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)

Louis Cifer Brew Works

Louis Cifer Toronto

Louis Cifer Brew Works (website, Twitter)
417 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4K 1P1 (on the south side, between Hampton Avenue and Logan Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Broadview and Danforth) 647-350-5087
Google Maps 

Pub of the Future. 

Louis Cifer Brew Works has a lot going for it — catchy homonym based on the devil, large location in the heart of Greektown (you can see the painted Corinthian columns on the building’s corners), beer-to-go service, open weekday afternoons unlike some of its competition, and decent food and beer. However, a mark against this pub is that it is owned by the same people as Stout Irish Pub. Stout was a disappointing pub, very disappointing, and you deserve better. Fortunately, Louis Cifer is better, then again, almost anywhere is better.

Louis Cifer opened recently, circa October 2014, and it still has that new pub smell, as well as a few opening hurdles to get over. It has an upstairs area, large vats behind a glass enclosure (which still may not actually be working as apparently this part of the launch hit a few bumps), tasting notes cards, and a modern ambiance compared to most traditional pubs, with its leather chairs, shining chrome, stark colours, and tin ceilings panels.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not my last, on a weekday afternoon in November 2014
TTC information: within stumbling distance of Chester Station
Booze selection: 24 beers including six of their own brews, which are apparently being brewed off site at several different locations, Pommies cider, as well as a number of wines, scotches, hoptails, flights of beer, etc. (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: gastropub and traditional pub dishes, I had the crispy pork belly rinds and I will have them again. The menu is online
Service staff: not bad, but a number of other online reviewers pointed out delays they experienced and poor service
Prices: expensive
Toilets: fancy with naughty toilet signs
Patio: up-and-over doors and they have a small narrow patio in the summer on the Danforth
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: four that I could see, one being a projector screen upstairs
Live music: likely not, the seating seemed pretty stationary
Piped-in music: Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones, Big Star

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

Indie Ale House

Indie Ale House Toronto

Indie Ale House (website, Twitter)
2876 Dundas Street West, Toronto ON M6P 1Y9 (on the north side, the nearest major intersection is Keele Street and Dundas Street West) 416-760-9691
Google Maps 

Home of the happy hipster. 

I have a love-hate relationship with NOW Magazine‘s annual Bar/Pub/Beer Guide. Some picks are great and sometimes they miss the mark completely. As a result, I am skeptical about their glowing endorsements (I am suspect due to Stout‘s good standing) and was prepared to be disappointed with the Indie Ale House, one of NOW‘s top picks, and also given a good friend’s less-than-enthusiastic review of the place ([L]oud, pretentious, full of their own hype. And [she] hated the cider. They also told [her] companion that the tonic water they delivered was in fact the soda water he ordered.). However, I was pleasantly surprised with the Indie Ale House, although I was the eldest and least fashionable person in the establishment and thus felt rather out of place. This is the home of the happy hipster and there were more beards, plaid tops, colourful trousers, and iPads visible than at a National’s concert or at an IKEA sale.

The Indie Ale House looks a bit like a cafeteria with too many tables (which means you can hear your neighbours’ conversations) and it sounds a bit like one too. There was wood everywhere, except for the exposed brick wall and tin ceiling, and from where I was sitting I could see the beer vats. The Indie Ale House only takes reservations for large groups (and they go on and on about this on their website) and they also only present one bill for said group. They were getting their knickers in a twist (the page with this rant is now only available as a now unavailable cached version) about their name, the pub is called Indie Ale House with three words, but their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts all say the Indie Alehouse. If the establishment itself can’t be consistent, then they shouldn’t grumble when others aren’t.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, on a weekday afternoon in July 2014, but not my last
TTC information: take the Dundas West (Junction) bus north from Dundas West Station (seven-minute journey)
Booze selection: 11 craft beers that night, which change often, the cider they had then was Spirit Tree (I write that as I expect they change it often). No Pimm’s
Food selection: limited menu, but large servings
Service staff: not bad, but it seems that we might have been lucky
Prices: good for portions
Toilets: decent
Patio: nope
Wheelchair accessible: appears to be
Televisions: two tiny screens, not on
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Indie 88.1 (of course)

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

The Granite Brewery

The Granite Brewery (website, Twitter)
245 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto ON M4P 3B7 (on the east side, just south of Eglinton Avenue East on Mount Pleasant, the nearest major intersection is Yonge and Eglinton) 416-322-0723
Google Maps

Good beers, iffy service, in-house keg-to-go beer store.

