The top new pubs in Toronto give us plenty to say "Cheers" about - but first let me clarify the difference between a bar and a pub, so we all know exactly what it is we are celebrating. Both serve alcohol and often food, but unlike a bar, which usually has a limited menu and wider range of cocktails, wine and hard alcohol, a pub (short for "Public House") usually has a bigger, more filling menu and a focus on beers and ciders.
The pub is a long-standing British tradition, a pillar of the community. The casual atmosphere lends itself to the 'long hang', and are home to patrons young and very, very old (like scary old, like "how long have you been in this place, man?"). Toronto's new pubs are all putting their own spin on the tradition, with a couple veering closely into bar territory, but all have a homey food-focused vibe and seats filled with smiling faces.
Here are my picks for the top new pubs in Toronto for 2014.
Fans of Duggan's beer got a big boost this year when they relaunched their long-departed brewpub in Parkdale. Not only could you enjoy every Duggan's beer available under one roof, you could eat from a menu prepared to compliment each lager and ale.
Louis Cifer Brew Works
Danforth drinking got a lot more action with the opening of Louis Cifer Brew Works, the latest craft beer spot to open in the area. They feature their own Louis Cifer brews alongside an impressive list of local and regional wobbly pops.
Korean Cowboy on Eglinton is a kind of Korean/Western pub specializing in traditional Anju food - Korean small plates with a twist - plus pub favourites like wings, burritos and fries. There's a nice soju and beer selection to wash it all down.
The Contender was a little contentious when it opened - were there really enough local sports fans to accommodate another sports pub, with Dock Ellis already on basically the same block? Now that the dust has settled on the plate, though, the neighbourhood is calling it a home run.
Another newbie on Dundas is The Derby, which takes the classic notion of a pub up a notch. They make most everything in-house, including the tortillas for the nachos, or source ingredients locally, and their well-selected brews have something pleasing for every beer palate.
Students at U of T can always use another watering hole, and the new Prenup Pub has become the latest destination, with its long list of reasonably priced beers, crowd-friendly menu and easy ambiance.
Local Public Eatery
Toronto got its very own Local Public Eatery this past year, the first in the chain of pubs across Canada (there are locations in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Ottawa too). Beer and big burgers and boot glasses filled with Caesars? Yes.
Black Irish Whiskey Bar
The Black Irish Whiskey Bar and Oyster Saloon is like something you'd find the characters in Gangs of New York hanging out in - rowdy, beer- and whiskey-soaked, and full of trad grub. The big twist is all the seafood, hence the oyster saloon.
El Furniture Warehouse
Whistler favourite El Furniture Warehouse also set up shop here in Toronto this past year (with a second location just opened at Queen and John) and brought their hella-cheap prices and skater bro culture with them. $4.95 will get you anything on the menu, and beer, shooters and drinks are equally cheap. The best part is, for an additional $4.95 on your bill, they'll donate that meal to a shelter nearby.
Did I miss any? Leave your favourite new pub from 2014 in the comments.
Photo of The Contender by Jesse Milns.
by Erinn Beth Langille via blogTO