HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Toronto's worst dives

DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 06:21 PM

This is prompted by the "Old Toronto Restaurant" thread.

During the mid 60s the city was in transformation: garlic was slowly coming onto the stage; Italians were being accepted and slowly transforming the dining scene (and the picnic greens with their jugs); rare beef was gaining traction; Jews were long doing their real thing with places like the Tel Aviv, Hushys and elsewhere, and Hungarians had set up shop on Spadina/College and Bloor West - however the city was still a holdover from intra-bellum or even pre-WW1. Jacket and tie were mandatory at any eatery charging more than $2 for main so we were either refused entry or forced to wear a jacket and tie supplied by the house. Food was mandatory with drink and we were served up with stale crackers and cheese that were passed on later to the next patron. Think "Murdoch Mysteries".

In the 60s and 70s it was hard to find a bought meal on Sundays. No drink at all except for hair lotion or mouth wash at the pharmacies on the Yonge Street strip. Hard up students who roomed with no cooking allowed - that was prevalent. Young kids from wherever getting their first crap jobs to launch them wherever. But we had accommodating "plastic-tops" that catered to our needs most days and others who doled cheap draught.

On Sundays we cheated if our landlords allowed no food and they knew this. Both parties were paying for accommodation in their own way.

Bear in mind that we did not scruple in that era. We had pool rooms, burlesque joints and rough cops who reached for their jacks or billies to make their points. If you bothered no-one, you weren't bothered. It was good.

So, I'll start with the Brass Kettle. It was on McCaul near Darcy/Baldwin. A small, cramped, steamy place that was always warm in winter with a cheap, decent breakfast. It fed most of Toronto's down and out bettors - horse players. Great place with a nice vibe on cold morning.

Silver Dollar Tavern at Spadina and College. I've been in rough bars - hell.I worked in Detroit during the riots, but this bar is the only one I've ever sat in where I could view 4 fights simultaneously from my seat - one of then involving 2 guys pounding on a guy in the women's loo. And then 3 more outside.

The Brunswick House was also interesting at the time. Great music.

Fairbank Tavern was at one time a place I stopped for a beer on a hot Saturday while doing chores - intersection of 3 biker gangs but never any problem.

Lansdowne Tavern same as Fairbank - but in addition to bikers it had mafia guys.

In my student days I lived across from the Rex in a walkup. Then it was the "Wrecks" and a damned fine place it was after 10 when my assignments were complete.

I encountered these places simply because I couldn't sit in a small room, nor could I afford better, and that's where I was. Same with my friends at the time.

Many of you were there too and I'm interested in your recollections.

Before you knock me down on this, please acknowledge that Toronto is still a hard scrapple, vigorous place although I don't see it in the (your) media.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. petek RE: DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 06:40 PM

    A couple that come to mind are..
    The Gasworks(the Works) fights o' plenty,quarts of 50 or Blue only..some great live music to boot
    Cheaters..sticky floors, ugly girls and the guy who owned the place had the worst "rug" ever! I miss it so..

    6 Replies
    1. re: petek
      justsayn RE: petek Feb 20, 2014 07:37 PM

      Two great picks!

      1. re: justsayn
        Torontotonto RE: justsayn Feb 23, 2014 07:39 AM

        Loved the Gasworks but I loved Larry's Hideaway even more. Great music, great soundsystem and ugly as hell. The rooms upstairs were something to behold.
        Every night tht place was filled with punks, goths, metalheads, and every musician in town looking for a break.

        1. re: Torontotonto
          foodyDudey RE: Torontotonto Feb 23, 2014 08:52 AM

          Check out this article about some places from the late 70's, it has an ad for Heaven also.

          http://www.blogto.com/city/2012/07/re...

          1. re: foodyDudey
            Torontotonto RE: foodyDudey Feb 23, 2014 12:22 PM

            I miss that place even more after reading the srticle. Thanks for passing on. I forgot about Danny K.

          2. re: Torontotonto
            Googs RE: Torontotonto Feb 26, 2014 02:33 PM

            Larry's Hideaway where you drank beer from the bottle 'cause you wouldn't dare drink from one of their glasses.

            And aaahh yes, The Gasworks. In it's day, it was considered the first big important step to playing Massey Hall.

        2. re: petek
          crazee RE: petek Feb 26, 2014 09:11 AM

          The Gasworks....LOL good times, got in a fight there on my best friend's 19th birthday...ah memories!

        3. justsayn RE: DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 07:40 PM

          Nice. There's a mini series in there somewhere.

          2 Replies
          1. re: justsayn
            petek RE: justsayn Feb 20, 2014 07:44 PM

            Or a book!

            1. re: petek
              justsayn RE: petek Feb 20, 2014 07:46 PM

              For sure

          2. TorontoTuna RE: DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 08:04 PM

            The original Pilot House at Yonge and Bloor with that great neon sign. Where all the sport's reporters hung out after a Leafs game or a championship fight. Lotta cigar smoke, great bar food and a real slice of old, colorful Toronto. This is also the joint where you could always make book, if so inclined. I got into a great bar fight at the Dollar one night when 'Stompin' Tom' was working his board, so I might of run into D'potato that night.

