Skip the app, order directly and ask for beer mats.
In Toronto, more than anywhere else in the world (with the possible exception of Dublin), pubs are sacred. In London, the only other city that might have come close, they went gastro a generation ago and have never recovered.
Once pubs start getting ideas, it’s almost impossible for them to get their groove back. It’s like John Wayne playing Genghis Khan, Lou Reed teaming up with Metallica, or Kanye getting chummy with Trump. There are other places to go for lardons and apple sorbet.
Toronto’s got a few of those (like The Oxley and the House on Parliament, which to be fair are quite good). But despite Toronto Life magazine occasionally praising a pub for its “exceptional wine list,” the scene is still intact. Blue still reigns supreme on the city’s taps and menus are still comfortably dominated by mozzarella sticks and wings.
The thing about pubs, though, is that they’re pure experience. You go to a pub because you feel like going to a pub. You appreciate the Molson Ex and the poppers, but it’s not why you go.
You go because pubs are a great place to go, as their very name makes clear. Public houses are where the public have gathered, since the last big pandemic in fact, and where we have always had a good time.
But now we’re all at home, and I for one have never even considered getting pub food to go, never mind delivered. And under normal circumstances, I still wouldn’t. It’s not exactly healthy, and I’d be worried that, out of context, it might not even be as yummy as I thought it was.
But in our current circumstances, getting pub grub at home should not only be a consideration. It’s a necessity for two specific and even urgent reasons. With bars, clubs, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, and Sky Zone closed, fun is in short supply these days. We’ve figured out workarounds for the movies, and even the gigs and plays to a certain extent, but there’s still a fun-deficit.
Pubs are fun, and like most things that are, that’s at least as attributable to a state of mind as it is to the material trappings of your local.
So here’s what you need to do.
Order your go-to pub grub
Jessica Buccella, general manager of The Madison and doing double duty as a server at sister pub Pauper’s (both in the Annex), says their most popular pandemic order by far is wings, which though technically you could make at home, “just aren’t the same.” But mozza sticks, chicken fingers, burgers, fries, they’re all available.
How many pints do you usually get?
Be honest. And remember, you’re not going to have to drive home, or even stand up on a streetcar. A standard pint is 568ml, a standard bottle 341ml. That means a six pack is only three-and-a-half pints. Order accordingly.
What about the beer mats?
What would a night out at a pub be without a soggy beer mat to play with, keep unsticking from the bottom of your glass, and ultimately pull apart?
Hot Tip: ask for some, and your pub will almost certainly throw a few into the bag for you. If you were in college at any point in the last decade or so, you probably have a few pint glasses around the place, but if not, Buccella assured me she’d sell you a few for a couple of bucks each.
Call the pub directly
Since Skip the Dishes doesn’t have a “beer mat” box to check, and since they also take a big cut, call your pub directly and see if they deliver (Pauper’s does, for instance).
Want to be even more spontaneous?
Some pubs are selling their appies and other grub frozen, so you can order a few pounds of your favourite chicken fingers or cheese sticks. Pop them in the oven or deep fryer whenever the mood strikes.
Make it social
You may or may not be a Zoomer, or a fan of Microsoft Teams or any of the other video conferencing apps that have taken the place of socializing, but synching up your order with your usual pub buds could heighten the experience.
But if that doesn’t work, and you’ve got someone else in the house, try to make it a communal experience. Order two of everything, and double the beer (or wine, or cocktail kits), dump the wings into a big mixing bowl between you and have a night out.
The second reason we should all be ordering pub food right now is even more urgent.
If we want to ensure that Toronto remains the glorious pub town it has been for the past two centuries, we need to make sure we’ve still got some pubs at the end of this, and that’s not guaranteed if we don’t keep giving them our business.
There are a lot that are still open, like Orwell’s in the west end, The Auld Spot and Rails and Ales on the Danforth, The Dizzy on Roncesvalles, Timothy’s on Brown’s Line, and the city’s oldest pub, The Wheatsheaf (est. 1849), closed for months before the lockdown, and now open for takeout and delivery at King and Bathurst.
Toronto’s a pub town. Let’s keep it that way.