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Rally Sports Bar + Smokehouse - O'Connor/VIc Park area

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I learnt about this place from a message that Googs posted in another thread. Based on their facebook page they are open today.

Anyone in the area willing to check it out? Looks good based on the pics. I am not in the area ever really but looks like it could be worth a drive especially on a game night.


Hardly any info on that page, best to click through to their facebook from the above link.

1660 O'connor Drive, Toronto, ON M4A 2R4

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  1. think this is the bar/resto on the west side of o'connor that used to have GnR cover bands once a week. forget what resto it was before that.

    i have no clue what you're talking about, tho. all those links were busted.

    6 Replies
    1. re: atomeyes

      Guess I shouldn't have assumed the links would have worked on their website. Here is their facebook link:


      1. re: ylsf

        i have the right location. this is the 3rd incarnation.

        i have zero desire to eat at a place that can't get their website to be passable and not have goofy links. same with their facebook profile.
        call me a snob, but it means that someone's not paying attention to detail.

        i'm more curious about the bbq place on Danforth and Danforth

        1. re: atomeyes

          I'm planning on checking it out in the next couple of weeks for an event.

          I assume it is your standard sports pub.
          I wouldn't expect an above-average gastro-pub (with a twist)

          1. re: atomeyes

            Pretty sure that spot at Danforth/Danforth closed down? Smokin' Hicks? Heard bad things about it so never got around to trying it. Unless something is opening up in its place?

            1. re: ylsf

              yep. that's the place. i'd bike by it and think "that's a really weird location."

        2. It's just at a soft opening phase. They got their liquor license and decided to go with the flow. A grand opening will follow soon.

          The website, atomeyes, would work better had the link posted by ylsf (no offence to you ylsf) not had errors. That aside, their site does need details. Many more details.

          There is a great amount of attention to detail mixed with the opening night realization that there are many more details to be attended. They have the right kind of attitude to work this through. I wish them luck.

          The rooms look nice and are quite comfortable, you can see and hear multiple games from anywhere you are save the bathrooms, the menu is well-priced and almost completely dedicated to the carnivore. It's far, far too early to say any more. I would be neither nice nor fair.

          I'll probably give them a whirl Thursday night for the Leafs-Canes, Canada-Denmark games. It's against my normal policy of giving the restaurateurs a month to get it together. However, I didn't make the World Juniors schedule so there you go.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Googs

            May as well start linking these to make them easier to find,

            Rally Sports Bar & Smokehouse
            1660 O'Connor Dr, Toronto, ON M4A 2R4, CA

            1. re: Googs

              As for Hick's , I came , I saw , I vamoosed..

            2. Just to add my 2¢

              I finally visited Rally's this weekend, and while Buster Rhino's has nothing to worry about, my group really quite enjoyed their pulled-pork sandwiches. Rave reviews, and the onion rings were enjoyed by all as well.

              UNFORTUNATELY, I ordered the buttermilk fried chicken, which I DO NOT RECOMMEND.
              Chicken was massively over-seasoned with dried herbs, and had a distinct freezer flavour to it. The Fries were frozen and poor as well, and the chicken batter was fresh, but was 'frilly' (for lack of a better word) and the overall effect reminded me quite a bit of the Swanson frozen chicken dinners of my food-deprived youth!

              Staff was delightful and professional, place was clean and attractive for a sports bar, and the group all said they would return.

              2 Replies
              1. re: TorontoTips

                I'll give it another whirl, but I think your buttermilk fried chicken tragedy might have just been an off night. I've had it (okay, shared it since BOY that's a lotta food to me) and it was fine. Not, "this makes memories of Harlem's fried chicken go away", but good enough that I would have it again.

                1. re: Googs

                  Cheers, Googs, thanks for the original reco.

                  The pulled pork was quite good, nice rolls, maybe a tiny bit under-stuffed, but yummy, and the onions rings were legit and tasty with the cold beer, and they even have blues bands on Fridays - hoping my Jackhammer Blues Band can get booked :-)

                  I hope the chicken was just an off-night, since not only couldn't I eat it, I couldn't talk any of my table-mates into a 2nd bite, either :-)

                  I suspect that the kitchen thinks they were improving it with all the dried herbs, but a) really great fried chicken doesn't need all that, and b) it's about the quality of the chicken and preparing it properly. This one was a miss on all counts. Or they can change the name to pesto-battered-chicken and I'm sure lots of folks will rush to get some. :-)

                  Me? I'll just stick to the BBQ items :-)

              2. I finally got a chance to try this place and was very pleasantly surprised.

                First of all, let me say that if you go into this thinking Old School BBQ Joint, you'll be pretty disappointed. This is more of a sports bar that serves well above par food, made in house and some of it has spent time in a smoker.

                I went with a couple co-workers and we ended up hitting 4 main options.

                1) sides: The creamy coleslaw could probably use a little less dressing. It was a little over mayo'ed but a real plus on it was the addition of horse radish. Not a big wallop but a slight, nasally hint.
                The beans had a unique taste and I really liked that. The taste itself didn't do much for me one way or the other but the fact that they had their own personality rather than the same ole, same ole was very nice. As to what that flavour was, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Almost like a pumpkin pie spice maybe.

                2) The pulled pork sandwich at first glance I'd probably dismiss. I'm glad I gave it a taste. The overly saucy meat usually means a sandwich that tastes only of sauce. Well the pork was able to stand up it and the sauce itself was quite tasty. The bun was a good choice. Soft and not over powering. It had a good amount of slaw on it too. Maybe slightly too much.

                3) The brisket sandwich was very good. Thin slices of brisket with a light smokiness to it and tossed in sauce. Add caramelized onion and put on a piece of baguette. All in all a really tasty sandwich. Nothing like a Texas brisket sandwich though.

                4) The Pork Belly sandwich was great. I wish there was a definite smoke flavour to it but alas it didn't have it. That's my only complaint. The richness of the pork was nicely balanced by the sauerkraut. The mustard added a nice nasal note and the grilled sourdough bread was a really nice choice.

                5) One of the guys ordered a bucket of chicken to take for dinner tonight. All we could smell on the way back to work was his dinner. He decided to open it up and let us have a taste. I loved it. A nice, hefty breading for the buttermilk soaked bird. It still had a bit of crispiness after the 15 minute ride back to work. Really tasty.


