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)

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) 

TorontoPubs’ TTC Loop Pub Crawl

TTC

Notes on this pub crawl: in honour of the fabled London Circle Line pub crawl, here’s a Toronto variation, TorontoPubs presents the TTC Loop Pub Crawl. I have selected the best pub in the TTC station area for a pub crawl, not necessary the one I would go to for the entire afternoon or evening. But what do I know? This is 14 stops, so a half-pint or sharing a pitcher with friends might be wiser than a full pint. Also keep in mind that the Museum Tavern is a bit snooty, but you’re stuck with what’s local. Finally, some pubs are closer to one another than actually walking back to the TTC station taking it one stop and then walking to the next pub, but that’s the charm of a TTC pub crawl — a bit of a breather. If you want to walk the route instead of taking the TTC, according to GoogleMaps, from the door of a pub to all 13 other pubs and then back to the starting pub takes just over two hours.

If you don’t agree with the pubs selected, click on the related TTC station below to get all pubs that are marked with that tag on this blog and choose your own!

Notes on pub crawls in general: consider at least 45 minutes per pub visit and let your server know that you having just one drink and then moving on into the fizzy night so she/he knows that you’ll need your bill quickly. Pay by cash so you aren’t waiting for the credit card/debit machine and tip generously as you may be back one day for longer than just one drink. Check the pub’s website/Twitter (links in TorontoPubs review of establishment) in case they have an event that night. Also keep in mind the day and time, Saturday nights with the FIFA World Cup’s final on is not the best night for said pub crawl, but it is one of the best times to be in a pub.

Updated: 2017.01.18 

Printable PDF of this TorontoPubs TTC Loop Pub Crawl with map.

Bloor-Yonge — The Artful Dodger (TorontoPubs review)
12 Isabella Street — Three blocks south of Bloor-Yonge Station, turn left on Isabella and the pub is on the north side

Wellesley — Mullins Irish Pub (TorontoPubs review)
1033 Bay Street — Two and a half blocks north of Wellesley, on the west side of Bay

College Pogue Mahone (TorontoPubs review)
777 Bay Street — The pub is actually on College between Yonge and Bay, on the south side

Dundas — The Imperial Pub (TorontoPubs review)
54 Dundas Street East — Two-minute walk east from Dundas Station, at the corner of Victoria

QueenThe Duke of Richmond (TorontoPubs review)
20 Queen Street West — On the east side, just west of Yonge Street, with the main entrance one block over on James Street

King — The Flatiron and Firkin (TorontoPubs review)
49 Wellington Street East — One block south and one block east of King Station, at the intersection of Wellington, Church, and Front 

Union — Scotland Yard (TorontoPubs review)
56 The Esplanade — Three short blocks east from Union Station and one block south

St. Andrew — The Town Crier (TorontoPubs review)
115 John Street — Three blocks west of St. Andrew Station, three and half blocks north of King East

Osgoode — The Friar (TorontoPubs review)
160 John Street — Three blocks west of Osgoode Station and just south of Queen East

St. Patrick — Village Idiot Pub (TorontoPubs review)
126 McCaul Street — Three blocks west of University at the corner of McCaul and Dundas West

Queen’s Park — The Prenup Pub (TorontoPubs review)
191 College Street — Four blocks west of Queen’s Park Station at the corner of Henry

Museum — Museum Tavern (TorontoPubs review)
208 Bloor Street West — One block north of Museum Station and half a block west of Avenue

St. George — The Duke of York Pub (TorontoPubs review)
39 Prince Arthur Avenue — One block north of St. George Station’s east exit and one building along Prince Arthur

Bay — Hemingway’s (TorontoPubs review)
142 Cumberland Street — Across the street from Bay Station’s east exit

Unfortunately, this pub crawl is not wheelchair accessible.

The Bishop and Belcher

The Bishop and Belcher (website)
175 Bloor Street East, Toronto ON M4W 3T5 (however, it is actually on the northeast corner of Church Street and Hayden Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Bloor Street East) 416-591-2352
Google Maps

Well, we’re movin’ on up, to the east side of Yonge. To a deluxe pub on Church.