            3 Replies
            1. re: TorontoTuna
              d
              disgusti RE: TorontoTuna Feb 20, 2014 09:53 PM

              Not seeing stompin tom live is a deep, deep regret for me

              1. re: TorontoTuna
                c
                crawfish RE: TorontoTuna Feb 21, 2014 01:31 PM

                That Pilot was before my time but my teachers at OCA always remembered it fondly. It was apparently quite the artsy club house but that did not carry over to the Cumberland location.

                1. re: crawfish
                  DockPotato RE: crawfish Feb 21, 2014 02:25 PM

                  Actually it did carry over: perhaps not as much. I encountered Arthur Handy at Cumberland well as another OCA instructor whose name escapes me now - he taught typography and lettering. Jack Bush was a regular as well even after he became established.

                  You see, there was a fondness of the owner and the bartender whose name escapes me - the one who had your drink waiting as you sat down at the bar even years after your last visit.

                  There were several good articles about his memory feats in the various papers. It was true. I sat down 7 or 8 years when work took me back and my Blue was waiting as I sat down with the exact amount of foam I preferred. If I was with someone else he always asked for my order.

              2. d
                Dean Tudor RE: DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 08:15 PM

                Are we also going after draught rooms that closed from 6:30 to 8Pm each day?

                Places like the Chez Moi, BayBloor Tavern, Embassy, Jolly Miller, et al? 1950s-1970s.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Dean Tudor
                  pearl3 RE: Dean Tudor Feb 21, 2014 12:45 PM

                  Mmm, the Embassy... As a dirt-poor undergrad, I'd sit there with the female habitues, enjoy a soap opera or two, and drink 20-cent draft...

                  Used to skate on the outdoor rink at the [unreclaimed] Jolly Miller--the bar itself had a fearsome reputation during my childhood.

                  1. re: pearl3
                    d
                    Dean Tudor RE: pearl3 Feb 21, 2014 12:52 PM

                    It was 10 cent draught in my day, 1962...I was at Glendon College...we used to rustle up a gal to join us in the Ladies and Escorts (no more than 3 guys to a gal) room, with table cloths and a nicer set of waiters. Also, I think that they were open through 6:30 - 8Pm

                    1. re: Dean Tudor
                      pearl3 RE: Dean Tudor Feb 21, 2014 01:01 PM

                      Late 60s, U of T student [UC]--and doubling prices, who knew inflation hit so early?

                      By then, I don't think the "Ladies Room," as it was familiarly known, routinely sported tablecloths. But I could be wrong, memory-wise.

                      1. re: pearl3
                        d
                        Dean Tudor RE: pearl3 Feb 21, 2014 01:10 PM

                        I liked the "Escorts" part, gave it some kind of class...

                        The price of beer was determined by LLBO or some govt body. There was a correlation to the volume. I think my 10 center was 10 ounces, yours might have been 12 ounces. Eventually, it dropped to six ounces.

                  2. re: Dean Tudor
                    h
                    Herne RE: Dean Tudor Feb 21, 2014 09:13 PM

                    I recall the Jolly Miller in 1962. Wrote my final exam at Glendon and walked to the Jolly Miller with 8-10 guys. Had 2-3 pints and walked back and down to the rink in the Don Valley to play some ball hockey. Some of the guys had additional supplies and were using bad language at the top of their lungs when we spotted the Dean of Students watching from beyond the wire fence. He again uttered the immortal words--The new students bring so much to the University and the graduates take so little away. Then most of us went back to the Jolly Miller.

                    1. re: Dean Tudor
                      s
                      smlltwnchow RE: Dean Tudor Feb 22, 2014 07:19 PM

                      The Jolly Miller-also known as the Jolly Killer. The place to go in high school. We had grade 13 so lots of 18yr and 19yr olds. They would never serve anyone underage (LOL)
                      Ah yes the Chez Moi. Great patio, would go there on Sunday after playing ball.

                    2. o
                      OldEater RE: DockPotato Feb 20, 2014 10:06 PM

                      Geeze, you're an old fart like me!

                      you seem to have a better memory than me too - I fight to remember those days so every clue you give me wakens more memories! No way it was the lifestyle, eh?

                      email & registration hassles means I will soon have to be re-incarnated - but you'll recognize me

                      1. Brain of J RE: DockPotato Feb 21, 2014 01:20 PM

                        Any current dive recs?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Brain of J
                          d
                          disgusti RE: Brain of J Feb 21, 2014 02:59 PM

                          the dive has kind of gone out of vogue and been replaced by hip bars ie dundas west/ossington, i mean there's still portuguese sports bars and chinatown dumps serving extremely questionable draft pitchers for 10 bucks and selling takeaway cans of beer i've never even seen before but real rough and tumble style dives the likes of what's being discussed in here don't seem to be around much, i mean i guess there's still michael's at queen and bathurst, and i'm sure there are other michael's equivalents scattered around but they're kind of more scary than divey, but the potential of getting stabbed is probably what attracts some people to this kind of place

                          that was a hell of a run on sentence

                        2. TorontoTuna RE: DockPotato Feb 21, 2014 04:14 PM

                          Back in the day we'd have a great meal at Switzers, cross the street to the Victory Burlesque, (we only went for the swell pit-band...like reading Playboy for the articles) then hike a block to Grossman's for 20 cent drafts you had to salt to get a head. Milton Acorn, Canada's best ever poet was usually there and after some bad beer, we'd drag him the block to the Dollar, drink bad scotch, and pour him into bed at his Waverley Hotel digs close by. Grossman's and the Dollar were dives of the first order and Milton was the man.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: TorontoTuna
                            DockPotato RE: TorontoTuna Feb 21, 2014 04:36 PM

                            Bad day when the Victory closed. They were nice folks. Seriously.