                4 Replies
                1. re: Davwud

                  I'll have to give the ever evolving Pork Belly another try. Sounds like they're getting closer even if the smoke was lighter than you wished for. Agreed the coleslaw still needs work. I AM pleased that they continue to work to improve everything rather than becoming complacent.

                  1. re: Davwud

                    thanks for the review. i still have to find a sports event to watch there. will probably go once the NBA season starts

                    1. re: Davwud

                      Was back again today for lunch. I can confirm the chicken is excellent. I like a more herbaceous batter but this was tasty, crispy and adhered to the bird very well.

                      I sampled fries and onion rings. Both from frozen but both better than average. Especially the fries. Perfectly cooked.

                      The accompanying pasta salad needs work. It's very innocuous. Nothing bad about it. Just nothing to make it stand out. I was told they're "Working on it." I suggested they add pimento. For a start anyway.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        Looks like I'll be trying Rally at some point over the next few weeks. Glad to hear you liked their chicken, Davwud. That's what I'll be trying. ;-)

                    2. We tried this place for summerlicious and i was pleasantly surprised. It was really great value, but the food (esp. the bbq items) and price point for the regular menu would make me a repeat customer anyway. Service was friendly and efficient, and the booths were nice. i see them doing huge business during the Olympics- no matter where you sit you can see a flatscreen!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Smorgasbord

                        Or stand. They also have tv's in the bathrooms.

                      2. Finally checked out this place for Winterlicious. Very good value with tons of food for $25. I realized too late that we didn't order any smoked food, fail on our part! Food was good but not quite great. The fried chicken is excellent but fries that came with kinda sad, definitely from frozen said my hubby who left them mostly untouched, and he loves fries. Fish taco appetizer is huge, had sad winter tomatoes on it and I wasn't crazy about the shell, but good flavour otherwise with cabbage, non greasy battered fish and sauce - they should just leave off the tomatoes, really, keep the cilantro. Desserts were good.
                        They are now serving brunch at 10am weekends. We'll go back, not sure if the food will be enough to make it a destination for us since we have to drive (and who wants to drive to a pub?), but we liked it enough to try again.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: julesrules

                          Thanks for the reminder. Beau and I haven't been in about a month. Go back for the smoked foods and toss in a crab cake. That's their strengths. I like their fried chicken too, but you'd do better subbing the sides it comes with for baked beans and slaw. I really gotta get around to trying The Monster (hey, how about renaming it The Statue?) burger.

                          We've been planning on checking out their brunch. Hmmm... Pulled pork benny or pork & bean breakfast burrito. Decisions, decisions...

                          1. re: Googs

                            Pulled pork benny all the way ;)

                        2. Finally used my groupon last night and was quite impressed. The smoked Chicken wings were really good - lovely smoky flavour. I had the Beef Ribs on special - 3 meaty ribs, good sauce - a little charred. My companions had the brisket and the Monster Burger - the fries were way over-salted (may have been salted twice?). Otherwise no complaints. Baked beans had pulled-pork in - yum. Coleslaw was nice and tangy. Complimentary pulled-pork slider (for wearing my leafs jersey) was soft and saucy and my 4 year old even ate it. Service was attentive and a great place for kids. I was a little disappointed with the lack of craft brews on tap - mill street organic and tankhouse, creemore, but there is a nice selection of imports. We'll be back - hopefully for the playoffs!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: mariecollins

                            Yes they could use a better tap list. Feels a little corporate. Just one rotating smaller indie would help a lot!

                            1. re: julesrules

                              I agree that selling something more finely crafted would be a great addition. What beer would you recommend to go with the bbq? Duggan's #5 for the chicken & fish and Duggan's #7 for the rest? It isn't an easy task.

                              I'd like it if they improved the wine selections. I have suggestions if anyone wants them.

                              1. re: Googs

                                I haven't tried their pulled pork or other bbq, but if the sauce is sweet, I like a hoppy beer (IPA), of which there are many local and/or interesting options... Flying Monkeys, Hops & Robbers etc... I'm not even a real beer head.
                                But I don't care if it's perfectly matched, anything interesting would be an addition to that list which was bare minimum acceptable ;)

                                1. re: julesrules

                                  Beau's a Duggan's man. He'd be chuffed if they added Duggan's #9 IPA. Pardon my bias, but I like to keep him happy.

                                  1. re: Googs

                                    I won't complain about #9! Then they can get rid of the TankHouse (which I believe Duggan formulated for Mill St), and put on one of the others too.

                          2. Finally got a chance to try some of the BBQ but wasn't in love with the brisket sandwich. It was on baguette which was ok but distracted from the meat. Would prefer a higher meat to bread ratio and probably a trashier, softer bread. I didn't feel like I got a good sense of the brisket.
                            Have to give a shout-out to the red velvet cake - something I don't even like normally. Just really good, fresh, moist layer cake. The icing is very sweet and actually low on cream cheese tang but that suits me just fine. I think the key factor was that the sweetness is balanced with appropriate salt. I'll be going back for that dessert and I am really pretty picky about my desserts (I order many once but rarely a second time!).
                            If I understood correctly (it was my friend who ordered it), they have changed the fried chicken dinner to one large butterflied breast, mashed potatoes with sausage gravy, and macaroni salad which did look a little more interesting than last time when I swear it was just mayo + BBQ sauce. I personally prefer fried dark meat on the bone!
                            We were all large family groups for Sunday night dinner (no game on) and this place is definitely suited for families.

                            11 Replies
                            1. re: julesrules

                              Sad to hear they might have switched to a butterflied breast for the fried chicken dinner. I also much prefer dark meat, on the bone.

                              Hopefully Rally will read this thread, and start offering customers a choice of light or dark meat, if it doesn't complicate things for the kitchen too much.

                              1. re: prima

                                Yeah I don't personally see the point of trying to please both fried chicken lovers and chicken breast eaters in one dish. I guess some people are really hung up on white meat.
                                Did you ever go to Rally's prima?

                                1. re: julesrules

                                  It's been on my list for a long time, but I still haven't tried it out. I thought I was going to visit a few weeks ago, but we ended up at Ajuker instead.

