Where to drink beer in Toronto: Leslieville
By Dick Snyder
The Leslieville neighbourhood is changing fast — and it's all good. We launched our beer tours earlier this month and brought eight eager beer drinkers on a stroll along Queen Street East and Eastern Avenue. And we brought along an expert: @MissRebeccaJ. Though we focused on beer and breweries, we noticed plenty of amazing cocktail bars, restaurants and a very chic hotel. (The Broadview; it's cool.) Just last week, our favourite bread maker, Simon Blackwell, opened the flagship location of Blackbird Bakery, which you may know from its Kensington Market shopfront. We'll pop in there on our next tour and you'll taste the best baguette ever. Promise.
Avling Kitchen and Brewery
Avling is one of the newest spots on the Queen East block and it's a gorgeous space, a former grocery warehouse converted into a beer heaven. A firm focus on local ingredients informs the kitchen. In summer, their rooftop garden supplies much of the produce. We had the beef tartare, which is exquisite — very traditional in style. And, most importantly, not too much mustard. Avling sources from small-scale local farms and practices whole animal butchery — they even have their own head butcher. Nothing is wasted here! Our group enjoyed 4 beers to go with our tartare, while the vegetarians in our group had a lovely cheese-and-cracker snack. Then we toured the brewery — while sipping, naturally.
Radical Road Brewing
The prize for cutest and coolest little brewpub goes to Radical Road. It's low key, pubby, friendly, easy. On a cold winter's day, the back room is the place to be. Here, you can sip your beer (or multiple beers) in dark and cozy splendour. Our groups enjoyed four beers — a crowd favourite was the one simply referred to as "beer." It's remarkably smooth and flavourful, just malty and nutty enough, and eminently swiggable. RR's beer pretzel is a must. Their beer pretzel has been on the menu since day one and it's insane good. You might be sceptical. You will not be after one bite. It comes with two dipping sauces, one mustard and one cheese.
Black Lab Brewery
Black Lab is a treasure for dog lovers and beer lovers alike. Our pal Jeff Kelly (he with the beard) toured us around the place, served us 4 amazing tasters, and introduced us to Mary from Mazeh Catering, who gave us a selection of incredible Middle Eastern treats. Wow, the beef burger matched perfectly with the hibiscus sour. Black Lab hosts different pop-ups all the time, so check them out online. And if you're ever in the area and just need a dog fix, this is the place. They also have the cutest doggie paraphernalia, including beer glasses with their signature Snoopy logo. Cutest!
Killer tacos and killer beer await at Rorschach Brewing Co. — maybe not in that order. This fun space feels like a wide-open kitchen with a bunch of brewing gear smack dab in the middle. They have lots of entertainment, live music, comedy and other crazy shenanigans. But you can just tuck in at a picnic table and enjoy the beers and food and great hospitality. These guys have a full kitchen, with everything from burgers and nachos to tacos and a jerk chicken sandwich. It's full service all the way! And yeah, the beer is good.
That's Rebecca and I (above, smiling) at Rorschach at the end of our tour. Well, nothing feels like the end when you have beer at hand. We hope to see you on a future tour! The Leslieville beer scene awaits, and it's awesome!
Photos: The good ones are Rebecca's. The others are mine.