                            Ahh, Grossman's. Does it still survive? I hope so. Historically and culturally it's right up there with the Pilot.

                            I didn't know Acorn. If I said to you Gerry Lampert, Austin Clark or or Joe Rosenblat, would those resonate?

                            1. re: DockPotato
                              z
                              ziggystardust RE: DockPotato Feb 22, 2014 08:12 AM

                              Grossman's lives on. When I was a student in the early nineties it had a reputation for being pot friendly (when you could still smoke in bars). They still have live jazz and it's still a hangout for local characters.

                              1. re: ziggystardust
                                c
                                crawfish RE: ziggystardust Feb 22, 2014 12:25 PM

                                Yes, Grossman's is still the real deal, it has a real community of regulars and the Happy Pals play New Orleans style jazz on Sunday afternoons.
                                I would also nominate Graffitti's in Kensington. It's not the old tavern style of dive bar but more of a 70s punk era dive bar. On Saturday afternoons there's a band usually comprised of middle aged punks and the audience is middle aged groupies. Great music, great people watching.

                                1. re: crawfish
                                  Googs RE: crawfish Feb 26, 2014 02:25 PM

                                  I was just at Grossman's about a month ago. As (my) luck would have it, a team of all star musicians showed up to play that night. It's still worth sticking your nose in to see what's happening, for sure.

                                  1. re: crawfish
                                    a
                                    abigllama RE: crawfish Mar 3, 2014 04:54 PM

                                    Not to mention the awesome Black Metal Brunch at Graffitti's. If Murdersquad TO happens to be playing that day, your server will be doing double duty on bar and vocals!

                            2. d
                              Dean Tudor RE: DockPotato Feb 21, 2014 06:03 PM

                              ........and so when do we move into blind pig territory...

                              1. b
                                blogs RE: DockPotato Feb 21, 2014 08:02 PM

                                I remember the Duke of York on Queen as the toughest of the downtown bars

                                also the Brown Derby at Yonge and Dundas

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: blogs
                                  Googs RE: blogs Feb 26, 2014 02:29 PM

                                  Duke of York with pro wrestler/dj Sweet Daddy Siki!

                                  1. re: Googs
                                    pearl3 RE: Googs Feb 27, 2014 08:06 AM

                                    The number of people who draw a blank when you mention "the sweetest Daddy of them all" just depresses me...

                                    It's still good to do the Sweet Daddy walk.

                                    1. re: pearl3
                                      Googs RE: pearl3 Feb 27, 2014 09:39 AM

                                      LOL

                                    2. re: Googs
                                      j
                                      Jar RE: Googs Feb 27, 2014 11:26 AM

                                      Didn't know Sweet Daddy was a dj , but he did record a country LP sounding a lot like Charlie Pride, used to have dozens decades ago, long all sold!

                                      1. re: Jar
                                        midtowngirl RE: Jar May 2, 2014 10:49 AM

                                        You know Sweet Daddy Siki still hosts Karaoke on Saturday afternoons at the Duke? Definitely a dive bar, but they did put in a very nice patio last summer.

                                        http://thedukelive.com/

                                    3. re: blogs
                                      r
                                      rails RE: blogs May 10, 2014 11:05 AM

                                      The Duke was not the worst or the toughest bars DT.
                                      How about the Canada House, The Edwin, The Winchester, many more tough places back then, My old memory just can't bring them out right now.

                                    4. Flexitarian RE: DockPotato Feb 22, 2014 07:36 AM

                                      Ok this isn't technically a 'worst dive' in terms of a restaurant but these nostalgic reminisces of food in Toronto from days gone yore reminds me of when I was a little kid in the 60's in Toronto and my Mom let me go to Eatons & Simpson's downtown where I always used to go to buy a model airplane kit with the allowance I had saved up for months. In the lower level of Simpson's they had a wicket and counter where they sold a hotdog for 25c and an orange juice for 10c (yes real orange juice with pulp) in a cone shaped paper cup inserted into a metal hourglass shaped container that was reused. The only condiment was mustard (unlike today!).

                                      Does anyone remember that hole in the wall? I was so sorry when one day I arrived with my change in my hot sticky little fingers and it was no longer there...

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: Flexitarian
                                        h
                                        Herne RE: Flexitarian Feb 22, 2014 08:30 AM

                                        I recall the place although it was in the 40's probably after the war. I wanted to drink the orange juice from the cup in the metal holder. Never aspired to the hotdog. Since it was orange juice I guess it was after the war. I recall seeing my first orange about 1945 or 46.

                                        1. re: Herne
                                          pearl3 RE: Herne Feb 22, 2014 10:25 AM

                                          Mwah--my dad worked for Eatons, and in the 50s and 60s, there actually was company loyalty--it precluded getting off the subway at Simpsons.

