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Cheap and Dirty: Thrifty Dive Bars of the GTA

doubledust Feb 10, 2010 02:00 PM

Hey all. I like drinking beer in seedy spots, and places full of history or character. I also want to make a documentary on the seediest, and most interesting bars in Southern Ontario. If anyone can let me know what spots they would recommend... I'll have a blast scouting out the scenes.

Anything from historic hotels, to real dumps. Let me know folks!

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  1. grandgourmand RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 02:13 PM

    Akia on the corner of Broadview and Simpson. (just north of Gerrard).

    Don't know of any historical value. But it's certainly interesting. On a good night you can see some real professional drunks kick it on the karaoke machine.

    you're going to get a lot of response on this, I imagine. There are a tonne of seedy dive bars in Toronto.

    3 Replies
    1. re: grandgourmand
      jollyinebriate RE: grandgourmand Feb 11, 2010 11:31 AM

      Karaoke machine's gone. It has a new owner (fourth one in five years!) but it's generally pretty quiet now.

      1. re: grandgourmand
        Kooper RE: grandgourmand Nov 25, 2010 07:38 AM

        In East York the one to go to is the Linsmore Tavern at the corner of Linsmore and Danforth. It is both a historic hotel and a real dump. Well worth the visit for the 1$ drafts. Yes it is draft not beer.

        Sadly I think it won't be there much longer as the neighbourhood gentrifies it doesn't look busy enough to keep up.

        East York
        1039 Pape Ave, Toronto, ON M4K3W1, CA

        1. re: Kooper
          eller RE: Kooper Nov 25, 2010 10:12 AM

          I ventured in here not long ago before having dinner elsewhere on the Danforth. $3.25 bottles of 50 made it an easy spot to kill time in, while watching the locals.

          It's worn down but not dirty. I thought it was kind of sad to see it so empty to be honest... a bit of atmosphere would do The Linsmore well.

      2. Bobby Wham RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 02:53 PM

        See the thing is, are you looking for seedy hipster dive bars (trendy dive bars) or like real shady bars where you will get accosted and dirty looks, with drunks.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Bobby Wham
          doubledust RE: Bobby Wham Feb 10, 2010 04:43 PM

          bang on. real shady ones. dirty looks. and hopefully places that have been around for more than 40-50 years. or any neighbourhood dump of notable interest

          1. re: doubledust
            aser RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 08:38 PM

            Just go to any local bar where you see older men congregating, there is one in pretty much every old neighbourhood of Toronto that isn't Forest HIll or Rosedale.

            I can think of one on Queen in Leslieville a few blocks west of Sushi Marche that is real divey. There's one on Roncesvalles by the Home Hardware that is also very divey.

            There are no hipster dive bars in Toronto, the ones that people consider divey are far from it. They're all pretty new and generally around oss & queen. Sweaty Betty I like but it's a joke when people call it a dive bar.

            1. re: aser
              Leslieville RE: aser Feb 11, 2010 07:03 AM

              Are you referring to Jilly's at Queen and Broadview (nice old building actually) or The Duke at Leslie and Queen? Nobody has mentioned Teddies Sports Bar at Jones and Queen (Closing Feb. 15th), The Jones Bar and grill at Jones and Queen, or Tasty Chicken just past Carlaw on Queen!!! Talk abouut dives that are down and dirty!!!! I think there is also a nameless bar at Queen between Carlaw and Pape. Most of these have almost no redeeming features!!!!!

              1. re: Leslieville
                Wiley RE: Leslieville Feb 11, 2010 03:30 PM

                The Duke of York qualifies...a bystander murdered there in 2008.

              2. re: aser
                jollyinebriate RE: aser Feb 11, 2010 11:31 AM


                1. re: aser
                  Bobby Wham RE: aser Feb 23, 2010 07:58 AM

                  I know right?

                2. re: doubledust
                  Benniep RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 03:46 PM

                  Not sure if it would qualify but the Quality Inn on Dundas just west of Ossington...dont let the intersection fool you, this is not the Crooked Star or Sweaty Bettys, its technically a "Chinese Restaurant" but no one ever eats there nor do I think there is anything to be cooked in there.

                  Its old, its rundown, its cheap, its sketchy...hell, half the time it doesn't really look open.

                  Also would like to throw out the Barn at Queen and Bathurst

                  1. re: Benniep
                    jdgo75 RE: Benniep Feb 16, 2010 09:19 AM

                    HAHA... The Barn. Way back in the mid 90s, a group of us would a night of drinking at other seedy bars (no longer in existence) with a bottle of Mateus wine at the Barn. There are others that are dirtier and seedier, but you will get looks if you are not a regular. Main crowd that I recall being in the place was various groups of men, well into their 60s,if not older, watching hockey, and drining bottles of blue light or labatt 50

              3. Kagemusha RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 03:16 PM

                Wasn't there a recent thread here on TO/GTA dives?

                1. c
                  childofthestorm RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 03:21 PM

                  There sure was.


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: childofthestorm
                    doubledust RE: childofthestorm Feb 10, 2010 04:49 PM

                    yup. marked those all down. most seem to be trendy or fairly new. im looking for the places that are going out of business, or already look like they have. or somewhere where i can get a $1 dirty glass of stale beer where the lines havent been changed in ages, and someones relatives are pounding out horrible tunes on blown speakers

                    1. re: doubledust
                      Kagemusha RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 05:05 PM

                      There's "atmosphere" and then there's "health hazard." Survivability should be part of everyone's drinking experience, no? Hamilton, maybe?

