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Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Reviewed on September 21, 2012 / review policy

tallboys torontoTallboys opened up near Bloor and Shaw at the beginning of this month, tossing its name into a ring already crowded with craft beer houses. And, opening in the former location of Ethiopian restaurant Zembaba, it's taking its chances on a neighbourhood not exactly known for its craft beer scene.

It's a family-run operation, with Tom and Phil Cacace and their cousin Kevin Kennedy helming front-of-house, and friend Craig Wong in the kitchen. Tom terms the area "up-and-coming," and cites the relative drought of similar businesses in the area--although a new bar is slated to open just next door. "We wanted to create a spot that was comfortable and friendly," Tom tells me, and the locals have already picked up on it. There's even a whiteboard above the bar where you can buy a beer for an absent friend, to be claimed the next time they're in.

tallboys torontoThe spotlight feature is instantly visible: a roll-down, garage-door-style front window that neatly approximates the sensation of being on a patio, although the season is already running out. The bar area and surrounding walls are painted a bold, fire-engine red, and even the low-hanging lights cast a den-of-iniquity hue over everything.

"We're not a sports bar; we're a bar that plays sports," Tom says, and mentions he'd like to add another TV to the twosome and projection screen already in place. Loose allusions to Toronto transit history line one wall, through vintage prints of streetcars (Schindler's List-red in otherwise monochrome photos) and the painted names of nearby subway stations. "We love Toronto," Tom explains.

tallboys torontoWith an exclusive focus on Ontario craft beers--and tentative plans to branch out to Quebec or Nova Scotia--the list of cans includes Wellington Boot Chuck, Mad Tom IPA, and Kensington Augusta Ale, and range between $6.25 and $7.25. There are no bottles, and just 5 draught lines, including newly opened Junction Brewery's Conductor's Ale ($6.50 and delicious). Daily specials feature $5 pints of Steamwhistle on Mondays, $5 cans of Wellington's Trailhead on Tuesdays, and organic Wednesdays--$5 Nickelbrook Organic or pints of Mill St. Organic.

tallboys torontoWe start with Sulie's salad ($6 and named after Kevin's wife)--not offensive, but definitely disappointing. Baby greens, roasted red beets, chick peas, finely julienned granny smith apple and honey vinaigrette come together in a thoroughly underwhelming dish. We parse through the various ingredients--the slightly wilted salad base, the odd choice to fry half the chick peas--and find everything to be strangely sapped of flavor.

tallboys torontoThe crispy fried chicken sandwich ($13) is a vast improvement. As with many of the menu items, beer figured largely in its preparation--a chicken breast marinated in beer and buttermilk, fried, then ensconced in a beautifully soft bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and a rich ranch sauce. The thin fried crust adds a touch of texture without detracting from the highlight--the impressively moist chicken. The fries are substantial, perfectly fried, and far too salty.

Last up are the fish tacos ($14). The fish itself can either be served pan-fried or beer-battered with a light weiss--I choose the former and opt for sweet potato fries ($3). The fries are predictably delicious--no better or worse than your typical pub fare, but served with a creamy, piquant sauce that elevates them somewhat. The soft corn tortillas come as a trio, and are filled with lettuce, an excess of sour cream, and skewered by a chopstick. The salsa fresca is mostly garlic and tomatoes, with a touch of onions, and while fresh, again doesn't impart as much flavour as I would expect. The fish is well-cooked, but like the salad, the dish as a whole is rather bland.

tallboys torontoThe crowd thins and swells many times over the course of the evening, and mostly consists of beer-lovers. Tom tells me that they've had the occasional naysayer--set-in-their-ways types who declare "Heineken or nothing"--but for the most part, people are willing to try something new. It's the difference between a beer "with a hundred ingredients and preservatives, and this beer," Tom says, pointing to my glass of Junction's Conductor's Ale, "which probably has four and was made over the span of a few weeks, as beer should be."

tallboys torontoIt's not a hard sell to the area's burgeoning, younger demographic, or really to anyone with a (pardon the douchebaggery) palate for beer--the flavours are more complex and the ingredients, indeed, fewer.

And as for the music: Grimes, Feist, Death Cab for Cutie and Bon Iver each trickle from the speakers, yet another nod to Tallboys' breaking form from typical sports bars. This might, in the end, serve them--after all, 3 Speed, where we end up later, is bustling, and every bit as much a sore thumb in its own area.



Ken / September 21, 2012 at 11:29 am
Sounds like they have their heart in the right place, offering something different, and kudos for sticking to local draught beers.
Great detailed review of the food as always. Keep up the great work.
Grammer Marm / September 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm
Another unedited review on BlarghTO? Surprise! You could turn this into a drinking game. Find a spelling mistake or grammatical error and chug. A 'palette for beer'? Drink!

Who needs Tallboys when I can just sit in my basement and laugh at these reviews?

No offence, Alexandra. Your review was good but this blog would do better by proofing stories before they click the 'post' button. Shit, just hire me. I work for beer.
Alex replying to a comment from Grammer Marm / September 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm
I was obviously referring to painting with beer. Obviously.

