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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The Borough

The Borough Toronto

The Borough (website, Twitter)
1352 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4J 1M9 (on the north side, between Linsmore Crescent and Monarch Park Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Greenwood Avenue and Danforth Avenue) 416-901-1429
Google Maps

Another excellent addition to the Danforth’s growing number of decent pubs! 

Fittingly named after Canada’s last borough, East York (1967-1988, requiescat in pace), and location of said pub, the Borough is putting the pub into gastropub. This is a touch ironic given that the borough of East York was dry for several years. The pub does have a focus on locally sourced food and takes part in the nearby East Lynn  Farmers’ Market. Like the nearby Wren, the Borough is child-friendly, but it doesn’t have a kids’ menu. It does serve Sunday brunch, but it doesn’t open until five during the week and on Saturdays. We found out twice the hard way.

The Borough has black-and-white pictures of said old borough on the walls, along with a three-dimensional miniature fairy door of 11 Downing Street, home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the sign for the pub looks very much like the street signs in London, itself full of boroughs. It’s a very bright establishment, despite the greys everywhere. Our welcome last-minute addition to the pubbing experience said that the Borough was, “Life in greyscale,” with flashes of red cushions and napkins. I should have replied with, “It’s fifty shades of grey on the Danforth,” but I didn’t and it’s not really that funny anyway.

A note on the picture, I took the picture at Christmas time last year as I had a camera with me and no-one was walking in front of the pub. They don’t usually have Christmas decorations up.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last on a weekday evening in August 2015
TTC information: Greenwood Station, mere metres on the Danforth from the station
Booze selection: a selection local craft beers, with Thornbury and Duxsbury ciders (they don’t have Pimm’s because it’s not local)
Food selection: the food is local and organic, with a focus on British comfort food. Be warned, it’s spicy — my note says “perfumed by a manifesto”. It’s in my writing, but I’m not that poetic even after a pint or two
Service staff: great
Prices: expensive
Toilets: the ladies’ was nice, but the men’s apparently left something to be desired 
Patio: south-facing
Wheelchair accessible: has steps to the toilet, so no
Televisions: one over the bar
Live music: no
Piped-in music: modern and electronic, could hardly hear as the volume was low

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

The Paddock Tavern

The Paddock Tavern (website, Twitter)
178 Bathurst Street, Toronto ON M5V 2R4 (on the east side of Bathurst Street, just south of Queen Street West) 416-504-9997
Google Maps 

A Toronto landmark. 

I have probably been by the Paddock Tavern a hundred times. My former brother-in-law used to live across the street, it’s just south of Queen Street West, and just north of Factory Theatre, however, I have never gone in before. I haven’t been in because it looks a little uninviting as you can’t see in. Is it open? Is it full? My better half and I finally went in as we were on our way to a football (soccer) game at BMO Field (Canada won over Cuba, 3-0) and needed nourishment.

The Paddock Tavern is a rather small venue, with a huge bar. It’s been around so long (1946) that its then-modern look is now fashionably retro. Unfortunately, its age shows in other ways with blown light bulbs and torn seat cushions, which looks like the present owner/manager doesn’t care. However, that did not seem to deter the regulars. When I arrived the bartender was talking to a fellow at the bar and when a group arrived, they seemed to know where to go and what to do.

Note, the Paddock Tavern doesn’t serve tea or coffee, the pub doesn’t open until four, the kitchen doesn’t open until six, it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays, but on the plus side, it’s apparently haunted.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first on a Friday evening in October 2012
TTC information: a 12-minute ride south from Bathurst Station or a 12-minute ride from Osgoode Station
Booze selection: eight beers, including Thornbury cider, a number of whiskys/wines (no Pimm’s) (according to the expert, the taps need to be cleaned)
Food selection: basic, but all the bases covered, except for those who are fussy  
Service staff: very attentive, when I arrived the kitchen was closed, but I was able to get my meal very quickly once it did open
Prices: lots of food for the money, my better half couldn’t finish his meal (I did it for him)
Toilets: could be cleaner, but not that bad
Patio: east
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: three, two off and one showing an old black-and-white movie with the mute button engaged
Live music: might start in November on Tuesday nights
Piped-in music: alternative country pop music, I think

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Black Bull

The Black Bull (website)
298 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M5V 2A4 (on the northeast side of Soho Street and Queen Street West, the major intersection is Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue) 416-593-2766 ‎
Google Maps 

Probably the best patio for blocks! Certainly on Queen Street West.

