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McGugan's - Scottish pub at Gerrard and Jones

I do hope this place can work. There are friendly, earnest people working there and its a great addition to this part of Gerrard. I know new places need time to find their groove, but there are some things that need to be tweaked to get it on my Leslieville rotation.
The music needs a serious re-think. Soft-rock of the mushiest kind, and rather loud. Most pubs don't need music at all, letting the ambient conversation and clink of glasses serve as soundtrack. If music is a must, let it be quieter and less suited to the elevator.
The lighting needs to be adjusted as well - it's too bright, especially in the back dining room. A cozier atmosphere could be had by either lower wattage bulbs or turning some of them off. My favourite Scottish pubs are all about the cozy. The back room isn't somewhere I want to linger - I don't feel encouraged to rest a while... The front room/bar area has all back-less stools which again, don't encourage me to hang out. They're just not that comfortable.
Couple of menu comments: draught beers are not all served as pints. Innis and Gunn is not a pint and I just think they should point that out on the menu. I would also ask to add 2 more wines to each of the whites and reds; 3 just doesn't seem enough.
Don't be afraid of the haggis! There's a (very) small appetizer of deep fried haggis on a delicious single malt aioli. The small size of the haggis balls do mean that a bite tastes mostly of fried and aioli - not so much of haggis. Good haggis is delicious, and we should get the chance to taste it. Why not offer a choice between the fried version and the traditional version or have some of each on the one plate?
Generally, I also find the price points a little high in comparison to other locals like The Roy or Ceili Cottage, but perhaps I wouldn't notice so much if I was more comfortable...

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McGugan's
1058 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M 3A3, CA

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  1. Thanks for the review Julie. Was wondering about this place. Doesn't sound like I'll be rushing over there.

    1. We had dinner there their opening weekend. Overall, we enjoyed it. I do agree the backroom feels more like a restaurant than a cozy pub, due to the lighting, seating etc. The burger is tasty - it is NOT seasoned the same as GBK next door, which I was worried about because I don't love GBK's burger and I think it is the same owners (?). I asked for it pink and she apologetically said no due to health code. Well perhaps there was a mistake in the kitchen because my burger came out nice and pink inside ;) Give it a try. It comes with set toppings including stilton and a slice of green apple, odd but it worked for me. Fries were quite good if I remember correctly. My English friend enjoyed his ploughman's with the little jar of pate that you can take home. Only disappointment was the 3 scotch quail eggs for well over 10 bucks. I don't think they specified on the menu that it was only 3 at the time although I see they have corrected that. The flavour was "good but not craveable" to quote my friend, and the portion size is just silly... give me at least 4 of the tiny eggs or regular chicken eggs, like the haggis you would get more egg flavour : fried coating as well. They are serving brunch starting at 9am which again seems more like a restaurant than a pub (no alcohol till 11am right?), but good for those of us in the area with young kids. But they have $5 brunch cocktails so I think I'd rather go later anyway ;)

      1. I live in the area and McGugan's is my local.

        While the food's good enough and the taps are fine, the best thing about the place is that it attracts locals, particularly the new demographic that you now find in the rapidly-gentrifying Pocket. Late 20's, early 30's homeowners who want somewhere civilized to have a pint or two and a bite to eat without shlepping up to Danforth or down to Leslieville.

        For anyone living in the area, really, it's not that special. It's not a destination venue. What makes it special is that it pulls in from the surrounding neighbourhood and for us that live in the area, it's amazing.

        PS: the haggis comes from the Healthy Butcher, and it's good, but it's too damn small. Instead of deep-frying, throw a big scoop or two on a plate, cover it with gravy and serve it! Love haggis!

        1 Reply
        1. re: biggreenmatt

          I went on Sunday lunchtime after reading about this place in the Toronto Life weekly email. I'm not from the neighbourhood - but always looking for new places to try for brunch. Overall I liked it and would definitely go back. I had the grilled cheese (with smoked cheddar and pear) - it was delicious. My husband had the regular eggs benedict - his staple for bruch, so he has had them everywhere - and he was very impressed. I would say from our (limited) experience that the food is a cut above the average pub.

          Agree that that back room is not exactly cozy....but thought it was fine. Also had an issue with the music volume....but said to my husband just after arriving that they should turn it down. They did! I didn't realize I had said it loud enough for the barman to hear...but I guess I had to yell over the loud music.

        2. Visited this new local pub for dinner last evening. The ambiance, service and food were great...but the prices were a bit of a shocker. While this may be "elevated" pub food, the prices are way, way too elevated for the neighborhood. I am very happy to see that such welcome new businesses are moving into the area, but I fear that the prices at McGugans will not encourage the locals to become regulars. For those sandwich prices, you should not have to pay an extra $3 for the fries or $4 for salad. $15 for Fish & Chips, $16 for Bangers and Mash? $8 for a glass of Canadian cider? I wish them great success, I hope that they can make it work...but with these prices, it will be more of a "special occasion" place rather than a regular go-to for quick, tasty pub grub for me and my friends.

          I should mention that their signature sandwich (which is not on the menu on their website for some reason) of roast beef in a large Yorkshire pudding served with horseradish cream is absolutely stellar. The beef in gravy was tender, perfectly cooked and delicious, the Yorkshire pud was lovely and crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. Neither myself nor my dining partner are fans of horseradish, but we couldn't get enough of the cream and were fighting over the last drops!

          6 Replies
          1. re: MsLadybug

            how our the prices elevated for the neighbourhood? to buy a house in the hood would be about 550k minimum, people have money to spend. i know i do. so really if this was on bayview or danforth the prices would be ok? Leslieville and the danforth btwn pape to woodbine south to the lakeshore people have $$. i would rather pay $14 for eggs bene that is good with homemade potato hash and hollandaise w/eggs cooked perfect then have a $6.95 sunset grill special of package sauce and saturated oil induced everything.

