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 Two-Headed Dog

The Two-Headed Dog (website)
1469 Gerrard Street East, Toronto ON M4L 2A1 (on the south side, between Rhodes Avenue and Craven Road, the nearest major intersection is Gerrard Street East and Coxwell Avenue) 416-461-1798
Google Maps

A decent pub in Toronto’s Little India. 

In keeping with the recent reviews of pubs with animal-inspired names (Thirsty Fox PubCrown and Dragon, and The Thirsty Duck), I decided to head back to the Two-Headed Dog pub (which doesn’t use the hyphen in its title, but it should!), which I first visited last summer while on a walk. We stopped in the then newly opened pub for a pint and we discovered that they serve butter chicken poutine, which was very good. We said to ourselves that we would return when we had a bit more time. As we were in the neighbourhood again recently, I suggest to my favourite drinking companion that we check out the pub again, which we did.

The Two-Headed Dog has a mixture of seating, with lots of four-seater booths, chairs, and benches. The walls are covered with old photographs and engravings, and it is very light with the two up-and-over doors, although the back does not offer much of a view with a parking lot. There are a lot of televisions there, but because of the placements, it was difficult to look at the screens.  There is a downstairs with a pool table. This pub is owned by the same people who run the two Queen’s Head pubs, which I have yet to review.

Number of visits by yours truly: twice so far and more to come, most recently on a weekday evening in March 2017
TTC information: a seven-minute bus ride south of Coxwell Station
Booze selection: about 10 beers, along with Strongbow cider. (They don’t have Pimm’s.)
Food selection: standard pub grub, with a few nods to the neighbours with Indian-infused dishes, such as yummy butter chicken poutine
Service staff: very nice, but the kitchen seemed slow with our order. (A number of online reviewers have found fault with the service. We didn’t have a problem, but both times we were there, the pub was not busy.)
Prices: not bad
Toilets: decent
Patio: no, but there are up-and-over doors at the front and back of the pub
Wheelchair accessible: nope, as toilets downstairs and there are stairs in the pub to the upper back level
Televisions: eight, showing either sports or CP24
Live music: very likely not
Piped-in music: James Brown, Bob Dylan, Bee Gees, Tragically Hip (or the radio, which was very loud)

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

Thirsty Fox Pub

Thirsty Fox Pub (website)
1028 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto ON M6C 2C5 (on the north side, between Old Park Road and Hilltop Road, the nearest major intersection is Eglinton Avenue West and Allen Road) 647-347-7474
Google Maps

Forest Hill’s local dive.

The Thirsty Fox Pub is the only pub along Eglinton Avenue West between Bathurst Street and Dufferin Avenue and the nearest pub is a 20-minute walk east. Hence, its popularity is no shock as the pub is full of regulars (nearly all male) and does a steady business. The Thirsty Fox has been around for about seven years, but there are still traces of the Italian restaurant that was once there with the mural in the entrance and the painted baby blue walls. The Thirsty Fox also has turn of the 20th-century Art Nouveau French prints and assorted beer mirrors. The seating is a mixture of stools and chairs, with tables that can be dragged to accommodate groups.

The Thirsty Fox is not the type of place that you would take someone for a date. The tired atmosphere and dive-like quality will not reflect well on any possible noble intentions you might have. The reason that we keep going back to the pub is that it is the only nearby one to an elderly relative’s home and the food is decent. The non-private party room has a pool table, dart boards, and a big-screen television.

Number of visits by yours truly: a dozen or so, most recently on a weekday evening in February 2017
TTC information: a seven-minute walk west of Eglinton West Station, the nearest bus stop westbound is the one just before the station, so you are better off walking
Booze selection: 10 or so beers, no cider and no Pimm’s
Food selection: burgers, pizza and decent portions, there are nightly specials
Service staff: can be good, can be bad (most recently, we wait 10 minutes to place our order as our server was playing a game in the other room)
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: not the nicest
Patio: a thin one against the up-and-over door facing south
Wheelchair accessible: toilets downstairs, so no
Televisions: at least four including a big screen one and all showing sports
Live music: doubt it
Piped-in music: The Edge radio station

Rating: three (out of five)

Crown and Dragon

crown-and-dragon-toronto

Crown and Dragon (website, Twitter)
890 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4W 3P4 (on the west side, between Church Street and Frichot Avenue, the nearest intersection is Yonge Street and Davenport Road) 416-927-7976
Google Maps

Canadian Basement Gothic.