                                          Eventually I did, though. Wasn't that orange stuff Honeydew?
                                          Same as at the Ex? I thought it was [let's really date ourselves] the cat's pajamas...

                                          1. re: pearl3
                                            Flexitarian RE: pearl3 Feb 22, 2014 03:30 PM

                                            Hmmm, you might be right. Maybe I only thought there was pulp in it. It definitely was not a Honeydew location. I thought the sign only said 'Red Hots', not 'Ritz Carlton Red Hots'. The buns were split along the side (or top if you look at it that way).

                                            1. re: Flexitarian
                                              c
                                              crawfish RE: Flexitarian Feb 25, 2014 05:21 PM

                                              I don't remember a Ritz Carleton mention, it was just Honey Dew in the 70s. The whole place was stainless steel and they only carried two items: the honeydew drink and the hot dog. I think you ordered "one and one".
                                              Also the donuts in Simpsons right by the subway entrance will live in my memory forever. Tiny Tim's at the Ex never live up to those donuts.

                                              1. re: crawfish
                                                d
                                                Dean Tudor RE: crawfish Feb 25, 2014 05:36 PM

                                                Honeydew is still available at

                                                http://www.hdew.com/hd_history.html

                                                and there is a reference to Waldorf Red Hots rather than Ritz Carlton. I think the OP was confused....

                                                1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                  pearl3 RE: Dean Tudor Feb 27, 2014 08:11 AM

                                                  Thanks for the link; I had no idea it was still available. Sometimes I wish I had one of those cone/megaphone-shaped Honeydew containers.

                                                  In return for your link, I offer the blog of the grand-daughter of the owner of the Rondun: http://ellepersephone.blogspot.ca/201...
                                                  Some good stories in there.

                                                  1. re: pearl3
                                                    d
                                                    Dean Tudor RE: pearl3 Feb 27, 2014 04:46 PM

                                                    No, pearl3, thanks for YOUR link!!! Amazing.

                                        2. re: Flexitarian
                                          l
                                          ludwig1953 RE: Flexitarian Feb 22, 2014 09:51 AM

                                          i remember it.
                                          great steamy hotdogs!

                                          1. re: Flexitarian
                                            d
                                            Dean Tudor RE: Flexitarian Feb 22, 2014 11:47 AM

                                            would that be a Honeydew location? also serving Red Hots (hot dogs)...

                                            1. re: Dean Tudor
                                              pearl3 RE: Dean Tudor Feb 22, 2014 11:51 AM

                                              In fact, weren't those called "Ritz Carlton Red Hots"?

                                              Did they have split-top buns?

                                              And I always wondered why "Ritz Carlton"...

                                              1. re: pearl3
                                                k
                                                kwfoodiewannabe RE: pearl3 May 2, 2014 09:47 AM

                                                pearl3,

                                                The hotel reference (Ritz Carlton) was close...

                                                They were called WALDORF red hots. Best I can remember there was no pulp in the orange.

                                                VERY similar to the Honey Dew experience.

                                                1. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                  pearl3 RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 2, 2014 10:26 AM

                                                  Thanks,kwf, I think my memory fell prey to the Eatons/Simpsons barrier referred to earlier.

                                                  I don't think I actually got off the subway in Simpsons until I was fifteen...

                                          2. z
                                            ziggystardust RE: DockPotato Feb 22, 2014 08:21 AM

                                            If you want to visit a real dive and not a trendy or nostalgic one I highly recommend Michael's at Queen/Bathurst. I remember walking by it one day and seeing two women in their fifties down on the pavement outside. One was on top of the other, repeatedly smashing her head into the ground. From what I could gather, it was over a cigarette. It won't be long before places like this will no longer exist downtown.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: ziggystardust
                                              c
                                              crawfish RE: ziggystardust Feb 22, 2014 12:31 PM

                                              Yes, I live near Michael's. It is truly scary. Absolutely no redeeming qualtites. Type of place Rob Ford and Sandro Lisi would hang out in.

                                              1. re: crawfish
                                                z
                                                ziggystardust RE: crawfish Feb 22, 2014 02:38 PM

                                                I would go further than that and say it's the kind of place Ford and Lisi would send someone in to buy drugs for them because they'd be too scared to go themselves.

                                              2. re: ziggystardust
                                                Matt H RE: ziggystardust Feb 26, 2014 12:36 PM

                                                Michael's is truly a depressing place. I prefer classier spots like Alfie's on Queen/Sherbourne.

                                                Also is Town Talk still open on Vaughan Rd, would definitely call that a dive. Cool spot if you are with the right people though.

                                                1. re: Matt H
                                                  Googs RE: Matt H Feb 26, 2014 02:27 PM

                                                  What about Canada House that used to be at Queen & Sherbourne? Great place to scare clients.

                                                  1. re: Googs
                                                    d
                                                    disgusti RE: Googs Feb 26, 2014 05:22 PM

                                                    I've heard great things about the hot dog at Mounties at dundas/jarvis

                                                    1. re: Googs
                                                      Matt H RE: Googs Feb 27, 2014 04:50 AM

                                                      I've heard stories, but never went! I guess its a condo now?