I went to the Bishop and Belcher a number of times over the years when it was on Queen Street West. (I saw a mouse when I was last there.) I only noticed that the Bishop and Belcher had disappeared from Queen Street West in the last year or so. Apparently they moved in 2008 (four years ago as of this writing) and I only discovered that they’d moved, as opposed to closed, recently. When my better half and I were on the lookout for a new pub after a week off for good behaviour, I looked at AllTorontoPubs.com (this is a good site, but it casts too wide a net and its information is out of date) for a suggestion for Thanksgiving Saturday afternoon and came up with the Bishop and Belcher. We got off at Sherbourne station and walked west and then south. We ended up at Yonge without finding the pub. I suggested that we try again, so we went back and discovered that we had walked right by it, but didn’t notice it as we weren’t looking for it in an office building. The address doesn’t help matters either, as it’s listed as being on Bloor, when it clearly isn’t. Alas, this means that I can’t create a Google Map link as that’s what confused us in the first place. Anyway, the near tragedy was avoided and happier times ensued!

The walls of the Bishop and Belcher are covered in all things English, pictures of Queens Elizabeth one and two, old engravings, etc., along with convex mirrors, which I love. It has several private spots and annexes for its guests, as well as games and darts. It was very quiet while we were there, but it was Thanksgiving weekend, but I expect this pub does well during the week. I will be back!

Number of visits by yours truly: my first to this location of the pub on a weekend afternoon in October 2012
TTC information: a three-minute walk east and south from Bloor-Yonge Station
Booze selection: about 17 on tap, including Thornbury cider on tap (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: typical North American pub grub
Service staff: very good
Prices: decent prices, the $8.95 poutine is a two-person job
Toilets: not bad, lots for the ladies
Patio: south, probably not a lot of sun during the afternoon due to surrounding buildings
Wheelchair accessible: appears to be, but could be a tight squeeze. Not accessible from the attached office building
Televisions: five and all showing sports
Live music: nope
Piped-in music: Brit pop — the Sundays, the Police, Oasis, Pulp’s “Common People” (the censored version — sorry)

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

The Pilot Tavern

The Pilot Tavern (website)
22 Cumberland Street, Toronto ON M4W 1J5 (on the north side, between Yonge Street and Bay Street) 416-923-5716
Google Maps 

Great for a beer after a few hours of reading and research at the Toronto Reference Library. 

I’d never been to the Pilot Tavern before and I will probably go back as it’s centrally located at Yonge and Bloor, and, for those who are wealthier than me, it is also on the outskirts of Yorkville, in my opinion, as it’s east of Bay.

According to the menu, the Pilot Tavern was founded in 1944 and moved to its current location in 1972. As a testament to its longevity and popularity there are plaques on the bar for regulars. There is a variety of seating available, comfy leather benches at the back, tables and chairs at the front, stools at the bar and on an island. The choice is yours! On the afternoon I went there, the Pilot was very busy. The Pilot has art for sale on the walls and there is a party room upstairs that can apparently hold up to 130 people. I didn’t realise that there was a room at the back on the ground floor until I checked out the website, so you might want to keep that in mind if meeting up with friends.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not last, visit on a weekday afternoon in August 2011
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station, just one block north of Bloor
Booze selection: 30 beers (some available in both cans and draft), coolers, wines, Strongbow and Thornbury ciders (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: fancier end of pub grub (the menu is online) 
Service staff:
good, but waited a while for meal 
Prices: expensive, for example the fish and chips was $14.95 (but I didn’t see the size of the meal, so I don’t know if it was good value)
Toilets:
very clean (my grandmother would approve) and very shiny (all metal)
Patio:
street level at the front and upstairs on the roof, which has heaters and retractable awnings
Wheelchair accessible:
no
Televisions:
four over the bar and two in the back room
Live music:
live jazz on Saturday afternoons
Piped-in music:
jazz

Rating: four pints (out of five) 

The Duke of Gloucester

The Duke of Gloucester (website)
649A Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4Y 2A6 (on the east side, upstairs between Charles Street and Isabella Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Street and Bloor Street) 416-961-9704
Google Maps 

The pub to go for football (soccer) and other Anglo sporting pursuits.

