Rock 'n' Horse Saloon
The Rock 'n' Horse Saloon opens today in the former London Tap House site on Adelaide St. West. Going head to head with Boots & Bourbon in the east end to draw the most cowboy boots and 10 gallon hats in Toronto, MRG Ventures have retrofitted the popular Entertainment District nightspot to accommodate homesick Westerners with line-dancing and a mechanical bull, as well as a cowboy-themed menu. The barstools are crafted from genuine saddles, and the bathroom doors have been replaced with swinging saloon doors.
Cosmetics aside, the actual space (notwithstanding the bull - we'll get to that later) is essentially the same as the Tap House was. Even the huge rooftop patio looks pretty much unchanged. What has been drastically altered, however, is the atmosphere. With live music planned for most nights of the week, and the somewhat more organized (than your average sweaty Entertainment District dance bar) line-dancing, one would expect a more civil affair. That's not the case.
Though the dance floor is a much more attractive option than before, the ice between patrons is broken with the assistance of enormous margaritas (The Bulldog - $14.75) with upturned Coronas stuffed in them. After a few of these have floated around the room, the Dutch courage drags people onto that otherwise treacherous-looking bull, which had this correspondent tossed about like a rag doll in seconds.
Dishes like the bone-in ribeye ($19) are predictably huge. Served with gigantic polenta fries and tomato & molasses cowboy beans, it's an intimidating affair. Otherwise, the menu hits the kind of comfort notes you'd expect from an Entertainment District venue: wings ($12/lb), burgers (made from either prime rib or bison ($14) and buttermilk fried chicken ($17) are all given the City Slickers treatment, and the staff do their best to convince you that you've just walked into Nashville. They're also building a general store selling all things country-related (should you show up underdressed) including belt buckles, hats, shirts, and the like.
The most notable improvement is the focus on providing an experience before the nightlife crowd show up after 10pm. It's the kind of place you'd be keen to bring visiting family: they hit all the fun notes, it's completely devoid of pretension, and your father-in-law can't complain about the portions. They've also lined the bar area with plenty of TVs, so it's not a bad place to grab a pint and watch the game, until that dance floor fills up with big hair and plaid shirts.