                                                      That strip also has The Buffalo a couple doors down from Alfie's as well, its great to have options.

                                                2. PoppiYYZ RE: DockPotato Feb 22, 2014 02:46 PM

                                                  Does anyone remember the name of the second floor dive more or less across from Sam the Record Man on Yonge ? Think they closed in the late 90s.

                                                  Great dive, especially on a weekday afternoon ! Ice cold Molson Stock ale and my dad's fav Molson Golden.

                                                  I'm sorry, I, sniff, I'm, begin to weep...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: PoppiYYZ
                                                    eller RE: PoppiYYZ May 7, 2014 06:37 AM

                                                    Rielly's?

                                                  2. z
                                                    ziggystardust RE: DockPotato Feb 22, 2014 03:21 PM

                                                    Okay, not a restaurant or bar but remember Le Strip at Yonge/Shuter? We used to go there in high school when we were too young to go to a regular strip club because they didn't serve alcohol (which we circumvented by bringing in a mickey and adding it to the syrupy fountain pop that was served in a paper cup from a vending machine).

                                                    By god that place was sleazy but the 16 year old me was too entranced by the strippers to care.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: ziggystardust
                                                      m
                                                      mrzee RE: ziggystardust May 2, 2014 08:14 PM

                                                      Was the emcee Rummy Bishop?

                                                    2. d
                                                      Doctormhl1 RE: DockPotato Feb 23, 2014 08:54 AM

                                                      The King Cole Room in the basement of the Park Plaza Hotel and the Bohemian Embassy were popular watering holes with U of T students and Faculty circa 1956-60 when I was an undergrad.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Doctormhl1
                                                        d
                                                        Dean Tudor RE: Doctormhl1 Feb 23, 2014 09:55 AM

                                                        You must mean The Embassy at Bay and Bloor area

                                                        Bohemian Embassy was a coffee house, 1960s, at Yonge and Wellesley...

                                                        1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                          pearl3 RE: Dean Tudor Feb 23, 2014 10:42 AM

                                                          A joint I really can't remember the name of, sorry--was on Yonge St, a couple of blocks north of Bloor, east side--near a restaurant that, I think, Bruno Gerussi owned. This particular one-room gem lacked any charm whatsoever, except for a mural of jockeys and horses on the back wall. Surely it had a name related to racing--and not the Paddock...

                                                          By the 70s, it was frequented by slumming U of T Trinity students.

                                                          1. re: pearl3
                                                            justsayn RE: pearl3 Feb 23, 2014 11:42 AM

                                                            The Morrissey?

                                                            1. re: justsayn
                                                              pearl3 RE: justsayn Feb 23, 2014 12:38 PM

                                                              Right you are, and thanks!

                                                              Although it sorta trendied up a bit in the 80s--until it closed in the early 90s, I think, it lacked any discernable charm.

                                                              1. re: pearl3
                                                                c
                                                                crawfish RE: pearl3 Feb 25, 2014 05:23 PM

                                                                I have to disagree. The Mo had considerable charm.

                                                                1. re: crawfish
                                                                  MissBingBing RE: crawfish Feb 26, 2014 10:21 AM

                                                                  +1

                                                      2. d
                                                        Doctormhl1 RE: DockPotato Feb 23, 2014 09:04 AM

                                                        The Canary Restaurant on Front St. and Cherry St. certainly has to rate as one of the scuzziest dives in the City. If you are unsure if your current squeeze loves you or not, take her for a meal at the Canary. If she is still on speaking terms with you subsequently, then you have found your life's soulmate.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Doctormhl1
                                                          b
                                                          BIGeater100 RE: Doctormhl1 Feb 24, 2014 10:39 AM

                                                          Canary (and their great breakfasts, closed a while back)

                                                        2. justsayn RE: DockPotato Feb 23, 2014 09:46 AM

                                                          Seen some things at hotel Waverly.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: justsayn
                                                            TorontoTuna RE: justsayn Feb 23, 2014 10:19 AM

                                                            This is the joint that guys went to after being kicked out of the Dollar. There was an after hour booze can on the 2nd floor and the old girl who ran it with her son, who was a doppelganger for 'Lenny', told me she had once served James Earl Ray, when he was on the lam from killing Martin Luther King. I heard they want to tear down the hotel and the Dollar to put up another high rise. Luckily I have weekend digs near Tweed and can always hang at the Tweedsmuir.

                                                          2. Flexitarian RE: DockPotato Feb 23, 2014 01:51 PM

                                                            Anyone ever go to Duffy's Tavern on Bloor west of Dufferin? I went to Bloor Collegiate and it was right across the road almost. I didn't think it was still open but I found their website and it seems like it is. It was (and likely is) a bit of a dive and I had my first drink there when I was 16 as they didn't seem to care that much about checking your ID if you looked 18 (now raised to 19 of course). I remember I ordered a Bloody Caesar and the waiter turned to my friend, a guy who always tried to act very butch, and said "And what do you want? A Pink Lady?" My friend never lived that one down.

                                                            10 Replies
                                                            1. re: Flexitarian
                                                              pearl3 RE: Flexitarian Feb 24, 2014 11:18 AM

                                                              Oh, yes, it's still there.