Laying claim to being the oldest pub in Toronto, the Black Bull is an institution on Queen Street West. (In my humble but historically trained opinion, the Black Bull isn’t really the oldest as it closed for several decades at one point, so the real honour goes to the Wheat Sheaf.) The Black Bull is basically the only pub on Queen Street West since The Bishop & the Belcher up and left for Church and Bloor. Yes, there’s the Duke of Richmond and the Friar and Firkin, but they are off the beaten path.

Anyway, I’ve walked by the Black Bull more than a hundred times as I was an aspiring goth (I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair black and I wasn’t as pissed off at my parents as my other goth friends were at theirs) who tried her damnedest to hang out on Queen Street West as much as possible in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I, however, always felt that the Black Bull was a bit of a biker bar, and as a result, I haven’t spent my drinking money there very often. The Black Bull is a rather nice looking pub, despite the stuffed bull’s head over the Queen Street door, with wide aisles, high ceilings, personal coat racks, and retro-booths that seat four comfortably with a relaxed atmosphere with no frills whatsoever. The back of the pub has a pool table and karaoke on Sundays. Note, they do not provide separate bills.

Number of visits by yours truly: my fourth or fifth, most recently on a weekday afternoon in July 2012
TTC information: a five-minute ride west to Soho from Osgoode Station on the Queen Street West streetcar
Booze selection: 25 beers including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: lots of burgers — grease is my word du jour
Service staff: good
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: no hot water, no paper towels, and a smell that lingers
Patio: one of the best in the city and certainly the best in the neighbourhood. Perfect for people watching, lots of sun, and you too can look hip
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: three
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: early ‘8os

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

The Wheat Sheaf

The Wheat Sheaf (website, Twitter)
667 King Street West, Toronto ON M5V 1M9 (on the southwest corner of King Street West and Bathurst Street) 416-504-9912
Google Maps 

Toronto’s oldest pub, complete with legend.

I’ve been to the Wheat Sheaf a number of times over the years. Its great location, at King and Bathurst, means it is ideal for a pint after going to Fort York (What do you mean you haven’t been? It’s fun!), a pint before seeing something at Factory Theatre, after going to the Ex for a convention, which was the case with us, or after a Toronto FC game. Before planning our jaunt, I remembered that the Wheat Sheaf is a popular sports pub, given its proximity to BMO Field, but I had forgotten how nice the Wheat Sheaf can be.

Perhaps because I have lived in houses that are centuries old, I feel at home in older places, such as the Wheat Sheaf, which was opened in 1849 and claims to be Toronto’s oldest pub. (Apparently, there is a legend that there is a hidden tunnel from Fort York to the Wheat Sheaf, created by the soldiers.) It has internal windows sans glass to let light into the back room and an Old World feel that only decades of wear and tear can create. There is a jukebox and a pool table, but you might not be popular with the surrounding patrons as the pool table is too close to tables. By the way, the ratio of women to men at the Wheat Sheaf was about seven to one including the two waitresses, and I am being generous.

Number of visits by yours truly: my fourth or fifth, most recently on a Saturday afternoon in April 2012
TTC information: a seven-minute ride west to Bathurst from St. Andrew Station, or take Bathurst Streetcar south from Bathurst to King, which will take about 12 minutes. (Note, we walked from Bathurst to Yonge after the pub visit as there seemed to be TTC problems, it was only when we got to Roy Thomson Hall that we were passed by a streetcar.)
Booze selection: 18 beers, including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard pub grub. We had the calamari and enjoyed it
Service staff: very friendly. On a subsequent visit, my husband had a very rude waiter who misheard one of the group’s orders for Strongbow as Steam Whistle and refused to remove the error from the bill. He also berated one of the party for smelling like pot. Classy!
Prices: not bad
Toilets: decent, downstairs
Patio: large and on Bathurst, so it’s east facing
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: too many to count, I gave up after finding ten
Live music: no
Piped-in music: Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, a-ha, Adam Ant

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

Irish Embassy


Irish Embassy Pub (website, Twitter)

49 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M5E 1J1 (on the north-east corner of Wellington Street East and Yonge Street) 416-866-8282
Google Maps 

This could well be the noisiest pub in Toronto.