                                  Some people are really hung up on white meat, and other people are really hung up on boneless chicken, so I guess the butterflied breast will keep them happy. I'd think the most passionate fried chicken lovers like dark meat the best.

                                  1. re: julesrules

                                    I know people are gonna take a piece outta me for saying this but I honestly believe that if you eat white meat and not dark, you really don't like chicken. You only think you do.

                                    Thigh (poultry) meat is some of the best meat on any critter.


                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      If it's cooked properly, white meat can be pretty damn good (and juicy). I could eat fried chicken every day... so I guess I'd be considered a "passionate fried chicken lover", and I'll take a breast over a thigh any day!!

                                      1. re: kwass

                                        I won't turn down white meat if it's done right. Heck, the Shish Tawook I had at Al Tanoor last week was tasty and cooked perfectly. You could squeese the meat and see the juice come out of it.

                                        But dark meat has so much more flavour and juiciness.


                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          I know it does. There's just something about dark meat that I've just never liked. Strange thing is I can't even tell you what it is...lol

                                    2. re: julesrules

                                      People get hung up on white meat when they're looking for something less fatty. That's just a tad defeated when you then coat and deep fry your virtuous cut. Me, I don't care what Rally uses so long as it tastes good. I can make a breast nearly as juicy as a thigh just by searing it correctly. Conversely, when I see the packages of skinless, boneless thighs at the supermarket, I refer to them as The Pointless.

                                      1. re: Googs

                                        For me, it's not even about fat or calories. I've just never liked dark meat. I'm sorry. I know that's weird and sacrilege to all the dark meat lovers ;)

                                        1. re: kwass

                                          I can see how some people find dark meat a little gamy, especially in naturally raised or free run chickens which seem to have more distinct chicken flavour than standard grocery store chicken.

                                          I have a friend from Alabama, who is a foodie, and loves fried chicken, who will not eat dark meat. When we go out for fried chicken, I'm happy to give up my white meat fried chicken, which I often find too dry, with too much chicken in the batter to chicken ratio.

                                  2. re: julesrules

                                    I don't know why Rally insists on using Ace Bakery anything. Their breads could suck the flavour out of anything. They'd fare much better at Montmartre Bakery where they understand the difference between pastry and platform.

                                  3. Was plannimg to go (Saturday) night for the first time but I see they are playing UFC. I would be willing to go early for dinner but not sure how they arrange things for event nights. I tried calling just now but no answer. Anyone know off hand if they will take me as a walk in for a 5:30 pm dinner?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: ylsf

                                      You shouldn't have any trouble as a walk in, I never have on various sports nights.

                                      1. re: ylsf

                                        Absolutely easy peasy. The place is mas-sive. The next time you need to worry about walk-in or reservations will be the next time the Leafs make the play-offs. For that they had to add seating. Wall-to-wall blue and white and not a single negative incident. Congrats to the staff and owners for pulling it off.

                                        1. re: ylsf

                                          Thanks for the responses. My concern was more if they had a UFC cover or something. Heard horror stories about some other bars and stuff they have pulled on people on UFC nights.

                                          Anyway, everything worked out great. I called earlier in the day to confirm and we went for an early dinner.

                                          Food/atmosphere was good. One of the better sports bars I have been to in a while.

                                          I had the fried chicken (one big breast fried up with a side). I paid extra for the mac and cheese as a side as I was curious but I wish I hadn't. That was the worse part of the meal. I have had microwaved Mac and Cheese that was better. I didn't get a chance to re-read this thread so maybe it was mentioned before.

                                          My friend had the brisket sandwich so we ended up sharing both. I like the brisket sandwich too but the sauce was a bit too sweet for my liking.

                                          Overall, I would recommend this spot to people. Personally, I probably don't have much reason to be in the area again so probably won't be back anytime soon but I could see them copying the concept and opening other locations down the road.
                                          The space is huge indeed!

                                          1. re: ylsf

                                            I tend to stay fairly strictly with the bbq and goes-with-bbq items when at Rally. I've never had the mac & cheese. Preferred sides are the baked beans and coleslaw. That said, the pulled chicken quesadillas are pretty darn tasty. They're cut in four so perfect for sharing. Oh and the Monster Burger has been haunting me. Must have again soon.

                                            1. re: ylsf

                                              Can you tell us more about the fried chicken ylsf? Is it worth the trip for the fried chicken? Also what are the standard sides that are offered with it (other than the beans and coleslaw, or is that it)?

                                              1. re: kwass

                                                Yeah, it is no longer 3 peices of chicken as per the menu.

                                                I enjoyed the fried chicken but if you are comparing to places like Stockyards/etc it isn't the same style at all. It is a butterflied chicken breast, no bone now. I thought it was good , there is some kind of sauce/gravy on top but it doesn't overpower it.
                                                I forgot that it had been mentioned earlier in this thread that it was butterflied chicken breast but the waitress had told me "it is just one big peice" now and I didn't understand what she meant until they delivered it to the table! Would have been nice for her to just say "it is a butterflied chicken breast now" :)

                                                Oh, I think the side now is mashed potato and the mac salad but they let me get fries instead of mashed potatoes .

                                                To answer your question, I wouldn't travel specifically to have the fried chicken as a food destination but if I was in the area or looking for a sports bar I would definitely consider having it.

                                                1. re: ylsf

                                                  Thanks ylsf. You saved me a trip out to the East end :)

                                              2. re: ylsf

                                                Forget my question about the sides. I just went on their menu and saw that it's fries and macaroni salad. Has anyone tried their smoked wings? How do they compare to Barque's smoked wings?

                                                1. re: kwass

                                                  I believe they changed the fried chicken meal from what is on the menu. The fries are terrible anyway and the mac salad not much better. The smoked wings are good, I can't fault them, I just wasn't entirely sure I loved the concept - we shared them, only got 1-2 each and they didn't leave me wanting more.

                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                    Thanks julesrules. I Think I'll stick to my old standbys - Stockyards for fried chicken and Barque for smoked wings.

                                            2. i went tonight. ye ol' groupon finally lured me out.

                                              first, our server was so bloody knowledgable. like, telling me about the cut done to the spare ribs in painstaking detail. superimpressed.

                                              prices: a little high. $7ish for a pint of beer. meals range between $11 and $18 for the most part.

                                              food: we ordered the chicken wings, fried chicken and the frenchie burger.

