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Ontario's most authentic pubs

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Which pubs in Ontario are the real deal? That is, a pub which has a saloon, a snug, a counter, even a "beer engine", here in Ontario, that could totally pass for a pub in the UK or the Republic of Ireland. Of course, the best pubs also reflect the locality, and would bring a flavour of the area into it. But like Italian restaurants, the majority of places are ersatz-pubs.

I like Toronto's Duke of Gloucester, on Yonge Street, South of Bloor. It could use some spit and polish, but the ploughman's lunch is quite good, and it has the right feel.

Long gone is Guelph's Duke of Grafton, started by John Sleeman, of Sleeman's Brewery. They'd roast a bull once a year back in the day. And they had Younger's Tartan on draught.

Do you know of pubs which have the right space but lack the proper décor, food, atmosphere or beverages? Pubs that could be good but come up short? Which Canadian micro-brewery beer would work best in the pub?

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  1. Many of the places on this list would fit your criteria. At the very least, all of them have cask ale (which is the whole point of the list/website): http://casktoronto.wordpress.com/pubs...

    Keep an eye on this fledgling website which may prove to be a very useful resource: http://www.afreehouse.org/

    You might also find it useful to dig through past posts in the "Good Pub Reviews" section of the Bar Towel Forum: http://www.bartowel.com/board/

    1 Reply
    1. re: gregclow

      greg is totally on the ball with his suggestions for pubs.
      if you are interested in the beer scene in toronto you should hit up the bar towel (linked above) where many of us write reviews and discuss brews.

    2. The Crown and Lion in Brampton, at Mississauga road & Financial drive

      A great pub with about 10 different in-house made pies, and a menu will all the regulars like Bangers & Mash etc.

      Beautiful place

      1. In NOTL there's the Angel Inn which has a fab interior, it's originally from before the war of 1812 and has been beautifully preserved. But the beer sucks, they never clean their lines and the food is atrocious. But it's a good spot for a v&t!

        1. Of any of the "Irish" pubs in Toronto, the Dora Keogh (141 Danforth, just east of Broadview)is the closest to te real deal. It really does feel like it was imported board-by board from Ireland. Good selection of beer and whisky.

          http://www.allens.to/dora/

          The House on Parliament (456 Parliament St, south of Carlton St) has the look and feel and of an English pub, but has no snug. The food is excellent pub food, the specials are gastro-pubbish, and they do an excellent Sunday roast beef, but it gets very crowded at dinner almost every night. The beers tend to be the usual suspects (Guinness, Bass, Keith's, Waupoos Cider).

          http://www.torontolife.com/guide/bars...
          http://www.houseonparliament.com/

          These ones don't look English or Irish, but are very, very good:

          The Victory Cafe (581 Markham St, south of Bloor St W), has a very good selection of microbrews, and a very good burger.
          http://www.victorycafe.ca/

          The Harbord House (formerly Rowers), at 150 Harbord St. is a true free house, nothing but microbrews. I learnt to love Nickelbrook Organic Lager there (think Creemore, but not as sweet). The food is high-end pub grub. HUGE improvement over Rowers.
          http://www.harbordhouse.ca/

          The Rebel House (1068 Yonge St) has a good selection of microbrews, and very solid kitchen (never been disappointed). The atmosphere is very pubby in a more antiquey, Upper Canadian way.
          http://www.rebelhouse.ca/

          So, the above recs don't quite answer your OP ("come up short") but are examples of places that get it right. The one space that has never been properly used is the basement of the flatiron building at Church, Wellington, and Front. I think that it might be Firkin pub now (not certain), used to be Down Under.

          To answer which microbrewery would work best, Creemore is probably the best seller (just a guess), but I prefer Nickelbrook, Cameron's Auburn Ale or Cameron's Cream Ale.

          6 Replies
          1. re: hungry_pangolin

            Yes, the flatiron is called Flatiron and Firkin - yesterday, the server said most of their casks were out of service and they only offered 5 regular beers on tap (including a slightly off Guiness). (We only went to the Firkin because C'est What doesn't have a patio...)

            Glad to hear Harbord House is an improvement.

            Love the food and cozy atmo at House on Parliament.

            1. re: Food Tourist

              Unless there's been some strange and dramatic changes made recently, the Flatiron & Firkin doesn't serve cask ale at ANY time. Like all of the Firkin pubs, all they have is a bunch of typical boring keg draughts - Canadian, Coors Light, Rickards, etc. - with Creemore and Guinness being the best of the lot.

              1. re: gregclow

                I know, I was surprised the server used the word "cask".

                1. re: Food Tourist

                  Maybe they're told to say "cask" instead of "keg" to give the place an "authentic" feel. Not that anyone involved with a Firkin is likely to know the difference...

                  1. re: gregclow

                    Haha, yes, the only reason I ever get lured to that firkin is the nice patio. But then there's some sort of vent that spews greasetrap smells and kind of ruins the vibe. Usually if you're lucky the Guinness is passable, but I always get the feeling I'm the only guy ordering it as the most "exotic" offering on tap. BTW I suspect the waitress simply didn't know the difference between a cask and a keg.

            2. re: hungry_pangolin

              Glad to hear someone else thumbs-up the Harbord House, which I've been to 5-6 times now and have had good experiences (have you had the crab cakes yet?).

            3. The Cloak and Dagger, College just east of Bathurst, north side. Very nice Irish pub. Dark wood, booths, an upright piano, great music (dub, Tom Waits, who knows what), an intensely nice selection of local and imported beer and spirits and a sweet patio out back.

              1. The Winking Judge in Hamilton is the most authentic pub I've found in Ontario . . . They have a very unique selection of beers and and a few have to be "pulled" from actual casks old school style . . . Well worth the trip!! . . . and the cool thing is it's a block from the bus station so it's easy in and easy out!!

                http://www.winkingjudge.com/

                Check it out...

                SB

                1. I think the whole concept of looking for an authentic ontario pub and then using the english/irish pub as the paragon of pubness is disengenious. You're not looking for an ontario pub at all, you're looking for an english/irish pub in ontario.

                  As far as a bona fide Toronto local however, you would be hard pressed to find a place as eclectic, friendly, unpretentious and yet somehow classy as the Communist Daughter on Dundas and Ossington. It's everything I most like about Toronto rolled up into a local.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: funkfunkfunk

                    The Communist's Daughter is a saloon.

                  2. Has anyone been to the Merchant Ale House on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines?
                    http://www.merchantalehouse.ca/beer.php

                    They claim to have cask conditioned house brews.

                    1. Slante in Hamilton is an Irish pub that was imported piece-by-piece