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Grace O'Malley's

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Martha Stortz / January 23, 2013

Grace O'Malley's (or Gracie's, as the locals call it) is located on Duncan Street, a stone's throw from Adelaide and John streets. Gracie's is a chain with three different locations, serving lunch and dinner. After dinner hours, the pub amps up the bar atmosphere, playing classic rock and offering beer in ad hoc ice buckets.

I arrived around 11:30 pm on a Saturday night. There was a moderate line snaking around the block, which seemed like a good sign. If scantily clad teenagers were willing to wait in November temperatures just to enter this establishment, I deduced that it must be quite the "hidden" gem.

Prior to Saturday night, I did some research on Grace O'Malley, the namesake of the pub. Interestingly, she was a pirate and leader of her clan in 16th Century Ireland. As an Irish Canadian, I was anxious to discuss the implications of the name on the atmosphere of the bar. As I reached the front of the line, I asked one employee, "To what extent does the story of Grace O'Malley, or Gráinne Ní Mháille, cutting off her hair in somewhat of a rejection of the Electra complex affect the discourse surrounding dating or "picking up" at this bar?"

"Fourteen dollars cover," he replied.

Upon entering the bar, I was struck by the sea of plaid as well as the sheer humidity let off in an enclosed space filled with what seemed like hundreds of hot, hormonal bodies. Trudging to the bar through miniskirted girls taking Myspace-style selfies and bros yelling unintelligible comments took what seemed like hours (probably 5-10 minutes).

I asked the bartender what paired well with stale cigarette smoke and pizza breath and settled upon a shot of vodka as well as a vodka soda. Five shots of vodka plus a vodka soda totaled $38, a fair sum for six drinks in this part of town.

The vodka shot was full-bodied with just a hint of nail polish remover flavor. I couldn't place the country of origin by taste, but the aftertaste was reminiscent of a Smirnoff or possibly Absolut. The vodka soda was superb. A perfect balance of vodka and soda water, topped off with a maraschino cherry and a little sword I took from the bar, blending alcohol and whimsy.

I left soon after finishing my drink. The music was good, mixing Jackson 5 with Big and Rich, but the humidity and the crowd were simply too much. To answer my initial query, the main thing that sets Gracie's apart is the $14 cover for an Irish pub with occasional live music.

Overall, Gracie's is a fun place if you're in your early 20s and like noisy, humid bars with lots of unintentional groping, but it's nothing to write home about.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Good selection
Signature Drink:
Shot of vodka
Bar Snacks:
Pub grub
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Plaid wearers, anyone who has used the term “bro” non-ironically.
11 a.m. to last call, 7 days a week



Mike / January 23, 2013 at 11:46 AM

I've now read two reviews by Martha Stortz and both have been knocked out of the park. Keep giving her assignments, blogTo.

Sam / January 23, 2013 at 11:47 AM

Unintentional groping read sexual harassment.

Gomez / January 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Sounds like Hell on faux Irish Earth.

Sophia / January 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM

The people willing to pay that much for a sweaty pub also think the Entertainment District is the only place in the city with bars

Huhwat / January 23, 2013 at 11:58 AM

I've been many times and have never paid a cover... Are you sure there wasn't an event going on?

Brandon / January 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM

No place in Toronto is worth paying cover for, because the entire concept of paying cover is utter bullcrap when, in turn, you end up paying $8+ for a watered down drink.

Jess / January 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM

This is the most accurate review of Gracie's ever.

pz / January 23, 2013 at 12:02 PM

Brilliant review!
This place is crap...

Terry / January 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM

She says no live music. Details says there is live music. The photo up top shows a live band.
So which is it?

johnsonstarfish / January 23, 2013 at 12:08 PM

lol!! I was going to write how disappointing this review is but thought about it more and the disappointing aspect of the review is a direct reflection at how disappointing this pile of _____ place is.

Fantastic review!

