The Firkin On Danforth

The Firkin On Danforth (website, Twitter)
2057B Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4C 1J8 (on the south side of Danforth Avenue, between Woodbine Avenue and Moberly Avenue) 647-345-0455
Google Maps

Be careful what you pray for.

A regular lament from yours truly is that there are no pubs near my home. Perhaps I was spoiled for several years with having a pub within a five-minute walk. After I moved, I used to be mildly jealous of people who could walk home from a pub. Until recently, we faced a half-hour walk from the nearest pub. (Don’t get me wrong, I love walking, but sometimes you want to get home after a night of carousing.) Anyway, a year ago or so, my “prayers” were answered… with a Firkin pub (proving that god’s still got a sick sense of humour) opening within a 15-minute walk of our little Excalibur Cottage. Firkin pubs are okay, but that’s it, they are okay. Forgettable, bland, the McDonald’s of pubs. Mediocrity should not be the goal. Now that I’ve got that off my chest…

The Firkin On Danforth has a fair bit going for it — it’s new, clean, with a variety of seating, including the ubiquitous Union Jack sofa that can be found in every rebranded Firkin, and a picnic bench-like table in the sunken area, and the staff are pleasant enough. Apparently, the central bar can seat 27 people, which is nice, if you like to watch the bartender or the television instead of making eye contact with your drinking companions. However, it’s got concrete floors and a lovely (plastic) tiled ceiling, which means it’s noisy. It’s also child-friendly, the first time we went a child was apparently having a birthday party there. Not exactly what I was hoping to have with my beer and meal that night.

Number of visits by yours truly: three times so far, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2017
TTC information: just south of Woodbine Station
Booze selection: 20 beers, along with four ciders, including Somersby and Strongbow  (they have Pimm’s) (out of Strongbow Gold and Queen St 501 cider one night, see food)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub (out of butter chicken one night, see booze)
Service staff: friendly
Prices: standard Firkin prices, not too expensive, but not cheap
Toilets: three, one accessible, and one for the ladies and one for the gents
Patio: 
tiny patio on Danforth that is unattached to the pub
Wheelchair accessible: 
yes, but the lower sunken level, which makes up a third of the pub, is not accessible
Televisions: 
lots and lots
Live music: 
apparently they have karaoke every other Wednesday 
Piped-in music:
Tone Loc, Bryan Adams, The Cure

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

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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) 

The Wickson Social

wickson-social-toronto
The Wickson Social (website, Twitter)
5 St. Joseph Street, Toronto ON M4Y 0B6 (on the south side, between Yonge Street and St Nicholas Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Wellesley Street) 647-748-1501
Google Maps

Another jewel in the crown of Toronto’s pubs. 

Opened in late 2015, the Wickson Social is part of the expanding pub empire that began with the Queen and Beaver and grew with the Oxley. The three pubs have much in common, such as a focus on the menu and an upscale approach to the pub experience, however, the Wickson Social is more modern and more international with its menu than its sister pubs. The Wickson Social has mirrors on the ceiling (which can be a bit of a shock if you aren’t use to seeing yourself — or your dining companion — from that angle), a huge picture printed on fabric of wild animals in clothing, comfy seats that will probably pay for themselves with the change found between the deep seat cushions at the end of a long night, and tall ceilings that add an air of sophistication to the rooms.

The Wickson Social was named after Frank Wickson, the Toronto-based architect who designed the century-old building where the Wickson Social is located, as well as the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church on St Clair Avenue West and the IOOF Hall at the north-west corner of Yonge Street and College Street. The pub also offers room service to the tenants in the building (so I might be moving soon).

Number of visits by yours truly: two so far, most recently on a weekend evening in September 2016
TTC information: just a three-minute walk (a block north) of Wellesley Station
Booze selection: approximately 25 beers with Spirit Tree, Empire Hard, and West Avenue ciders (they have Pimm’s). They also have a variety of cocktails available
Food selection: very fancy end of pub grub, fortunately they have the delicious ice cream that both the Queen and Beaver and the Oxley have. The second time we were there we were given a free mini appetizer of watermelon cubes with sea salt and mint (I think), it was yummy!
Service staff: good
Prices: very expensive, with modest proportions, but worth it for the most part
Toilets: clean and very red
Patio: yes, on the north side
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: one in the party room, which called the Nest 
Live music: very unlikely not
Piped-in music: Michael Jackson, Daft Punk

Rating: five pints (out of five) 

The Grover

The Grover Pub Toronto

The Grover (website, Twitter)
676 Kingston Road, Toronto ON M4E 1R4 (on the north side, between Main Street and Walter Street, the nearest major intersection is Main Street and Kingston Road) 416-691-9200
Google Maps

I went there so you don’t have to.

