Nothing brings Canadians together like the Grey Cup, especially during the NHL lockout, and especially when it’s in Toronto, where it all began. The thing about Toronto is we don’t do tailgate here. Why stand outside in parking lots when you can pack into a bar or a restaurant? I won’t pretend to know much about football, but I know it brings people together just like good food and beer. But with 50,000 Argos and Stamps fans crowding the streets around Rogers Centre (not to mention the horses parading in hotel lobbies), you need a game plan. So how do you choose the best spot for pre and post-game celebrations? Here is a list of 5 best bets:
Real Sports (15 York St.) has all the ingredience of the ultimate man cave – fried food, good beer and a giant TV, or two, or three, or…well, you get it. The food is much better then what you’d expect at a typical sports bar and if you’re brave, the bar offers a 67oz ribeye called “The Hail Mary”…need I say more? With wide selection of beer, 200 TVs and one that is a two-storey, 39-foot screen, it’s hands-down the place to be, that is if you can get a reservation.
Williams Landing (120 Lynn Williams St.) is located in the Liberty Village neighbourhood, just a short ride west from downtown on the King Streetcar. At first it looks like one of those franchise bars you might find on Front Street, but it’s not. This spacious venue offers plenty of seating, both at tables and around the bar. Televisions are not in short supply, and the restaurant provides a great variety of dishes like pulled pork poutine and butter chicken, not to mention fast service and a sweeping view of the neighbourhood, the CNE grounds and Lake Ontario.
Pizzeria Libretto (221 Ossington Ave.) is the perfect place to get away from the downtown pre-game crowds and enjoy the best Neapolitan pizza in the city. It may not be the typical “sports bar” type of place, but it definitely doesn’t lack charm and authenticity. It’s completely worth trying, especially if you don’t visit Toronto often. The service is fast but the restaurant doesn’t take reservations so get there right when they open, 4:00 p.m.
O&B Canteen (330 King St. W.) knows how to serve good food fast. This ground-floor cafeteria in the TIFF Bell Lightbox is used to diners fill up before movies and shows at the nearby theatres, and the professional servers will do almost anything to make sure they don’t miss the opening credits. So if you’re craving a plate of pre-game Mac & Cheese (made with garganelli, cheddar and smoked ham – yum!) or a good hardy burger (with roasted onion relish, pickle and Oka cheese – yum, again!) and still make it down to Rogers Centre in 10 minutes, this is your place.
Le Sélect (432 Wellington St. W.) is one of my favourite restaurants in the King West neighbourhood. This Wellington Street bistro never disappoints. It serves up delicious steak frites, duck confit and french onion soup – a perfect pre-game meal. The wine selection features over 1,000 different labels and the bar offers a wide selection of beer from around the world, too. Needless to say, this is not your regular “Sunday night dinner at Swiss Chalet” type of restaurant, so it’s more on the pricey side, but well worth it.