HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Keg Or Tulip - which would you choose??

Want good steak at a reasonable price for a low key b'day dinner. I don't care about the atmosphere, wine list etc etc. Just want to get there in casual attire and enjoy a GREAT piece of steak done medium.

The two choices I have (by the people that are attending the b'day dinner) are the Keg and the Tulip ( I know, I know the Keg is a chain but its a fave of the b'day person).

I'm thinking Tulip.

What would you choose?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Neither is among my favourites. The Tulip is cheaper. The Keg is much nicer (especially the one on York St) and, in my opinion, their food is much better. If you want to linger and celebrate, the Tulip isn't the right kind of place. It's scarf the food and move on greasy spoon. If you are choosing between those two places alone, go to the Keg.

    21 Replies
    1. re: embee

      Just my opinion, but I suggest the Keg Mansion. The food is usually a step up from the regular keg restaurants and a big step up from the tulip. And the ambience is perfect. Casual but a little more sophisticated. It can get a bit busy but the bar is great and you won't mind a little wait.

      1. re: tellerium

        Never having been to the Tulip, I can't compare, but I do love the Keg Mansion and always find it delightfully satisfying. The service has always been entirely nonpretentious and incredibly attentive in my six or so visits there, and the food - provided you stick with prime rib or steaks - very good. Get an extra order of their brilliant fried onions.

        1. re: tellerium

          I don't disagree with the suggestion, but I've arrived with a group of 6 at 5pm on a Saturday and told 2 hour wait, which I think is pretty common there. Other locations of The Keg should be faster.

          1. re: julesrules

            When I was still studying at Ryerson, I use to wait at The Keg. It is corporate policy to make people wait for the sake of spacing out the service so the kitchen can manage and most of all simulate a wait to give the illusion the restaurant is busy even with visible emptied tables. I find their steak tasteless. At the same time Tulip reminds me a an old time diner dump. Consider trying Canyon Creek Chop House, owned by Servcorp (Jack Astors, Alice Fazooli people), pricing is competitive, cleaner, and out to take market share away from The Keg.

        2. re: embee

          The Tulip is cheaper than the Keg, and better quality? I seriously need to check this place out, then, on the rare instance that I require a massive beef fix. Whereabouts is it? What kind of price bracket are entrees? I'm tremendously excited now, especially given the positivity I've heard about the Tulip. I just assumed that it was likely out of my student price range.

          1. re: vorpal

            A bit of caution....don't get too excited. Go with an open mind. Do not go with the expectation of being blown away by an amazing steak!

            Some love it, Some hate it.

            1. re: deelicious

              I adore cooking, but my focus in study and experimentation is limited to SE Asian cuisine; in light of this, I have a virtual inability to make anything other than a mediocre to decent steak, so when it comes to large cuts of beef, my expectations aren't incredibly high. I'm sure that if their prices are reasonable, I'll be quite pleased!

            2. re: vorpal

              The Tulip is on Queen at Coxwell. I would't say the food is better quality then the Keg, but I've had some pretty crappy meals at the Keg in the past so who knows. Not to mention service (at the Keg) ranging from great/friendly to downright awful.

              Anyways, I don't think I'd refer to anything at the Tulip as an 'entree' (heh), think diner/greasy spoon with service/decor to match. Steaks start at around $20 up to $30+ or so for a 24oz porterhouse (including a side). If you're just there for a burger or something two can eat for $20 or less no probs... would definitely fit into a student budget. Their menu is huge ranging from all day breakfast, burgers, sandwichs, steaks, etc etc. We normally stick with their burgers (homemade and very beefy), steaks, or breakfast... ie. steak and eggs.

              1. re: Vise

                Oh! That's brilliant. It's just around the corner for me. I'm going to have to try it out, just for the sake of having something new and recommended. I'll post a review if I go. I'd welcome even a great burger that wasn't Harvey's after DD and the Burger Shoppe, frankly.

