Castro's Lounge has been a Beaches mainstay for over 15 years. When the original owner expressed interest in selling a couple years back, it was snapped up by Anthony Greene, who had worked there for eight years prior, along with longtime patron and U of T physiology professor, Stephen Reid.
Since taking it over, there have been a number of noteworthy changes. The TVs and generic bar paraphernalia were the first to go. Now framed portraits of historical heroes and villains sprawl over every inch of free space, providing conversational fodder. My imagination, which is already in overdrive, starts romanticizing the atmosphere as the perfect backdrop for intelligentsia to gather and engage in lively political or social debates.
The focus in the kitchen has shifted too. The standard pub grub has been replaced with an entirely vegetarian friendly menu. Starting at 5pm each day there's a menu of mains from which I try the Butter Paneer Burrito ($12). Loaded full of spicy quinoa, Indian cheese curds and what I think is lettuce (though it's too sparse and flavorless to be certain), it packs some real heat making the accompanying sour cream necessary, though I won't say the same for the little paper cup of salsa.
More to my liking is the carb-loaded Aloo Gobi Quesadilla ($12.50) that is plated in towering layers of cumin and chili spiced cauliflower, broccoli and potato before being crowned with a mixture of melted cheeses.
For vegans, there is plenty on offer like, the Asian Quinoa Bowl ($13) or Vegetarian Chili ($7).
Late at night, the offerings are limited to variations on grilled cheese sandwiches ($5-$9) with six varieties like balsamic onion with gruyere or spinach with avocado and goat cheese on offer.
Chalkboard menus advertise tequila and bourbon, but above all this is a beer lover's bar. Spoiled for choice, the number of cans and bottles in stock exceeds 100 and there are six draught lines featuring craft brews. More interesting still are the four hand-pumped casks featuring Ontario microbrews like today's offerings that include F&M StoneHammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout and Neustadt Double Fuggle Scotch Ale. The knowledgeable staff can aide with decision making and are well adapt to sharing the finer points of each brew.
Castro's Lounge is an unpretentious neighbourhood pub with a genuine laid back vibe. Nightly, the bar hosts live bluegrass, country or rockabilly bands, and, on a monthly basis presents tutored tasting events helmed by local brewers.
Photos of Jesse Milns