If you like battered anything with beer, Duggan’s hits the spot
DUGGAN’S BREWERY (75 Victoria, at Lombard, 416-214-4900, duggansbrewery.com) Complete dinners for $45 per person (lunches $30), including all taxes, tip and a pint of house beer. Average main $20/$13. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 2 am. Closed Sunday, holidays. Licensed. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Food: NN beer: NNN
Me? I like a nicely pickled egg.
But sadly, most pub grub leaves me cold.
Oh, it’s not that I haven’t fallen for the siren call of those baskets of salty, deep-fried bar food that only makes sense after the fourth or fifth pint. Like joining the Polar Bear Club for a New Year’s Day swim, it’s a beer-goggled decision I’ve learned to regret.
Pubs around these parts offer little alternative. For every Queen and Beaver (35 Elm, at Yonge, 647-347-2712) – arguably Toronto’s only true gastro pub – there are lesser lights like BeerBistro (18 King East, at Yonge, 416-861-9872) and Volo (587 Yonge, at Gloucester, 416-928-0008), worthy watering holes both but also boozers where the connoisseur kegs get most of the attention and the grub lags behind.
Newly launched in the old Dennison’s space, Duggan’s Brewey (whose team includes NOW drinks authority Graham Duncan) aims for the same boisterous business crowd that packs nearby BeerBistro and Terroni (57 Adelaide East, at Toronto, 416-203-3093) from lunch till long after work. House-brewed suds are the big attraction and range, according to comments found scribbled on my coaster, from “lovely and light and perfect for a hazy summer’s afternoon” (#3 Asian Lager) to “unusual undertow of chocolate” (#8 London Porter, both $4.78/pint, $2.83/half) and hoppy (the much-balley-hooed #9 IPA, $5/$3.04).
An inevitable baby beet salad ($10) the rare exception, Duggan’s carte is mostly deep-fried. Listed as a starter, an oversized bowl of perfunctory poutine ($11) arrives dressed with enough duck confit, cheese curds and gravy to feed an office party.
Nine bucks gets you exactly seven thickly battered onion rings, the high point their side of horseradish mayo. And here comes another freight car of fries, only this time served in a hollowed-out loaf of bread à la chip butty and doused with mild-mannered curry sauce (V and Chips, $12). Our table of four barely makes a dent.
To be fair, Duggan’s menu warns that its smoked pork hock is a double portion ($22). But I doubt even a pair of Big Foots – Big Feet? – could polish off this obscenely fatty sucker, appetizingly sided though it may be with an avalanche of stout-sozzled baked beans, caramelized apple and cider-ized sauerkraut.
According to the experts on TLC’s Pitmasters, if your barbecue falls from the bone, you’ve overcooked it. By that southern-fried standard, Duggan’s rack of meaty pork ribs ($24/$12 half) is perfectly à point, its deliciously tangy sauce nipped with cumin, another overabundance of fries spilling off the plate.
We’ve become so accustomed to Duggan’s suds ‘n’ spuds overkill that when our amiable server asks if we’d like our sweetly pulled pork sandwich ($12) with fries or salad, we say “salad” in unison, one of garden-variety mesclun in a vaguely lemony vinaigrette at that.
Old-school mashed potatoes offer a welcome change with the daily pie ($16), today pinkish pork and the occasional carrot in a generosity of flaky crust. Seems like a lot of dough for a lot of dough to me. But the best value in the house is also the tastiest, a modestly dubbed Vegetarian Curry ($13) of new potatoes, green beans and yams over plump Israeli couscous. Tossed with apricot and toasted cashews, there’s nary an onion ring or French fry in sight.