                      1. re: Kagemusha
                        jollyinebriate RE: Kagemusha Feb 11, 2010 11:32 AM

                        He doesn't need to go to Hamilton. Like Aser said, plenty of dive bars in most neighborhoods in Toronto.

                        1. re: Kagemusha
                          Mike from Hamilton RE: Kagemusha Feb 18, 2010 04:19 AM

                          Ahh the best seedy dive bar in Hamilton (the Regal Hotel) was recently renovated by the Honest Lawyer group and turned into a theme restaurant...although there are still a few on Concession St. and down by the steel mills (you want a sketchy bar filled with regulars that give you looks - try one right by any of the steel mills in North Hamilton, especially right around shift change)

                        2. re: doubledust
                          bittermu RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 08:39 AM

                          Make sure you check out Googs' specifc post within the above thread. It has all the nasty places I was going to suggest:


                          They're all really something and, from my experience, exactly what you're looking for.

                      2. Herb RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 05:13 PM

                        Start in Weston then head north.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Herb
                          redearth RE: Herb Feb 12, 2010 01:24 PM

                          "Start in Weston then head north."


                        2. z
                          ziggystardust RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 06:23 PM

                          As I wrote in the other post on the subject; Michael's at Queen/Bathurst. I agree with you, most of the people who posted there were mentioning safe, trendy places with painted on, contrived dive. But, fear not, Michael's is the real deal! Cheap beer, dirty place, dangerous clientele, said clientele sweating over their scratch and win lottery tickets at the bar, people cursing at what's on the telly, justifiably nervous looking Chinese staff, fights and drugs galore. I once saw two women who looked 60 but could've been 35 get into a fistfight over a cigarette outside the door. Trendy Queen and College street types wouldn't last five minutes in there. Try it, you'll like it, and as an added bonus, if the beer isn't getting your buzz on, weed and crack are easily at hand.

                          1. p
                            philly cheeze RE: doubledust Feb 10, 2010 07:47 PM

                            Ciros at Bloor n Lansdowne is sketchy but imho if you are doing a doc on dive-bars pass on Toronto completely and go to Barton St in Hamilton, Different league altogether

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: philly cheeze
                              aser RE: philly cheeze Feb 10, 2010 08:39 PM

                              the area is a bit rough but Ciros charges a grip for beers. I never understand their pricing, they're charging "beer bistro" prices at Bloor & Landsdowne, boggles the mind.

                              1. re: aser
                                Brain of J RE: aser Feb 11, 2010 09:23 AM

                                But Ciro's is actually very decent inside. They have very good burgers and a stellar beer list. But if they do charge a bit more for beer, it's not that much more and I guess it helps keep the riff-raff away. I'll take it over Allen's anyday.

                              2. re: philly cheeze
                                innercitykitty RE: philly cheeze Feb 20, 2010 12:36 PM

                                Not to belabour the point but Ciro's is neither a dive bar nor an imitation/hipster dive bar. Maybe I am sensitive because I am a regular.

                                1. re: innercitykitty
                                  philly cheeze RE: innercitykitty Feb 25, 2010 12:06 PM

                                  beauty or diveyness is in the eye of the beholder ;)

                                  1. re: philly cheeze
                                    pinstripeprincess RE: philly cheeze Feb 26, 2010 08:38 AM

                                    location might make one consider to be a dive bar but their offerings and interior definitely do not communicate that.

                                2. re: philly cheeze
                                  goofibulator RE: philly cheeze Mar 11, 2010 07:06 PM

                                  How is Ciros sketchy?? They've got probably the best and most obscure list of beers in the city. Mind you they do spell it 'bier' on their signage...

                                3. i
                                  ibraineater RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 04:44 AM

                                  There's a few places in Toronto you can check out without having to worry about having to make bail later. Clinton's at Bloor and Clinton has been around for decades and the log-cabin decor is amusing; Bistro 422 at Bathurst and College will get you cheap pitchers and punks, Grossman's on Spadina is old, old school and has some live music now and then; some of the Portuguese sports bars on College are an adventure; Duffys on Bloor west of Dufferin might be up your alley and of course there's always the venerable strip of places on Queen near Landsdowne.

                                  Bonne chance and I wouldn't sample the bar peanuts if I were you.

                                  14 Replies
                                  1. re: ibraineater
                                    meowmix RE: ibraineater Feb 11, 2010 09:13 AM

                                    Actually, Grossman's has live music every night and rarely a cover.

                                    1. re: meowmix
                                      JennaBean RE: meowmix Feb 11, 2010 11:04 AM

                                      I love Grossman's!!!!

                                    2. re: ibraineater
                                      jollyinebriate RE: ibraineater Feb 11, 2010 11:35 AM

                                      Clinton's doesn't count and neither does Bistro 422. Grossman's is a bit more like it.

                                      1. re: jollyinebriate
                                        ibraineater RE: jollyinebriate Feb 11, 2010 01:32 PM

                                        i beg to differ. Clinton's has history and that log cabin look screams character. As for 422, it's a cheap basement hole with cheap draught, both would seem to be in line with the original post. If you think differently, i'd enjoy hearing your opinion.