Crown and Dragon (they seem to dislike the definite article) has been on my radar for a number of years, but I’ve always kept on walking as it doesn’t really seem that inviting and given its location, it’s more the destination than a drop-in spot. (It’s also beside the prettiest facade in all of Toronto — the former Ridpath’s, the facade is being partially retained in the building’s next reincarnation.) The patio for (the) Crown and Dragon is cramped, the televisions all show sports, there is a faint leakage from the Yorkville crowd, it’s loud, and it’s a lads’ pub. That said, I did go back to Crown and Dragon and I will go there again if I happen to be thirsty and nearby.

There seemed to be a lot of regulars and a cacophony of cackling hags the first evening we went to (the) Crown and Dragon. There is a variety of seating in the pseudo basement-styled pub, with benches and movable tables, and high-top tables, and its dartboards, but it’s crowded or cramped depending on the time of day. However, Crown and Dragon’s claim towards “the art of pub” (again, missing the definite article) is a bit pompous for a place that isn’t that inviting and lacking a wide selection of drinks, more like the art of basement bar.

Number of visits by yours truly: two visits, most recently on a weekday afternoon in December 2016
TTC information: a four-minute walk north from Bloor-Yonge Station or a six-minute walk south of Rosedale
Booze selection: 11 beers including Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: this pub is known for its wings and lays claim to “Toronto’s Best Wings”. (We were not impressed with the wings, but we are in the minority.) These said wings are available in unusual flavors, such as Classic Coke, Foghorn Leghorn, Bloody Mary, and Killer Bee. They also have other pub classics on their menu
Service staff: a bit negligent
Prices: expensive
Toilets: clean, but cobwebs on the ceiling and a bit scary around the toilet near the floor. Apparently the men’s has the sports page pinned next to the urinal
Patio: rather small, east and on Yonge Street
Wheelchair accessible: no
Televisions: six, all showing sports
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Virgin Radio

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

Originals Ale House

Originals Ale House Toronto

Originals Ale House (website, Twitter)
1660 Bayview Avenue, Toronto ON M4G 3C2 (on the west side, between Hillsdale Avenue East and Manor Road East, the nearest major intersection is Bayview Avenue and Eglinton Avenue East) 416-481-0371
Google Maps

The spot for sports on Bayview.

I mount my soapbox. Is it Original’s (as per the receipt and the Facebook page) or Originals sans apostrophe (as per the pub sign and the website)? The present menu also has typos. I step down from soapbox.

So, I think I went to Originals (without the apostrophe) years ago before I started this blog. All I can recall is a moment of schadenfreude with someone who I vaguely know and ran into there. I also went there last autumn to meet with a friend whose son was at Sunnybrook Hospital for a long-scheduled operation. I felt under the circumstances that I should not do a review of the pub while we ate our meal as it was my job to distract and entertain her while she took a break.

Anyway, Originals has been around since the early 1980s and as such has regulars, however, we were there late on a Saturday afternoon and the pub was pretty empty. The pub is decorated with old advertisements hung on exposed brick walls and has a variety of seating. There’s an upstairs at Originals, along with dart boards and a pool table. It’s okay, but not outstanding.

Number of visits by yours truly: my third visit, I think, most recently on a weekend evening in May 2016
TTC information: take the Bayview bus north from Davisville Station (10 minutes) or take one of the eastbound buses from Eglinton Station (10 minutes), the pub is just a five-minute walk south from Eglinton
Booze selection: more than 30 beers, mostly craft brews, including Brickworks and Strongbow cider (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: burgers, sandwiches, pizza, along with brunch on the weekends
Service staff: good
Prices: decent
Toilets: reasonable
Patio: on the street facing east and rather small
Wheelchair accessible: nope as the toilets are downstairs
Televisions: 12 televisions!
Live music: usually on Thursdays and Saturdays (check the website for details)
Piped-in music: The Kinks, Supertramp, Frank Zappa, The Eagles

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)

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)