                                                              Another west-end joint--gone since the 80s when I moved to Roncesvalles--and a place with quite the reputation--the Rondun. A half-timbered two-storey establishment, which the mists of nostalgia have named a "rock palace," it was a bit of a sewer during regular business hours.

                                                              1. re: pearl3
                                                                d
                                                                Dean Tudor RE: pearl3 Feb 24, 2014 12:26 PM

                                                                Yes, "classic" dive.

                                                                1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                  Torontotonto RE: Dean Tudor Feb 25, 2014 04:48 AM

                                                                  I remember the Rondun. I saw many a bands there. I remember the draft was very cheap and in small 5-6 oz glasses. You would order entire trays for the table. It is still not around is it?

                                                                2. re: pearl3
                                                                  c
                                                                  crawfish RE: pearl3 Feb 25, 2014 05:25 PM

                                                                  The Rundown.

                                                                  1. re: crawfish
                                                                    d
                                                                    Dean Tudor RE: crawfish Feb 25, 2014 05:42 PM

                                                                    How old are you?I haven't heard "rundown" in, like, since the last century!!!

                                                                    1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                      c
                                                                      crawfish RE: Dean Tudor Feb 27, 2014 12:10 PM

                                                                      My older brother's first apartment was just north of the Rondon. He told me :)

                                                                      1. re: crawfish
                                                                        d
                                                                        Dean Tudor RE: crawfish Feb 27, 2014 04:49 PM

                                                                        He must be LOTS older than you...check out the link above...http://ellepersephone.blogspot.ca/201...

                                                                        1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                          c
                                                                          crawfish RE: Dean Tudor Mar 11, 2014 06:54 PM

                                                                          What fantastic stories, pearl3!

                                                                3. re: Flexitarian
                                                                  a
                                                                  abigllama RE: Flexitarian Mar 3, 2014 05:37 PM

                                                                  They used to have a lot of underground metal shows upstairs at Duffy's.

                                                                  It was a weird place. There was death metal on the top floor, old men watching soccer on the main floor where the bar was, then a the lower level looked like church luncheon was going on there.

                                                                  1. re: Flexitarian
                                                                    v
                                                                    Vinnie Vidimangi RE: Flexitarian Mar 11, 2014 08:57 PM

                                                                    What years at BCI?

                                                                  2. a
                                                                    air621 RE: DockPotato Feb 26, 2014 09:48 AM

                                                                    The Marquee and Under The Marquee in the early 90s (and likely prior). Where the Good Life is at Coxwell and Gerrard. My band had a month long residency there back in 1990 or 91. They had 75¬Ę draft that you could order by the tray. The nights we played, it was a popular first stop upon release from the Don Jail. An old lady started yelling at my band to "Play something lively!" Along with Stratenger's, it was a place that bands could play in the east end. Loading out past last call could feel dangerous at times. Ah, youth

                                                                    1. Googs RE: DockPotato Feb 26, 2014 02:34 PM

                                                                      The Silver Dollar lives. I've seen countless great shows there. Hey, if you want it live, you have to go where it's happening.
                                                                      http://www.silverdollarroom.com/shows...

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Googs
                                                                        a
                                                                        abigllama RE: Googs Mar 3, 2014 05:39 PM

                                                                        I've seen lots of bands play at The Silver Dollar as well. Have heard stories about it being a rough place in the past. But it's just like any other music venue now Possibly when I've gone the cover charge for the band has kept the rougher element out.

                                                                        Have never seen a fight there. The bar staff tends to keep that change without asking which is mildly irritating.

                                                                        1. re: abigllama
                                                                          d
                                                                          disgusti RE: abigllama Mar 11, 2014 08:23 PM

                                                                          I saw jay reatard knock some dude out at the silver dollar a few years before he died it was awesome

                                                                        2. re: Googs
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dean Tudor RE: Googs May 3, 2014 08:07 PM

                                                                          The Silver Dollar Room in the 1960s was well-known for its food. To meet the LCBO regulation that food had to be served, the room served a basic rye sandwich: one slice, cut in half, with a half piece of sliced cheese and a half slice of onion, packaged with wax paper -- for a nickle or dime. I used to save the paper for my own lunch sandwiches..

                                                                        3. Torontotonto RE: DockPotato Feb 26, 2014 05:17 PM

                                                                          Thank you for this. The biggest dive ever was Roberta's. On jarvis just south of Dundas on the East Side. They had terry cloth tables in order to wipe up the blood. A pool table that was dangerous, and cheap beer to get you to Larry's or the Gasworks.Crazy. Glad to be alive now.

                                                                          1. r
                                                                            RossNorton RE: DockPotato May 2, 2014 08:41 AM

                                                                            For someone who doesn't drink, boy was I in a lot of real dives.

                                                                            1976 worked kitty corner to the Warwick Hotel. If you gave Toronto an enema this is where it would go. At that time Dundas and Jarvis was the tenderloin district.

                                                                            When they closed the Warwick, the Stage 212 (Fillmore's) became the go to place.

                                                                            Paid my way through school working door at some dives. Gasworks and Generator were not really much trouble. Nor was the Westie (West Hill tavern).

                                                                            If you wanted brawls it was Toronto's top spot for bands, the Knob Hill Hotel.