                                              wings: probably up there among the better Toronto wings. had one dud out of the lb we got. had the hot sauce and it had a nice burn. my fave wings are buster rhinos, tied with oldseoul. this would be in my top 4-5 wings in Toronto.

                                              burger: pretty good but not amazing. missing some flavour to really make it pop. even some fried onions mixed into the patty. but it was still nice. had the black beans as the side and it was a bit sweet for my liking. tossed with chunks of pork as well.

                                              fried chicken: was a breaded, fried breast topped with chorizo gravy on mashed potatoes. fried VERY nicely. gravy was good, but missing some bottom end to it. we asked for an order of their suicide sauce and dipped the chicken in it and it was damn tasty.

                                              lots of TVs, a more enjoyable (but smaller) tap list than RealSports, zero pretense. the room was 2/3 full on the night of a leafs' broadcast, but hey, the location's kind of strange.

                                              i'd go back to try the brisket, pork and spare ribs - all apparently smoked in house. the menu may be changing.

                                              probably one of the better bbq options in toronto, but not a 10/10. i'd give it a solid 7.5/10

                                              39 Replies
                                              1. re: atomeyes

                                                I see they've retooled the fried chicken again. Good to know. I was gonna give up on it. This, after loving it originally. Perhaps if they chose a spicier chorizo, it might address the missing X Factor? Thoughts?

                                                The burger at Rally I'm addicted to is The Monster. Okay, I get the Junior Monster. It's covered with (and I quote from the menu now) pulled pork, straw onions, bbq mayo, and garlic aioli. Take my advice and have it as it comes. Don't add cheese unless you wanna hear your pulse in your ears slowing down to a thud. It also detracts from the flavour array.

                                                1. re: atomeyes

                                                  If you decide to return, atomeyes, I can tell you I've been having great luck with Rally's specials lately. Well thought out, properly taste-tested before they serve them to their patrons, nicely priced, and oh did I mention FREAKin' delicious? The kind of leftovers I look forward to.

                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                    Do tell? I don't remember there being specials on my visits...

                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                      Check the blackboard on the way in or ask your server. Though on my last visit, the server finally opened with telling us about the specials. Definitely makes it easier to go there time and again throughout hockey season, World Juniors, and Sochi Olympics without getting bored.

                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                        my wife has been craving the wings.

                                                        my issue with them? shitty beer at high prices. i hate that, in 2013, Toronto bars don't understand the concept of good (micro)brews on tap. instead, they sign a contract with a major brewery for licensing and pour shitty, shitty beer.

                                                        going for wings and being an adult, i shudder at the thought of having a glass of water with chicken wings. sacrilege!

                                                        1. re: atomeyes

                                                          I couldn't agree with you more. They really missed an opportunity to expand their audience by bringing in the (pardon the expression) Beer Nerds. Just one decent IPA would make a world of difference. Seems odd to hit the sports foodie mark and miss the single most important beverage item. In their shoes, I'd be doing my damnedest to cozy up with a local microbrewery with the right brand personality.

                                                          1. re: Googs

                                                            my original thought was to approach them about opening an in-house brewery. not sure if O'Connor is the best street to successfully run a brewpub.

                                                            1. re: atomeyes

                                                              Dude, it's on the Scarborough border. Beer is pretty much what we put on our Corn Flakes. I'd rather see them support an already existing local microbrewery or two. They have enough hats on already. I wouldn't want them to lose focus. Besides, I find the restaurant/brewpub model a little douchey.

                                                              I'd also like to see beer tasting menus focused on pairings with their food. And I don't even DRINK beer!

                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                How is the restaurant/brewpub model a little douchey? It's certainly not ideal... But douchey?

                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                  you don't drink beer, yet you find the brewpub/resto model to be douchey.

                                                                  i don't eat fish, so let me tell you about my feelings on sushi joints.

                                                                  a few quick hits on this. first, drinking beer isn't why i wouldn't open in scarborough. people being choosy about which beer they drink or spending an extra $1-2 on a pint is why i'd not open in scarborough.
                                                                  also, opening a place located nowhere near a subway stn or streetcar is a huge, huge risk.
                                                                  finally, they (the owners) wouldn't wear the hat. the brewer takes care of the beer. the owner profits off of the higher margins and the extra butts that come in for that beer.

                                                                  finally, if the brewpub model's douchey, try to explain Bellwood's and Indie Ale House's success.

                                                                  1. re: atomeyes

                                                                    Atomeyes are you from Scarborough? You talk like you're from downtown or live off or near one of the TTC subway lines. In Scarborough you either walk, bike, drive or take the bus to where you want to go. Our TTC subway line really ends at Kennedy although it does extend via the SRT. The majority of restaurants in Scarborough are nowhere near a subway let alone the SRT, we have no streetcars and rely on the bus, yet these restaurants and pubs all prosper quite well i.e. Blackdog Pub which is packed every night, all those Chinese restaurants on Sheppard (east and west of Kennedy), Fratellis, the chain restos outside STC. Place your pub or restaurant in an established neighbourhood and people will come. As for being choosy and spending money, you think only people who live downtown or core Toronto are the only ones who eat or drink downtown? A majority of people from Scarborough frequent the same restaurants you would open downtown and spend the extra $1 or 2 for a pint.

                                                                    1. re: scarberian

                                                                      do most restaurateurs open a place in their neighbourhood? no.
                                                                      you open it where you can maximize your profitability.
                                                                      you use a # of factors when deciding on your location.

                                                                      why would I, a pub/restaurant owner, open a place whose main goal is to maximize your dollars spent on alcohol (i.e. get you drunk) and not be located close to transit?

                                                                      opening in Scarborough (or, in Rally's case, on the border of East York and Scarborough) alienates 95% of the city. Hell, i'd argue that opening on the Danforth still alienates a large portion of your audience due to Toronto's strange fear of the Don River.

                                                                      if you place your pub/resto in an established neighbourhood, then you're looking to fill your place with locals. a good business plan would look for foot traffic AND make it easy for non-locals to get to your establishment and spend their money. the second you make it difficult or time-consuming for someone to get to your place, they're less likely to come.

                                                                      Even Bellwoods has nights where they're not packed, and no one can argue about their location.