                I've never understood steak for breakfast. I've never had it, but the thought frightens me! How can one stomach that? Does it work without making you feel loggy and overbeefed for the day? I love pork with my brekkies given the option, but I find it easier to digest on the whole, and already a challenge for the AM.

                1. re: vorpal

                  Trust me, once you've had a good steak & eggs, you are hooked. It is a hearty meal, but, if you are going to be out and about during the day (think holiday shopping) it's a great way to fill your tummy for hours. And it's delicious, really, I promise! :o)

                  1. re: vorpal

                    The day should go something like this, Vorpal: The Keg to acquire your hangover. The Tulip the next morning (afternoon) to cure it.

                  2. re: Vise

                    Steaks at the Tulip start at $20 or so? The prices have risen since the last time I was there. I think I paid $12 or so for a small steak, and earlier before they moved to larger quarters along Queen St. it used to be $9.95. As for the atmosphere, it's OK with me. I seem to prefer casual so-called "greasy spoons" to more upscale places. Not too fond of the lineups though when it gets busy.

                    1. re: Bob Catt

                      yah I was just there a coupel nights ago and paid I think like 12 or 13 for a small steak which was I think liek 10 or 12 oz but called a small steak?
                      the bigger 16 oz steaks are more money..
                      but some things are SO cheap.. four four dinners, 3 salads, 2 pops and 3 beers it was only 70$!!! But I MUCH prefer the Keg .. but I cant do an accurate steak comparison because I only ever get the prime rib at the keg.. but for the price the Tulips steak was excellent.

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        You're right. I found the menu on the web and it lists a 12-oz. sirloin for just $14.95. That may be the small steak you mention, and the one I remember.


                        1. re: Bob Catt

                          oh yes I suppose I was a little low, but yah 15$ and I dont think 12 oz is "small" so it really is incredible value if you are on a budget. However, for TOchowgirl, I would not compare tulip to the Keg, if you have the money to go to the keg (and you shoudl go to the Keg manion if you have a choice), GO TO THE KEG! For a cheap dinner any night of the week totally check out the tulip because its cheap and actually pretty good for what your paying.

                      2. re: Bob Catt

                        The Tulip is great and I agree with Bob Catt...the greasy spoon, I prefer to call it 'homey' is a thriving example of what a neighbourhood 'resto' should be and is...the fact that there are usually long lineups attests to something more than 'cheap'! BTW, go earlier than 6:30 - 8:00...we often get there at around 6 p.m. and generally don't have to wait and that's with either 2 people or 5 people (4 adults and a highchair!!)

                        1. re: pearlD

                          Nothing wrong with the Tulip. But how can you call the steaks AMAZING?

                          1. re: deelicious

                            Did I say 'amazing'? I don't think so....pretty damn good will do...

                            1. re: pearlD

                              Sorry. I really shouldn't have responded directly to your post. My bad!

                              It was really in response to those that do say it is amazing.

                              I have a friend that went based on this site and their expectations were set so high, even The Keg may have not met them. So I am just warning people. You get what you pay for!

                      3. re: vorpal

                        Cheaper? Yes. Better quality? No, the Keg is much higher quality than the Tulip. Tulip is a good greasy spoon, while Keg is a mid-market steakhouse. Keg is formulaic, but it's MUCH better than the Tulip.

                    2. Have never thought much of the steak at The Tulip. The Keg's a step up, in my opinion.

                      1. Totally different places in terms of atmosphere but either would probably suit your needs. Not a huge fan of the chain atmosphere of The Keg but you can't go wrong with their prime rib. Their steaks are ok and can be quite good depending on what you order/which location.

                        I personally love the Tulip, its the epitome of a greasy spoon with better then average food. Love the atmosphere too, always found it to be a laidback and very casual place. If you order the tenderloin (medium rare) its a tasty/tender piece of meat, definitely priced right too. Plus you can't beat the $2.75 draft Canadian. :-)

                        If you're interested in something different/fun give The Tulip a shot. Depending on the person I could see The Tulip being a fun time for a casual b-day dinner.

