Tuesday, August 4, 2015Light Rain Shower 24°C

Dakota Tavern

Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko

Posted by Guest Contributor / June 30, 2009

The Dakota Tavern is a subterranean throwback to the dusty saloons depicted in classic American westerns. The walls are littered with guns, mounted horns, boomerangs, band posters, and snowy Canadian hunting scenes. Guests can't help feeling like John Denver's about to saunter in, guzzle a warm-up whisky, and have his way with a guitar. The vibe is refreshingly alpha male; all weaponry, foot stompin', and heavy drinkin'.

I dropped by there last week for a grilled cheese and a stiff Caesar - my hangover cure of the month. The burly bartenders were having a lazy start on account of the previous night's staff party. We got to talking about various ways to cure the morning after headache. I learned of a new miracle product called Pedialyte that is sold as a hydrant for infants. One shot of it will fix up a hangover faster than Bronco Billy Anderson can rope a calf. These invaluable tidbits are the sort of lessons taught at the Dakota daily. You could really be one of the great drinkers of our time if you came by often enough.

The Dakota is arguably Toronto's only noteworthy live country music venue. You can feel pretty sure you're going to be shown a good time here any night of the week. They always have a live band going and the food ain't too shabby. The menu is made up of the usual pub fare; meat, meat, meat, and mac 'n' cheese. I'm a bit wary about the mystery fish tacos, but I haven't had the balls to brave them, so don't take my word. They could be a bloody delicacy for all I know.

Sunday brunch (12-3) is the best time to dine at The Dakota. They do a stellar all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch. For $12 guests plop down at the big communal table and order platter after platter of sausages, eggs, pancakes, bacon, coffee, juice, etc. The food just keeps coming. The regular Sunday bluegrass band whips the whole event up into a frenzy that's even better than church. Judging by the number of families that show up to the Sunday brunch, The Dakota has been stealing St. Helen's business on the regular.

As I sipped my Caesar at the bar I witnessed two very dapper young gentlemen desperately trying to take part in The Dakota machismo. One had a band he wanted to tackle the stage with. The other was looking for work as a bartender. Both were respectfully turned away; but it just goes to show, The Dakota recipe is working. People love it here. The husky staff, stellar tunes, and fun vibe keep 'em coming back for more. The Dakota Tavern's got Canadians going country.

Writing by Jennifer Toole

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
10 on tap, including Guinness, Creemore, Steamwhistle, Mill St. And 50
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Bratwurst sausage, mac 'n cheese
Country and bluegrass
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Indie Scenesters, Country music fans and ex Broken Social Scene members
Mon-Fri 6PM-2AM, Sat 3PM-2AM, Sun 11



Reelair / June 12, 2009 at 1:12 PM

I love this place. I wait for my bus there everyday at 3:45 and just wish they would open earlier so I can lubricate myself for the long wait for the Ossington bus north. Mind you that seems to be their set up time as there is a flurry of activity everyday.

Only other option is the Lakeview or what ever they are calling it these days, but the service was terrible and I do not feel like going back to the uncomfortable seats there.
I would much rather Barrel up to the bar at Dakota.

homeslice robinson / June 30, 2009 at 8:52 PM

hey... i'm from kentucky, born & raised, and live right around the corner from the dakota. here's my two cents:
the dakota can be cool; i mean, it does have an interesting niche in a city like toronto and it's totally
the older, cooler brother to all of the other crap that shit stains its way down the ossington strip's ass crack. that being said, the bartenders look like douchebags (north york bro territory), the service is apathetic and pretentious, and the food is absolute shite (though a lot of people love to poison their bodies with shit like sausage, bacon, etc.). the only thing i actually enjoy about this place is that the music is 9 times out of 10 legit (aka legit americana/country/rock) and the decor is a genuine attempt at bringing southern america to the tdot. BOOM

mnobody / July 1, 2009 at 10:12 AM

I would definitely recommend the fish taco's. Nicely crispy, light and the fresh cilantro is a great touch. One of my fave foods at the bar.

tracy / July 2, 2009 at 7:47 AM

John fucking Denver??????
It's a damn good thing i happen to love Maggie & Shawn's place - 'cos i'd stay the hell outta any joint that John "Annie's Song" Denver would drink in. Did he even drink? or ever "saunter" around, and "have his way" with a guitar...? ff's sake...
I'm going to forget this absurdity and assume you meant Waylon Jennings. Or Gram Parsons. Or Johnny Cash, or Willie Nelson, or any proper kick-ass country star you'd be proud to buy a shot.
And who properly represent the spirit and heritage of The Dakota.
...john denver... bloody hell.

