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) 

Local Public Eatery (Leaside)

Local Public Eatery Toronto

Local Public Eatery (Leaside) (website, Twitter)
180 Laird Drive, Toronto ON M4G 3V7 (on the southwest corner of Laird Drive and McRae Drive, the nearest major intersection is Eglinton Avenue East and Laird Drive) 416-696-6226
Google Maps

Beery goodness on Laird.

Yet another bank branch turned into a pub, what is the world coming to? (A better beery place, if you want my opinion!) Formerly a CIBC branch, the Local Public Eatery (Leaside) opened in April 2015, however, it took a while for yours truly to visit. The Local Public Eatery is at present a nine-pub chain which has locations across Canada, including one in Toronto’s Liberty Village. Given what I saw at the Leaside location, I think this is a good thing as I enjoyed my time there and will return.

The Local, as it seems to want to be called, is on two levels and the upstairs is 19+, so that’s where we headed after having suffered the company of poorly behaved children at the previous spot (The nearby Leaside Pub allows unsupervised children to play pool, seriously!). Downstairs at the Local has more of a restaurant vibe than pub with booths and high top tables. There are a variety of seats upstairs, including booths, comfy chairs in circles, and tables that can be moved along an I-beam to create seating for different size parties and an enclosed rooftop patio that has a lovely view of sunsets.

Number of visits by yours truly: twice so far, my latest in February 2016
TTC information: take the Leaside bus north from Donlands Station (13 minutes) or the same bus eastbound from Eglinton Station (20 minutes), the pub is just a six-minute walk south from Eglinton if you’ve just missed the Leaside bus
Booze selection: 27 beers including Brickworks cider and a large selection of non-beer drinks (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: all food is finger friendly (a problem for one dining companion who dislikes greasy fingers). The menu is online
Service staff: friendly
Prices: expensive, but you’re in Leaside
Toilets: decent
Patio: a large one that’s south-facing and a rooftop that’s covered with glass
Wheelchair accessible: it has an accessibility ramp, but the toilets are downstairs and it looks like you either have to sit at a booth or at a high top table on the main level and the top is not accessible, so the accessibility ramp is a bit of tease
Televisions: lots, at least a dozen, all the ones upstairs were showing hockey or Ghostbusters II 
Live music: they have a DJ sometimes
Piped-in music: Smashing Pumpkins, Mr. Bowie, Beck, Pulp

Rating: four 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)

Against The Grain Urban Tavern (Leaside)

Against the Grain Toronto

Against The Grain Urban Tavern (website)
87 Laird Drive, Toronto ON M4G 3V1 (on the east side of Laird Drive, between Esandar Street and Industrial Street, the nearest major intersection is Eglinton Avenue East and Laird Drive) 647-748-2840
Google Maps

The Pottery Barn of pubs.

You know sometimes how you find yourself somewhere several times over a short period when you hadn’t been there in months? Well, that was the case recently as one day I realized there was a new pub in Leaside. Technically within walking distance of the old abode (however, the pub had been open for two years at this point, but as I said, sometimes you don’t go to the old haunts for a while). So on the first warm weekend in 2015 I decided it was time to brush the cobwebs off the sandals and check out a new pub.

Against the Grain (Leaside) is a nice looking pub, but don’t be surprised when you find that they don’t sell throw pillows and coffee tables. Against the Grain has wood everywhere! There is a good mixture of seating available — booths, tables, high tops and a huge bar. The pub attracts an older crowd from what we could see. I think that might be due to the location of Against the Grain, both in terms of neighbourhood (Leaside ain’t cheap) and in terms of location as it’s not on a major road and surrounded by shops.

Against the Grain is part of the chain that brought you Foggy Dew, Pogue Mahone, etc., but note they have two Against the Grains, the other one is at Corus Quay.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last, in May 2015
TTC information: take the Leaside bus north from Donlands Station (13 minutes) or the same bus eastbound from Eglinton Station (20 minutes), the pub is just a nine-minute walk south from Eglinton if you’ve just missed the Leaside bus
Booze selection: 14 beers, including Pommies cider and lots of wine (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: offerings are given with beer pairings; reading others’ online reviews, it seems that the food is not the reason to go to this pub
Service staff: friendly
Prices: expensive
Toilets: nice
Patio: a large one that’s west- and south-facing and a rooftop that’s sometimes open
Wheelchair accessible: yes, except for the raised area that takes up a third of the ground floor and the upstairs
Televisions: six downstairs
Live music: apparently they do have live music, but I guess it will be loud give the acoustics of the pub
Piped-in music: dance! dance! dance!

