Nothing beats heading down to the local after a long (or short) day at work and having a few delicious pints.
I’m a big fan of beer, as my belly and bank account will tell you, so I appreciate nothing more than a friendly, familiar neighbourhood pub that is close enough to stumble home from.
Neighbourhood pubs are great places for random conversations with people about pointless trivia, collecting your thoughts, or just reading newspapers at the corner of the bar and generally escaping the world.
I have had a few places I’ve regular-ed over the years, depending on where I was living at the time. However, most are within a half-hour’s stumble of downtown. I’ve personally tested each and every place on this list to make sure my information is accurate and up to date.
Stop by if you’re ever in the neighbourhood.
1 – Hoop’s House – Oxford Street
Hoop’s is a small little bar located at Quebec and Oxford Street that has some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
Their beer selection is limited, but their prices cannot be beat for food or drink. Also, they watch the local news at six and 11. That’s a nice touch.
One of my first Hoops experiences (that I remember) was coming in, ordering a pint of Blue, and getting sucked in to Wheel of Fortune on the television. Everyone in the bar was guessing the puzzle, so I played along too.
Same went for Jeopardy. I poked my nose into it for a few answers and immediately felt like part of the team.
Hoop’s is a construction bar, as I’ve had fellow patrons explain. The logo even includes a backhoe – a tribute to Hoop himself.
It’s a classic neighbourhood bar. Signed sports memorabilia dot the walls here and there. Behind the bar is a chart for whatever sports pool is going on. Photos of youngsters sporting Hoop’s House on their jerseys hang proudly on the walls.
The whole place says community.
If you go, be sure to check out the ‘meat darts’ on Friday nights. For $2, anybody who wants to play gets paired up at random with another patron. Whoever wins the game of darts moves on to the next round, and then the final meat round, where you can win… you guessed it… meat!
2 – Richmond Tavern – 370 Richmond Street
This place has a lot of character and characters. The Richmond is one of London’s oldest establishments, and you can sense that history when you saddle up to the bar and take in the place.
The Richmond does a great job of promoting the local music scene, with live music during the week and on weekends. Their taps provide many interesting choices, and Jager shots are cheap and plentiful.
But it’s the character of the place that makes it so inviting. Many people are a bit intimidated by this place, as it comes off a bit rough and tumble, but once you take a seat and settle in to a pint, the whole thing makes sense.
There are two sides to the bar – the King Street entrance where the pool table and juke box are, and the Richmond Street entrance which is right beside the stage and opens up onto a cozy room full of wooden tables and chairs. I always pick the Richmond side. The view of the street is better, and the light is dimmer.
There is nothing better than grabbing an afternoon pint at the Rich’, watching the ebb and flow of traffic as you drink in quiet contemplation.
3 – Old East 765 Bar & Grill – 765 Dundas Street East
One of the crown jewels of EOA (the other being St. Regis). This bar has been around for ages, and is a huge supporter of the music and drag scenes in town. The place is divided in two. The front bar is home to karaoke SIX NIGHTS A WEEK!
The back bar (aka Backstage Lounge) is where live music takes place. They have quite the setup for lighting and sound, even if it fritzes out time and again. I’ve seen some great shows there, and have played on the stage time and again at various open mics.
It’s the variety of music that makes this place so impressive. I’ve seen rap, metal, folk, experimental and rock acts in the Backstage Lounge. I’ve seen some purse-first level drag performances there as well.
But the charm of the place comes back to the neighbourhood aspect.
You can pop in off the street and settle into a quiet beer at the bar in the afternoon, or you can go there any night of the week for karaoke and a stumble home. The patrons and staff are friendly and easy to talk to, and you immediately feel like you fit in.
If you go, be sure to order a pint of Cool. It’s cheap and goes down smooth – a perfect karaoke starter. Also, their burgers are reputable as some of the best in London.
4 – The Scot’s Corner – 268 Dundas
Scot’s is THE quintessential British pub, located in the heart of downtown London.
This place has everything I love about traditional pubs – wood wainscotting, dim lighting and a brass rail for my feet at the bar, with Scotch eggs to boot.
The Scot’s Corner is a great place to while away a night chatting with inebriated strangers about life, love, politics and the universe. As with the other places on this list, everybody seems to fit in there.
Their tap selection is amazing. No matter your fancy, you can probably find something to tickle it. Despite the huge selection (or perhaps because of it), I generally default to a pint of London-made Labatt 50. However, they also have pint specials on any given day of the week, giving you some extra change to order some great pub fare.
Taking in live music here is a bit frustrating, as the sight lines for the stage setup are limited. However, the atmosphere and the coziness of the place make it a must for pub lovers everywhere.
If you go, head there early in the day for a pint. There is a 99 per cent chance you will come across a table or two of older gents getting way, waayyy too into a soccer (sorry, football) match on the telly.
5 – The SoHo – RIP – 466 South Street
The place recently shut its doors, but I have to say that it was an incredible bar to go and watch a band, take in strange 16mm films, or play Mario Kart on a giant projector screen.
They were neighbourhood, through and through, which makes it doubly sad this place closed – not the least because I live within a few blocks of it.
The SoHo was great because they tried different things, from poker nights and live music to screening horror flicks. They weren’t afraid to be out of the ordinary, which was perfect because nothing about that place is ordinary.
Never has been.
I used to work there back in the early 2000s, when it was still the Victoria Tavern AKA Bucket of Blood. I have terrific memories of the Vic’ as an odd interstice between the worlds of neighbourhood regulars, doctors and nurses from the now-closed hospital, bikers, witches, old ladies playing euchre, and everyone in between.
The building is old and the interior has all the character and charm that one would expect of an old hotel – including a real tin ceiling. The large, south-facing windows let the sun shine in the main bar area, where I have spent some dreamy afternoons sipping away at a delicious pint of local beer.
Of course, this is all moot because the place is closed again, but I am holding out hope that somebody (maybe you, dear reader), will reopen it and make the neighbourhood whole again.
There are diamonds in the rough in every single part of the city, and while I can’t get to them all, we here at LondonFuse are always looking for new intel on the comfiest places to hoist a pint or several.
What is your favourite neighbourhood drinkin’ hole? Do a huge public service and let us know about your local public house.