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Sneaky Dee's

Photo: Matt Forsythe

Posted by Lisa Pasold / May 15, 2015

Sneaky Dee's is the quintessential punk dive bar, a longtime institution of Toronto's downtown core that caters to the young and cash-strapped. Though originally established up on Bloor Street, Sneaky Dee's has called Bathurst and College home since 1990, and it's hard to imagine how the neighbourhood without it.

Famed for punk rock shows, walls of graffiti and greasy Tex-Mex eats designed to pair with way too much booze, Sneaky Dee's has a long and treasured legacy within Toronto's alternative circles. Some of Canada's most respected indie bands today got their start in the 200-capacity room upstairs, including Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Fucked Up and Feist.

I stopped by recently on a Tuesday afternoon. It happened to be one of the first real days of spring, the most sunshine and warmth we'd seen in ages. I think it was the first time ever that I'd been to Sneaky's in broad daylight, and it was a much different vibe from the crowded late-night version that I'm used to.

It was still about an hour before the dinner rush, so I took the opportunity to explore the space before it got totally packed with the regular clientele of college kids and local musicians. My favourite find: the family of four having an early meal in one of the graffiti-etched booths, tricking me into thinking this place could pass for a totally normal family restaurant. The world is truly a very different place in the daytime.

The menu at Sneaky Dee's is just as massive as the portions, with a lengthy list of apps, all-day breakfasts, Mexican plates and nachos to choose from. Oh, the nachos; just ask any regular what to order and they'll tell you that these are the stuff of legend. The fully-loaded King's Crown platter ($19) is the perennial favourite, but there are even vegan and vegetarian versions to please other types of eaters.

Tuesdays are half-price fajita nights ($11.50 instead of the customary $23), so tons of sizzling plates are streaming out of the kitchen, filling the bar with a distinct smoky scent. But I'm trying the Burrito Grande ($13.50), easily two pounds of shredded beef, cheese, salsa mole and beans ready to burst out of a flour tortilla. Part of me wishes I were hungover to fully appreciate a meal like this.

Speaking of which: the drinks here are pretty traditional crowd-pleasers, with six options on tap including Amsterdam Blonde, Alexander Keith's and Beau's Lug Tread. A pint can run you $5.50-7.50, while pitchers range from $14 to $20.75. Bottled options (from Coors Light to Guinness) are available too, as are your standard cocktails and shots.

The menu also nods to Sneaky Dee's place in local music lore with regular additions named after Toronto-centric bands. The Fucked Up Breakfast honours the Polaris-winning punks, as does the amazingly titled Queen of Heart Attacks ($24.95 each). Death from Above 1979 have their own nacho plate ($19.79, natch), which looks pretty damn good topped with thick avocado slices, pulled pork and all the fixins.

Nothing was scheduled in the upper room that evening, but I've been to my fair share of concerts in it. In fact, I think one of the first shows I attended after moving into the city was an old Shit La Merde NYE party that featured Holy Fuck. It's remarkable how stable Sneaky's musical tastes have been before and since then: it's not really limited to any genre, but they've pretty much always welcomed just about any band that could be described as "different."

As the sun sets, the playlist of 80s classics overhead seems to swell louder with the sudden influx of the night crowd. Yup, this is the Sneaky Dee's I know.

Additional Details

Beers on Tap:
Amsterdam Blonde, Big Wheel, Cool Lager, Buzz Amber, Alexander Keith’s, Beau’s Lug Tread
Signature Drink:
Pitchers of beer and sangria
Bar Snacks:
Tex-Mex
Patio:
No
Music/Genre:
Punk, indie rock
Live Music:
Yes
Who Goes There:
College kids, musicians, people with multiple piercings
Hours:
Monday-Tuesday 11am-3am; Wednesday-Thursday 11am-4am; Friday 11am-4:30am; Saturday 9am-4:30am; Sunday 9am-3am (kitchen always open late)

Discussion

26 Comments

Carlos / June 25, 2008 at 9:31 AM
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Yum! nothing like Sneaky Dee's after a long night of fun!
I recommend the Spicy Eggs and Huevos Rancheros!

Gloria / June 25, 2008 at 9:52 AM
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*drool* I am a real sucker for a rich, greasy breakfast...

John Carson / June 25, 2008 at 9:59 AM
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I could eat my computer screen right now, that looks so tasty. Need a bigger ketchup serving though, I know, picky.

Danielle / June 25, 2008 at 10:14 AM
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The best thing about the sneaky's breakfast is that you can always get it. There is nothing as satisfying as having the waiter tell you it's past last call and declaring "well then it's time for breakfast!" and not having to move.

Jerrold / June 25, 2008 at 10:17 AM
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The least best thing about Sneaky Dee's breakfast is that you can easily make it better at home ;)

Jay / June 25, 2008 at 10:20 AM
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I had breakfast there on Sunday and for the first time ever I was pretty disappointed. My Huevos had no flavour!!

