Say cheers to craft beer and pub eats in this relaxed east-end Toronto neighbourhood.
The long commercial stretch of Danforth Avenue, or “The Danforth” as Torontonians invariably call it, is known for a number of culinary strengths—not just the Greek food on which its local reputation is built, but also Middle Eastern and Ethiopian cuisine, specialty food shops and a handful of burger and barbecue spots of note.
The Danforth also sports a fine selection of beer bars, brewpubs and gastropubs. Lucky locals can pop in for a pint and conversation on a whim, while for visitors these spots are destinations worth seeking out. Here are a few, arranged from west to east.
Would we consider Allen’s, a few steps from Broadview subway station, a gastropub? On the one hand, it opened in 1987, before the concept enjoyed popular currency. And its whole vibe reaches back even further. Allen’s looks like the hangout of a debonair detective from a hard-boiled, mid-20th-century crime flick. The whisky list is among the longest in town. The food is classic bistro fare. If you tell a regular you’re headed to Allen’s, they will insist you try the famous, plump burger. But take it from this fan: You would also not be disappointed by the lamb shank or the beer-battered fish and chips.
All in all, if this pub isn’t gastro, I don’t know what is.
This watering hole is locally loved for its traditional west coast Irish vibe. The site of another former neighbourhood fave—Dora Keogh—Noonan’s Pub was opened by a Dora Keogh regular once the opportunity arose. Expect traditional Irish tunes Fridays through Tuesdays and an excellent food program run by next-door neighbours, Allen’s.
Louis Cifer Brew Works
Further east, Louis Cifer Brew Works is a modern, family-friendly, crowd-pleasing take on the brewpub. The atmosphere is bright and busy. The menu offers a good range of contemporary pub grub favourites from kale salad to fried chicken. Louis Cifer takes care to always have alcohol-free and gluten-free beer available and also makes a “craft root beer” of its own.
The beer styles made on the premises run a wide range of styles, from radler to stout, with taste profiles aimed at a mass audience as opposed to beer geeks. In short, Louis Cifer caters to everyone. That is not a criticism.
Further east, The Wren is known as the food lover’s craft beer pub. Home to local brews and gut-busting Southern food, its rustic, ranchy vibe is just the thing to warm up a frosty evening out with friends. Burgers get an Asian treatment with shishito peppers and wasabi, while the Bacon Blue Whoop-Tee Do Chicken Sandwich tantalizes with pickle-brined, Creole spiced fried chicken, spicy ranch dressing, blue cheese crumbles and bacon. After all, burgers and sammies are the perfect partner to beer.
Speaking of the unfamiliar, who’s heard of boerenkool? Frikandel? Poffertjes? No? Well, if Dutch comfort food hasn’t taken the world by storm, it must be the names that are getting in the way. Because as Borrel proves, it’s all far more delicious than it sounds. Boerenkool, for example, is kale-flecked mash potatoes with smoked sausage and it’s still better than that sounds.
Billing itself as “Toronto’s cozy Dutch bar,” Borrel is the city’s closest imitation of an Amsterdam-style brown café; it also serves a few Indonesian dishes. Whether you’re washing down satay or salted herring, ask about special beers on tap: the lineup often includes a variety of Southern Ontario brews, too.
Getting to The Danforth:
- Take the Line 2: Bloor-Danforth subway and get off at any station between Broadview and Coxwell.