            1. re: shelovesfood

              @shelovesfood Well, I'm not sure where exactly your hood is, but I know that there are many streets near my area of Ashdale/Little India where the average household income makes McGugan's a "special occasion" (like payday in a 4 person, $45K income household) place rather than a regular hang-out for Friday night dinner or weekend brunch...as I said. The food is good, I never disputed that, in fact I commented very favorably on one of their house specialty items. My main issue is the prices for the area....and I'm not the only one who's made the observation.

              1. re: MsLadybug

                i have live in the neighbourhood of Greenwood south of Danforth for 17 years and i really don't think any of my neighbours are making 45k a year, geez when i first bought this house for 161k in 1996 we made double that to qualify for a mortgage. I was just trying to say that as far as food prices go these days $14 for a meal is not unreasonable, yes i do frequent cheaper choices, but this is not way out of line for the average family

              2. re: shelovesfood

                I agree with MsLadybug. I even thought the Starbucks on the corner was out of place. Then I realized the highschool across the street. Have you looked at the surrounding businesses??? Does that look like an upscale trendy neighborhood? Look at Gerrard Square nearby. Do you see affluent shoppers?? NO!

                1. re: sbug206

                  It's a mixed neighbourhood, but there are lots of young families, yuppies, DINKs and SINKs who are also living in that neighbourhood. I know several families who have moved from North Toronto to the Little India area because it's still possible to buy a house with a yard for less than $900,000 in the Little India area, whereas it's becoming more and more difficult to find anything decent at a reasonable price in Riverdale or Leslieville. Most people I know who live near Little India end up dining on the Danforth or in Leslieville, so it'll be nice for them to have a relatively upscale option closer to home. The area is changing quickly.

                  1. re: sbug206

                    See my post above- the area is gentrifying at a tremendous rate and brokers are starting to call the area "Leslieville North". The fact that there's a Starbuck's there, along with the GBK, McGugan's, the soon-to-open Italian resto next to McG's and the soon-to-open Blueberry Boulevard juice bar are all reflections of the gentrification process at work.

                    Frankly, I love it- I just hope these new places have enough local draw to stay in business. Gerrard between Jones and Pape certainly isn't a destination part of Toronto- yet.

              3. my review: 3.5 stars. I like McGugans, the place was a little kitchy british pub but that's what it is a pub. The brunch menu served from 9-3 on wknds it is classic breakfast fare just more upscale on plating & quality. Our server was very green and young..but soo nice she did have to consult kitchen on a few things but that's ok, she's learning. The beer unfortunately is not as cold as you would want it on a hot day. The bartender did put our pint glasses in fridge to cool down or ice up for us so the subsequent one(s) were cold. The eggs bene was perfect just what you would expect the hollandaise was light and lemony (one of the orders had a bit overdone hollandaise so the lemon was lost). They offer $5 brunch cocktails (ceasars, bloody marys and mamosas) during brunch. I didn't find the prices over the top.

                The order:
                lrge ceasar salad $8.95
                full fry up with black pudding $8.95 (black pudding very moist)
                2x eggs bene $12.95
                one mamosa $5
                5 pints $6.75 each

                Busy enough for 2pm. will be back to try regular menus

                1. We finally tried the food there. I had been turned off when I went in for a scotch the year they opened and the bartender/manager lectured me when I politely declined to add water to my scotch. (If I wanted a lecture I'd have audited a class somewhere).

                  Last night we settled on it as it was late, the kids were hungry and we could not eat at Aprile Bambina Cucina because my husband is allergic to scents and when we opened the door to Aprile it was clear that some of the diners had been quite liberal with their cologne and perfume.

                  Ambience: McGugan's back room, as already described was not particularly cozy but there were many choices of tables and sports on the big screen so son and husband were pleased. The music was irritatingly awful and the upholstery on many of the chairs was heavily stained.

                  Server: He was lovely. Efficient, polite, honest and patient.

                  Drinks: Husband enjoyed his beer, a sign on the wall indicated that specific pints are $5 from 2-7 on weekends and holidays. My McGugan's Old Fashioned ($11) was the smallest cocktail I have ever had. The tiny beverage tasted fine, and was garnished with three maraschino cherries but had I not added water it would have been gone in two sips. Poor value. I would not order a cocktail here again.

                  Food: son had the signature sandwich "McGugan's Beef Sannie" ($14.95) as described in Ms. Ladybug's post and he was in heaven. I tasted it and it was fantastic. It came with very good fries. This dish was a winner. Daughter was not very hungry and had fries.

                  Nachos ($10.95). I just didn't like these. I didn't like the taste of the tortillas they used, the toppings were mounded in the middle and thus not evenly distributed and leading to very soggy, mushy chips. Maybe we make nachos at home too often and have become nacho elitists? Or we simply favour our own?

                  Wings ($11.95). We ordered these hot and had a side of their hottest sauce (I forget the name they gave it). It was very hot and quite good. The wings were really, very good but I found it odd that only one was a drum. In my experience about half the order should be drums. I really enjoyed these but found that unusual.

                  Overall we found it $73.00 (including tip) to be very $$ for a local pub and while we live just a few blocks away I would not return unless one or more of us were craving that beef sandwich. I read the posts about the demographic and it is really very mixed in these parts. In my opinion the prices at Sum Kee next door are a good reflection of what a significant portion of the neighbourhood spends on restaurant/takeout food. For what we paid, Sushi on Gerrard would have been a better bet-healthier, tastier and better value. I expect to pay at least $60 for sushi for two adults and two kids.