Over the years I have been to the Irish Embassy Pub a number of times and on every visit, save the last, which was on a Sunday evening, I was overwhelmed by the noise and the only reason I went back this time was because I haven’t reviewed it for this blog. This pub could well be the noisiest in Toronto.

The Irish Embassy Pub clearly shows its former life as a nineteenth-century bank as the echoes of its past still resonate in the thick Greek columns, classical arches, and tall ceilings, which are likely to blame for making the place so noisy. (The glass-topped bank tellers partitions are probably not original.) As a result, the establishment doesn’t have much of a pub feel about it and no coziness, perhaps reflecting the business crowd it attracts. The Dublin Lounge — which can be reserved for large groups — was closed during our most recent visit and I have never had the chance to venture in there. The pub itself is often very crowded during the week and I recall walking by a long line up outside the pub on a recent St. Patrick’s Day that fell on a weekday. All said, it would appear that my dearth of warm fuzzies for the Irish Embassy Pub is in the minority.

Number of visits by yours truly: fourth or fifth visit, most recently on a Sunday evening in February 2011
TTC information: two intersections south of King
Booze selection: 20 or so beers, including Strongbow cider (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: fancy Irish. I had the vegetarian tikka masala, which is not on the online menu, leading me to think that the online ones are out of date
Service staff: good, but others have commented on the slowness. I guess it depends on the day, time, etc.
Prices: very expensive, but you are downtown
Toilets: nice and downstairs
Patio: nope
Wheelchair accessible: no, steps at front and the toilet is downstairs
Televisions: eight and it’s not a large pub
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Mr. Bowie, U2

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Bull and Firkin

The Bull and Firkin (website, Twitter)
1835 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4S 1X8 (on the east side, between Balliol Street and Merton Street, the nearest major intersection is Davisville Avenue and Yonge Street) 416-485-2290
Google Maps

Good for a pint after swooning over graves of the famous at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. 

I’ve been to the Bull and Firkin a number of times over the years as we used to live nearby and as we have a number of friends who still live in the area. In terms of sitting, it has lots of booths, including seating for groups of six, but for larger groups, you are really only in luck if you get seating at the back, near the toilets. It has happened a few times that we have been part of a larger party gathering at that pub and have had to ask diners in that coveted area if they would mind moving up or down a few tables so that we can accommodate our numbers (these diners have always been gracious about this request, so that is a good reflection on the pub).

The Bull and Firkin is a sport bar, plain and simple. It has two dart boards, two pool tables, and at least two arcade games. The televisions, which are everywhere, show sporting events. Knowing this, I have even looked up the Maple Leafs’ schedule to avoid going to the pub when games are on. I remember going to the pub one evening in April a few years ago and being almost unable to converse with my companions because the noise was so loud.

And now a semi-regular feature of my blog: Toronto’s history. As mentioned in the dek, the Bull and Firkin is close to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, which is “home” to, among others:

  • Banting and Best (but not together)
  • Timothy Eaton
  • Mary Fortune (Titanic survivor)
  • Glenn Gould
  • Foster Hewitt
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King
  • Oliver Mowat
  • Alexander Muir
  • Egerton Ryerson

Number of visits by yours truly: two dozen or so, most recently on a Saturday evening in October 2011
TTC information: just south of Davisville Station
Booze selection: 16 beers, including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: pleasant and friendly
Prices: decent
Toilets: just two for the ladies, which isn’t quite enough given the size of the bar
Patio: on the street facing west
Wheelchair accessible: no!
Televisions: I counted seven from where I was sitting and all of them were showing a “vulgar sporting event”
Live music: I forgot to ask, but I doubt it given the layout of the pub as there are pillars and booths in the way
Piped-in music: sports was on, so music was off. There is a jukebox

Rating: three and half pints (out of five)