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) 

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 Quail (A Firkin Pub)

The Quail Toronto

The Quail (A Firkin Pub) (website, Twitter)
1055 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4W 2L2 (on the east side between Rowanwood Avenue and Roxborough Street East, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Alymer Avenue) 416-962-0782
Google Maps

A quiet pub suitable for a pint after the rigours of the day. 

I’ve been to the Quail (and Firkin, which it dropped a while ago) several times since I began this blog way back in January 2011, however, I could just never get worked up enough to do a TorontoPubs review. The pub review sheet for the Quail would be relegated to the bottom of the pile again and again until I felt that I couldn’t remember enough even with my notes to give a fair judgement of the place. So I would recycle the Quail review and dream of other pubs. I had someone ask me recently why I hadn’t reviewed the Quail as it’s pretty much in the heart of Toronto, so I thought I should try one last time, just for you, my dear reader. However, it’s taken me two months to write the review. I guess Firkin pubs are rather boring for this jaded reviewer. They’re too predictable and too corporate.

As a re-branded Firkin pub, the Quail has the Cool Britannia (that’s so 1997) style down pat with pseudo punk embellishments, Union Jacks galore, London Tube signs, and various things that scream “God Save the Queen!”. The Quail has a raised seating area at the back that can comfortably seat eight with a sofa and fancy chairs. There’s a pool table right at the back and a mixture of seating including stools with backs, which always worry me if I know I am going to be enjoying my company and booze that night. Large groups won’t have trouble getting seats together unless it’s prime pub time. I can see this pub being a popular summer one with its patio, but summer in Toronto is all too fleeting.

Number of visits by yours truly: my third or fourth visit, most recently on a weekday afternoon in May 2015
TTC information: just a block and a half north of Rosedale Station
Booze selection: about 20 beers or so, including Somersby apple and blackberry, and Brickworks cider (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: friendly
Prices: standard Firkin prices
Toilets: not bad
Patio: west-facing on Yonge
Wheelchair accessible: yes, except for the raised seating/pool table area at the back
Televisions: nine televisions
Live music: probably not given that it’s so open and part of a building
Piped-in music: James, The Who, The Cure, Oasis, Phil Collins

Rating: four pints (out of five)

The Wallace Gastropub

Wallace Toronto

The Wallace Gastropub (website, Twitter)
1954 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4S 1Z4 (on the west side, between Chaplin Crescent and Imperial Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Davisville Avenue) 416-489-3500
Google Maps 

Whatever the name, this is usually a good spot for a beer or two in Davisville.

Formerly the Twisted Kilt, which used to be the Bow and Arrow, the Wallace Gastropub has had several names over the years. We went to the Bow and Arrow a lot as they had sea salt and cracked pepper chicken wings, which were so good! However, we stopped going after a poor experience, then it became the Twisted Kilt, then the Tilted Kilt chain came to Canada and the pub was apparently offered a spot of cash to change its name (but not its telephone number), and thus the Wallace was born.

The seating is benches and movable chairs, most spots designed for couples or groups of four. Larger groups will be hard pressed to find seating without a reservation or good timing. If it’s the winter, you might not want to sit near the front door as the wind can whip in and chill you to the bone. However, you can sit near the fireplace in the raised area! The current décor is (fox) hunting scenes and other traditional pub paraphernalia. You can rent the upstairs room for private parties, which can comfortably fit 50 or so. I have rented this space several times over the years and it is a damn nice spot for you and 49 of your closest friends.

Number of visits by yours truly: forty or more visits, we used to live nearby and it was a nice walk home. Our most recent visit was on a Saturday night in August 2014
TTC information: just a minute walk or so north of Davisville Station
Booze selection: 20 or so beers, Waupoos cider and a number of wines (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: limited gastro selection with cloth napkins
Service staff: not bad
Prices: expensive
Toilets: not enough, only two downstairs in the ladies’ room. There was no soap in the ladies and “too much ice,” whatever that means, in the men’s (I can guess, but I prefer some mysteries to remain as to the male experience)
Patio: west-facing and very small
Wheelchair accessible: they have a step at the front and apparently a wooden ramp, but that’s not accessible if you are arriving by yourself and waiting for someone to let the pub know you want to come in
Televisions: several
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Beatles, Robert Plant, Queen

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

Bier Markt (King West)

Bier Markt King West

Bier Markt (King West) (website, Twitter)
600 King Street West, Toronto ON M5V 1M3 (on the corner of King Street West and Portland Street, the nearest major intersection is King Street West and Bathurst Avenue) 416-862-1175
Google Maps 

A great patio on King Street West with great beers. 

We ended up at here because WVRST was full due to June’s Cider Week and I needed some liquid refreshment — stat! So, fortunately, the Bier Markt just down the street fit the bill and an evening’s plans that seemed derailed was quickly set right. My partner in crime and I had been to the location several times before when it was the Amsterdam, but we hadn’t been to it since it became a Bier Markt. We sat on the patio, which I usually avoid, however, the weather was so nice, I risked a tan and agreed to a spot on the patio. We enjoyed a free beer sample and enjoyed the people and car watching.

