Duke's Refresher + Bar
Duke's Refresher + Bar is the first Toronto outpost of the Muskoka-based bastion of fun, a place that boasts an apologetically brash attitude towards kicking back and letting loose, where Coyote Ugly-like bar-top dancing is not out of the question, and sloppy behaviour isn't judged.
Situated on Gerrard at Yonge in the pedestal of the Aura condos, the space has been designed with a soft spot for eclectic country charm; wood panelling, rusted metals, mismatched furnishings and rec room trophies. Upstairs in the "nosebleed" mezzanine there's shuffleboard, retro lounge seating and the option to order 20 litre kegs for large parties.
The menu features upscale riffs on pub staples offering the usual suspects like wings, nachos, burgers and fried chicken. Ladies can snack on complimentary cotton candy while they decide on what to order.
Fish Tacos come three to order with a choice of Crispy Haddock ($8.95), Spiced Shrimp ($9.25) or Seared Tuna ($9.25), served on warm tortillas with gingered red cabbage slaw, salsa roja, crema piquante and fresh cilantro.
The Crispy Chicken Cobb ($15.45) is scrupulously crafted of romaine hearts, roasted chicken, the classic Cobb accoutrements (bacon, blue cheese, avocado, eggs) and drizzled with red wine vinaigrette.
On tap, there are 40 beers available in pints, pitchers and 3oz samplers, the latter of which go for under $1.59 each. Regulars can join the Einstein Club for $20, which entitles them to a personalized 24oz stein and discounts on refills for the year.
Brunch, offered on weekends from 9am to 1pm is discounted to repeat patrons who let themselves be ink-stamped the night before. The more visible the stamp: the better the discount on platters of Steak and Eggs ($16.75) topped up with crispy fried onions or towers of malty Shameless Waffles ($9.45). Bonus: both options are available all day on the regular menu too -- along with the Breakfast Poutine ($9.25).
Oh, and there's Boozy Brunch Milkshakes ($6.91) and $3 off Caesars on Sundays (regular $7.50).
Duke's Refresher is open weekdays from 11:30am and on weekends from 9am. Take-out orders are encouraged and there's even a section (dubbed the cheap seats) reserved for those waiting.
Photos by Jesse Milns