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) 

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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 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) 

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)

Local 1794

Local 1794 Toronto

Local 1794 (website, Twitter)
1794 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4C 1H8 (on the north side, between Woodington Avenue and Glebemount Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Coxwell Avenue and Danforth Avenue) 416-463-1794
Google Maps 

Proof that someone reads my blog and also knows that East Danforth needs more good pubs! 

Local 1794, apparently owned by the former proprietors of nearby Taps & Tales, opened earlier this year in January in an area that is now filling with pubs (Wren, Morgans, the Borough, and Sarah’s). I am personally delighted as this part of Toronto has been crying out for more pubs for a decade or more.

Local 1794 features a long wooden bar with seating for about 20 people and the booths have their own electrical outlets and Apple ports. There is also regular table seating and elevated bench and high top tables. The walls feature a suspended fireplace at the back and large old black-and-white pictures of Toronto. There is an area at the back of Local 1794 that can be reserved for larger groups.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last on a weekday afternoon in April 2015
TTC information: equidistant between Coxwell and Woodbine stations, a five-minute walk east from the former and a six-minute walk from the latter
Booze selection: more than 40 beers, with a focus on Ontario craft beers, as well as Magners and Strongbow cider (they have Pimm’s). They also have scotches and lots of wine
Food selection: gastropub with specials such as “lobster, shrimp, and spinach terrine with lobster bisque lemon beurre blanc sauce” and pizza from a wood-burning stove. The menu, which is online, is presented on a clipboard-like device using (Canadian) Robertson screws
Service staff: good and in fancy attire, our waiter made a beer suggestion a beer for our second round and made a good choice for us
Prices: not bad
Toilets: clean (no toilet paper in either stall and we arrived early enough that I knew the toilets hadn’t been checked before opening, our waiter did rush in with bog roll after I let him know — can’t let the sisterhood down)
Patio: south-facing and an up-and-over door for that yummy car exhaust flavour inside
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: two, one playing an old gangster movie from the 1930s
Live music: considering having at brunch
Piped-in music: modern

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

The Fox and Fiddle (St. Clair)

Fox and Fiddle Pub St Clair

The Fox and Fiddle (St. Clair) (website)
1085 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto ON M6E 1A8 (on the south side, between Northcliffe Boulevard and Lauder Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Dufferin Avenue and St. Clair Avenue West) 416-657-3691
Google Maps 

Why are Fox and Fiddle pubs so boring? 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not much of a fan of the Fox and Fiddle pub chain. The chain lacks charisma so much so that I even find it difficult to write a review about the various Fox and Fiddle pubs because there’s not a lot to say. The pubs are rather drab looking — with copious amounts of beer advertising, but clean enough — which is funny given the brand’s focus on the looks of their wait staff on their website and their menus.

Anyway, on with the review, this Fox and Fiddle pub has take-out and a regular clientele, booths of various sizes, a variety of seating, and a pool table. There are at least ten Fox and Fiddles in Toronto, and another dozen beyond, so make sure you know where you gathering.

Number of visits by yours truly: four or five visits to this location, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2015. (In case you are wondering why I’ve go back given that I’d rather go anywhere else, it’s because my beloved’s 93-year grandmother lives nearby and we met at the pub for dinner before heading over for cookies, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy!)
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: more than 30 beers with Strongbow and Somersby ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Fox and Fiddle menu
Service staff: not good (Update: 2015.04.28, was there last night and my glass was empty for long enough for me to change my mind from a beer to a ginger ale.)
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: not bad, but not enough for the size of the pub
Patio: south
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: at least nine, but not all were turned on  
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Lorde, The Raconteurs

Rating: three pints (out of five) 

The Wren

The Wren Pub Toronto

The Wren (website, Twitter)
1382 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4J 1M9 (on the north side, between Greenwood Avenue and Monarch Park, the nearest major intersection is Greenwood Avenue and Danforth Avenue) 647-748-1382
Google Maps 

Hope for the Danforth! 

Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that one of my greatest laments is that I live in an area devoid of pubs. However, I have hopes that this is changing as the Wren has opened. The Wren arrived earlier this summer (2013) and it was discovered by us one weekend on the way back from a visit to Sarah’s. With the opening of the Wren and Morgan’s on the Danforth, I feel that there is change in the air for my neighbourhood. We decided to go to the Wren the following evening and we were not disappointed.

The Wren looks more Western saloon than English pub, which certainly is not a mark against it. The Wren has a distressed brick wall with an original Coca-Cola advertisement (c. 1920s), tapestry woven pictures, wooden floors, and two long tables with benches that can each seat four, in addition to tables, booths, and a small snug at the back. The dining plates are mismatched, but that is no distraction from the food, which was very spicy, but good. One thing not in favour for the Wren is its policy of being child-friendly. Apparently they encourage snivelies! They will learn in time.

At this time, the Wren does not take reservations and they only take cash.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first, but not my last visit, on a weekday evening in August 2013
TTC information: Greenwood Station, mere metres on the Danforth from the station
Booze selection: 12 local craft beers, which changes now and then, including Thornbury cider (they do not have Pimm’s)
Food selection: a rather small selection of Tex-Mex, which was spicy for both my dining companion and myself
Service staff: quick!
Prices: not bad
Toilets: very nice
Patio: south-facing, but very small
Wheelchair accessible: yes!
Televisions: none (huzzah!)
Live music: nope!
Piped-in music: Mr. Bowie and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”

Rating: four and half pints (out of five)