ZJ In replying to a comment from tracy / July 2, 2009 at 8:28 AM

Can you please clarify your stance Tracy?

ccw / July 2, 2009 at 10:11 AM

Heh - agreed, ZJ. That's a whole lotta vitriol early in de mornin'.....

homeslice robinson / July 2, 2009 at 4:28 PM

dude, tracy hit the fucking nail on the head; could not be a more accurate response to this review. john denver = average canadian's interpretation of a country artist. everyone else he mentioned is totally fucking awesome. kudos, tracy.

tracy / July 2, 2009 at 6:34 PM

sorry if folks got their ears hurt... i just happen to LOVE The Dakota, and take my music AND my country outlaws, seriously.
john bloody denver... in the Dakota.. swaggerin.... fkn hell.

cheers, Homeslice!!! Rock on, Sympatico.

(by the way... some peoples' early morning is other peoples' late nights... ;o)

ZJ In replying to a comment from tracy / July 3, 2009 at 8:20 AM

Get off your rocky mountain high horse.
She was merely making a comment. It's a bar. You can't make everyone happy, much to your outlaw chagrin.
I'm sure its pretty rare to hear any JD being played in there. And going out on a limb here, it's even rarer to see him saunter into the bar. Who gives a crap.

tracy / July 3, 2009 at 1:16 PM

I give a crap. And like i tried to say, sorry if i offended.
And it's not about my outlaw chagrin, it's about the music. The Dakota is about music. You should at least understand the type of music a venue champions, if you're going to review it. END of Bloody Story.

ZJ In replying to a comment from tracy / July 3, 2009 at 1:22 PM

Well there ya have, Dakota Tavern.
Tracy will be making sure your playlist is up to her high standards going forward.
Next time I go into any bar that plays music and I hear one song that doesnt belong, I will be sure to raise bloody hell too.
We cannot have these travesties happening in our city's venues. Disgraceful.

moonshake / July 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM

John Denver is Dead My Love.
(my sincere apologies to the Fugs)
You mean to tell me there is actually someone who would consider JD a legit country artist? You are joking - right? yeesh.

DAMMIT! In replying to a comment from moonshake / July 4, 2009 at 9:07 AM

Whoah!!! Hold on there Cowboy ZJ...
Tracy was makin' a good point. It's a lil' thing called PASSION!
You should have a shot glass o' that stuff sometime...potent, and very addictive, also happens to be good for ya...go figure.

See, I think the same thing ran thru my head as Tracy's...as soon as I read the words "John Denver" it didn't suit the place...I mean, huh....as a writer, it's you're job to use your skills to paint a picture, dontcha think???...I mean can you really picture John Denver (God bless his Rocky Mountain soul)walkin' into a country/western bar and poundin' back a JD??? Waylon?...yes... Johnny?...yes...and I betcha Kristofferson would do the whole bottle before he even picked up his gee-tar...it's the mood that you're trying to set...What Tracy has is PASSION!!!

Wayne / August 13, 2009 at 12:59 PM

I totally skipped past John Denver and my mind automatically replaced it with John Wayne. I'm betting the auther did the same. Unfortunately, I now have an image of John Wayne having his way with a guitar.

Wayne / August 13, 2009 at 1:03 PM

I totally skipped past John Denver and my mind automatically replaced it with John Wayne. I'm betting the auther did the same. Unfortunately, I now have an image of John Wayne having his way with a guitar.

pw In replying to a comment from homeslice robinson / February 1, 2010 at 3:01 PM

well i guess it's back to kentucky with you bro'.

pw In replying to a comment from homeslice robinson / February 1, 2010 at 3:02 PM

well i guess it's back to kentucky with you bro'

Kai / November 26, 2010 at 12:49 PM

I like how everyone is looking for such depth in their bars.