                                        1. re: ibraineater
                                          Wahooty RE: ibraineater Feb 12, 2010 06:16 AM

                                          See, the thing is, I think the OP is actually looking for places where you WILL have to make bail later. 422 is the kind of dive I could see my grandpa being a regular at back in the day - cheap beer, an ongoing card game, thoroughly non-threatening regulars. But perhaps my experience wasn't the norm - it wasn't so much "punks" as "kids in cardigans extolling the virtues of Spongebob Squarepants" when I was there. Definitely a cheap basement hole, but I didn't walk out feeling like I might have contracted something. :)

                                          1. re: Wahooty
                                            ibraineater RE: Wahooty Feb 12, 2010 07:26 AM

                                            Fair enough. It's been a while since I've been in there. I have hazy memories of crusty punks and bad draught. Damn hipsters, ruining the vibe. Ah well, there's always Duffy's.

                                            1. re: ibraineater
                                              pinstripeprincess RE: ibraineater Feb 26, 2010 08:41 AM

                                              i woudn`t say the draught is great, i recall it always showing up warmer than i`m comfortable with, but the scene is pretty much as wahooty has described. older regulars eating the days special while playing cards and happy hipsters. it`s kind of just a local hang out.

                                          2. re: ibraineater
                                            jollyinebriate RE: ibraineater Feb 14, 2010 12:58 AM

                                            I've lived in this city for eight years and at no point has either joint had a whiff of danger or sketchiness. Lately, more-so 'cos they're full of hipsters.

                                            To qualify, a place has to be depressingly blue-collar or upper-class bum. If you're not harassed or approached with a half-assed proposition within half-an-hour, it's not a dive bar.

                                            Almost all dive bars are run by Chinese.

                                            1. re: jollyinebriate
                                              redearth RE: jollyinebriate Feb 14, 2010 04:27 AM

                                              "Almost all dive bars are run by Chinese."

                                              How did you come to that conclusion?

                                              1. re: redearth
                                                neighborguy RE: redearth Feb 14, 2010 10:26 AM

                                                Dunno if ALL divebars are run by Chinese but I've come across quite a few Chinese restaurants (so their signage says) in unfamiliar neighborhoods while hungry and when I stopped in to have a bite, my impression has been that food prep was not their main source of income. Just sayin.

                                                1. re: redearth
                                                  jollyinebriate RE: redearth Feb 15, 2010 09:38 PM

                                                  Been to many, many diver bars on most of the main drags in the downtown. Nearly all of them are run by Chinese. Simple as that.

                                                  I have no idea why, maybe you should ask one.

                                                2. re: jollyinebriate
                                                  ibraineater RE: jollyinebriate Feb 14, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                  I see. So all we need is some aggressive patrons, a Chinese owner and an imminent threat of violence. Got it. I would like to know the line of reasoning behind the ownership comment, it should prove to be interesting.

                                                  One thing though - I did notice that the OP also asked about places with history and character, not just skanky holes where you'll get shanked in the washroom and Hep B from the silverware. Hence the suggestions made.

                                                  By the way, I've lived here a long time too, and both places have, albeit in the past, had a very sketchy vibe. Maybe not now, and maybe not during your patronage, but you'll just have to trust me on this.

                                                  1. re: ibraineater
                                                    jollyinebriate RE: ibraineater Feb 15, 2010 09:40 PM

                                                    I'll take your word for it. They're not sketchy anymore but I happen to patronize them now for that very reason.

                                            2. re: ibraineater
                                              Wandering Fork RE: ibraineater Sep 22, 2010 01:44 PM

                                              I definitely second Bistro 422! The guys who work there (I'm pretty sure there are only 3 of them) are all awesome and grumpy, the music is usually really good (I've heard everything from James Brown to the Go! Team) and probably one of the cheapest places in the city. The back patio is really where people hang out, it has a odd charm to it. For less character, across the street is Toby's, usually busy and definitely cheap.

                                              Bistro 422
                                              422 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1T3, CA

                                            3. Jamie Eats Burgers RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 05:59 AM


                                              I would like to join you in attending some of these bars... I am serious.

                                              The mention of Michael's at queen and bathurst sounds awesome, and I might go this weekend.

                                              My personal favourite is Jenny's bar on Kensington Ave. It looks terrible, and most "regular" people would be afraid of this bar and its patrons, but they are all actually nice people (a classic example of the paperbag princess that everyone seems to forget in their adult life).

                                              I also agree with some of the Portuguese sports bars on Dundas West of ossington. They are pretty funny too.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Jamie Eats Burgers
                                                pluckypear RE: Jamie Eats Burgers Mar 10, 2010 09:58 AM

                                                I have been to Noah's and it is indeed a dive bar. However there are some good folk there but the crowd tends to be over 60 for the most party, but they are the good folk. They have country/east coast music every weekend. One of the waiters (serve drinks only no food, thankfully :) is better then any waiter in upscale bar. Went with friends on a dare and then went again and he remembered our drinks. Can be fun with friends or to chat up some older friendly folk.

                                                1. re: Jamie Eats Burgers
                                                  jayzen25 RE: Jamie Eats Burgers Feb 3, 2012 01:19 PM

                                                  Jenny's Bar in Kensington, Is the definition of a dive bar. It really must be seen, small & shady. - its really the people, that make it interesting or scary for normal people (lots of visitors from CAMH)

                                                2. l
                                                  Livingtoeat RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 08:24 AM

                                                  Noah's Ark on Danforth near Dawes. Driven by it hundreds of times but have had the need, want, or courage to pass through the doors. Looks like it has been there....well.....since the original Noah started rounding up all them animals.