That's my bad, and it's been corrected. Thanks!
local / September 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm
I almost never post, but I had to write about the Korea town burger (maybe that's not actually what it's called though?)
It was so. good.
One of my favourite burgers in Toronto! Really messy and fall-aparty, and absolutely delicious. I hope these guys do well! Everyone working seemed so nice and excited.
Soused / September 21, 2012 at 01:36 pm
I am obsessed with Junction Brewery's Conductor's Ale. If am putting on pants and leaving my apartment to watch a Football game it's nice to be able to drink a unique beer instead of the typical canadian, coors, budweiser blandness.

If you have a Conductor's Ale $5 night you will have a be-sodden friend for life.
LC / September 21, 2012 at 01:41 pm
I'd like to try this beer that has "a hundred ingredients."
jesse / September 21, 2012 at 01:48 pm
Why does this neighbourgood get so much hate? It's sick. Christie pits, sardinhas, the piston, saving gigi, etc lots of good stuff going on
Soused replying to a comment from LC / September 21, 2012 at 01:50 pm
Candian government still allows as many as 108 ingredients in beer. Quebec brewery, Dow, in 1964 put cobalt sulfate into its beer to keep foam down, 16 men died. Tough to get a full list of ingredients because beer ingredients change during the brewing process my good sir.
h8t3r replying to a comment from jesse / September 21, 2012 at 02:31 pm
Who's hating? You hating?

Everybody hate now!
Mark / September 21, 2012 at 02:57 pm
How does this or 3 Speed stick out like a sore thumb? Ciros, Holy Oak, Stella, Bar Neon, Zocalo, Starving Artist – there are several Bloordale bars with Ontario craft beers available and with similar vibes. Fuck.
Burrows / September 21, 2012 at 03:55 pm
How do you post THAT photo of the Sulie salad and then bash it?!?!? Are you kidding me??? It looks delicious!!
Kevo / September 21, 2012 at 05:21 pm
Sweet Vespa, dude.
Elizabeth replying to a comment from Grammer Marm / September 21, 2012 at 08:01 pm
Did you misspell "grammar" intentionally?!?
lol / September 21, 2012 at 09:03 pm
wow that is some of the most overpriced food ive EVER seen
Abe / September 22, 2012 at 12:20 am
Okay, well, read this review, then actually go there. This write-up, as well as its photos, paint a pretty poor picture of the vibe, atmosphere, and fucking amazingness of this place. These reviews have to be taken with a grain of sand, nay, the whole bloody shaker.
Sophia / September 22, 2012 at 12:30 am
$17 for tacos and fries, $6.25 for a pint. No, this certainly is not a sports bar.
neighbour / September 22, 2012 at 01:22 pm
I had the fish tacos last night (opted for the battered and fried) and though fresh, they too were lacking any major taste. However I asked for a side of the hot wings sauce and it was great it that little added spice.
Local h8r / September 22, 2012 at 06:02 pm
I was hoping this would be a brewpub a la Brooklyn/Portland since they use the word 'craft' in their name but alas it's just another place overcharging for a can of someone else's beer. Who wants to pay $7 for a beer out of a can at a place with a sports bar atmosphere? Also, let's get one thing straight, a bar that plays sports IS a sports bars. No grey area. Sure they don't play sports all the time, just when there's a game.
trickydisco replying to a comment from Local h8r / October 3, 2012 at 12:20 pm
totally agreed. Get some good taps boys
aro replying to a comment from lol / October 5, 2012 at 08:42 am
What? Are you being sarcastic. I'm genuinely confused.

$6 salad
$13 sandwich
$14 fish tacos

Where do you normally eat? A soup kitchen.
payingCondoLandPrices / July 5, 2013 at 02:25 pm
what's with the high food prices in condo land! when is going out for a bite to eat going to cost you $30 with taxes and tip. it seems every new restaurant venture is trying to make millions off of small portions and fancy decorating. it just sickening!
Jonathan / January 30, 2014 at 10:40 am
I feel like the prices are very reasonable. Tall Boys is a great hang-out spot, with a great staff, good food, and a great beer selection.
lizzy / March 5, 2014 at 02:07 pm
The Blossington Burger. Soooooo delicious!
purv / March 5, 2014 at 02:42 pm
Any person who thinks that these dishes are over- priced has their head deeply embedded in their posterior. Ha ha "making millions". Do you have any idea what the bottom - line profits are in a dining/drinking establishment? Pennies on the dollar if you're lucky. Do the math smart guy. .. after you pay off your original investment how many tacos and beers do you have to sell to make a million. Have fun making millions Phil and Tom! t
TG / May 26, 2014 at 08:14 pm
Love this place. Great customer service and beer selection. I stopped by on St. Patrick's Day and they only had stouts on tap, all of which were delicious. They do care about a lot about beer.
Jerry / February 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm
This place is not VAPE friendly. E-Cig users avoid it. Food is great.
A. Volpe / April 19, 2015 at 09:18 am
My husband and I visited this weekend and loved the burgers. I would not hesitate to say that it was one of the best ones we've had in a long time!

We were blown away by how attentive they were to not only us, but to every customer.

Good job guys. We'll be back for sure.
plt / April 26, 2015 at 04:14 pm
Just stumbled upon Tallboys today. My husband and I each had a burger and they were the best we have had, probably ever. The beef was so fresh and flavourful and with 2 patties, so filling. Turns out that they get the beef at the butcher daily and simply season it with salt and pepper. The toppings were amazing. The craft beers we tried were good. Service was great. Our new favourite pub.

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