I can’t remember the first time I went to the Granite Brewery. I’ve been a number of times over the years as we used to live nearby and it has a central location. However, the service can be bad, so I have hesitated to go back there. One time we waited more than an hour between visits by our server (we had fresh drinks to start with and were on the back patio, so we didn’t mind for a while, but by the time our server came back, we were not pleased and he didn’t seem to care). This bad service is part of the reason I have avoided reviewing the Granite Brewery.

The  Granite Brewery has a library room, lots of Hogarth prints, and a set of stuffed Laurel and Hardy playing chess. The large room at the back has awful tablecloths, which remind me of garden parties in the 1980s. However, they do have a decent self-serve brunch on the weekends and on-site brewing. They also have menus in large print and Braille.

Update 2014.03.21: I tried to make a reservation for 16 people in the front room of the Granite right by the windows, but they wouldn’t change the orientation of the tables to accommodate my group, so we’re going elsewhere!

Number of visits by yours truly: two or three dozen visits as I used to live nearby, most recently in late August 2012
TTC information: you can catch several eastbound buses from Elington station, but as the pub is only a 10-minute walk, you might just want to consider that as figuring out which bus is leaving first isn’t really worth the trouble
Booze selection: eight beers on tap, five in circulation, several of these beers have won awards. They have Strongbow cider in bottles (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: good salads and standard pub grub
Service staff: can be hit or miss. On my most two recent visits the service was very good and the place was very crowded
Prices: expensive
Toilets: recently renovated
Patio: covered west-facing patio in the front and semi-covered in the courtyard in the back
Wheelchair accessible:
yup!
Televisions:
at least four and one was turned off
Live music:
nope
Piped-in music:
Queen’s “Under Pressure” and the Shins (I have no idea who they are, but my friend knew)

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

Mill St. Brew Pub

Mill St. Brew Pub (website, Twitter)
55 Mill Street, Building 63, Toronto ON M5A 3C4 (between Trinity Street and Cherry Street, on the south side of the lane just south of Mill Street, the nearest major intersection is Parliament Street and Front Street East) 416-681-0338
Google Maps

Perfect for a pint after an afternoon in the Distillery District or before a SoulPepper production.

Is there any sweeter word in the English language than “pub”? Inspector Morse’s favourite word — if my memory serves me well — was “unbuttoned,” and the Marquise de Merteuil’s favourite was “cruelty” (translated from the French, of course). What I am getting at is that after a hard day of window shopping, and after a gruelling week off work, the word “pub” lightens one step and brings joy to one’s heart.

Mill St. Brew Pub was a lovely way to end our day at the Distillery District. Keeping in tone with the rest of the area, the pub itself has exposed brickwork, painted inside, and wooden floors. There are bookcases, framed beer mats, and it’s very bright due to the skylights. In the middle of the pub itself is a brewery behind glass windows, which you can tour. My husband’s beer was served in an old-fashioned mug and I had ginger-flavoured beer, which could have been more gingery, but I am not complaining! The pub also has a store (not open the same hours as the pub itself), which alas did not sell the ginger-flavoured beer on its own.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, on a Friday afternoon in early August 2011
TTC information: a five-minute (that’s what the TTC itinerary says) ride eastbound from King Station on the King streetcar to Trinity Street or take the bus from Castle Frank Station (the 65 Parliament), which will drop you after a 12-minute ride at Front and Parliament
Booze selection: 12 beers — all Mill St. naturally — and you can get tasting trays of beer, so we had one. There are also a number of coolers, wines, martinis, and Waupoos cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: interesting, pub fare pumped up a notch
Service staff: pleasant
Prices: considering the area, it’s reasonable
Toilets: all right, a little messy
Patio: north and west. The north was a traditional patio, while the south was funky
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: too many! Reminded us of an upscale Jack Astor’s
Live music: no
Piped-in music: Sloan, CCR, INXS, Mr. Bowie

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