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Weslodge is a new addition to Toronto’s dynamic King West street having opened in July of this year to much local media fanfare. From the instant diners walk through the big, bold yellow doors, the saloon style restaurant makes no apologies for its colorful personality.
Popping up just a couple weeks ago, Furco has managed to become wildly popular in a matter of days. Boasting a high-ceilinged, open and industrial type of space, it exudes a sort of laid back cool. It is no wonder that the owners have some connection with Buvette Chez Simone, known for their dominance in the trendy wine bar scene. Let me tell you – Furco’s emergence on the scene was sorely needed. The downtown core is in dire need of decent bars – I think I can name one other place that makes the cut.
Reservoir is one of those bars you just can’t help but love. I’ve been going here for years and it’s my go-to spot for bringing a friend from out of town to hang out in warm ambiance and have a good conversation.
After visiting the Librairie Drawn and Quarterly to pick up issue number 2 of David Chang’s new food mag Lucky Peach, we slid next door for some eats at Nouveau Palais. We usually come here late at night to get delicious Grumman tacos but it was nice to come at a more reasonable hour and check out the regular menu.
With 15 beers on tap and over 100 types in bottles, Bières et Compagnie had won me over before I even walked in. It was recommended to me by a friend who also praised their food, particularly their specialty – mussels. The menu has 30 different preparations of mussel dishes including many of which are prepared in… you got it, beer. We walked in on this night – the very first snow in Montreal – planning on a liquid diet of beer. After our first few pints of Krombacher (German Pilsner) and Sapporo (Japanese Draft), we were quickly enticed to order some food. We had the European hot dog, toulouse sausage with fries and house sauerkraut as well as the European Hamburger with Griffon Beer raclette cheese, house sauerkraut, house dijon mustard and spicy chili mayo.
Nakhla Shisha is by far the classiest shisha joint I’ve ever been to. Instead of the usual cramped and smoky fare I’m used to in Montreal, the decor channels a hip modern cross between Indian, Arab and Asian style. The place offers just under two dozen different flavors for shisha including green tea, jasmine, mint, watermelon and lychee – we ordered the latter two for the seven of us to share.
Pourhouse Irish Pub is a restaurant and bar in the heart of Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood. I stopped in recently for a business lunch and we all ordered the Po’ Boy Lunch special which is a sandwich, side and beer for 12$. The above was a beef brisket sandwich with salad side. The beef tasted tender and smoky and tasted great along with the crunchy pickle and salad. Pourhouse has a number of taps with rotating regional beers to pick from.
Alibi Room is a Gastown staple known for it’s unbelievably large selection of craft beers on tap. Having around 26 taps going at a time, the pub rotates new beers in all the time and posts beer related updates via Twitter. Although the beers are the main draw here, the food menu is formidable and diverse – featuring everything from Smoked Sablefish to Lamb Sirloin to Red Coconut Vegetable Curry.
To accompany our beers, we ordered Smoked Albacore Tuna salad with crutons, carrot, daikon, pumpkin seeds & creamy miso dressing along with BC Bison cheese steak with spiced bison flank, peppers, onions & cheddar. Pumpkin seed ‘slaw and fries and BBQ Pork Belly sandwich with beer braised onions, jalapeno ‘slaw & fries.
The smoked albacore dish was a large portion and had a great summer taste with the miso dressing, pumpkin seeds and daikon. The Bison Burger (one of the more popular dishes) and the Pork Belly sandwich paired perfectly with our beers and tasted great. The Pumpkin seed slaw and Jalapeno slaw were welcome additions as well.
Our visit was to the downtown location on Bishop street just south of Maisonneuve – dangerously close to Concordia’s downtown campus.
Sparrow is a lovely little bar on upper St. Laurent teeming with well dressed youth and intelligent looking people – the antithesis of Chez Serge, the mechanical bull boasting bar across the street. More along the lines of Snack and Blues, the place serves all kinds of finger foods, a list of cocktails both basic and specialty and a variety of beers. Service is friendly, people are friendly and some of the food is (vegetarian) friendly. If you want a table, I suggest going early – around 10 or 11. After that, it becomes difficult to even find a space to stand as the bar fills up quite quickly after midnight. Having become a favorite in my roster of bars to go to, Sparrow has obviously done well for itself as the owners has recently opened up a full on restaurant a block away called Lawrence. I will be going there tonight, so come back and check out the blog tomorrow!
Amidst a wealth of synagogues, Kosher grocery stores and smoked meat delis in Outremont sits the Bistro Le République. Advertising a deal for every day of the week, Tuesday’s special offered us $15 gourmet burgers, including two pints of Creemore Springs beer – not bad at all, if you ask me. Its enormous terrasse curves around the corner of the street, almost doubling the seating area inside. Raised on a platform, the wooden benches (softened by cushions) allow not only for a great view of the surrounding area but can also serve as an observation deck for some superb people watching (Shtreimel wearing Hasidic Jews, multiple children in matching clothes all riding scooters, well dressed and good looking youth etc).
Restaurant Jane, along with Liverpool House, Joe Beef, McKiernan and others have collectively helped revitalize Griffintown from a slowly decaying neighborhood to a trendy little borough just south of downtown. With metro stations Lionel-Groulx and Georges-Vanier close by, the area is accessible and is surprisingly full of sweet little cafes with terrasses out back and shops selling knick knacks, antiquities and the sort. With a seasonal cocktail list (the lavender martini served in the winter time is divine) and a menu that changes almost imperceptibly (different pizza toppings), Jane sticks with several core items that truly embody what the restaurant stands for and explores around them. Going for understated sophistication with its glossy dark wood tables and floors, high ceilings and small but spacious space, Jane exudes a relaxed atmosphere, playing the likes of Radiohead, the Black Keys and Sublime.
This is quite possibly the only way to recover from the unforgivable sin of buying pre-mixed sangria. We were skeptical at first, but our hosts fervently insisted. Then the Pabst Blue Ribbon came out. Against all odds, this batch of Beer Sangria turned out surprisingly tasty. We used slices of orange for flavor and garnish. Recommendations for next time include:
– Using a different beer – Something extremely blonde or unfiltered (Cheval Blanc, Griffon Blonde)
– Using a flavored beer – Locally brewed St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale or seasonal Raspberry Ale
– Different fruit – Probably staying with citrus. Lemons floating in summer beers are already a common sight
Things to avoid:
– White wine – Send in pictures if you can prove me wrong, but I don’t think this can work
– Skipping the wine – Beer and juice without wine will taste like beer mixed with juice
– Pre-mixed Sangria
Dominion Square Tavern is a popular meeting place young professionals, older professionals, university students and those who work in the downtown area. Getting a table during the week during 5 a 7 is nearly impossible – reservations are highly recommended, especially for larger parties.