                        1. I have to agree with the others about the Tulip...never have been impressed with their steaks.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jdavies

                            Hey, I'm not saying its the best steak in the city... not even close. I've just yet to find anything better (steakwise) for the price unless there is some magical greasy spoon/steakhouse I've yet to try. Hopefully its in the east end too.

                          2. Personally I can't imagine comparing these two restos. The Keg is by no means special, but it sure is a LOT better than the Tulip.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: deelicious

                              The Keg is better for a good steak and atmosphere.
                              If you want a good cheap steak, the Tulip.
                              You see?
                              It all depends on what you are looking for.

                              1. re: Poorboy

                                Precisely. But it is important that people know that going in!

                              1. I have never understood all the hype about theTulip and their steaks! I have gone there and I was certainly not impressed. If you want anything other than a mediocre piece of meat with 2 scoops of mashed potato (instant when I was there), any extras add up! We had fried mushrooms and grilled onions,to add some flavor, and suddenly it's not really cheap. Plus, it really is mediocre food. They do a decent breakfast and are really popular in the morning. I haven't found a reasonable place for steak, in fact, I usually have to resort to cooking it my self!!! Some friends in the resto. business keep telling me to try Triple Crown on Lawrence for their steaks, but I haven't gone there yet, I guess I'll have to try that soon.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Leslieville

                                  To each their own I suppose, I've never had a problem with the food (or the steak) there and think it is a great neighbourhood spot. I've taken many people there over the years and everyone loves it, especially my parents/the inlaws. If you take it for what it is (unpretentious, simple, and generally inexpensive diner food) then not sure how someone could be disappointed with the Tulip. It can get pricey if you go for the full on steak dinner but there are many other choices on the menu. I'd much rather go there than pay $8 for bacon & eggs at Edward Levesque and receive the usual horrible/uninterested service.

                                  1. re: Vise

                                    We used to go to the Tulip for an occasional breakfast but the one time we went there for dinner, I ordered the steak medium/rare and I got it cooked beyong well-done! Plus, I just couldn't get into the sides. The vegetables were overcooked and soggy, and the mashed potato tasted to me like it was from instant dried potato flakes. On the other hand, we were just at ELK for brunch yesterday and the service was fantastic! My daughter didn't know the waffles would come with a blueberry sauce and the server immediately took the plate and ordered her plain waffles. And I always say hello and goodbye to Edward whenever we go there and he's been pleasant to me on every occasion.

                                    1. re: sierramum

                                      That would be my exact review of the tupil except I would have added how tasteless the steak is too.

                                2. I've been to the Tulip (I would characterize it as a dive) and while I enjoyed it especially for the price, I would recommend the Keg over the Tulip. The last time I was there (the one on Church and Front) I was really impressed with the steak. However, the Keg seems to have caught up to other places in terms of price so don't go expecting a really cheap meal.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Aardvark

                                    Big difference: The Keg char-broils their steaks, the Tulip fries theirs greasy spoon-style on a griddle. That's also why the Tulip's steaks are so thin and often cooked more than requested. Check out G-Danz on St Clair — the owner/chef is a former Tulip cook and they have an amazing $10.95 10-ounce steak dinner with dessert and coffee. It's a steal! Nice people, too.

                                    1. re: Herb

                                      I've never had a problem with the Tulip's steaks. The dish always comes to me medium rare. Personally, I prefer The Tulip to The Keg any day of the week. The Keg is rather generic... and besides, people watching at The Tulip is way to fun. Last time I was there, I saw a Canadian Idol judge with his pneumatically inflated wife. At the next table, there was a group of bikers. Can't beat that entertainment and a decent steak to boot!

                                      1. re: Lotus Seedling

                                        Lotus Seedling wrote:
                                        "...people watching at The Tulip is way to fun. Last time I was there, I saw a Canadian Idol judge with his pneumatically inflated wife."

                                        One problem at The Tulip or any other eatery in or near the Beaches is the danger of spearing one's hand with one's fork while simultaneously eating and rubbernecking.

