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Emmet Ray

Photo: Tim Shore

Posted by Jessica McGann / December 22, 2009

The Emmet Ray - a new bar at College and Dovercourt - with its large, brass lettering and sober-looking interior, looks at first glance that it might be competing with its neighbour, The Brass Taps, in the Irish-pub department. That's not the case at all, though. Devoid of Brass Taps' neon signs, television sets and dartboards, Emmet Ray is a classy joint, with a short but upscale menu, and a selection of over forty types of whiskey; not to mention some of the nicest service you'll ever get.

I was greeted warmly upon arrival and led carefully through the menu, opting for the homemade chicken pot pie, which did not disappoint with its rich sauce, flaky pastry, and unusual, but very complementary accompaniments of homemade mustard and chutney. My fellow diners/drinkers gave the pate dish and the cheese platter the thumbs-up, too.

While there was nothing in the bar's atmosphere to offend - the David Bowie and Johnny Cash that looped in the background were pleasant enough, and the staff were so lovely I wanted to hug them goodbye when we left - there was also nothing terribly remarkable. This is a nice place to come for a quiet chat, or to take your parents out when they're in town. The crowd was a sedate mix of 30- and 40-somethings out for a casual drink and a bite to eat, with nary a hard drinker or a troublemaker among them. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just very civilized.

Whiskey connoisseurs might argue that the bar's forty varieties of whiskey are indeed remarkable, and I must admit that I can barely tell a shot of whiskey from a... well, a shot of anything, to be honest. The bar also fills a bit of a niche at College and Dovercourt, where dinner options are limited, and nightlife options have pretty much been restricted to aging city landmark The Matador for the past 35 years. Now with the addition of The Emmet Ray, the nightlife spectrum is expanding a little at College and Dovercourt, albeit slowly.

It's still early days for The Emmet Ray, which just opened a few weeks ago and is still in the process of getting settled. Coming up: "Psychedelic Sundays" as well as cheap drink nights during the week, like "If it's brown, drink it down" Mondays with select $1 whiskey shots. Emmet Ray also has a good wine selection, with plans for a rotating wine list and an expanding menu. Due to delays getting its ATM services set up, the bar is currently only accepting cash, so stock up on benjamins before you go to make sure you have plenty on hand for homemade pot pies and shots of whiskey.

Writing by Jessica McGann

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Mill St Organic, Amsterdam Big Wheel Amber, Mill St. Cobblestone Stout
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Chicken pot pie and other comfort food
Classic rock, "Psychedelic Sundays", retro hits, background music
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Locals, grown-ups, whiskey fans
5pm to 2am daily



anon / December 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM

I don't really understand the 50 essential bars thing, as the most recent entries (especially this one) are all relatively-new, west end start-ups.

Matthew / December 28, 2009 at 1:31 PM

Stock up on Benjamins? Surely you mean Bordens.

um / December 28, 2009 at 3:50 PM

um. is this place even open yet

Adrian / December 28, 2009 at 4:51 PM

You guys are ruthless on some of these posts. I back the Bordens comment though.

Nice read Jessica!

snoopgerbil / December 28, 2009 at 11:26 PM

How can this place possibly be "essential" when it only just opened?

Meanwhile, you overlook one of the best bars in that area, the Brass Taps a few doors west.

Style over substance, kids.

mr. hood / December 29, 2009 at 2:40 PM

i agree with the above comments,

how can a bar/establishment be considered an essentia, when its only just opened..
they haven't had time to prove themselves, or even lay strong community foundations yet..

i fail to see the logic behind this column as being the most essential bars of Toronto..
maybe just a review of the bar and some photos, but essential, no,
and im sorry, a bar that only excepts cash needs to step out from the dark ages and realize that today you need to carry other methods of payment.. what it sounds like is that the bar owner cant afford any electronic/wireless payment systems yet as its still too new. For a bar that caters to an older 30-40's crowd, you'd figure that they would consider this.

maybe jessica can review strong rooted bars, out of the kitschy hoods in the core... how about the unicorn up at yonge and eg, or chalkers pub at marlee and eg. even mayday malones at dupont/ bathurst.. bars that have been established and have character should be considered,

flash in the pan style bars that have recently opened dont carry weight yet..

mick / December 29, 2009 at 6:33 PM

I have to agree with anon, Jessica...you do a disservice to the truly essential bars in Toronto by listing start-ups; this should have been a stand-alone review.

That said, I ventured out last night to The Emmet Ray and was amply rewarded for having braved the cold. They have a great scotch/whiskey menu, some fines beers, and the owner and staff are about as friendly as you're going to find. Plus I think their list of theme nights they're planning will fast make them a local favourite. As for the ATM, a technical glitch kept it away, and one will be along shortly. It's a welcome addition to the neighbourhood and there's no reason it can't/won't peacefully co-exist alongside The Brass Taps.

PS "th' Bordens" is quickly growing on me.

Patricia / January 4, 2010 at 7:25 PM

This article should have been named “50 Essential Up and Coming Bars.” Albeit, The Emmet Ray is not yet an essential bar, it has the makings of such. As noted before, the food is amazing, the staff makes you feel at home, and the atmosphere is just what the College/Dovercourt area need.
I have lived in the area for almost 10 years now and have been waiting for a place like this to open. Granted The Brass Taps is somewhat of a neighbourhood institution, it does not appeal to all types-or most for that matter. If you are looking to watch a game, it is the perfect place to go, but other than that, it is below average—and I won’t even comment on The Abby.
The Emmet Ray is a perfect place to take anyone of any age over 19. With its dim lighting and the absence of TVs, you are encouraged to socialize with whomever you bring and/or the other patrons. . The drink and food menu are sophisticated enough to keep away kids looking to “get wasted” or “hook up.” It is classy and yet not snobby.
I truly hope that with time, The Emmet Ray will be justly worthy of being on “Toronto’s 50 Essential Bars” list.

Christopher / December 3, 2011 at 11:25 PM

Emmet Ray has tonnes of great live music happening every week now!
Can that be changed on the statuses?

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