Marcus / January 23, 2013 at 12:27 PM

I prefer more of a Fionn MacCools on Esplanade type vibe. Less of a young club vibe. More focused on live music and good beer. But Gracies is not bad.

avas / January 23, 2013 at 12:35 PM

since when to they star charging people to get in ?

P / January 23, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Wow.. charging $14 to get into a bar. I don't understand how these bars are always packed to the rafters when there are hundreds of other better pubs selling better drinks at better prices with better music, better food and better clientele. But I guess I don't really go out chasing 19 year old tail...

Martha In replying to a comment from Terry / January 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Terry, I apologize. I meant that there is no L.I.V.E. music, which is a small subgenre of experimental jazz (Literally Inventive Visu-auditory Experiments). There is live (as in, people playing instruments in present time) music.

j-rock / January 23, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Another great review of what sounds like a terrible bar. It's scary to think what might happen if Martha ever gets sent somewhere decent. Although I have to say, I really enjoy her take on the duds.

scottd / January 23, 2013 at 1:27 PM

Not much of a review.

AnnaLindsay In replying to a comment from Mike / January 23, 2013 at 1:45 PM

Agreed! Always witty and funny, with great insights. More from Martha please!

SW / January 23, 2013 at 2:05 PM

I've never had a bad time at Gracie's, and I've also NEVER paid $14 cover to get in... At the most I've paid $10, so they might have had one of the more popular bands in to play that night. It's always a fun, rowdy time.

Notashill In replying to a comment from SW / January 23, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Totally the best bar ever guys. Best drinks, best music, best everything. The model for all future bars to follow.

Joey / January 23, 2013 at 3:52 PM

"How much to get into your crappy establishment??!"

"Fourteen dollars cover," he replied.

Paul / January 23, 2013 at 4:03 PM

I am concerned about the use of the expression "a stone's throw" with reference to a neighbourhood that has seen too much falling glass of late.

richard / January 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM

not to be a dick, but what's the purpose of a 'beers on tap' section if you're just going to write 'good selection.' you might as well just write 'yes.'

Tom / January 23, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Martha is someone who hates the club district bars and yet keeps going back to review club district bars. Guess what: most people do! Get over yourself, go somewhere else, and write a worthwhile review.

JP / January 23, 2013 at 4:41 PM

This place is not fun. The humidity makes it usually smell like a bathroom. Some beers on tap taste horrible due to not cleaning the lines. Get bottled beer instead. The music switches from lots of Country to short bursts of EDM, which make me think the DJ is bi-polar. I do remember paying cover during weekends. I could say more mean things...

JD / January 23, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Hilarious commentary

sct / January 23, 2013 at 7:25 PM

they are not irish walking into the bar!

natalie / January 23, 2013 at 8:25 PM

is it really fair to send an overly sarcastic hispter into a bar like gracie's for a review? it's like sending someone with a beer allergy to bellwoods brewery and asking them to pen a review.

BH / January 23, 2013 at 8:30 PM

Why pay $14 to pay for the privilege of going to a fake Irish pub in the Club district when there is a fake neighbourhood Crappy McPub pretty much everywhere in the city. Except for the exterior the place looks like a Kelsey's .

Alison In replying to a comment from natalie / January 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Totally agree Natalie.

As a 30+ yr old, I always have a good time, but I'm a bar girl and not into the swanky hipster places.

Moi / January 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Thanks for the review. I will now tell all my friends to avoid this place. Cover? $14? eat me

Guy / January 24, 2013 at 12:52 PM

What kind of sucker pays $14 to get into a faux-pub? Ridiculous

sumit / January 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM

I don't care for bars like this martha, and would never step in one. but i had to comment to tell you that the review was really fun to read. My Favorite "what pairs well with stale cigratte smoke.....line"

amy / January 14, 2014 at 7:52 PM

I love this place, and definitely not that expensive all the time, I've been there a few times now and I've paid 10 bucks to get in 13 bucks when there was a band playing. I've always have had a great time here, although it does get incredibly packed and hot inside, other than that it's a great time and not filled with a bunch of douchey teens haha.

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