                                                                      if I'm going to invest $1 million in a restaurant/brew pub, then i damn well better ensure that i am reaching out to the largest audience possible so i can make a return on my investment sooner versus later. if i am going to open a cute neighbourhood bar that is basically a turnkey operation? then sure, scarborough. why not.

                                                                      1. re: atomeyes

                                                                        Fear of the Don River? Maybe more like fear of finding a parking spot.

                                                                        1. re: atomeyes

                                                                          We don't have the subway line, but we have bus transit. We also have the GO line. Are you saying Scarborough makes up 5% of the city? 2011 census has Scarborough with a total population of 625,698 people. That makes up over 1/4 of Toronto's population. Fratelli's probably does about the same amount of business as some of the popular eateries downtown yet they placed themselves in an established neighbourhood (Highland Creek) with bus transit nearby. Ted's Restaurant in Highland Creek is always packed especially on weekends and I still don't know why as their food is substandard, BUT they are a local icon in the neighbourhood with lots of history. The same goes for The Real McCoy. It's in a strip mall, has lots of history with the neighbourhood, hell they even sponsor local teams and they do killer business not just from the local high school, but you see lots of people driving over just to have a burger and fries. My argument is also about location and people in Scarborough are becoming less and less interested in trekking downtown when they can go to some place closer to home.

                                                                      2. re: atomeyes

                                                                        There's a restaurant near me that brews it's own beer and poses it like it's a micro even though the place is a MAJOR chain. Douchey.

                                                                        The model of separate brewer makes far more sense. Artistic integrity preserved, little local company supported, and the restaurant can stay focused.

                                                                        You don't live in Scarborough, but you wouldn't open here. Allow me to tell you what's wrong with YOUR neighbourhood. LOL. No really, we have taste and disposable income. Look at where we build food districts and you'll see where the money is. The build-up along Kingston isn't happening by accident.

                                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                                          "Micro Brewery" does not imply anything about the ownership status it is a term that is defined on how much beer they produce a year. Molson has (had?) a microbrewery in the Air Canada Centre, it was owned by Molson but it was legally defined as a Micro brewery. Same as the Beer Academy.

                                                                          If McDonalds started brewing beer in all of their locations they would still be considered micro breweries even though they would be owned by a major corporation and have thousands of locations.

                                                                          1. re: pourboi

                                                                            To me, that term should be better defined. Corporations posing as craftspeople really gets my goat. There should be entirely separate and binding terms for independents and corporations. Douchey.

                                                                            1. re: Googs

                                                                              If a microbrewery with 3 owners incorporates for legal reasons and one of those owners lives in the USA is the brewery now a "multinational corporation" ? Definitions blur very easily.

                                                                              1. re: Googs

                                                                                i like you, but you honestly don't have a clue on this subject.

                                                                                1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                  Clearly not about brewpubs, but my heart's in the right place. Protect the little guy. And I seem to be learning through the information shared here. Just like everyone else on CH.

                                                                                  And right back at ya clue wise. If foot traffic was the prime consideration, there would be exactly NO stores in Scarborough of any kind. Noth-thing out here is street front. Parking is what people care about. I am always frustrated by this as I'm a walker.

                                                                                  To the real crux of the matter, though, I think Rally should offer shuttle service to/fro the subway just like other places that decided to open off the subway grid. You know, places that would have otherwise been doomed to failure such as Kool Haus and Evergreen Brick Works.

                                                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                                                    when setting up a business, you have to establish how you want to lure people to your location. also, prime location costs prime bucks, so you have to decide how important location is.

                                                                                    would the Black Hoof succeeded if it opened in Scarborough? no.
                                                                                    would Zen be a more successful restaurant if they were located on wQueenW? yes. would Zen be more profitable? debatable.

                                                                                    if you're going to sink tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars into infrastructure, you better have a business plan that spells out how you're going to be making that back. if you're depending on foot traffic - that's what brew pubs do, versus selling bottles/kegs - then you need to choose your location wisely. and in my assessment of areas, Scarborough is not a wise location. to open a brewery/bottle shop? sure. maybe. but there's a reason why Great Lakes hasn't opened a bar component to their Etobicoke brewery.

                                                                                    1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                      Black Hoof location was a bad one when they opened. No other restaurants in the area no foot traffic. They started the Dundas West scene. But day one.. if you asked anyone that would be a horrible location.

                                                                                      If the Hoof opened day one at the corner of Bay & King I would argue that it would not have succeeded. The crowd would have been all "suits" their rent and build out costs would have been sky high and they would not have been able to afford the time to find their niche.

                                                                                      Scarborough has hundreds of thousands of people, yes you will not get an after work Bay st crowd but you will also not pay Bay St rents which would be 100 times what they probably pay. BUT you may attract the Oshawa, Pickering crowd. which up your potential consumer base... Are you saying Buster Rhino with 3 location in the east end is not a wise business man? Not only is east of the Don a huge market there is very little competition for many types of establishments.

                                                                                      When I suggested that Carbon Bar at Queen and Church was a non optimal location one of the reasons is that there is so much restaurant competition for their customers downtown why would someone go 15 minutes farther to go to them. But if a place opens where there is an untapped market I think that is a great move.

                                                                                      1. re: pourboi

                                                                                        yes, i am suggesting that Buster Rhinos being in Oshawa and not in Toronto is not a wise business move.

                                                                                        1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                          The owner even suggested that early on. However based on what I've seen they seem to be doing pretty good. I wish he had opened a place in Toronto, preferably downtown Toronto of course, especially now he's toying with brewing. I've always wanted a Dinosaur-like brewpub here. *sigh*

                                                                            2. re: Googs

                                                                              I'd like to know the name of the restaurant near you that supposedly brews it's own beer. I suspect it's simply relabeling an existing beer. Bars/restaurants do that all the time. I'm not a big fan of it personally.

                                                                              Proper brewpubs in Toronto are Granite, Bellwoods, Mill St, Indie, Amsterdam, Volo, Get Well. C'est What is technically a brewpub though they don't brew on site (Durham brewery does that) though their recipes are their own. Bar Hop participates in beer collaborations frequently but I wouldn't consider them a brewpub.

                                                                              As already pointed out terms like nano and micro just mean the volume produced. The term craft even has been co-opted by the Usual Suspects to blur the lines between the original smaller craft breweries and them.

