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Horseshoe Tavern

Photo: Eugen Sakhnenko

Posted by Eugen Sakhenko / June 15, 2009

The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Legendary isn't an adjective that one just throws around every day, and yet there it sits comfortably in front of one of Toronto's oldest and most beloved bars and live music venues.

If you've been to The 'Shoe...actually, let me start that sentence again. If you haven't been to The 'Shoe, what are you waiting for?

The bar is steeped in history. Besides the well-known fact that the Rolling Stones once graced the stage, other celebrated artists - Canadian and otherwise - owe a debt of gratitude to the 'Shoe for being there when they needed it. (Among them are The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Willie Nelson and Stompin Tom, Ryan and Bryan Adams, and many more).

During a recent visit to this bar and live music venue near the corner of Queen and Spadina, I walk past the patio, get by the friendly-but-just-scary-enough bouncers, and up to the huge bar lined with glasses and bottles. The staff is busy but friendly and efficient, and Bookie's NuMusic night is underway in the back room.

The Horseshoe opened in 1947 and though it went through a name change early on (it used to be called Jack Starr's Country Roots 'n' Rockabilly Tavern), it's been rocking on ever since at good ol' 370 Queen Street West. Originally the bar was a country and blues venue but by the sound coming from the back room, I can see...or hear...a lot has changed, except maybe that every band from in or around Toronto still has that understandable desire to say "we played the 'Shoe last night".

In its 62 years of operation, The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern has built a legacy unlike any other bar in Toronto. The rickety seating in the back room, the stools at the bar, the underground washrooms that share a wall with the bands' green room, and every black-and-white tile on the dance floor all make up the bar's charm. Every time I go to the Shoe it's a different experience, even if I'm doing the same old thing.

Writing by Andrew Hanna

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Keith’s, Keith’s Red, Guinness, Wellington S.P.A., Harp, Blue, Bud, Bud Light, 50, Amsterdam Blonde, Mill St. Tankhouse Ale, and Stella.
Signature Drink:
Bar Snacks:
Standard Pub Fare
Rock, punk, ska, country and more.
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
Indie music fans, anyone looking for a pint and some live music.
Front Bar is open every day from noon to 2 a.m.

Other Cities: Montreal