My favourite drinking buddy and I first went by the Grover a number of years ago, but we were on the way to a friend’s place, so we didn’t stop. Plus, the font of the name is difficult to read, so I could not remember its name. (Petrarch, as you know, also found gothic type difficult to read.) Anyway, fast-forward a few years and in my constant search for a new pub, I read BlogTO’s “The top 10 new pubs in Toronto.” We decided to go to the closest one to home, which turned out to the Grover. We went there so you don’t have to.

The Grover has actually been around since the 1980s, so it was included on this new pub list as it is under new management and had been “rebranded”. The art on the wall is a nice mix of old newspapers and modern prints. It did indeed have that new pub scent, clean booths, fresh paint, etc. But the thing about the Grover is that it is a children’s pub (you wouldn’t know from the website). I got there and nearly every booth had a child in it. They even have multiple selections for children on the menu. We had a child standing on its hind legs staring at us the entire time we ate our meal (we had sat in an emptier part of the pub to start with). Neither of the child’s parents/guardians did anything about it and one of the former was sitting facing us so she knew what was happening. Perhaps we should have been told we were sitting in the Chuck E. Cheese section? It resulted in an early exit for us.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first and my last on a weekday evening in June 2016
TTC information: take the Main Street bus south from Main Street Station (five minutes)
Booze selection: 20 craft brews, as well as Pommies Farmhouse and Thornbury ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: decent, but rather small servings, with a number of vegetarian options, but generous with the wet wipes
Service staff: slow
Prices: okay
Toilets: clean
Patio: north
Wheelchair accessible: the toilets were downstairs
Televisions: nine, but several were off 
Live music: open mic on Fridays and Saturdays
Piped-in music: ’60s music

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

The Swan (A Firkin Pub)

The Swan Toronto


The Swan (A Firkin Pub)
 (website, Twitter)
2205 Bloor Street West, Toronto ON M6S 1N5 (on the south side of Bloor Street West, between Runnymede Road and Kennedy Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Bloor Street West and the Kingsway) 416-767-9222

Google Maps

It’s like a “Firkin Chuck E. Cheese” due to all the children.

I’ve been to the Swan (and Firkin) a number of times over the last couple of years and have taken several different sets of notes on the pub, but I’ve lacked the enthusiasm to type them up and post it. However, it’s a new year and I should clear the backlog of pub reviews weighing down my corkboard. The Swan is very much like Hemingway’s in Yorkville — without the rooftop patio, it’s just like every other (Firkin) pub, except with children everywhere!

Like more and more Firkin pubs, it’s been refurbished with the Cool Britannia theme. (Did Monty Python really have this in mind when it created the Ministry of Silly Walks?) The one time we tried to sit upstairs at the Swan (and Firkin), we were told it was full, which it was. I asked if I could have a quick look and I was shadowed the entire time. One time I was there, a child fell off one of the tall chairs and understandably screamed its head off. The pub does offer a variety of seating, but perhaps it was the only seating available for the family? Another time I was with two ladies and a single dad took over the nearby sofa area with his child and ignored the child while he played on his mobile device and drank. I wondered if he thought we were watching the child for him. We weren’t, we were judging him and feeling sorry for the kid.

If you have a choice, go to the Yellow Griffin across the street.

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four, most recently in late August 2015
TTC information: just steps south from Runnymede Station
Booze selection: typical (limited) Firkin selection of about 27 beers with Strongbow and Brickworks ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: typical Firkin selection. According to one dining companion, don’t bother with the chicken as it’s more bone than chicken
Service staff: okay, but I seem to recall waiting for service
Prices: typical Firkin prices
Toilets: not bad, but not clear if vacant or not. Poorly designed
Patio: street-level facing north and rooftop, which is very popular
Wheelchair accessible: nope as the toilets aren’t accessible
Televisions: at least seven that I could see 
Live music: “sometimes”
Piped-in music: early Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, Daft Punk, Lenny Kravitz

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

DeSotos

DeSotos Toronto

DeSotos (website)
1079 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto ON (on the south side, between Lauder Avenue and Glenholme Avenue) 416-651-2109
Google Maps 

The place to be on St. Clair West.

