think so
Piped-in music: nondescript

Rating: five pints (out of five) 

The Pilot Tavern

The Pilot Tavern (website)
22 Cumberland Street, Toronto ON M4W 1J5 (on the north side, between Yonge Street and Bay Street) 416-923-5716
Google Maps 

Great for a beer after a few hours of reading and research at the Toronto Reference Library. 

I’d never been to the Pilot Tavern before and I will probably go back as it’s centrally located at Yonge and Bloor, and, for those who are wealthier than me, it is also on the outskirts of Yorkville, in my opinion, as it’s east of Bay.

According to the menu, the Pilot Tavern was founded in 1944 and moved to its current location in 1972. As a testament to its longevity and popularity there are plaques on the bar for regulars. There is a variety of seating available, comfy leather benches at the back, tables and chairs at the front, stools at the bar and on an island. The choice is yours! On the afternoon I went there, the Pilot was very busy. The Pilot has art for sale on the walls and there is a party room upstairs that can apparently hold up to 130 people. I didn’t realise that there was a room at the back on the ground floor until I checked out the website, so you might want to keep that in mind if meeting up with friends.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not last, visit on a weekday afternoon in August 2011
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station, just one block north of Bloor
Booze selection: 30 beers (some available in both cans and draft), coolers, wines, Strongbow and Thornbury ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: fancier end of pub grub (the menu is online) 
Service staff:
good, but waited a while for meal 
Prices: expensive, for example the fish and chips was $14.95 (but I didn’t see the size of the meal, so I don’t know if it was good value)
Toilets:
very clean (my grandmother would approve) and very shiny (all metal)
Patio:
street level at the front and upstairs on the roof, which has heaters and retractable awnings
Wheelchair accessible:
no
Televisions:
four over the bar and two in the back room
Live music:
live jazz on Saturday afternoons
Piped-in music:
jazz

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Duke of Gloucester

The Duke of Gloucester (website)
649A Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4Y 2A6 (on the east side, upstairs between Charles Street and Isabella Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Bloor Street) 416-961-9704
Google Maps 

The pub to go for football (soccer) and other Anglo sporting pursuits.

As our regular pub for PubStumpers was repeating a season, we decided to check out the Duke of Gloucester. Most of our team didn’t come out that evening and I wonder if it’s because of the location I’d suggested. I’ve been to the Duke of Gloucester a number of times and, alas, it leaves something to be desired. You’d think that as it was on Yonge near Bloor, lots of regulars and ex-pats of every stripe, and a wide selection of drinks that it would be the place to go. However, it looks tired and very worn, the service is irregular, and it’s certainly not the place to go on a first date, unless you don’t want a second date.

My better half who had been to the pub a number of times still walked by it and had to call for directions (it’s just south of the Panasonic Theatre). The Duke of Gloucester pub has several good qualities, it has a snug that’s bookable for private parties (it fits about 20), and there’s a pool table, jukebox, and darts. But it’s a lads’ pub and, as such, this lass probably won’t be back soon.

Number of visits by yours truly: a half-dozen or so visits, most recently on a Thursday night in July 2011
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station, but also close to Wellesley
Booze selection: more that 40 beers, including Strongbow and Magners ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: typical pub grub, a little unimaginative
Service staff: s-l-o-w. The PubStumpers quiz master’s meal arrived late, so he was eating between questions, which made it difficult to ask him to repeat questions. I gave up on my deep-fried Mars bar dessert at the end of the evening and our second waiter (I guess we straddled a shift change) forgot to charge us for my better half’s second beer
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: slightly whiffy, but caught my waitress being very clean when she was washing her hands
Patio: south facing and on the roof
Wheelchair accessible: no way, steep steps up to the pub and more importantly down to the street at the end of the evening
Televisions: one in main area, two in the back, apparently there’s one on the patio too, but I didn’t see it when I poked my head out there
Live music: 9:30 on Sundays
Piped-in music: lots of Mr. Bowie, not that I’m complaining

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

Hemingway’s

Hemingway’s (website, Twitter)
142 Cumberland Street, Toronto ON M5R 1A8 (on the north side, between Avenue Road and Bellair Street, the nearest major intersection is Avenue Road and Bloor Street West) 416-968-2828
Google Maps 

One of the few reasons to go to Yorkville.

I can’t recall my first visit to Hemingway’s as I’ve been going there for decades, but my most recent visit was because we wanted to see a film at the now defunct Cumberland movie theatre. We arrived too late for the then-current showing, so we decided kill time at a pub — sometimes the pieces just fall into place — while waiting for the next one.

Hemingway’s can get very crowded and it draws a younger crowd for the most part, that might have something to do with the fact that it’s open until two every night and is open every day of the year. I have no idea why Antipodeans (I love that word) frequent this pub, but they have good taste. The pub is decorated with books, travel posters, and a large picture of Hemingway and Castro, the seating inside is green leather benches with wooden chairs. Hemingway’s seems to be designed for groups, I’ve been here with a dozen or more friends and my husband, who used to work nearby, came here for company functions too.

Number of visits by yours truly: a dozen or so visits, most recently on a Sunday afternoon in July 2011
TTC information: Bay Station, exit from the west end and the pub is just across the street
Booze selection: I counted 54 beers, they also have cider, wine, and various mixed drinks (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: upscale pub food. We had the calamari and it wasn’t rubbery at all!
Service staff: attentive
Prices: reasonable for Yorkville
Toilets: the ones downstairs are not bad, I didn’t check the ones that are apparently upstairs
Patio: street level and upstairs at the front and at the back. The front upstairs is a smokers’ patio and the huge one at the back  — it can seat more than a hundred people — is partly covered in the summer, fully covered and heated in the winter (if my memory serves me well)
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: one over the bar
Live music: Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays in the winter
Piped-in music: dance dance dance music

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