Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Dec 13, 2007 06:36 AM


Hi there,

I will be coming to Toronto in February with 6-8 friends. We are looking for a good place to meet up on a Friday night with great food and quality beers. Something downtown.

Any suggestions for a good gastropub type place?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Scary Bill

      I would disagree with the assertion that The Biermarkt is a top option in the category of gastropubs. If you search the board for more opinions on The Biermarkt, you will see that many others share this view.

      The Beer Bistro, however, is a good option with a great beer selection and good food, though I have to say I find the mark up on those beers a touch high and that food quality has slipped a bit (but it was quite high to start with so it is still above average in comparison to other places).

      Bar Volo also has a great reputation, though I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting myself. The Mill Street Brew Pub is another.

      Other places to consider:
      - Arrowhead Pub
      - Hair of the Dog
      - Black Camel
      - House on Parliament
      - Smokeless Joe's
      - C'est What

      1. re: Juniper

        MIrabelle on Yonge used to be good, but haven't been in a while. They lost their chef to Veritas...

        Allen's isn't too far from downtown, and worth the trip.

        1. re: antifoodie

          I will second the Allen's suggestion.

          Wonderful food, and excellent beer and spirit selection.

          While it's not a Gastropub, Michelle's Brasserie in Yorkville has an extensive beer selection and is more along the lines of a French bistro. I wonder if they still have the absinthe beer...

          Allen's 143 Danforth Ave.

          Michelle's Brasserie 162 Cumberland Street

          1. re: Rudiger

            "more along the lines of a French bistro"

            Isn't Michelle's Brasserie... um... a brasserie, rather than a bistro?

          2. re: antifoodie

            I've been to Mirabelle a few times recently. Food's still very good, though seems pricey once you get past the nibblies.

          3. re: Juniper

            Though Hair of the Dog is one of my favourite places in the city, and their food is fabulous, I find that their beer selection isn't up to snuff. They have one or two interesting selections, but the rest are rather pedestrian. They excel at their cocktails.

            My recent favourite is Local 4. Great beer selection (mostly local microbrews) and really good food.

            What about

            Local 4
            4 Dundonald St, Toronto, ON M4Y1K2, CA

            1. re: Juniper

              Volo has an amazing beer selection and decent service. I find the food is hit or miss there, though. The pizza was quite inauthentic and doughy, the sandwiches weren't very good imo and there wasn't much traditional pub food to add depth to the menu.

              Smokeless Joe's is great but very small so I would definitely make a reservation if you're going on a Friday. The mussels here are particularly good.

              I have never eaten at C'est What--that I can remember (see comment on beer selection)--but the beer menu is extensive and relatively un-marked-up.

              Isn't Black Camel more of a sandwich spot than a full pub? Do they even have a liquor license?

              I'd add that Rebel House on Yonge north of Bloor (therefore not really downtown) has a very good pub menu.

              1. re: Carruthers

                Though I like Smokeless Joe's concept, I haven't had the best time there the last few times I've been. I think it's such a small space that it's mildly uncomfortable. Also, for a group larger than 4 or 5, you would likely have to be split up.

                I agree with Carruthers's comments regarding Volo. Great beer selection, and good service, but the food is a big miss in my opinion. The only item I've been pleased with there is their antipasto platter. But then, it's tough to mess that up.

                1. re: xtal

                  I don't know if it's a case of recognising their limitations, or just moving in a different direction, but Volo's food menu has changed quite a bit, with a strong emphasis now on antipasto, cheese and meat boards, and similar fare. They're still doing a few pizzas and pastas, and one or two entrees, but the snacks & sharing plates are what they're specialising in now.

                  1. re: gregclow

                    Thanks for the tip, Greg. This is a concept that appeals to me; both the shared cheese/meat/whatever selections and an establishment sticking to what it does best--in Volo's case the beer. I really like most of Volo's other attributes (location, service, beer, ambiance...) and will have to keep the slightly different food direction in mind the next time I'm there.

                    1. re: gregclow

                      Thanks for the info gregclow. I'll have to revisit Volo in the near future, as I do love the beer and atmosphere there.

                      1. re: gregclow

                        It sounds like Volo's following the latest trend towards cheese and charcuterie and away from big menus. I shuddered when I read about it in the Globe hoping all the time the wave wouldn't hit Toronto. Good for profit margin. Bad for customer choice.


                        1. re: Googs

                          I also read this article when it came out. I agree with you Googs, but I wonder if I would prefer poorly executed food (as Volo has had in the past), vs. well served charcuterie. As a consumer, I'd lean towards the latter.

                          1. re: Googs

                            How is the cheese and charcuterie trend "bad for customer choice" exactly?

                            Sure, the choice at the relatively small number of places that are likely to jump on the bandwagon will be smaller. But the vast majority of places that stick with more traditional starters & mains will still be there to serve you if you want a full meal.

                            Honestly, I think it offers MORE choice, at least when it comes to choosing destinations. If I'm going out with friends for a couple of drinks and a snack, I'm much happier doing so at a place that specialises in such things than at a full-service restaurant. Not only will they be more likely to do a better job with the food, but I don't have to feel like a cheapskate for not ordering a full meal.

                            1. re: gregclow

                              Let me begin by saying I enjoy Volo. Perhaps not the best food in town, but my friends & I have always had a good time there. Also, I agree that a specialist is better than a generalist.