                                                  Let us know when your doc is finished...would love to see it.

                                                  Good luck!!

                                                  1. l
                                                    lolabella RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 08:39 AM

                                                    On Dupont just west of Symington there's a place called 'This Month Only' but it's been there much longer than that. Just the name is sketchy, nevermind the clientele I see walking in and out...

                                                    1. t
                                                      tochipotle RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                      My old local was the Done Right Inn (on Queen, south East of Trinity Bellwoods)is a total dive, but I found everybody in there to be pretty friendly actually. Agreed the Portuguese old boys clubs might offer an interesting atmosphere. Personally, I found the Silver Dollar on Spadina to be a tad terrifying, but I haven't been there in years....

                                                      1. jollyinebriate RE: doubledust Feb 11, 2010 11:37 AM

                                                        A great strip to check out would be Queen East between Church and River. By my count (never stopped for a good reason) there are at least four dive bars on the north side of the street.

                                                        The ones around Sherbourne look especially bad.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: jollyinebriate
                                                          jamesm RE: jollyinebriate Feb 11, 2010 11:53 AM

                                                          Parkdale has a couple of beauts. There's the ironically titled Happy Time on Queen just west of Brock. You can spot it by the bank of rascal scooters parked outside. Further up there's a place I don't know the name of, but it's across from Mitzi's.

                                                          1. re: jamesm
                                                            ingloriouseater RE: jamesm Feb 11, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                            Sun Fa is across from Mitizi's Sister and Mezzrow's

                                                            1. re: ingloriouseater
                                                              jamesm RE: ingloriouseater Feb 11, 2010 12:28 PM

                                                              Yep, that's it. I always vow to remember the name since I walk past it everyday but never do.

                                                              There's also a place on Dundas near Landsdowne on the south side that has record album covers all over the wall and looks divey, but fun although I've never been in.

                                                            2. re: jamesm
                                                              maritimah RE: jamesm Mar 11, 2010 10:06 AM

                                                              I second both Happy Time and Sun Fa. When I used to live in the neighbourhood, I always wanted to go to one or the other for a drink but could never muster up the courage.

                                                          2. m
                                                            maple99 RE: doubledust Feb 12, 2010 08:32 AM

                                                            Alfie's Bar & Grill - Queen E just east of Sherbourne - just driving by at 4pm is dicy. Tattoo parlour on one side and coin laundry on the other. I don't think Toronto gets much seedier than this.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: maple99
                                                              philly cheeze RE: maple99 Feb 25, 2010 12:10 PM

                                                              Agreed Alfie's for sure! They even claim they have the best hamburgers in Toronto GO THERE

                                                            2. d
                                                              doubledust RE: doubledust Feb 12, 2010 12:21 PM

                                                              Thanks everyone. These are great. Keep them coming! The longer the list of seedy bars to have a drink at... the better!

                                                              1. s
                                                                stet RE: doubledust Feb 12, 2010 12:30 PM

                                                                There's a place that used to be called Cafe DJ's on Sherbourne south of Bloor, just north of St. James Town Park. It's under new ownership or at least rebranded, but I can't imagine that changing the seedy, alcoholic crowd that used to hang out there.

                                                                1. f
                                                                  foodiedoodie RE: doubledust Feb 12, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                  There is a bar beside the House on Parliament called the Grasshopper. It is on Parliament, just south of Carlton. I have heard some really bad karaoke from there while on the HOP patio.
                                                                  I haven't been in, but it certainly seems like it would fit the bill

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: foodiedoodie
                                                                    Zengarden RE: foodiedoodie Feb 12, 2010 03:10 PM

                                                                    Jenny's Bar on Gerrard, east of Greenwood, is nicknamed the Kick and Stab.

                                                                    There is also a bar called the Congress on Yonge Street, just north of the 401. Area might have lots of condos and expensive real estate but this is a dive bar though the people who run it are just lovely people who look after you regardless of who you are.

                                                                    1. re: foodiedoodie
                                                                      jollyinebriate RE: foodiedoodie Feb 14, 2010 12:54 AM

                                                                      Not at all! The Grasshopper is tame. Paradise up the street (just north of Carlton) is much more apropos.

                                                                    2. JamieK RE: doubledust Feb 12, 2010 04:14 PM

                                                                      The Linsmore Tavern on the Danforth east of Greenwood -- pretty seedy looking to me, although I've never been in.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: JamieK
                                                                        neighborguy RE: JamieK Feb 12, 2010 04:33 PM

                                                                        JamieK, I was just gonna mention the Linsmore Tavern. Looks divey but not sure how far it verges towards dangerous over simply 'colourful.'
                                                                        There's also the Eton House further west towards Pape across from the Rogers Video. The vibe I get from there does not include mortal danger tho.

                                                                        1. re: neighborguy
                                                                          yaddayadda RE: neighborguy Mar 13, 2010 07:34 AM

                                                                          Don't forget Big Ronnie's and Ommie's (formerly Tommie's, they just taped over the T - nice touch, eh?) and all the other fine establishments on the N side of Danforth, East and West of Greenwood.

                                                                          Truly an eye-opening experience for any person with more teeth than appendages (unlike the usual patrons).