The Bier Markt is very dark inside, in part because it is in a basement, like her sister pub on the Esplanade. Is this a branding attempt? Seating is varied downstairs with high top tables with backless stools and tables against a brick wall. All in all, a decent pub with lots of beer.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first on a weekday afternoon in June 2014
TTC information:
take the King streetcar west from King Station (seven- to ten-minute journey — according to a very optimistic TTC itinerary) or take Bathurst Streetcar south from Bathurst to King, which will take about 12 minutes and then walk east
Booze selection:
well over 100 beers from around the world, with a focus on Belgian beers. As always with a selection this large, be prepared for a back-up order as they might be out of your first choice. For those who are cider drinkers, they have Somersby, Blackthorn, Magners, two types of Rekorderligs and the nectar that is Crabbie’s (alas, no Pimm’s)
Food selection:
fancy end with oysters, risotto and beer can chicken soup 
Service staff:
good, however, this news story about the front-of-house female staff having to wear skimpy outfits might be something to keep in mind. Yes, they changed the policy, but they still had it and enforced it until people complained. I am not impressed with sexism with my booze  
Prices:
 expensive for the most part. However, it is cheaper for some beers
Toilets:
nice, watch for the hidden ledge on the way to the toilet, I can see people stumbling over that in the darkness
Patio:
west and one of the best in downtown, great for people watching
Wheelchair accessible:
no
Televisions:
three
Live music:
 DJ on Wednesdays/something on Thursdays/live rock on Fridays/something on Saturdays (alas their website is useless at explaining what is happening on Thursdays and Saturdays) 
Piped-in music:
modern

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Firkin On Yonge

Firkin on Yonge Toronto

The Firkin On Yonge (website, Twitter)
207 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M5B 2H1 (on the east side, between Queen Street and Shuter Street, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street and Yonge Street) 647-345-0455
Google Maps

Is this really a pub?

The Firkin On Yonge is the brightest pub I have ever been in! Blindingly white walls! They also don’t have cider. I don’t know if they are being ironic, but having a picture of stick-thin Twiggy on a place that serves food doesn’t really inspire confidence.

The Firkin On Yonge is a relatively new pub (it opened in the spring of 2012), but it has a built-in reputation as part of the Firkin pub chain — so too many televisions, limited menu, and regular beer selection — but there’s more to pubs than that! The pub is long and narrow (it has an exit on the alleyway near Massey Hall). Downstairs, they have a long bar and lots of booths and upstairs can be a private party room. Apparently, the place attracts a business crowd during the day, despite the fact that they are across the street from the Eaton Centre.

When asking my better half for his thoughts on the Firkin On Yonge, he said that he had nothing to add, it left no impression. Considering the location, you’d think they would at least try, but with substandard service, no cider, and no atmosphere, I really would go anywhere else but here.

Number of visits by yours truly: first and last visit on a Saturday afternoon in March 2013. Second pub of the day!
TTC information: just north of Queen Station
Booze selection: 24 beers, but no cider! (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: not good, our server was too busy and it appears we aren’t the only ones who have noticed the harried servers. When we got our change back from our bill, our server gave us back two dollars too much, when I politely pointed this out to her, all she said was “okay”
Prices: standard Firkin prices, not expensive, but not cheap
Toilets: downstairs and clean enough
Patio: 
tiny smoking patio on Yonge
Wheelchair accessible: 
yes, they even have an elevator
Televisions: 
lots and lots
Live music: 
apparently they do have live music, but I could see no promotion of it
Piped-in music: 
Muse, Depeche Mode, and Tom Petty

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

Fionn MacCool’s (Davisville)

Fionn MacCool's Davisville Toronto

Fionn MacCool’s (website)
1867 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4S 1X8 (on the east side of Yonge Street, between Balliol Street and Merton Street, the nearest major intersection is Davisville Avenue and Yonge Street) 416-484-1867
Google Maps 

A decent Irish pub in the heart of uptown Toronto. 

I saw this Fionn MacCool’s for the first time while waiting for the Yonge bus at Davisville station a few months ago and I thought that I should check it out, purely in the name of research. In terms of the big pub chains in Toronto, it goes like this — Pogue Mahone et al. at the top, then the Duke of York et al., then the various Fionn MacCool’s pubs, then the Firkin pubs, and the Fox and Fiddle pubs at the bottom, so an evening at a Fionn MacCool’s is not an evening wasted.

This is a rather small pub, and you’ll be hard pressed to find seating for a large group as most of the tables are high top ones with stools (not the most comfortable for long-term seating). However, there are proper tables at well. The walls are covered in pictures of great Irish men, like Oscar Wilde, images of Ireland, etc. 

There are four Fionn MacCool’s locations in Toronto: this one, Bloor Street East, Front Street West, and  The Esplanade, so make sure everyone knows which one you are suggesting for your Friday night booze-up.

Number of visits by yours truly: my first time to this branch of the chain, on a weekday evening in late February 2013
TTC information: just south of Davisville Station
Booze selection: a section of 44 beers, with four ciders at the moment — Alexander Keith’s Cider; Magners;  Rekorderlig Wild Berry; Früli (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: not that Irish given the theme of the place
Service staff: 
friendly, however, we did have to flag down the waitress for another customer  
Prices: slightly higher, but you are dining at a Fionn MacCool’s
Toilets: one for ladies, one for the gents, and one unisex for those who need accessible toilets
Patio: west-facing on Yonge Street, probably one of the sunniest late evening patios in the city as it’s across the road from the Davisville rail yards. I might have to confirm my suspicions in the summer
Wheelchair accessible: yup!
Televisions: four televisions
Live music: “sometimes”
Piped-in music: traditional Irish music, Cranberries, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Rating: four pints (out of five)