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Restaurants & Bars 143

Toronto's worst dives

DockPotato | Feb 20, 201406:21 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.

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