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Linsmore Tavern

Photo: Jesse Milns

Posted by Caroline Leung / August 18, 2012

Linsmore Tavern has a reputation that precedes it. Much as I would with a blind date, I do a quick Google search prior to heading over. There's a Chowhound post: a query by someone who was looking for real dives in the city. The responses have Linsmore Tavern described as "a historic hotel and a real dump," colourful but not "dangerous" enough, and famous for its $1 draft beer. Unlike some of the other places, there are zero mentions of murderers, whores, or junkies. An old photograph, circa 1945, paints the Linsmore as a rather sad, unsexy hotel. I approached my destination with trepidation--understandably, I thought.

Well, they lied. Not the part about the hotel, or its lack of luster, or the $1 draft beer, but the part about its bleakness. People had made it sound like a dive too lukewarm to be actually unsavoury, but I found the Linsmore to be a sweet kind of place. It's almost wholesome. Really.

Having been on the block for almost 80 years, the Linsmore is something of an institution amongst locals. It's across the street from a "model recruitment" agency that could feature in Taken 3, and marked with an unimpressive sign that does far less in identifying the spot than its smoking regulars. The only sounds heard inside are the clinking of pint glasses and banter; no music, at least not at first. The bartender and owner, Ryan, is easily the youngest guy in the room.

I inquire about the dollar-draft (it's actually $1.15 for a seven-ounce glass of Labatt 50; not exactly the cheap thrill I was expecting, but cute nonetheless). The space is generous in size. The unremarkable wooden furniture, the decades-old couches in the back room, and a wooden deer's head anchored on the wall are by no means fashionable, but who cares on this end of the Danforth?

Aesthetic shortcomings aside, there's very little to dislike about the Linsmore. You'd be hard-pressed finding a more agreeable bunch than the regulars on this Monday night. People here will remember your name, and pay for your drinks (just be sure to return the favour). Chairs and tables are pulled up to make more room, and unbelievable stories are exchanged.

I'm invited to play darts. I say I'm not very good and don't want to ruin their good time. "Don't be silly," they reply. I'm with two other girlfriends, so they deem our team Charlie after the eponymous television series. There's a banker, an Irishman, Hulk Hogan's twin brother in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and Axl Rose's red bandanna. A woman with a voice scratchier than Tom Waits' teaches me the proper stance in dart throwing. In the face of my incompetence she jokes: "maybe we'd get you over there instead." She points towards the pool table at the back.

The Linsmore's a good place for those who like to romanticize; in fact, on the night I'm there, some guy claiming to be scouting locations for a movie shows up. Almost any idiosyncrasy can be justified--made charming, even--by its age, having served since 1934. I tell Ryan that I love the place. He frowns at me worriedly. "Really? I was thinking of fixing it up. Maybe a patio. A real menu. Or new furniture."

The only new thing acquired in the past decade--a giant, touchscreen jukebox that jars horribly with the Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughn it plays--glows in the corner, alien and anachronistic. It's the only genuinely ugly thing about the bar. "Don't change a thing," I reply.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Rolling Rock, Stella, Alexander Keith's IPA, Bud Light, Labatt 50
Signature Drink:
That baby Labatt.
Bar Snacks:
Classic rock
Live Music:
Who Goes There:
An eccentric bunch, but incredibly nice.
Monday - Friday 11:30am - 2am; Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 - 2am



Sean Boulton / August 18, 2012 at 2:55 AM

All that, and no mention of the Saturday night karaoke?

amirite / August 18, 2012 at 5:58 AM

well it sure ain't terri o's.

mario janque / August 18, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Kick and Stab review please!!!

Chet / August 18, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Bar has actually been renovated in last couple years. Also beer used to be 50 in one tap and 50 in the other

Justine M / October 2, 2012 at 9:19 PM

Is this the place that used to be the Moon Cave in the mid-1980s? I still have a placemat from the Moon Cave, that says the address is 1294 Danforth Ave... It was an awesomely weird and wonderful dive then, but it had stalagtite-like stucco and a true "moon-cave" effect going on in the decor. My boyfriend and I would go there for the cheap thrill of it all. Part of the reason I kept a paper place mat (with scalloped edges!) all these years. It has an illustration of the solar system with all types of fun factoids like distances from the sun in miles; revolution times of the planets around the sun; moons indicated according to the planet in question; a "space ship time schedule" for each planet, based on 25,000mph speed; and even radar and radio communications distance charts. If you could track down interior shots of the place from the mid-80s you'd have one helluva photo album! Sad to see it no longer looks like it did, and that no one seems to be remembering it online...

Todd In replying to a comment from Sean Boulton / December 20, 2012 at 12:22 PM

karaoke is on Friday nights now, Saturdays are usually live band nights (and have been getting quite busy), Weds is always Dart League and I think Thursday is College/Univ Pub Night. They have very cheap beer and I haven't been shot, stabbed or thrown out and so this place has become home for myself and a few of my friends.

regular In replying to a comment from Sean Boulton / January 29, 2013 at 10:16 PM

That's because none of what he wrote in this article actually happened. I doubt he was there more then 10 minutes.

Randall / March 31, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Got a new nest of tables the other day and thought they were
very useful, I find myself making use of the tiniest table for a laptop table in bed!

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