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)

The Thirsty Duck

thirsty-duck-pub-toronto

The Thirsty Duck (website)
972 Queen Street East, Toronto ON M4M 1K1 (at the north-east corner of Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue) 416-463-2303
Google Maps

A welcome addition to Leslieville. 

I learned of The Thirsty Duck Pub a few months ago as I was speeding past it in a car. I noted down the intersection (I was a passenger) and made a mental note to return. I have been back to the pub twice so far and will likely return again. The pub has been around since the autumn of 2015 and is run by the same people who own Eastside Social, which is on the same block. The pub is apparently named after a Thirsty Duck Pub on the East Coast that the owners frequented.

The Thirsty Duck is one of the smaller pubs around, but it does have an effective layout with lots of booths and high-top tables (there are regular seats, but those are few and far between). Groups of five or more are going to have difficulty getting a spot together, however, the back room can be reserved, although it only seats about a dozen or so. The pub is decorated with paintings of Confederation and prints of long-dead monarchs on its exposed brick wall and is very dark. However, the atmosphere is great, so it comes recommended.

Note: They only accept cash or debit.

Number of visits by yours truly: twice so far and more to come, most recently on a Saturday afternoon in November 2016
TTC information: a 10-minute ride eastbound from Queen Station on the Queen streetcar or take the bus from Pape Station (the 72), which will drop you after a 18-minute ride at Carlaw and Queen
Booze selection: about 17 beers, along with Brickworks cider and a number of wines and whiskeys. Yes, they have Pimm’s 
Food selection: a limited selection with some East Coast treats, such as loosely rolled donairs (according to my better half, they are supposed to be tight). They do serve duck!
Service staff: very nice
Prices: decent
Toilets: a bit terrifying — the ladies’ toilet was whiffy; there were no locks on the doors, which meant that one of my dining companions had a visitor while she was down there; the ceilings were low; and the toilets were very cramped (yes, I know they can’t really help the latter two)
Patio: nope
Wheelchair accessible: nope as toilets downstairs
Televisions: four rather small ones
Live music: very likely not, they do have trivia on Tuesdays in the back room, known as the Green Room
Piped-in music: The Proclaimers, Black Crowes, Cat Stevens, The Cranberries, Echo and the Bunnymen

Rating: four and a half 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) 

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)

Firkin on Bloor

Firkin on Bloor Pub

Firkin on Bloor (website, Twitter
81 Bloor Street East, Toronto ON M4W 1A9 (on the south side, between Yonge Street and Church Street) 416-962-4228
Google Maps 

Location, location, location!

From the ashes of the Spotted Dick pub has arisen the phoenix that is the Firkin on Bloor. The Spotted Dick was run down, a little tired, a little ho-hum, but its location ensured that the nearby business crowd went there at lunchtime. The reason I kept going back for more at the Spotted Dick [insert joke here] was because it was easy to get to.

Alas, with such a prime location at Yonge and Bloor you’d think that the Firkin juggernaut might tone down its brand and not try so hard given that they can hardly lose. However, that just ain’t what the Firkin brand knows or understands. During the recent rebranding of Yonge and Bloor the mediocre Spotted Dick closed and the Firkin brand took over in May 2015, literally — the Spotted Dick was in the basement and shared the building with a restaurant, while the Firkin on Bloor is now on two floors with a rooftop patio to boot. The Firkin on Bloor is very loud and more like a dance club than a pub, it’s very large, apparently the largest Firkin in Canada, and full of Union Jacks and Cool Britannia decor. Tony Blair would be so proud!

As my dining companion said of the Firkin on Bloor, “the corporate rebranding [of the Firkin brand] has taken away everything that is distinctively English about an English pub and has replaced it with over-sized portraits of Winston Churchill and a bulldog, as if this will somehow compensate.”

Number of visits by yours truly: two visits, most recently on a weeknight in late November 2015
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station is just a two-minute walk at the most
Booze selection: they have 30-odd beers and Brickworks and Somersby ciders (yes, they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin selection
Service staff: good
Prices: Firkin prices
Toilets: cramped, too few for a pub of that size. My co-diner gave up on using the men’s as the wait was too long! Yes, you read that correctly
Patio: rooftop
Wheelchair accessible: nope
Televisions: tonnes! 
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Bee Gees

Rating: three pints and a half (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)

The Friar (A Firkin Pub)

Friar and Firkin Toronto


The Friar (A Firkin Pub)
(website)
160 John Street, Toronto ON M5V 2E5 (on the west side of John Street, just south of Queen Street West, the nearest major intersection is Queen Street West and University Avenue) 416-340-9459
Google Maps

The Firkin’s take on a Queen Street West pub.

Way back, when I was cool (or at least tried and sometimes succeeded) I sometimes hung out on Queen Street West in the late 1980s/early 1990s. I know I went to this watering hole for drinks over the years as it’s a good central spot and I seem to recall it was never too busy, however, when this one became a Firkin, I can’t recall. This Firkin is located across the way from the iconic 299 Queen Street West building where MuchMusic (“the nation’s music station” as I remember it) broadcasts and, now in my dotage, it’s important to me today that this pub is near a Michaels (at John and Richmond).

The Friar (and Firkin) is one of the smaller Toronto Firkins, possibly even smaller than the nearby Flatiron and Firkin and the Fox and Firkin (which for some reason I have never reviewed) on Eglinton. Despite being rebranded with the whole heartless Cool Britannia look in the last couple of years, the Friar (and Firkin) still has some of that nice dark warm pub feeling, which hasn’t been surgically removed. This is probably due to the fact that this Firkin is in the basement, so the darkness and tiny windows make this difficult, thank goodness. The pub offers a variety of seating — booths, benches, tables, etc. — but large groups will have trouble finding a spot without a reservation. This pub is quiet in comparison to other Firkins, which is ironic given its location.

Number of visits by yours truly: a dozen or so, most recently on a weekend evening in September 2015
TTC information: five-minute walk west from Osgoode Station, no point in waiting for the streetcar as it will probably be full!
Booze selection: more than a dozen, including Somersby, 501 Queen Street, and Brickworks ciders (they have Pimm’s)
Food selection: standard Firkin pub grub with lots of sandwiches and wraps
Service staff: good
Prices: decent
Toilets: not bad at all
Patio: small one on the street facing east
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: at least seven
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Selena Gomez and Blue Rodeo, together at last

Rating: four pints (out of five)