                                                                          1. re: yaddayadda
                                                                            JamieK RE: yaddayadda Mar 16, 2010 02:53 PM

                                                                            The tape is off -- Tommie's is back! Just in time for patio season.

                                                                            1. re: JamieK
                                                                              yaddayadda RE: JamieK Mar 21, 2010 02:34 PM

                                                                              w00t! Can't wait...

                                                                              1. re: yaddayadda
                                                                                JamieK RE: yaddayadda Mar 21, 2010 04:16 PM

                                                                                ha, ha! Not that it matters much, but I drove by today and noticed the name is actually spelled Tommy's.

                                                                            2. re: yaddayadda
                                                                              neighborguy RE: yaddayadda Mar 23, 2010 06:06 PM

                                                                              I always find this stretch of the Danforth distasteful to walk thru, but not actually unpleasant or menacing.

                                                                        2. f
                                                                          freshg RE: doubledust Feb 14, 2010 04:18 AM

                                                                          Take a trip to Peterborough. Get yourself a room at the Peterborough Inn located right downtown and head to The Pig's Ear. Once you are at the Pig's Ear, grab yourself a pickled egg and wash it down with a Pig's Sperm. During the day you will see the regulars at this fine establishment. Not sure if they still cook their meals in the trailer parked beside the bar.

                                                                          While in town, check out the Whitehouse and finish up the night with a slice from The Night Kitchen.

                                                                          I have often did a night away in Peterborough and ended up spending less than I would have in Toronto and ends up being like a mini vacation.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: freshg
                                                                            PoppiYYZ RE: freshg Feb 5, 2012 07:16 AM

                                                                            There was a great second story dive bar on the west side of Yonge just north of Dundas. One of the last places selling Molson Stock Ale. Sadly the bar is gone now...

                                                                            However, most - if not all - small towns will have a dive bar or two. Peterborough has more than it's fair share, thanks to a remote location and lots of college kids...

                                                                            In addition to freshg's list, add the Montreal House - packed with colorful, usually friendly, old guys. Ceiling tiles individually named in honor of the regulars ! Also the "Historic" Red Dog.

                                                                          2. mariecollins RE: doubledust Feb 16, 2010 05:38 AM

                                                                            Danforth and Woodbine: Suzana's, Edie's Place, Flamingos, Blue River, Wise Guys, Shirley Bar. The only two I've been in are the Blue River and Wise Guys to catch a Leaf game. They fit the bill. Suzana's seems to be the dealers' bar of choice.


                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                            1. re: mariecollins
                                                                              JamieK RE: mariecollins Feb 17, 2010 09:21 AM

                                                                              Oh my, there seems to be altogether too many in the area. And if you go south, there's Ruby Tuesday at Woodbine and Gerrard. Haven't been in but from driving by, it looks like it might fit in with the rest of those usual suspects.

                                                                              1. re: JamieK
                                                                                cfajohnson RE: JamieK Feb 23, 2010 12:18 PM

                                                                                A bar with a mixed history, it has improved since Ruby took over 3 years ago.

                                                                                Paintings on the walls are by Ruby <http://www.rubyzhang.com/> and "Runt" (of Lee's Palace fame).

                                                                                Food is home cooked by Ruby and microwaved on the premises. Not gourmet, but very edible.

                                                                                1. re: cfajohnson
                                                                                  James Goneaux RE: cfajohnson Apr 26, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                                  My wife and I have lived in the area for almost a decade, but made our first trip there this weekend. Yes, it is a bit scary, but not, say, "guys with more tats than teeth" scary. I mean, we are regulars at TKOs and can tolerate "Wiseguys", so I'd put Ruby Tuesday in between.

                                                                                  Didn't eat anything, but the beer (Amber) was cheap: $6.50 for two 20 oz. glasses (and $10 for a pitcher). Pool table, and reading material available.

                                                                                  Toilets? Don't ask...

                                                                                  Ruby Tuesday
                                                                                  4943 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, ON L2G3N5, CA

                                                                                  1. re: James Goneaux
                                                                                    James Goneaux RE: James Goneaux Apr 27, 2010 11:35 AM

                                                                                    Sorry, but this is for the Ruby Tuesday on Woodbine, just north of Gerrard, in Toronto. Not the one in Niagara Falls.

                                                                                    Ruby Tuesday
                                                                                    4943 Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls, ON L2G3N5, CA

                                                                              2. re: mariecollins
                                                                                neighborguy RE: mariecollins Feb 20, 2010 09:20 AM

                                                                                Dunno where the Blue River is, but are you suggesting it and Wise Guys are 'safe?' Would you actually eat there?
                                                                                The other places I kinda remember wanting to cross the street at times rather then be annoyed getting so close...

                                                                                1. re: neighborguy
                                                                                  mariecollins RE: neighborguy Feb 22, 2010 05:10 AM

                                                                                  Well, the first time I went to Wise Guys to catch a game, the place was packed, and I think I had Nachos, which were as expected. The second time, at least a year later, there were only about 6 fairly nasty looking people there, so we went across the street to the Blue River to catch the rest of the game. No food there and a few unpleasant characters. No, I wouldn't recommend going to nay of these places - go to TKO's for a decent bite.