Danielle / June 25, 2008 at 3:52 PM
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The 3 eggs, toast and bacon or whatever special that is $3.25 before 11am is insanely decent for that price. I try to get that whenever I desperately need something to fill my tummy early in the morning.

ek / June 26, 2008 at 6:19 PM
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I live around sneaky's for over 3 years now and this place is infested with mice like you've never seen before. I have no idea how it is still open, i guess it is because of his history. You can see 3-4 mice chasing each other right next you in a not so crowded time. Go for cheap drinks, stay away from food.

jamesmallon / June 27, 2008 at 11:24 AM
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Sneaky Disease?

loveeatingout / July 3, 2008 at 11:42 PM
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eat there every sunday...love the junk food (wings and fries with the ooohy goohy gravy) and the service is excellent....no complains...will be there every sunday....

JoJo / July 20, 2009 at 10:57 AM
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This was probably one of the worst resturants I have ever been too. The one main reason was because of the atroptious waitress. She came to our table once to ask what we wanted to order with a huge attitude problem, then doesnt come back again untill she rudly drops our food on to the table without saying a word... then proceeds to not come back untill we have to call her over because we are ready to leave... then as we pay our bill and leave the cash on the table she chases us out swearing at us saying "you bitches didnt leave enough money" , so i told her to walk her ass back to the table and open her eyes and see that the proper amount of money is sitting right in front of her face along with an appropriate amount of tip for the service she gave us (which was a 16 cents). She goes and does not come back. So we leave the resturant. Then my friend from New York realizes her phone is missing as we get half way down the street and must have left it on the table. She goes back into the resturant to look around and ask the waitress if she saw it, shes says "i dont fucking care about ur phone" and walks away. at this point we get the feeling she has stolen the phone. so we go back and fouth between the bouncers and the resturant asking pls if someone could help us get the phone as my friend is waiting for a call from her bf with information about his flight comming in from los angles tonight. She begs the bouncers to ask the girl for it and tells them its an american phone and is no use to anyone in canada and she will pay the 200 dollars cash but she just needs her phone, one of them goes in and comes out saying sorry i cant do anything about it. so as we wait and have been back in about 4 or 5 times now, finally as we are about to call it quits the waitress comes out onto the street and yells "is this your phone bitch?" and throws it at my friend along with the 16 cent tip and tells us were all fucking bitches and proceeds to go back in to the resturant.
now you tell me, is this apropriate behaviour for any waitress or resturant to have with there customers? first she acusses us of ripping her off for money, but then turns around and rips off someones phone. And then on top of it uses language and behaviour like white trash trailer park. i know your resturant is just a dirty hole sneeky dees, but could you at least try to have some class? on top of all that , the food was awful as well and im pretty sure they used expired sour cream in the guacamole as we all got sick that night. I would recommend never going to this stinky dirt hole and if you do, pls try not to let our ditch pig waitress serve you! :)

Disappointed With Toronto / September 13, 2009 at 12:59 PM
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I'm from Montreal and I finally got around to checking Sneaky Dees last night; NEVER AGAIN!

I was not 10 minutes into the night, when the gals I'm with decided they needed a smoke break. I nonchalantly followed them outside, when a beefhead of a bouncer stopped me at the door because I had a tall can of Strongbow in hand.

"No problem, I'll just stay inside and have my drink." To which the bouncer says NO, and proceeds to take away my cider. I'm rather shocked at this point; I just put down 6$ and hadn't even started tapping into it. I start explaining this to him, and he says tough, and then tells me he's kicking me out! At which point he forcibly shoves me to the street curb.

I couldn't believe it! I've never been kicked out of anywhere, especially so physically, and over nothing... to make matter's worse, it was a "No Pants" party, so there I am, suddenly on the sidewalk, in public, in my boxers because some down syndrome retard decides to powertrip.

So I try to level with him rationally (I should have known better), explaining I just paid cover, and just arrived, and am friends with the organizers of the evening, and a batch of my friends are in tow. But alas, he's adamant I've been kicked out!

So I thank him for ruining my evening, and can't wait to blog about my experience! At this point he starts yelling, "You calling me out?!" (um, what? who talks like that?) and he looms over me all big like he's going to beat me up, and then HE SPITS ON ME!

Wow, thank you Sneaky Dees, for dragging me out into the middle of the street in my underwear and spit upon!

I'm still livid and flabbergasted; I've never been treated so rudely by any sort of establishment in my life, and I've surely never been publicly "humiliated" in such a disgusting manner. I'm just floored that anyone would employ such thickheaded neanderthals...

STAY AWAY FROM SNEAKY DEES OR YOU'LL BE KICKED OUT AND SPAT UPON!