Natasha In replying to a comment from homeslice robinson / January 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Kentucky is right - I like the bands but the staff is douchy. I got beaten up badly by the security, was actually knocked out, even though I had agreed to leave - I had just wanted my coat (winter time, my keys and wallet were in it, a female who was there by herself). That was the worst - that bouncer (Charlie you know who you are) is very lucky I didn't charge him with use of unnecessary force - dude, you gotta chill - only a total a-hole beats up women.

The bar staff is really wanky - I was a bartender for quite a few years always treated my customers with respect and great service. I also had to kick out people all the time but did it in a way that was never violent or abusive(bar was on Queen West 15 yrs ago). I didn't appreciate the fact that my pretty close to full drinks that I left on the bar were chucked, even if I left a coaster on top...duh!

If you are looking for real, ya gotta go to Parkdale - love ya, Sun Fa (corner of Queen and Dowling)or Not My Dog (Queen and MacDonell).

BG / March 27, 2011 at 12:24 AM

I have been coming to the Dakota Tavern for many years and I am very disappointed about the changes this place went through. We had to wait for more than one hour in line in the FREEZING cold while many people aside got in. At the cashier we had to discover that the price was 12 $ ( I still remember 5 $ fee) which was due to the Juno Awards week but there was no information about the price change on their website. I took my 4 friends and we left. We will have to look for a new place now to go regularly to, to get the feeling we had less than 2 years ago at the Dakota. I guess that's how it goes with neighborhoods that are changing.


Mary In replying to a comment from BG / June 19, 2011 at 6:15 PM

BG, sounds like you went during Canadian Music Week - prices are obviously going to be higher during a big festival with 6-7 bands playing in one night, and people with passes get line by-pass (would be why people aside got in before you). Cover is still pay what you can/$5-7 on normal nights.

The bar staff are amazing and the food is crazy good. I always have a great time, don't know what everyone else is talking about.

Tdot lovey love / March 25, 2013 at 2:09 AM

Is anyone else starting to see thru these
Posers? They practice and rehearse the role of folk and country altruists
yet truly do nothing to represent its heart and soul. Keeping a phony line to boost hype? All while the place is half empty? How sad. Shame on the Beauties, the staff, and their elitist clubhouse that is The Dakota Tavern. Highschool is over, is it not?? Sheesh.

Stella / November 7, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Went last weekend to the Dakota Tavern Bluegrass Brunch and they changed up their menu a bit but it was still really good! In addition to their all you can eat breakfast (hard to find quite a deal in this city) they now have sides including bacon, baked beans and yogurt and granola.
Brought my munchkins and they had a great time dancing around to the music. Definitely going back soon!

Kathleen / February 19, 2014 at 11:25 PM

Tried to go see the Strumbellas tonight and was extremely disappointed at the way that management handled the event. We bought tickets off of two women who had been inside briefly, but could not stay due to back pain one was having, however we were rudely denied entry because 'the band had guest list' and they needed to accommodate that. Sad to have an experience like this jade our views of a venue that hosts so many great artists.

Jenn / February 27, 2014 at 2:22 AM

I love the Dakota, and the bands they book. Have had many enjoyable nights here.

If you're looking for: BEER STYLES & RECOMMENDATIONS

Don't waste your time. Staff aren't knowledgable. None have obtained Cicerone Certification; therefore they cant describe the difference between beer styles. One issue I have: don't carry one-offs from breweries and not know how to pair them or sell them. It reflects poorly on you as a distributor.

In context: Saw a fantastic live show show here, and the bartenders were friendly and attentive. Don't ask about the difference between beer styles though - the 2 bartenders that served me couldn't discern flavour profile (what you tasted when you drank it) nor, what to pair or drink after you finished.

If anything, questions related to beer were treated with hostility. To ask a bartender to recommend a beer to drink after having a certain style and to not know what to recommend (really? why sell beer if you don't educate your staff then?)

Not an environment that promotes beer education or one that wants you to learn about their local partnerships / local breweries they "support".

Do your research before you approach the bar manager here.

Add a Comment

Other Cities: Montreal