                                                                                  1. re: mariecollins
                                                                                    neighborguy RE: mariecollins Feb 22, 2010 07:55 PM

                                                                                    I always pass by TKOs without giving it a thought -- it's too close to the Terminal which is a go-to place for me. Will have to give it a go then.

                                                                                    Buuuuut speaking of the Coxwell/Danforth corner, on the NW corner, a few over from the Subway sandwich store on the north side is (I think it's called) Debbie's. So sad, all year round, with 'patrons' loitering outside all the time, not just during the summer when their 'patio' is up.

                                                                                    1. re: neighborguy
                                                                                      Pincus RE: neighborguy Feb 25, 2010 01:34 PM

                                                                                      TKO's is all right, decent bar food.

                                                                                      1. re: neighborguy
                                                                                        neighborguy RE: neighborguy Feb 27, 2010 08:46 AM

                                                                                        Helen's Beer and Burgers (the font is even Cooper Black to be completely trailer abou it) is on the NW corner of Coxwell and Danforth, next to the Subway.

                                                                                  2. re: mariecollins
                                                                                    greg33 RE: mariecollins May 1, 2010 12:29 PM

                                                                                    Haha, I've been to all of these bars at one time or another with the exception of Blue River, as I lived in the area for 7 years. Danforth between Donlands and Main must have the highest concentration of dive bars in the city. Yes, the patrons are scary, and I've seen my fair share of fights, shady deals going on in the corner, etc.

                                                                                    The Linsmore is also a classic dive, where you can get 4 small Labatt 50 draughts for $5. The draught is best avoided though - stick with bottles.

                                                                                    Western Country at the corner of Danforth/Woodbine was also a classic example (with great rotisserie chicken) but I heard it may have closed. Although a bit off the Danforth stretch, the Rib House at Woodbine/Mortimer fits the bill perfectly. It also has some of the best ribs in the city.

                                                                                    Western Country
                                                                                    2063 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C1J8, CA

                                                                                  3. a
                                                                                    Arcadiaseeker RE: doubledust Feb 17, 2010 09:48 AM

                                                                                    There are many on St. Clair West (at least I judge them to be so since I don't really go in). Probably the sketchiest is Wise Guys at St. Clair and Christie. It looks to be very seedy to me.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Arcadiaseeker
                                                                                      chrisfernando100 RE: Arcadiaseeker Feb 17, 2010 02:53 PM

                                                                                      i don't understand the point...i mean, to go to a "dive bar" is one thing, but to just go to a seedy, dirty bar where you'll have doubts about anything that touches your lips....

                                                                                      here's one tho, don't know the name, it's at queen and bathurst (east of bathurst, north side of queen), homeless people piss on the sidewalk outside...sound about right?

                                                                                      1. re: chrisfernando100
                                                                                        plasticanimal RE: chrisfernando100 Feb 17, 2010 04:03 PM

                                                                                        That's Michael's; it's been mentioned.

                                                                                        The best/worst dive bar I've ever seen is The Maple Leaf Tavern (955 Gerrard Street East). I haven't been in a dozen or so years, but I hope it's still the same. Cheap, horrible beer, and every customer is out of their mind. One time a lady there told me that it used to be a funeral home. I don't doubt it. There was a customer there who would put songs on the jukebox and introduce them, Ed Sullivan-style, to no one. "Ladies and gentlemen", he'd say, very seriously, "the late, great, Patsy Cline". I loved it there.

                                                                                        1. re: plasticanimal
                                                                                          grandgourmand RE: plasticanimal Feb 18, 2010 04:56 AM

                                                                                          Oh yeah, that place is classic. I was there once with a few friends and had a blast. A few old guys came to our table to say how nice it was to see fresh faces.

                                                                                          1. re: grandgourmand
                                                                                            MeMeMe RE: grandgourmand Feb 23, 2010 05:25 AM

                                                                                            Nothing is scarier or divier than Town Talk on Vaughn Road. Go in if you dare!

                                                                                      2. re: Arcadiaseeker
                                                                                        hungry_pangolin RE: Arcadiaseeker Sep 22, 2010 10:26 AM

                                                                                        Hey! I used to drink at Wise Guys on St Clair when I lived on Humewood aroun 1990! Good times! Actually, the clientele looked sketchy, but I never had a problem other than someone once falling into me. The owner (I forget his name) was a big guy, affable but kept an eye on things, and had a small samoyed named Dolce (she lived up to her name) who wandered the place.

                                                                                      3. jollyinebriate RE: doubledust Feb 20, 2010 11:35 AM

                                                                                        Paradise, north of Carlton and on the east side of Parliament is fun. Go for karaoke on Wednesdays and watch fights break out between songs.

                                                                                        1. Bobby Wham RE: doubledust Feb 23, 2010 07:59 AM

                                                                                          House of Lancaster is seedy and dirty for real, no hipsters here, just dirty men and black light

                                                                                          1. k
                                                                                            klawless RE: doubledust Feb 26, 2010 06:34 AM

                                                                                            Jankie’s Place, at the corner Bloor and Dovercourt. A dive bar unlike any other!

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: klawless
                                                                                              gisaster25 RE: klawless Feb 2, 2012 09:55 PM

                                                                                              Could you please elaborate? This place intrigues me but I'm too timid to venture in.

                                                                                            2. p
                                                                                              pluckypear RE: doubledust Mar 10, 2010 10:08 AM

                                                                                              I have been to a few dive bars or at least cheap bars, some have already been mentioned but will give my take.