                                                                            So during my time, I got to know the two most storied bouncers in Toronto history 'Baldy' Chard (look him up) and Mike Johnston. Baldy is now gone but I would give a lot to see Mike again.

                                                                            Other dives include the Canada House on the S.W. corner of Queen and Sherbourne.

                                                                            The Roy Rogers Room of the Canadian Motor Hotel, where the big hotel at Kennedy and the 401 is now located. Used to frequent there during high school lunch. The waiter would just walk over and drop a tray of 15 cent drafts on your table. That was their standard order. Rick Boyd was the number one waiter!

                                                                            Does anyone remember the tavern/public house that used to stand just east of Midland on the south side of Danforth?

                                                                            And of course the Bennie and the Alpine on Kingston Road.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: RossNorton
                                                                              j
                                                                              julesrules RE: RossNorton May 2, 2014 10:51 AM

                                                                              Ah yes, the Alpine. I used to work at a little place that attracted people who got kicked out of there...

                                                                              1. re: RossNorton
                                                                                a
                                                                                Aardvark RE: RossNorton May 3, 2014 11:29 AM

                                                                                I remember the Alpine. There used to be a waiter there who was really skinny except he had this beer belly that stuck out like it was glued on.

                                                                                1. re: RossNorton
                                                                                  j
                                                                                  JCIAM RE: RossNorton May 3, 2014 01:45 PM

                                                                                  Danforth and Midland....The Scarborough House

                                                                                  1. re: RossNorton
                                                                                    Googs RE: RossNorton May 6, 2014 11:38 AM

                                                                                    Ah yes, the Scabby House. So many of my favourites named here.

                                                                                  2. k
                                                                                    kwfoodiewannabe RE: DockPotato May 2, 2014 01:27 PM

                                                                                    I remember once going to an interesting place called The Derby Tavern - can't quite remember where - I think King or Queen east? Pretty sparse.

                                                                                    13 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                                                      DockPotato RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 2, 2014 03:09 PM

                                                                                      You are thinking of the bar on the southeast corner of Yonge & Dundas perhaps?

                                                                                      Friends on the force and media told me that the Derby was the first place that convicts headed upon release. Foggy memory, but was it "The Brown Derby"?

                                                                                      1. re: DockPotato
                                                                                        k
                                                                                        kwfoodiewannabe RE: DockPotato May 3, 2014 04:55 PM

                                                                                        No I certainly remember the Brown derby, and this was nowhere near Yonge St. definitely east end. Just called the Derby tavern. Quite a dive. Might 've even had sawdust on the floors (?) if I remember correctly. Pretty sure it was King or Queen east, and definitely east of Sherbourne.

                                                                                        1. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                                                          d
                                                                                          Dean Tudor RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 3, 2014 07:59 PM

                                                                                          The Brown Derby was on NE corner of Bloor and Dundas. Trust me. I was there....great music, cheap beer.

                                                                                          1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                                            k
                                                                                            kwfoodiewannabe RE: Dean Tudor May 4, 2014 05:57 AM

                                                                                            Not referring to the Brown Derby, this was most certainly called the Derby Tavern and definitely in the East end. (nowhere NEAR Bloor and Dundas)

                                                                                            Any Scarborough/Beaches folks recall this dive?

                                                                                            Also, not sure whether there was a "Brown Derby" at the location you recall at one time, but as DockPotato mentioned, the famous Brown Derby was a fixture of Downtown Toronto on the NorthEast corner (not SE) of Yonge and Dundas for many years (from the late 40's to the 70's)

                                                                                            1. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                                                              d
                                                                                              Dean Tudor RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 4, 2014 07:45 AM

                                                                                              sorry, i meant to say NE corner of Yonge and Dundas. my apologies, no sleep.

                                                                                              1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                                                k
                                                                                                kwfoodiewannabe RE: Dean Tudor May 5, 2014 10:13 AM

                                                                                                No need for apologies!

                                                                                                I was just wondering if there was another Brown Derby! (in Toronto)

                                                                                              2. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                                                                mariecollins RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 5, 2014 06:46 AM

                                                                                                I remember the Derby Tavern - I think it was on Dundas, East of Broadview.

                                                                                                1. re: mariecollins
                                                                                                  k
                                                                                                  kwfoodiewannabe RE: mariecollins May 5, 2014 10:12 AM

                                                                                                  I think you nailed it mariecollins!

                                                                                                  Dundas east of Broadview sounds about right. Pretty "divey" as I recall...

                                                                                              3. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                                                DockPotato RE: Dean Tudor May 5, 2014 10:06 AM

                                                                                                Yes. you're right, Dean. I remember now. The southeast corner had a menswear shop.

                                                                                                1. re: DockPotato
                                                                                                  tikiliberationfront RE: DockPotato May 10, 2014 06:34 AM

                                                                                                  The Derby under discussion here was on King at Parliament. It was another one of those 'drink the quarts 'cause you can't trust the glasses' sort of place (I worked in the area in the mid '80s and would go there after work). Like most dives it's long gone.

                                                                                                  http://losttoronto2.wordpress.com/201...