Rating: four pints (out of five)

The Imperial Pub

Imperial Pub Toronto

The Imperial Pub (website)
54 Dundas Street East, Toronto ON M5B 1C7 (on the north-east corner of Dundas Street East and Victoria Street, the nearest major intersection is Dundas Street and Yonge Street) 416-977-4667
Google Maps

The pub that time forgot.

The Imperial Pub is in many ways your grandparents’ pub with its old-fashioned beer mugs, bright neon beer signs, ancient carpet, antique wooden chairs, overgrown potted plants, tin ceiling, etc. It also features a circular bar with a huge aquarium inside it on the downstairs level. However, the pub comes by its retro style legitimately as it was founded in 1944. (The pub has been updated since then, but probably not in the last four or five decades.)

The Imperial Pub is in an ideal location, just steps from the Eaton Centre, Ryerson University, and Dundas Square, all of which were established after the pub was built. As such, the crowd at the Imperial is a mixture of older patrons and young students. The pub has a back room that is used for concerts and other events (I went there several times a few years ago for board game nights, which they no longer seem to do — a pub blogger can have other interests other than visiting pubs). The upstairs features a library with leather sofas, foosball and there is a jukebox that has jazz music selections.

Number of visits by yours truly: ten or so, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2015
TTC information: just a two-minute walk east from Dundas Station
Booze selection: 60 beers with Thornby cider (they don’t have Pimm’s). The beer is served in old-fashioned mugs
Food selection: not for those on a diet, but pub food as it is meant to be
Service staff: friendly, but the kitchen was a little slow with our order
Prices: inexpensive
Toilets: clean, but cramped and very minimal
Patio: rooftop with a view of Dundas Square
Wheelchair accessible: the toilets are too small for a wheelchair
Televisions: a few
Live music: sometimes and comedy on Monday nights
Piped-in music: Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, “Big band stuff”

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The House on Parliament

House on Parliament Toronto

The House on Parliament (website, Twitter)
454 Parliament Street, Toronto ON M5A 2H6 (on the east side, between Doctor O Lane and Woodward Evans Lane, the nearest major intersection is Gerrard Street East and Parliament Street) 416-961-9425
Google Maps 

A slice of London in Cabbagetown.

If you are looking for a classy pub in Toronto’s Cabbagetown, then look no further than the House on Parliament. It has a variety of comfy seats, tin ceiling squares under glass as your tabletop, two patios, big portions, and lots of London-themed images, including a huge map of old London (I’m guessing early 18th century) and what appears to be a Churchill corner (no objections here). The pub is rather small and both times as we left the pub, there was a line-up for the table. I got the impression that the pub was popular with the locals as it seems that we were the only people who the servers did not know.

Unfortunately, the overwhelming memory of the House on Parliament pub is that it’s loud, however, it was busy both times we were there and we were in the lower part of the pub and as such we did not stay as long as we wanted. Perhaps a strategically placed rug or two might make things easier on the ears, but what do I know?

Number of visits by yours truly: my second, but not my last, on a weekend afternoon in May 2014
TTC information: a seven-minute ride eastbound from College Station on the Carlton streetcar or a six-minute ride southbound from Castle Frank Station on the Parliament bus
Booze selection: 20 beers, with lots of red and white wine, and Waupoos cider (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: big servings. The menu is online
Service staff: good, but it seems that a number of online reviews think that the servers could be more attentive
Prices: expensive, but large portions
Toilets: nice
Patio: on the street and upstairs at the back
Wheelchair accessible: nope as toilets are accessible only by stairs
Televisions: two with one over the bar
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: INXS/Modern English/XTC/”Jaan Pehechaan Ho” (that song from Gumnaam/Ghost World)

Rating: four and a 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)