                                                                              Oh and I lived in Scarborough for nearly 20 years and make the occasional return trip there. If I was opening a bar, restaurant, brewpub, whatever, Scarborough wouldn't be high on my list of location considerations. But that's just me. :-)

                                                                              1. re: lister

                                                                                so instead you would open a bar in a saturated market - which is fine but has its own challenges.

                                                                                i see nothing wrong with servicing outlying communities. in the suburban town where i grew up, there were a few bars that would pack in 700 people 4 days a week. not too shabby.

                                                                                1. re: frogsteak

                                                                                  Here's the thing:
                                                                                  if every bar owner/restaurateur/independent business knew what it would take to guarantee success, we'd have a lot of very rich people out there.
                                                                                  your guess is as good as mine, kind of sort of. it's my money, my gut feeling and my opinion of Toronto's beer market. Rally's an example of "if you build it, they will probably not come." It's location works strongly against it. does a Parkdalian want to shlep to Rally, even if they had their own beer on tap? 99% wouldn't. judging by the beer that they serve at Rally, they think that the locals want beer that are advertised heavily on tv and beer that are familiar. flavor/taste is secondary.

                                                                                  Toronto's beer market is so far from being saturated that you have no idea what the bubble is. just ask the LCBO. they're hedging their bets on Ontario craft beer. craft/micros are the fastest and largest growing alcohol segment in north America. companies like Anheiser-Bush have watched their sales decline steadily over the past few years. people want local beer and, for the most part, are more willing to try new stuff.

                                                                                  now, would I open a bar down the street from Bellwoods (if there wasn't the bar ban in Parkdale)? probably not. but I'd argue that if I did, it would only help me and Bellwoods. it would make that part of Toronto a beer drinker destination area. and it's about differentiation, service, décor, food, etc.

                                                                                  so many underserviced parts of Toronto...you haven't seen anything yet.

                                                                                  1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                    Zen couldn't possibly be more successful than the capacity audience they have each and every day they're open. Now where Kaji is, to me that's just effed.

                                                                                    When Rally first opened, other Hounds thought I was, shall we say, overly optimistic in my hopes to watch the Olympics there. Now, here we are and they're still there. Yes, location isn't ideal, but somehow they still PACK the place during games/matches and are at about 25% at other times. They continue to improve and are responsive to customer demands.

                                                                                    Here's what I'd like: I'd like Rally to have a reproducible format. Yes I don't drink beer, but I DO understand it's importance, especially to a sports bar. It would be great if they had independent, local brewers on tap here. Should they decide to expand, I can't think of a better way to lay out the welcome mat than to choose the best tasting of the local indies. It says I care about local people, respect their taste, and creates a bond with local business who will have a stake in their survival.

                                                                                    I'd like them to have a shuttle from say Victoria Park subway station where the layout is as such it's unlikely they'd require any kind of permission.

                                                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                                                      serving good beer is akin to serving good food. blows my mind that a restaurant cares about how their food tastes, but will have generic no-name wines and typical beer. a certain Ethiopian restaurant we frequent does the same. "What kind of wine do you have?" "We have a merlot." really? choose 3 types of affordable-yet-high-quality reds and rock them.

                                                                                      same with beer. if you're serving barbeque, you want an assortment of proper-pairing beer. dark Belgian quads for brisket, IPAs if anything's spicy, etc. Complements the food and shows you care.

                                                                                      and the bottom line is the bottom line. you make more $$ off of local beer. they are driving sales.

                                                                                      it's for a separate discussion, but the payola that large beer corps give restaurants like Rally (free merch, they pay for the tap installation, etc) makes it seem lucrative to have Bud or Coors Lite on tap. if you look at the long-term logic, not dedicating a tap to the Buds of the world and therefore having your freedom will result in more profitability.

                                                                                      1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                        Sorry but IPA is so over rated. There are some great ones but mostly not from Ontario microbreweries.

                                                                                        1. re: frogsteak

                                                                                          Witchshark IIPA from Bellwoods.
                                                                                          Mad Tom IPA from Muskoka.
                                                                                          Fracture IPA from Amsterdam.
                                                                                          Audrey Hopburn, Lake Effect, Armadildo and RoboHop from Great Lakes Brewery.

                                                                                          ever try them?

                                                                                          IPAs are overrated, as in: they were huge in the US 10 years ago and Ontario's beer culture is now approx. 5 years behind what the big US beer markets are doing. Down there, it's all about brett/funk/sours and barrel aging.
                                                                                          IPAs also sell very well. They also taste better when extremely fresh. Brewing and kegging an IPA and drinking it 2 weeks after brewed? That's something that in-house brewing does that differentiates IPAs.

                                                                                          so yeah, while I do not like IPAs all that much, if I opened a brew pub, I'd be insane to not have an IPA on tap for most of the year, if not at all times. it would probably be an all-late-hop-addition IPA or an IPA brewed with wild yeast, but it would be on tap.

                                                                                        2. re: atomeyes

                                                                                          You are mistaken, it is easier for smaller independent places to get swag and free tap instalations (and free kegs, or even cash) from the microbreweries then it is from the large beer corps. The big brewers do not want to talk to you unless you are doing 100 kegs a week... or have a chain or restaurants.

                                                                                          Also most local microbrew stuff cost more per keg than big brew, so I do not see how you say they will make more $$ off local beer except for the fact that it may draw more beer drinkers.... but looking at total market share there are a hell of a lotta people who with all the choice still prefer to drink bud / coors etc.. that is why they are "big brew" and you still have to acomadate them..

                                                                                          1. re: pourboi

                                                                                            Free tap installation isn't as easy as you may think, first off it's illegal to do, so none of the microbreweries that I know of or use will install for free. They will lease it to you built into the cost of a keg, the same way as the big guys do. Also small microbrew stuff is on par with the big boys, unless of course you sign your life away to them and only carry their products (which many bars do, but not the good ones). Cash, don't know of any of the small guys that do that.

                                                                                            Swag, nah, swag is non existent compared to the big guys, we have the largest craft beer bar in the Durham Region, we go through a considerable amount of craft beer (8 dedicated taps to just craft). We don't draw more beer drinkers, but we do draw dedicated foodies which is the crowd we go for. They know the value of good food and good beer, not just that you can get cheap cheap tall boys on Tuesdays.