                                      2. re: Herb

                                        Herb, I love the Keg but I just wanted to point out to you that they don't char-broil their steaks. In fact, very few places do so anymore. They use this hi-tech radiant grill that broils from above at the same time. You steak is being cooked at 1200-1400 degrees, in effect. That is why they are so juicy and tasty, it's the quick cooking time that doesn't dry out the less fatty cuts of meat.

                                        1. re: bogie

                                          Hi, bogie - not sure what Keg you're talking about, but of the ones that I know personally (Dixon Road, Mansion and the Church Street) none of them use what you are describing. All three locations use a traditional grill over very hot heat.

                                          1. re: DAB

                                            This is what I have seen in Keg kitchens, unless they are using the more traditional method now:



                                        2. re: Herb

                                          Years ago I saw the Tulip on some TV show (probably the Rogers dining out programme) and I was horrified to watch the chef laying about half an inch of butter all over the steak before it went on the griddle. I guess even a hockey puck would taste great with enough butter!

                                          1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                                            Amen to that. I love to top my steak with a little pat of butter after it comes off the grill.

                                      3. If those two are your only options, for a b-day dinner I would go with the Keg. It's simply a more celebratory atmosphere. For a better value meal, I would personally go with Tulip - but take a pass on the steak and order the club sandwich.

                                        1. Funny i come across this thread, i was talking to my friend a few days ago about this subject. He is a waiter at The Tulip and he mentioned how the owner keeps talking about possibly turning the restaurant into a more upscale place like The Keg.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: sleepy

                                            that would be horrible! Tulip is a terrific example of what it is - as a neighborhood diner, it's the best in the city. If it went more upscale, it'd ruin the downhome vibe.

                                            1. re: sleepy

                                              How to destroy a successful business!

                                            2. Keg if you must... But why? The is Tulip NOT a steak house by any stretch. It’s a great diner, period. If it's a special night out spent the extra $10 to $15 per person and go to one of Toronto's fine owner operated steak houses.

                                              1. I have a secret!
                                                I go to the Keg on York Street - it's head and shoulders above the others in the chain. Only caution is that it's a favourite watering-hole for Bay Street grazers after work, so is crowded and noisy if you go early evening.
                                                On a Sunday it's relatively deserted so that's a recommended time.
                                                The servers at that location seem more professional than at the Keg mansion (for example). And their wine markups are fair.
                                                The Tulip is indeed an upscale diner and didn't use to take reservations. The meat portion is large and not bad. The accompaniments are inedible.
                                                For a birthday, definitely the Keg!

                                                1. I had posted previously about The Tulip but have enjoyed reading all of the opinions...now I have a question... I have been away for four months and since I've returned have been hearing about another place to eat steak..."G-Danz (?)
                                                  Opinions anyone?....It sure is a lot closer for me than going to either The Keg or The Tulip.....

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: pearlD

                                                    While I haven't tried D-Ganz, I have had the chef's food before (most notably at The Purple Onion), and it is fantastic, and a bargain to boot. Here's the review from NOW Magazine:

                                                    "Lei left the Onion seven months ago and, with the assistance of his wife Vicki, launched D-Ganz on St. Clair's Latino strip. It's an odd little spot, only 24 seats and straight out of the early 90s with its pressed copper bar, light fixtures made from plumbing pipe and a glass garage door doubling as a front window that opens to a curbside patio once the weather climbs into double digits. In short: Ferro on the cheap.

                                                    But compared to Lei's previous gigs, D-Ganz is downright swanky. The other big difference between then and now is that, unlike the cooks at Tulip and Purple Onion who fry their steaks on a griddle, Lei grills his budget-minded beef on a char-broiler.

                                                    And instead of huge half-inch-thick slabs of meat, Lei's cuts, which may appear smaller though they're the same weight, are three times thicker, allowing him to grill them to order rather than fry them till cooked.

                                                    So, the joint's a bit dated and the guy can cook a steak. Who can't? But learn that Lei sells an expertly executed 10-ounce AAA sirloin dinner including dessert and coffee for all of $10.95 and join the slavering queue.