                                                                                              Noah's Ark (posted a reply in this thread already)
                                                                                              Wise Guy's - I don' think is all that divey. A little boring maybe. Some older folk and unemployed folk hang there and talk on the patio or watch the game. Food is nothing special but some people eat dinner there. They have karoake on weekends. Not my kind of bar anyway. And the beer is not even that cheap. Can get much cheaper in the city.
                                                                                              Bistro 222 on College - Full of old punks but cheap beer and cheap shots. A fun place.
                                                                                              Toby's - Across from Bistro 222 is not a dive but has cheap bear as well but crappy food. Students hang here sometimes.
                                                                                              Crown and Tiger- Just a few doors east of Bistro 222. They have cheap beer that is better then Toby's. Something like 5 coronitas for $10. Food is crap. Standard bar food.
                                                                                              Imperial Pub-Favourite of these for me near Yonge and Dundas. Sometimes I hide here and have a few pints between classes. Friendly staff and beer tastes fresh.
                                                                                              Eton Tavern on Danforth near Coxwell - This is a dive bar but can be fun when it is busy on the weekend. They have pool tables and okay draught, but again crap food. But on the Danforth you can surely find a better place to eat before hitting the dive bars. They also have some singles event on some Friday evenings once a month. The crowd can be mixed from young to very old. Friendly place. I dont' mind it.
                                                                                              Paradise on Parliament street, West side south of Wellesley. This can be fun when it is busy.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: pluckypear
                                                                                                JamieK RE: pluckypear Mar 10, 2010 12:00 PM

                                                                                                Well you really know your dive/cheap bars! I've often wondered what the Eton tavern was like as I drove by on the Danforth. Just a note though, it's closer to Pape than Coxwell.

                                                                                                1. re: JamieK
                                                                                                  pluckypear RE: JamieK Mar 16, 2010 01:33 PM

                                                                                                  Right you are it is closer to Pape. I should research when the next singles event is there, I think it is a POF event. (Plenty of Fish)

                                                                                                  1. re: pluckypear
                                                                                                    LovelyAsia RE: pluckypear Apr 2, 2010 09:59 PM

                                                                                                    Eton Tavern - also known as Eton House, is the Newfie bar on the Danforth!

                                                                                                    And it is home to a great free stand up comedy show on Tuesday nights... some of the Newfie regulars are old war vets who live in the rooming house above the bar and one in particular is a real hoot! His nickname is Chicken Legs, and his friendly heckling of some of the comics can be funnier than the comics themselves! That said, you can see some young new comics as well as the occasional appearance by pros like Mike Wilmot and Nikki Payne.

                                                                                                    I agree the food is not very good and almost everything is deep fried, but considering what a dive it is, the place has a charming appeal all it's own!

                                                                                              2. munchieHK RE: doubledust Apr 26, 2010 01:42 PM

                                                                                                I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the Maple Leaf Tavern at 955 Gerrard Street East. I've never been in there and never will, which is part of the reason it seems to fit all the OP's criteria. It is definitely an old, historic building, the clientele look pretty aesthetically challenged and I feel dirty every time I walk (quickly) past it. Another prime candidate would seem to be Noah's Ark at the intersection of Dawes and Danforth. Let me know how it was if you make it back alive.
                                                                                                My favourite place that looks like it should be a dive, but isn't and is also not a hipster joint and has great history, great music and fewer cockroaches than you might imagine is the Silver Dollar, on Spadina. They even do a decent burger that I am not afraid to eat.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: munchieHK
                                                                                                  Manybears RE: munchieHK Apr 27, 2010 12:45 PM

                                                                                                  I would rate Noah's Ark as the scarier of the two of these places. I went in to use the washroom (so I can't judge the beverages) and people stopped what they were doing and stared at me like "who the hell are you". I guess it's a pretty regular clientele, I felt like no stranger had been seen in those parts in some time. People and place both in a bit of disrepair, let's say. However, the woman behind the bar was really friendly + made me feel welcome when I asked about the loo despite the fact that I wasn't a customer.

                                                                                                2. a
                                                                                                  albanis RE: doubledust Apr 27, 2010 12:51 PM

                                                                                                  There is Tom's bar on Davenport, just west of Ossington.

                                                                                                  P.M. Toronto in the Galleria mall at Dufferin & Dupont.

                                                                                                  This Month Only, Perth & Dupont-ish. And yeah, Maple Leaf Tavern is amazing.

                                                                                                  This Month Only
                                                                                                  1540 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M6P, CA

                                                                                                  1. l
                                                                                                    LexiFirefly RE: doubledust Apr 27, 2010 05:42 PM

                                                                                                    If you end up doing a parkdale night try king and Dufferin. I can`t remember many names but on the north side at dufferin going west there are like 5. My Boyfriend went into one the other night and prohibited me from going. We met at the Old Gorilla Monsoon so we`re pretty divey but these were apparently really hard core. Just don``t get to aggressive aparently the patrons can get a little stabby!

                                                                                                    1. m
                                                                                                      madhatt RE: doubledust Apr 29, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                                                                      Blanca Rosa on College near Ossington (I believe it's east) is a pretty sketchy portuguese bar (or at least it was two years ago when I last visited). There was torn newspaper strewn about the floor, and some crankfaced woman ranting and stealing sips of peoples beer before finally being straighted out and sent outside. Some shady characters would enter throughout the night, while patrons ran out the back door to avoid them. You could only guess why they were hiding...

