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 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) 

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 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) 

Louis Cifer Brew Works

Louis Cifer Toronto

Louis Cifer Brew Works (website, Twitter)
417 Danforth Avenue, Toronto ON M4K 1P1 (on the south side, between Hampton Avenue and Logan Avenue, the nearest major intersection is Broadview and Danforth) 647-350-5087
Google Maps 

Pub of the Future. 

Louis Cifer Brew Works has a lot going for it — catchy homonym based on the devil, large location in the heart of Greektown (you can see the painted Corinthian columns on the building’s corners), beer-to-go service, open weekday afternoons unlike some of its competition, and decent food and beer. However, a mark against this pub is that it is owned by the same people as Stout Irish Pub. Stout was a disappointing pub, very disappointing, and you deserve better. Fortunately, Louis Cifer is better, then again, almost anywhere is better.

Louis Cifer opened recently, circa October 2014, and it still has that new pub smell, as well as a few opening hurdles to get over. It has an upstairs area, large vats behind a glass enclosure (which still may not actually be working as apparently this part of the launch hit a few bumps), tasting notes cards, and a modern ambiance compared to most traditional pubs, with its leather chairs, shining chrome, stark colours, and tin ceilings panels.

Number of visits by yours truly: first, but not my last, on a weekday afternoon in November 2014
TTC information: within stumbling distance of Chester Station
Booze selection: 24 beers including six of their own brews, which are apparently being brewed off site at several different locations, Pommies cider, as well as a number of wines, scotches, hoptails, flights of beer, etc. (no Pimm’s)
Food selection: gastropub and traditional pub dishes, I had the crispy pork belly rinds and I will have them again. The menu is online
Service staff: not bad, but a number of other online reviewers pointed out delays they experienced and poor service
Prices: expensive
Toilets: fancy with naughty toilet signs
Patio: up-and-over doors and they have a small narrow patio in the summer on the Danforth
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Televisions: four that I could see, one being a projector screen upstairs
Live music: likely not, the seating seemed pretty stationary
Piped-in music: Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones, Big Star

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)