                                                                                            1. re: BusterRhino

                                                                                              I will not name names (bar / brewers - cuz as you say it is not a legal practice) except to say that only one craft brewer that was asked would not "play the game" when it came down to kicking in "something" to get a tap placement. Maybe downtown is more competitive than Durham Region so the reps have to be more aggressive and are give more leaway to do the side deals. But it is absolutely being done downtown.

                                                                                            2. re: pourboi

                                                                                              you don't have to accommodate people. you own a place. you do what you want.
                                                                                              if I don't want to attract the Coors Lite crowd, then I don't.
                                                                                              but my guess is that a sports bar like Rally's DOES want to attract the MGD, Bud and Coors Lite crowd. stereotypically, people into sports would watch the commercials, which would lead them towards familiar brands like Canadian , etc.

                                                                                              Swag: no, it's pretty much across the board. a chain like the Firkin would have more purchasing power and leverage than a small neighbourhood bar. that leverage may be seen in coasters, the cost of installing a 20 tap bar, discounts off of kegs, etc.

                                                                                              there is so much about the brewing world that's dirty that isn't out there. there isn't a true cost per keg for a large # of breweries (small guys included). a keg is roughly $200, give or take. that can go down closer to $100 depending on your relationship with a company.

                                                                                              getting back to the big guys: you never wonder how a chain like Casey's or Moxy's or the Firkins decide on which beer to put on tap? and why their tap list rarely, if ever, rotates? contracts, my friend. and what does a contract mean? not even their bookkeepers could probably tell you.

                                                                                              1. re: atomeyes

                                                                                                "you don't have to accommodate people. you own a place. you do what you want" - Atomeyes rule of hospitality... LOL

                                                                                                1. re: pourboi

                                                                                                  ask Jenn Agg.
                                                                                                  she's had success with it.

                                                                                                  guess you won't be invited to the grand opening. :)

                                                                                                2. re: atomeyes

                                                                                                  Realistically, to get the Molson/Coors crowd they only had to have sports. That only gets you the line-up-at-10:55am drinkers we have out here. There's no dough in that. It's soul crushing.

                                                                                                  People into sports, of which I'm HUGELY so, can also have taste. To that end, Rally's vastly improved their wine list and I note more female sports fans in the crowd of late enjoying same. Not gf attachments, but tables of women. As Taffer would tell ya, women bring in men. Stick that in your keg and drink it.

                                                                          2. re: atomeyes

                                                                            Actually I think this sort of nails my overall issue with the place. It just somehow feels more cold and corporate than I want it too. The food is better than the atmosphere (and beer as you so rightly point out!). It's not the staff, who have always been very nice, it's something about the space and vibe. Which also feels a bit... Scarborough, to be perfectly honest.
                                                                            OK it's also true that I'm not a sports fan, so the whole sports bar thing is lost on me. And we have to drive there, so it'll never be our cozy familiar local. Great beer would help!

                                                                  2. Am trying this weekend for the first time.

                                                                    Any more current input from anyone??

                                                                    18 Replies
                                                                    1. re: magic

                                                                      I haven't been in a while but I loved the brisket sandwich. I hear the smoked wings are excellent too.


                                                                      1. re: Davwud

                                                                        Davwud, thank you!! Definitely contenders now.

                                                                      2. re: magic

                                                                        If you're going Saturday night, I recommend reservations. It was rammed when I was there last Saturday. Legally and without incident rammed, but full nonetheless.

                                                                        In apps, I like the wings (of course) and crab cakes. The quesadilla is great for sharing.

                                                                        Sandwiches, the brisket and pulled pork are mighty fine. The ribs can be hit and miss, but when they're good they're really good. As you can see above, atomeyes liked the fried chicken when supplemented by suicide sauce. If you're in a burger mood, I highly recommend the Monster if you're hungry. I get the Little Monster and it's still more than I can finish. I have dreams about that burger. Don't add anything. It's perfect the way it comes.

                                                                        As for sides, those baked beans get better every time I go. If you have the capacity to take on more fat, that is.

                                                                        They make a pretty decent Caesar too. The drink. Who eats salads in a sports bar?

                                                                        1. re: Googs


                                                                          All great suggestions, thanks so much Googs.

                                                                          Very good to know about the reservations. Think I'll make those then.

                                                                          I hear burger and pulled pork and I fear flavour confusion. I'm typically about just one or the other. But you recommend eh....?

                                                                          1. re: magic

                                                                            I surely do. Normally not something I would order, but I was in a burger mood one night and that one was the closest to something I'd eat. It actually works in flavour and mouthfeel.

                                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                                  Pretty decent. Not sure I’d make it a destination, but doing some decent food for a sports bar.

                                                                                  I ended up going for the brisket sandwich and asked to have it on a soft white bun rather than the default baguette. Glad I did - I really liked the bun. The brisket was tasty, had better smoke than most BBQ places in TO… but I would have liked even more smoke. The brisket was sliced, but I prefer when it's chopped. Some bites were moist, some were dry - the carmelized onions (which I couldn't really taste) and BBQ sauce probably helped combat some of the drier bites. There was some fat left on some slices of meat, but I think it needed more fat. The sandwich was clearly the leaner part of the brisket. Still, it was pretty tasty – a good solid 7.5 or 8/10. Side of onion rings was as I anticipated – straight from a box. Tasty, but essentially the exact same rings as Harvey’s. BBQ sauce was nice, but fairly one note.

                                                                                  My wings were fairly good. There wasn’t much BBQ sauce flavour which kind of disappointed me, but they were well made, meaty and had a nice dipping sauce. They had good heat, which I asked for, but absolutely no evidence of being smoked. A good wing, but not something I’d crave.

                                                                                  Took a bite of my friend’s fried chicken club sandwich and it was very tasty (my friend had added some salt at that point). My friend’s poutine looked sad. Fries, again, were frozen. I don’t mind frozen – I even love some frozen fries, but I could tell these frozen fries were not going to be worth the fat. So I didn’t try.