As our regular pub for PubStumpers was repeating a season, we decided to check out the Duke of Gloucester. Most of our team didn’t come out that evening and I wonder if it’s because of the location I’d suggested. I’ve been to the Duke of Gloucester a number of times and, alas, it leaves something to be desired. You’d think that as it was on Yonge near Bloor, lots of regulars and ex-pats of every stripe, and a wide selection of drinks that it would be the place to go. However, it looks tired and very worn, the service is irregular, and it’s certainly not the place to go on a first date, unless you don’t want a second date.

My better half who had been to the pub a number of times still walked by it and had to call for directions (it’s just south of the Panasonic Theatre). The Duke of Gloucester pub has several good qualities, it has a snug that’s bookable for private parties (it fits about 20), and there’s a pool table, jukebox, and darts. But it’s a lads’ pub and, as such, this lass probably won’t be back soon.

Number of visits by yours truly: a half-dozen or so visits, most recently on a Thursday night in July 2011
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station, but also close to Wellesley
Booze selection: more that 40 beers, including Strongbow and Magners ciders. Yes, they have Pimm’s
Food selection: typical pub grub, a little unimaginative
Service staff: s-l-o-w. The PubStumpers quiz master’s meal arrived late, so he was eating between questions, which made it difficult to ask him to repeat questions. I gave up on my deep-fried Mars bar dessert at the end of the evening and our second waiter (I guess we straddled a shift change) forgot to charge us for my better half’s second beer
Prices: reasonable
Toilets: slightly whiffy, but caught my waitress being very clean when she was washing her hands
Patio: south facing and on the roof
Wheelchair accessible: no way, steep steps up to the pub and more importantly down to the street at the end of the evening
Televisions: one in main area, two in the back, apparently there’s one on the patio too, but I didn’t see it when I poked my head out there
Live music: 9:30 on Sundays
Piped-in music: lots of Mr. Bowie, not that I’m complaining

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

The Artful Dodger

The Artful Dodger (website)
12 Isabella Street, Toronto ON M4Y 1N1 (on the north side, between Yonge Street and Church Street, the nearest major intersection is Yonge Steet and Bloor Street) 416-964-9511 
Google Maps 

A hidden gem in the heart of Toronto. 

I was angry when I left The Artful Dodger. Angry at myself for not having visited this pub before as I thought it was wonderful. I’d heard of the The Artful Dodger pub before, but just never got around to visiting. It’s hidden away behind the House of Lords — where I considered going for my prom ‘do — and in my ramblings about Muddy York, I’d never stumbled across it.

The Artful Dodger has two sections on the main floor, both with a fireplace and lots of comfy seating. There were plants in the window, paintings, portraits of John of Gaunt and Henry Hotspur, and lots of mirrors. We happened to be sitting next to a chair labelled Sedes Virgilii or Virgil’s Seat as my Renaissance man of a husband instantly translated. To add to the ambiance, we also overheard a conversation about chess (as noted boozer Oliver Reed — and all-around bad boy, who also once played Bill Sikes — said, you meet a better class of person in pubs), as well as seeing patrons sitting alone, which is a sign of a good establishment in my eyes. Apparently, it also has an upstairs pub, but it was closed when we went. According to their website, there is a pool table up there and dart boards.

Number of visits by yours truly:
first time, on a Thursday evening in early July 2011
TTC information: Bloor-Yonge Station, but also close to Wellesley Station. If travelling from the east or west, there’s no point in transferring lines
Booze selection: 14 beers, including Strongbow cider, and lots of coolers (No Pimm’s)
Food selection: small selection, but they had Scotch eggs
Service staff: 
our waitress said she’d be with us before we’d even had a chance to sit and she was very attentive
Prices: cheap for the location
Toilets:
reasonable, but tight
Patio:
the one on the south is on the street and was very busy. The one on the north is enclosed and has a pool table
Wheelchair accessible:
nope
Televisions:
one in the east bar, don’t know about upstairs as it was closed
Live music:
nope
Piped-in music:
Dead Can Dance and Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours”

Rating: five pints (out of five)