                              I have snacked at such places in Italy. Sometimes waiting for the dinner hour after hours of walking can be a little taxing.

                              I think the Terroni Adelaide concept where this is one offering in one room amongst a multitude of choices is wise. The Volo concept sounds promising, but I've yet to try.

                              I fear what will happen with this trend in a city like Toronto. Being as profit driven rather than art driven as this city is, it could get completely out of control. We shall see.

                      2. re: Carruthers

                        I'll give a big 2nd to Rebel House. As close at it is to Bloor it's not really not downtown. Being a 2 minute walk from the Rosedale subway station makes it a great place to drink and not drive. Plus being ever so slightly removed from the core makes hailing a taxi competition free. Did I mention great food? Yes. Great pub food too.

                        Rebel House
                        1068 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4W2L4, CA

                        1. re: Googs

                          rebel house + poutine = 'nuff said

                      3. re: Juniper

                        If you really want to stay downtown, I'd say that Beer Bistro is a good option. If you want more of a cozy, neighbourhood pub feel, and with better food IMO, I'd opt for either Rebel House or Abbot on the Hill, a few blocks north. Either are easily accessible by subway or taxi from downtown.

                        Black Camel, whose downtown (Adelaide) location closed several months ago, is for sandwiches only - and great ones at that - but no liquor license.

                        1. re: Juniper

                          I'm surprised to hear negative comments are the rule about Biermarkt. I've always found the beer selection to be good, and each beer served as specified by the brewer.
                          The food is certainly more "gastro" than the other places you've mentioned as well.

                          Where is the Arrowhead Pub?

                          1. re: Scary Bill

                            Sorry, I've been traveling a lot lately so I think I'm starting to get place names all muddled up. No, the Black Camel in Toronto is not a pub and what I referred to as the Arrowhead Pub is actually the Bow and Arrow Pub. I think I need to stay put for a while. :)

                            1. re: Scary Bill

                              The beer selection at biermarkt is good, but the food is really mediocre. And I find it unbearably loud and too much of a pick up joint.

                        2. I would definitely avoid Biermarkt. C'est What has a great selection of beers, but the food is at best indifferent.

                          Another vote for The House on Parliament (though very busy on Fridays, so you might have to wait for a table, but worth it - I had a lovely grilled lamb loin with caramelised parsnip and mushroom risotto last night - $16.95). Their beer selection is good, but nothing unusual: Guinness, Bass, Red Leaf, Stella, etc. I also quite like The Rebel House. The food is good and well priced, but I think that they might edge out the competition in the beer selection, more toward microbrews.... So Rebel House should be your first stop, HoP your second.

                          1. Second Abbot on the Hill, or the Abbot, its northern location closer to Yonge and Lawrence. The food is pretty good.

                            I really want to like the Rebel House, because I like the atmosphere and the menu sounds great in concept, but the last 2 times I've been there at brunch, the food just didn't taste very good. One time the toast was charred the point where it should have been scraped or tossed.

                            I was pleasantly surprised at Allen's, given the fairly frequent bashing on this board.It was pretty tasty for pub food.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: phoenikia

                              the abbot on the hill is worth it for the lovely low lit atmosphere - we never feel out of place as a late-twenties couple who still enjoy stepping out for a "date" now and then...

                            2. after the absolutely atrocious service i have received from c'est what, i refuse to ever return nor send anyone there. threats do not sit well with me.

                              smokeless is far too small for that many people and biermarkt is more like meatmarkt. also, on countless occasions i've tried to order a beer from their vast menu to only be left with my fifth or sixth choice.

                              beerbistro is likely your best bet as the food at volo is nothing short of awful. i do however really like that they have a well picked out menu of wines for those who aren't beer inclined. avoid certain menu items as they play into the trendy side of things rather than quality.

                              you may want to open up your options a little more as i'm finding more toronto restaurants are understanding the value of a good beer. la palette is iffy on the service but the food is usually good and they have an unexpectedly long list of interesting beers that surprises most. citizen on the east end is a bit out of your destination area but they do have a short list of excellent and uncommon beers at a surprisingly reasonable price. i looooooove the food there and have written reports. the gnocchi is the no brainer choice for me that i just have to have.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                Hey, pinstripe, I'm curious....wha' ppend at C'est What? I've found the service OK - not stellar, but OK. Threats? Really? What transpired?

                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                  a large group of us tried to make a reso for a birthday, were refused but showed up anyway to an empty house. tried to put together a couple tables, were yelled at. tried to order from the bartender, were yelled at that we should order only from the waiter. the waiter wasn't around most of the time and when he was he treated us badly. a number of us were still trying to order from the bartender and would go cash and carry with him (inclusive of tip). some people opted to start a tab and when we left a super low tip via credit card... we were chased out of the bar with 3 members of the bar/management trapping several people on the staircase demanding that we give them at minimum a 15% tip and if we didn't they would charge it to the card anyway. threats were made to our physical safety when one person tried to get past to get out.

                                  some of my friends might have been drunk but i was pretty sober at this point, the confrontation we received was absolutely unnecessary and ridiculous. voices were raised on our end by one person (the frustrated birthday boy) but everyone else in the stairwell were just waiting for the management to give up berating us.

                                  the credit card had about $350 on it (it could have been more, this was a couple years ago) and we spent more in cash on top of that... yet we couldn't get the waiter to even bother taking our orders most of the night.