Scab beater In replying to a comment from JoJo / February 18, 2010 at 2:29 PM
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Ha- as an ex waitress there, you most likely deserved everything you got (surely you gave the waitress no attitude at all right?). You're lucky you even got your phone- I wouldn't have been so kind...and regarding the guacamole- surprised that you, with your refined taste and all couldn't figure out that there is no sour cream in it. Muah!

llalalalalala mcboook In replying to a comment from JoJo / April 25, 2010 at 1:14 PM
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@jojo

i spll thgs without vowels and short words cause its kewl >.

kush / June 30, 2010 at 3:29 AM
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seriously? sneaky dees is the best nachos in toronto? this is fkng WEAK. bad choice. bad restaurant. mediocre nachos at best. I EXPECT BETTER FROM BLOGTO....soft bs battmans recos. not chill. not chill at all.

June Li / July 29, 2010 at 9:37 AM
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Sneaky dee's, you get what you get. the servers put up with a lot of bullshit and thus, can be abrupt. who the hell cares? if you go in there, expect that and don't bitch and moan about it later.

Robert / August 3, 2010 at 9:20 AM
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I've witnessed several encounters much like the ones the posters above relay it's just never happened to me. What they fail to mention is that they're usually provoked by them meaning the customer. I say "usually" because Dees has had and will continue to employ servers and bouncers with major anger or attitude issues. Expect to get some of that when you act like a douche. Some of the food is very good but the best nachos in Toronto? Not even close.

You all suck / August 20, 2010 at 12:53 PM
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All these hilarious stories are why it is so great to enjoy a meal at Sneaky Dee's. Don't come back!

AA / August 26, 2010 at 10:28 AM
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H E Y

Just want to let everyone know that SHAKE A TAIL is moving to SNEAKY DEE'S!

Starting OCTOBER 16th, we're taking over SATURDAY NIGHTS.

Come SHAKE with us!!!!

Angry Customer / May 30, 2011 at 1:10 PM
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Sneaky Dee's is probably the worst restaurant I have EVER been to. I'm surprised at it's high reviews on many other websites and I'm also surprised that it's managed to stay open for so long. The service was horrible. Waiting over 20 minutes before a waitress even comes to our table, then waiting about 40 minutes for the food, another 15 before we can get a bill. Another person there was waiting for about 40 minutes just to get change.

The Food was horrendous. Their chicken breast was like dry cardboard. They fill most of your plate up with beans and fail to balance that flavour throughout the remainder of the dish. You'll also get better tasting Mexian rice from Uncle Ben's. If all of this wasn't bad enough, all of our meals arrived somewhat cold! Inexcusable!

The inside of the restaurant also resembles a public washroom with perverted and trashy graffiti all over the place. Some will think this is creative, I think it's ugly and creates a pretty trashy environment.

Don't listen to the hype and don't waste your money!

people are dumb / June 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM
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^WOW do people realize that this is sneaky dees? its not supposed to be classy and refined haha thats kind of the point. the trashy graffiti all over the place make the place what it is.

Biggy420 / June 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM
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I see all this reviews on food which Im not really interested in.. Whats it like seeing a band there? I heard the sound isnt great. Any truth to this? Whats the capacity like? Overall experience seeing live bands there?

brad / September 8, 2011 at 8:08 PM
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I'm addicted to the Burrito Favorito. I've never had bad service here, and I lived nearby for three years. that's all I've got to say!

Bleh / June 17, 2012 at 10:00 AM
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Food was completely flavourless. So fine its a music venue and has character blah blah blah. You would expect any bartender anywhere to know how to make a drink properly right? I ordered a frozen margarita and when it arrived it was clearly a combination of water (not even icy much less frozen), a shot of tequila, and a lime. I very politely asked the waitress if there was anything they could do (possibly remake it?) and we watched her take it over to the bartender and explain the situation. She shrugged, he shrugged, and she squeezed 5 limes into the glass and stirred it up using my straw, brought it back to me and was completely serious and genuine when she said "Here tell me if thats better- I mean I don't know whats wrong with it, it has alcohol." Holy shit. What more can I say?

Bill / May 7, 2013 at 10:47 PM
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I have eaten there consistently for 15 years. Good food, reasonable price and I never had a problem with the service (OK, it can be a little slow, sometimes, but the servers are working hard. It's a busy place. I'm not in that much of a hurry!)
Love the "Pepe's pocket" with lots of hot sauce.

luna / June 3, 2013 at 8:35 PM
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It's good and all and I know it's tex mex not authentic Mexican but I don't understand why they say "salsa mole" on the menu when it isn't mole, it's just salsa. I also wish they would serve some smaller portions for a bit lower of a price or have lunch sizes or half sizes or something because everything is so big and I can hardly eat any of it... and a lot of times it isn't something that is good to take home. Other than that, cool place.

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