                                                                                                  1. re: tikiliberationfront
                                                                                                    k
                                                                                                    kwfoodiewannabe RE: tikiliberationfront May 12, 2014 04:24 AM

                                                                                                    YES! Looks like my original recollection of King East was correct. Great sketchy divey place!
                                                                                                    Thanks, "tlb"!

                                                                                                    1. re: kwfoodiewannabe
                                                                                                      mariecollins RE: kwfoodiewannabe May 13, 2014 07:35 AM

                                                                                                      So what was the bloody place on Gerrard or Dundas, East of Broadview? It's a coffee time now I think. I went there after a show at the Opera house one night - definately North of Queen.

                                                                                                      1. re: mariecollins
                                                                                                        Googs RE: mariecollins May 13, 2014 10:53 AM

                                                                                                        Dennis House. Northwest corner of Broadview & Dundas. Yeah, I hit that too.

                                                                                        2. y
                                                                                          Yongeman RE: DockPotato May 4, 2014 08:28 AM

                                                                                          As an early York University student in the late 60's, the closest drinking hole was the Beverly Hills Tavern near Jane and Wilson. The Men's Room...full of posties, 10 cent draught beer (drop a tray, please) and, on Friday afternoons, underage York students, some of whom belonged to the infamous 'Stamp Club' (no stamps were involved). Lots of fake ID here.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Yongeman
                                                                                            d
                                                                                            Dean Tudor RE: Yongeman May 5, 2014 04:19 PM

                                                                                            I was a York student in the early 60s, at Glendon campus. our dive was the Jolly Miller in Hoggs Hollow (York Mills). All the Men's Rooms were the same over town. The price was regulated at at a dime, but the glass size kept dropping, People used the same fake ID patterns (legal age was 21 then). Eventually I got thrown out when I turned 21 at the Jolly Miller -- the waiters had thought I was 21 already for years by now -- they wanted revenge...

                                                                                            1. re: Dean Tudor
                                                                                              y
                                                                                              Yongeman RE: Dean Tudor May 5, 2014 04:41 PM

                                                                                              Ha ha. Good story, DT.

                                                                                          2. eller RE: DockPotato May 7, 2014 06:39 AM

                                                                                            No love here for Noah's Ark at Dawes and Danforth? That place was as skeezy as they come at the end of its life.

                                                                                            1. Kagemusha RE: DockPotato May 13, 2014 06:07 AM

                                                                                              Looks like the Broadview Hotel on Queen has been sold. No more Jilly's.

                                                                                              http://torontoist.com/2014/05/say-goo...

                                                                                              1. k
                                                                                                kbdid RE: DockPotato May 14, 2014 10:16 AM

                                                                                                Linsmore, Noah's Ark, and formerly Duffy's (which has cleaned up a bit)...A place called "This Month Only' on Dupont looks pretty dodgy - I've seen incredibly drunk older men crossing from it into the Portuguese bar across the road.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: kbdid
                                                                                                  mariecollins RE: kbdid May 14, 2014 10:22 AM

                                                                                                  The Linsmore has cleaned up now. Live bands attracting lots of people from the neighbourhood.

                                                                                                  1. re: mariecollins
                                                                                                    n
                                                                                                    neighborguy RE: mariecollins May 15, 2014 12:40 PM

                                                                                                    Not to worry, there's still Helens Bar and Burger on Danforth at Coxwell. But it's a snorefest compared to Tommy's and it's neighbor over by Greenwood.

                                                                                                2. c
                                                                                                  CelesteK33n RE: DockPotato Jun 1, 2014 08:47 PM

                                                                                                  I had hight hopes that by the time I was 19 I would be able to gain entry into the Gasworks but those dreams were quashed when the landlord at the time, who was a crook, shut the place down and sold it to a japanese business man who then turned it into a fine dining establishment and that's only one of a string of indignities that was done to the Gasworks bar.
                                                                                                  Other indignities that were done to this building include a dollar store and PR store on top, a sporting goods shop, and now an army surplus store with a gym on top.

                                                                                                  1. c
                                                                                                    crackerssouth RE: DockPotato Jun 2, 2014 12:27 PM

                                                                                                    The Conroy Hotel was our favorite place, 30 draft for 3 bucks, Jarvis House and the Oakwood were up there too. I can't afford to go to the Miller anymore.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: crackerssouth
                                                                                                      o
                                                                                                      OldEater RE: crackerssouth Jun 2, 2014 02:05 PM

                                                                                                      Thanks for firing up the memories of the Conroy. So much gets forgotten over time & change...

                                                                                                      1. re: crackerssouth
                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                        mrzee RE: crackerssouth Jun 2, 2014 02:15 PM

                                                                                                        The Conroy was my second home during my late teens and early twenties. Great memories :-)

                                                                                                      2. foodyDudey RE: DockPotato Jun 2, 2014 02:10 PM

                                                                                                        Nobody has mentioned the Black Swan on Danforth. I have never been inside, but it sure appears like a dive when I walk by. It does not even have a kitchen, so don't bother asking for the menu.

                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: foodyDudey
                                                                                                          c
                                                                                                          crackerssouth RE: foodyDudey Jun 6, 2014 04:23 AM

                                                                                                          Many a Bell party held in the Swan. Even dancing on the tables, girls were wild then.

                                                                                                        Show Hidden Posts