                                                                                                      Second the Imperial Pub as well, not as scary - but lots of old drunks.

                                                                                                      Also, the Lazy Lizard near Davisville station (22 Balliol Street). Basement dive... wierd locals...

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: madhatt
                                                                                                        mary sand RE: madhatt May 5, 2010 08:59 AM

                                                                                                        Hahaha I've always wondered about Blanca Rosa! I walk by there every day to and from work and there's always a pile of old/young Portuguese men milling about smoking, staring. Never any women, I don't think they're allowed in! Although on the foodie tip, I did see some men eating big shrimps in shells, looked cooked a la planca too!
                                                                                                        The diviest bar I've seen is HAPPY CUP on Bloor/Landsdowne. There is a big banner that says "Chinese Indian Food". I meant to stop by at lunch on a Saturday afternoon, except I peered in the window into the darkness and saw old decrepit old man eyes staring back. I didn't go in! I read a review of it somewhere and a girl said a random man made a bang-bang hand gesture on her boyfriend's NECK. They left the too! All along Bloor around Landsdowne there seem to be divey bars, like Jankie's.

                                                                                                      2. n
                                                                                                        neighborguy RE: doubledust Apr 30, 2010 05:02 PM

                                                                                                        Not having been to any of these personally, I wonder what the beer selection and prices are?

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: neighborguy
                                                                                                          madhatt RE: neighborguy May 4, 2010 09:08 AM

                                                                                                          I'm willing to guess the majority serve:

                                                                                                          Labbatt's 50, Molson Ex, Molson Dry, Canadian, Coors Light, Blue, Blue Light.

                                                                                                          $3.50-$4 a bottle. I wouldn't enter a dive expecting to find Rochefort 10 or Chimay Blue..

                                                                                                        2. m
                                                                                                          mactabilis RE: doubledust May 5, 2010 09:06 AM

                                                                                                          No one mentioned the "Wheat Sheaf". Haven't been there in a while, but I'm pretty sure it should still have the ambiance/history that you are looking for.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: mactabilis
                                                                                                            crawfish RE: mactabilis Feb 6, 2012 11:37 AM

                                                                                                            I love this thread - glad to see it's been bumped up again.

                                                                                                            If you think The Wheat Sheaf (or Wee Chief, as we call it) is a dive bar then you've never been in a dive bar.

                                                                                                          2. t
                                                                                                            TOChow RE: doubledust May 28, 2010 07:56 AM

                                                                                                            Has anyone mentioned Who's on First? on Queen East near Moss Park. As far as crack-bars go, this one comes in first in my book.

                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: TOChow
                                                                                                              jamesm RE: TOChow Sep 21, 2010 10:47 AM

                                                                                                              How about Done Right Inn, Squirelly's and Mezzrows?

                                                                                                              1546 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R1A6, CA

                                                                                                              1. re: jamesm
                                                                                                                MeMeMe RE: jamesm Sep 22, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                                                                                Those aren't divey as much as they are divey hipster.

                                                                                                                1. re: MeMeMe
                                                                                                                  jamesm RE: MeMeMe Sep 22, 2010 01:29 PM

                                                                                                                  Guess I'm a divey hipster.

                                                                                                                2. re: jamesm
                                                                                                                  ingloriouseater RE: jamesm Sep 27, 2010 05:32 AM

                                                                                                                  shshshs, don't tell anyone about mezzrow's and especially how good the food is...let's keep it our parkdale secret

                                                                                                              2. n
                                                                                                                neighborguy RE: doubledust Feb 3, 2012 03:57 PM

                                                                                                                One more:

                                                                                                                Helen's Bar & Burger @Danforth/Coxwell

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: neighborguy
                                                                                                                  bellybuster RE: neighborguy Feb 3, 2012 04:23 PM

                                                                                                                  i can't believe it's not been mentioned: annie's on the north side of queen just slightly east of parliament. SKETCHY. i'm not a snob, not in the least but this place seems truly scary. want to drink with the cane-using elderly pan i see selling rock out my streetcar window every morning? try annie's.

                                                                                                                  1. re: bellybuster
                                                                                                                    Googs RE: bellybuster Feb 6, 2012 10:09 AM

                                                                                                                    Being a lover of dives, I've been to Annie's. Not even close to the scariest place you'll go. I always had the feeling I would survive the night unscathed. Huge disappointment.

                                                                                                                    In the Southern Ontario category, Trenton has a dive bar that makes any Toronto entry seem like lunch with grandma. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you the Sherwood Forest Inn. Honestly, that this place hasn't burned to the ground is a mystery to me.

                                                                                                                2. biggreenmatt RE: doubledust Jul 13, 2012 10:58 AM

                                                                                                                  I like a divey bar as much as the next person, but Jenny's Place and the Ulster Arms Tavern, on Gerrard at the very western tip of Little India in Toronto are absolute no-go areas. Pass them both on my weekly run to Lahore Tikka House. Couldn't imagine any circumstance that would see me set foot anywhere near those places.

                                                                                                                  1. n
                                                                                                                    Noah42 RE: doubledust Sep 21, 2012 03:31 AM

                                                                                                                    Bad news everyone ....... Noah's Ark at Dawes and Danforth is no longer in business. We had many great evenings there and will miss it big time.

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