Wednesday, March 4, 2015Cloudy 0°C
Restaurants

Whelan's Gate

Posted by Christina Cheung / Profiled on February 1, 2015 / review policy

whelans gate torontoWhelan's Gate has been the local Irish pub on Bloor just east of High Park since 1992. Throughout the years, it's changed owners five or six times, and at the start of this year it reopened again under new management/ownership.

This time around, the newest owners are Stephanie Brown and Stephen Auty, who met when they both used to work at the Storys Building where Auty was the GM. The two decided to go into the bar-owning biz together when Brown came across this opportunity.

whelans gate torontoThey've tinkered with the two-floor, 110-capacity interior (plus 30 when the outdoor back patio is open), keeping the rustic barnwood elements intact while improving the bars, bathrooms and lighting. The first floor feels cozy and log-cabin-like while the upper floor is bigger, with a back room that has a foosball table and board games leading out to a spacious back patio.

whelans gate torontoEight draft beers ($8/pint, tax included for all alcohol) cover three Irish standards (Guinness, Kilkenny, Smithwick's) and five local microbrews (Beau's, Boneshaker, Nickel Brook, Steam Whistle, plus one monthly rotating tap). Domestic bottles go for $5 and tall cans $7.

whelans gate torontoA cocktail list developed by Auty (who also worked on the drinks menu at Bestellen), includes interesting twists on classics. The Irish Mule ($12) is a play on the Moscow Mule, replacing vodka with Irish whisky (Bushmills) instead, plus ginger beer, lime, thyme-infused simple syrup and a sprig of thyme for garnish.

whelans gate torontoThe Bourbon Sour ($12) is made with the addition of a Cherry Heering float at the end, which adds some depth of flavour to the drink.

Helming the kitchen is chef Mike Tan (Huntsman Tavern, The Saint, Oddseoul), who's created a menu of Irish-inspired comfort food, where everything is made in house (except the ketchup) - from the sausages for the bangers and colcannon ($16) down to the hot sauce.

whelans gate torontoTo start, the hummus salad ($10) is a colourful, deconstructed version of the Middle Eastern dip. Crispy fried chickpeas taste like smoked paprika and cayenne, and are mixed in with a Greek salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, onions and feta. It's a dish with interesting textures and flavours, if not a little oversalted.

whelans gate torontoPork belly bites with fried polenta ($15) are definitely a highlight. Lightly cured, braised and then fried pieces of pork belly are mixed in with deep-fried chunks of polenta seasoned with black pepper and lemon-fennel. It's a satisfying and brilliant mix of salt and fat that makes this the perfect bar snack.

The O'Tanigan Burger ($15) is a playful way to Irish-ize Tan's clearly non-Irish name, and is a behemoth of double-stacked patties made from house-ground chuck cooked to medium, American cheese, griddled onions, iceberg lettuce, dill pickles and a horseradish mayo between two buns. It's a huge, flavourful, sloppy mess to eat and comes with a side of crispy thin-cut fries. Some new regulars come in, and one tells me she dreams about the burger while another hasn't tried anything else on the menu because he keeps coming back to order the same thing.

whelans gate torontoIt's a meat-heavy menu, but Tan will make veggie-friendly versions of dishes if requested. The staff is super friendly and seem to enjoy what they're doing, which is exactly what you want out of your local neighbourhood gastropub. Live Celtic music on Tuesdays, buck-a-shuck Wednesdays and half-price glasses of wine on Thursdays only sweeten the deal.

whelans gate torontoPhotos by Jesse Milns.

Discussion

12 Comments

Jmons / February 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm
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8 bucks a pint?
Yoshi / February 2, 2015 at 01:56 pm
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whaaaaaaa? 8 bucks a pint?
GJG / February 2, 2015 at 03:40 pm
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Glad that it got a bit of an update. Hope it doesn't go all hipster though.
aDawg / February 3, 2015 at 08:13 am
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$8 a pint, tax included? Seems reasonable. And that burger looks delish!
Diane / February 3, 2015 at 04:44 pm
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That burger is superb, cooked to perfection!
lizzy / February 3, 2015 at 06:16 pm
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Sounds like the snug has gone...too bad loved the snug
Dave / February 3, 2015 at 07:57 pm
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I seem to remember the old Whelan's not being $8 a pint.
Mort / February 3, 2015 at 09:47 pm
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It's an Irish bar? Where's the Irish cider? No Magners, no me!
Jmons replying to a comment from aDawg / February 3, 2015 at 11:52 pm
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Eight dollars for a pint of steamwhistle is not reasonable.
Dave / February 4, 2015 at 11:26 am
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Was there last night for the Irish session. Great times! Snug is still there, just has a foosball table in it. Talked to the owners. They have Brickworks cider and if more people request certain things like Magners, they'll get it in.

This place is clean (finally) but still has the old charm, feels updated and a little bit less dreary.
DJJ / February 7, 2015 at 07:31 pm
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This place once 'smart served' my best friend, girl friend and I for laughing too much. Will never go back no matter what's on the menu.
John replying to a comment from DJJ / February 17, 2015 at 12:51 am
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Probably the former owners rather than the current ones. Give the place a second chance. I'm betting you'll be happy you did!

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