When my better half and I finally gave up on the nearby Fox and Fiddle, we decided that we had to find another place that served decent food and had half-decent service on St. Clair West. We quickly found DeSotos and were very happy, until the second time we went there and found that the place was closed for a private party. (The service there now leaves much to be desired, so the search continues.) We had checked that very day that DeSotos was open on its website (as it was a Monday) and there was no notice. I would have checked their Twitter feed, however, their Twitter feed is private — why? I even looked at their Facebook page and nothing. Anyway, we had to go back to the Fox and Fiddle even though we were not happy there.

DeSotos is an interesting pub, it has apothecary jars, seltzer bottles, an aquarium, an old-fashioned fan, typewriter, cash register, and, inside a bookcase, a copy of Playboy Blondes. The pub is split into two rooms and has lots of dark wood, but it is quite bright nevertheless. Larger groups can be accommodated, but don’t be surprised if they can’t take care of your request at the last minute. Unfortunately, the pub is very kid-friendly. (Don’t worry, I already know I will die alone, unloved, and unmourned.)

Number of visits by yours truly: three or four, my most recent in August 2015
TTC information: a 20-minute streetcar ride (that’s what the TTC says) westbound from St Clair Station, or take the Dufferin bus north from Dufferin Station, which will drop you after a seven-minute ride at St Clair West and just a quick walk east from there
Booze selection: 11 craft beers with Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: Italian pizza, burgers, oysters, with aspirations to be a gastropub
Service staff: neglectful at times (on our most recent visit, I didn’t tip as the waiter took 10 minutes to clear our plates and we waited another 10 for the credit card machine, I gave up and went to the bar and was informed that he had other customers. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t tip)
Prices: decent
Toilets: the locks are flimsy and it’s a little cramped
Patio: north and west, both on the street
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: one near the bar and a pull-down screen for television events
Live music: jazz on Sundays
Piped-in music: mellow “Delta blues” according to my better half

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

The Court Jester

Court Jester Toronto
The Court Jester
681 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4J 1L2 (on the south side of the Danforth, between Pape Avenue and Jones Avenue) 416-465-6247
Google Maps 

Pub and deli-dining together on the Danforth. 

This is a review of the new and larger location of the Court Jester on the Danforth, which moved from the west side of Pape to the east in December 2014. My friend and I checked out the new location shortly after it opened. I went to the old Court Jester a number of times over the years. (One of my sisters, who used to live nearby, met a boyfriend there.) From the outside, the new Court Jester looks somewhat the same with the same insipid jester creature, but it’s better on the inside with a lighter, more up-scale look and a variety of seating, including high-top tables. The new Court Jester features a deli counter at the front, called CJ’s Deli, which was very busy while we were there with lots of people getting take-out.

The new Court Jester is now child-friendly (sigh) and features weekend brunch and all-week-long breakfasts. Although I have been there only the once, I would say that the new Court Jester is attracting a new clientele. Like the old pub, it has darts, a pinball machine, and board games.

Note: the front step was very slippery in winter and there is the Jester on Yonge, so make sure you and your friends know which one you are going to.

Number of visits by yours truly: five or six, most recently on a weekday evening in January 2015
TTC information: just a two-minute walk east from Pape Station
Booze selection: 16 beers including Strongbow cider (forgot to ask about Pimm’s, sorry!)
Food selection: the menu is online, not surprisingly with a number of deli sandwiches
Service staff: good service
Prices: not cheap, but lots of food
Toilets: no hot tap water in the ladies’, I verified this by turning on and off the two valves under the sink (what lengths I go to for you, my dear readers). Not impressed. Apparently the men’s was good, but freezing cold in the winter
Patio: I don’t think so, but the window in the front is an up-and-over door
Wheelchair accessible: not wheelchair accessible
Televisions: four televisions
Live music: I don’t think so
Piped-in music: Beatles, Queen, Coldplay

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