                                                                                  Service at first was very poor. Me and my friend sat for 10 minutes ignored by about 6 servers walking by our table constantly. And they weren’t even busy! I was getting set to lose my cool when my friend flagged down what turned out to be one of the owners. From that point forward the owner made sure that our night went smoothly. He was a class act. He wasn’t happy that we were ignored for so long and later explained that our table was in a bit of a dead zone for the service staff – each server thought it was being covered by someone else. Still, we sat there like idiots for so long..... there was no excuse for that.

                                                                                  Still, the owner did right by us and personally saw to us for the rest of our meal. He even comped my friend’s dessert (basically a Skor tart, not my thing, and I don’t believe it’s house-made).

                                                                                  All in all a mixed, but overall an enjoyable, experience. I might go back, but with so many other places I want to try first, it might be a while. Certainly a serviceable option if you want to watch a game with some fairly good food.

                                                                                  1. re: magic

                                                                                    Huh weird I actually found the wings almost overly smokey. Too bad if they are skimping on the smoking.
                                                                                    Yup, the fries are sad & frozen, which is disappointing and out of context with the rest of the food.
                                                                                    I've had mixed service experiences overall. Nothing terrible, but some long unexplained waits for food.

                                                                                    1. re: julesrules

                                                                                      It always amazes me when places do so much from scratch but not the fries. It never computes.

                                                                                      Ya, definitely no smoke in my wings. Brisket there was smoke. Wings, no.

                                                                                      1. re: magic

                                                                                        Or if you're not gonna take the time to do them fresh cut at least get something worthy of the rest of the food.


                                                                                          1. re: magic

                                                                                            Totes ma grotes!!

                                                                                            I've said it many times on here. A good frozen fry beats a bad fresh cut fry every day of the week.

                                                                                            Someone who knows how to cook them also matters. Not just pedigree. There's a young guy at the 5 Guys nearest our house that makes the best fries I've ever had. He takes so much pride in them. They're the reason why people love them.
                                                                                            On the flip side, the place where we get out Fish and Chips has a guy who has no idea how to use a deep fryer. Everything is oily and soggy. We're only just starting to realize how to avoid this person. Because the F&C are amazing otherwise.


                                                                                            1. re: Davwud


                                                                                              Yup, agree with all of that.

                                                                                    2. re: magic

                                                                                      Ha! I think I cursed you on the service front. I'm taking my bff on the "I Haven't Killed You Yet Tour 2013". Every place I take her that I know well suddenly does something remarkably wrong. I even joked with her beforehand that Rally's typically flawless service will probably drop a tray of drinks on her. LOL. Anyway, they WERE kinda slow that night. Very unusual. I notice every time how professional their staff is except Saturday night. They were still pro, just a little slow.

                                                                                      My only real complaint is, HEY RALLY OWNERS, why is the water coming out of the ladies room taps still cold and trickling? That shoulda been fixed by now. People can get sick that way. Let's not go all low-rent now. Please fix it.

                                                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                                                        Funny about the cold water, my dining companion mentioned that as well. Cold water!

                                                                                        The service wasn't slow - they were totally off their game. Big difference! When I was there it wasn't busy at all. We were just straight up ignored. As the night went on though they redeemed themselves somewhat.

                                                                                        Oh were you there Saturday too?!

                                                                            1. re: Googs

                                                                              The ribs are tricky. Though I'm always on the lookout for a good smoked rib, I don't think I'm willing to roll the dice this Saturday.

                                                                              I guess I'm looking for sure things this weekend.

                                                                          2. Had a second visit last night with mixed results. Service was very good, attentive and they were nice to my 4 year old. I had the brisket sandwich with a side of beans. The brisket was mostly dry and overpowered by the sweet sauce and onion. The beans were way too sweet too. My friend had the fish tacos and really enjoyed them. My son's chicken tenders were really good and crispy. Husband remarked his Pulled Pork was just OK.

                                                                            I remarked on the sweetness to someone who came and asked about our meal - he said they go towards the Kansas style of sauce, and that the sweetness varies. Perhaps, I've been spoilt by Buster Rhinos (and the habenero sauce).

                                                                            I'll be back, as it's a good place for a game, and for kids too. Probably will go for the fried chicken next time.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: mariecollins

                                                                              Mrs. Sippi used to work with a guy from KC. I asked him to bring me back some sauce one time. He brought 3 different varieties and I didn't like any of them. Seemed they were competing against each other for sweetest sauce. Not best sauce. Sweet was about 90% of the flavour profile it seemed. A desire to go to KC for BBQ died right there.


                                                                            2. 1) Now I want to drop by this place to have a meal and see what beers they do have.
                                                                              2) Sports bars now serve microbrews and brewed in house beer? Wow. I've been out of touch with society.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Pincus

                                                                                Went to Rally's for the raptors game and thought the service was pretty awesome for a game night. We ordered a bunch of apps during the game and staggered them...waitress changed our plates every time a new app came out.

                                                                                From the beer list all I could see was pretty standard beers...molson, coors, rickard's, strongbow, creemore...they did just get a grapefruit radler on tap. Pretty tasty if you're into ciders/fruity drinks.


                                                                                Googs. The men's washroom had cold trickling water. So I guess the issue you brought up still persists.

                                                                                  1. re: Googs

                                                                                    apps were pretty solid. got the pulled pork poutine. came with real cheese curds. pulled pork was pretty good. not overly sweet. gravy wasn't overly salty either..had a nice herb-y aftertaste to it (might've been thyme). also had the nachos. no complaints there. was topped with a beef chili. i was intrigued by the salsa actually...i'm almost 100% sure it was made in house.

                                                                                    we also shared a ribs main and brisket sandwich. brisket was very tender and had just the right amount of fat in it. the pic below shows half the brisket sandwich...the other half was on my plate. my dining companions thought the value of the ribs wasn't that great. i didn't try it but the half rack itself only had 3 ribs! (see pic below).

                                                                                    edit: comparing this half rack to the full rack i had a few years ago..this is actually more or less a normal portion.


                                                                              2. I was there a couple years ago. The service was awesome, they took care of my kids so well. My issue was that everything that was smoked tasted like a hot dog. We had the ribs, the brisket and something else I can't recall. Hot. Dog.

                                                                                1. Went back recently, they've changed the desserts, which used to be quite good, to a bunch of tarts that are all too similar and just OK. I realize desserts are pretty low in priority at a sports bar but since they are clearly ordering them in now, I'd suggest they get a variety of things!