                                                    We have the room to ourselves this wintery Tuesday night and, not having noticed the rather large banner hanging across the restaurant's front advertising the steak special, we order from the regular menu instead: a 12-ounce Turf á la Fungi strip loin ($17.95), the double pork chop ($13.95) and a 10-ounce sirloin ($12.95).

                                                    Right off the top, our neighbourly server points out that the pork chops are on special tonight ($9.95) and that the sirloin comes as part of the opening meal deal. No arguments here!

                                                    As expected, the Turf comes topped with button mushrooms, the strip loin smoky from the grill, its seared outer flesh giving way to a rare red centre. The sirloin's even tastier and just as juicy. Both get sided with a generous scoop of perfectly lumpy old-school mashed potatoes (no chi-chi truffled mash these), a grilled slice of Italian eggplant and half a charred red pepper. Garlic bread, too.

                                                    The pork chops are another story. I'm dreaming of sinking my teeth into a substantial hunk of pig only to find two thin slices of pork cut across the bone.

                                                    Equally disappointing, the Greek salad I've upgraded to replace the spuds 'n' veggies for an extra loonie is a sad mix of refrigerator iceberg, unripe pink tomato and canned black olives, all lightly dressed with bland cubed feta.

                                                    Regardless, we're stuffed and we've forgotten that the $10.95 sirloin includes dessert and coffee. And while the java's simply okay, the brought-in apple crumble is far better than it should be at these prices, nicely warmed in an oven as opposed to nuked in the microwave and big enough for the three of us to polish off.

                                                    Hell, we'd be happy with a day-old doughnut at this point. Then they had to go and ruin everything by slipping the Gipsy Kings onto the CD player.

                                                    But not even the Bamboleo bellowers can stop us from checking out D-Ganz's weekend brunch. Knowing we're in for a lot of artery-clogging grub, we sensibly start with a small Caesar salad ($3.95). Far from authentic no anchovies in this baby it's still a superior take, an avalanche of lettuce mixed with real bacon, garlic croutons and freshly shaved Parmesan in a mild, creamy dressing.

                                                    Since the $10.95 sirloin special is only available after 4, we opt for the 10-ounce and eggs ($14.95). The same great steak, it's a bit of a letdown and obviously more expensive.

                                                    The D-Ganz Breakfast two eggs any style, peameal, plain grilled potato and a very eggy slice of French toast seems a fairly standard greasy spoon fry-up. It's no Jim's Best Western, but the house version of the pepper and onion omelette (both $7.95 with coffee) is a dead ringer for those served at the Tulip and the Onion.

                                                    D-Ganz might not be the most sophisticated restaurant in town. Only two wines are available by the glass red and white ($5.50) and the dated decor's kitsch. But when a skilfully grilled 10-ounce sirloin with all the trimmings, including decent dessert, goes for $10.95, who cares if the server sports a ponytail?

                                                    Bamboleo, indeed!

                                                    Steak stakeout
                                                    On a related note, the Purple Onion's Sunny Sun informs NOW that although his atmospheric luncheonette on Keele closed for good last Sunday, the Onion will rise again in suitable diner digs on Dundas west of Keele in the Junction in the next few weeks."


                                                  2. Why not throw Canyon Creek in the mix? I tried the new one by Scarborough Town Centre and was very impressed.

                                                    1. Went to Tulip for the bday dinner. I had a cold unfortunately and couldn't taste the steak but the guys loved it and polished their plate and said it was very good. They liked it better than the Keg.

                                                      1. for a bday, i would recommend the keg on york but I'd take the Tulip for the spaghetti & meat sauce alone. Go on a wkend and get their roasted lamb shoulder.

                                                        plus i feel so butch for eating w/ the hell's angels

                                                        1. Perhaps this makes me less than a true chowhound, but I love the Keg. It is the only chain restaurant that I frequent and not even that often. They have a great combination of service, food quality, consistency, cleanliness and value. This makes them a winner in the difficult and competitive restaurant biz.

