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