                                                          I love the "Keg Classic" dinners, for $22-25 you get choice of salad & a good sized main course with potato, veg and sauteed mushrooms.

                                                          I also appreciate that they can cook your steak precisely. I like mine medium rare and "Chicago", which means quite charred on the outside. They haven't cooked a steak of mine improperly yet!

                                                          My only exception to this is that I will never return to the Keg Mansion where they treat you like cattle. First, they seat you at the bar in a ploy to inflate your bill and then you have 1-2 hours wait for your table. Also, One Saturday night not too long ago, 2 of us arrived promptly at opening to secure a table of 6 for my father-in-law's birthday party. Can you believe that they refused to seat us because our party was not complete? So, in 20 minutes we had all arrived and got herded into the bar for a 1 hour wait for our table. Never again.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: bogie

                                                            I dont know ... my experience with the Keg wasnt a good one.. they didnt cook my steak to how I ordered it, and it came out all tough! Medium rare, .. and it was just pink inside, and the outside was really, really tough. They must have cranked up the heat too much and tried to control it but failed or something.

                                                            If it werent for a birthday celebration, or any type of special event, I would definitely give Tulip a try. At least after a try, I could finally chime in to say whether I like Tulip or not!

                                                          2. I know this is an old thread, but I had my first "Tulip" experience last night (just before watching the Leafs (!) shut out my beloved Senators).

                                                            I had a small "Greek" salad to start. It was tasty, loads of garlic in the dressing. My main was the "Club Cut" 14 oz. tenderloin. I don't usually order tenderloin (I'm a bone-in rib guy), but the steak was really good. The meat itself was advertised as AAA, and I'm sure it was, and it was cooked perfectly, with much more flavour that most tenderloin that I have had. Mrs. G. had the peppercorn NY Strip, and enjoyed it very much. It was cooked a perfect medium, as asked

                                                            I stuck to beer; the wine list was predictably rotten. People watching was outstanding: from the unnoticeably average, to the just-rolled-out-of-bed-at-six-o'clock, to the frankly bizarre.

                                                            Yes, it's a dive.

                                                            Our bill for two, including generous tip, was a hair under $100. Considering that our other option under discussion had been Harbour 60, where breathing the air might have cost as much, I was pretty happy. If I want to have a mind-blowing steak I'll buy a Canada Prime rib steak, season it simply, and cook it at home. If I want a really good steak and a streetcar ride door-to-door from the hotel downtown, the Tulip is the place to go.

                                                            1. +

                                                              1610 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4L1G2, CA

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: JamieK


                                                                815 St Clair Ave W, Toronto, ON M6C1B9, CA

                                                              2. Tulip has a great peppercorn steak. Keg, if done right (York Street does it well), has a great Chicago Baseball. Either is good.

                                                                1. Unimpressed with Tulip. Pick the Keg.

                                                                  1. I would definitely pick the Tulip over The Keg ...IMHO you pay more for the atmosphere at The Keg than you do the food. . . I have been to The Keg a few times with a group from work but was dissappointed each time . . . My steaks were not seasoned at all and my vegetables vere overcooked... and lets face it the baked potato is just standard. . . . on the otherhand I have always had a decent (no ..I did not say great or amazing) steak at the Tulip and my other meals have been tasty as well...for everyone that mentioned that the sides ate terrible at Tulip....you are getting the wrong sides!!....don't get the mashed potatoes (they are not great) ...always get the homefries!! . . . They are actually quite good! . . . and never get the vegetable they are horrible!!...make sure you get the coleslaw(it's always cold and very fresh)

                                                                    and as far as service goes...I have not been impressed with the servers at the keg as most are just going through the motions . . . I have also not been impressed with the service with the Tulip either but they seem more genuine in my opinion... and at almost half the price I'm not expecting outstanding service.

                                                                    Now, don't get me wrong...I actually don't mind going to the keg to have some cocktails in their lounge (@ the one on Jarvis) it has a great atmosphere and is a great place to hangout with some friends...It's just I find for the money I prefer to eat somewhere else... But again that's me!!