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Where to drink right now!
THE CALEDONIAN 856 College, 647-547-9827, thecaledonian.ca
The best pubs have purpose and personality. Warm and convivial, they’re places where everyone – young, old or from out of town – feels welcome to stay a while and return the next day.
Authenticity – which contributes heftily to the vibe of a true public house – has become watered down and washed away by corporate pretenders in the interest of making a buck or a billion.
A queen among Toronto’s pubs, the hyper-Scottish Caledonian is the antithesis of those ubiquitous, hollow hell holes dishing scrawny, overpriced chicken wings and domestic beer.
At this haven for Scottish expats, locals and habitual pub-goers, everything from the food and drink to the service is totally on point. (Note: there’s haggis and it’s delicious.) It’s a place with soul and a bit of feistiness. Signs supporting the Scottish referendum were proudly posted in the window during my last visit.
The Caledonian has major clout with Scotch lovers for its shimmering wall of single malts and blends – over 200 bottles, some of which are highly exclusive. A fancy plaque beside the door proclaims it the official and first Canadian Ardbeg Embassy, and six of the Islay distillery’s lauded whiskies are poured here, like the hard to find Alligator and Uigeadail.
The extensive Scotch menu, categorized by region – Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands, Campbeltown, Islands and Islay – contains comprehensive tasting notes. If owner Donna Wolff is around (as she often is, greeting familiar patrons and charming soon-to-be regulars), have her suggest a dram depending on your tastes.
The beer list is heavy on motherland offerings (Scotch ales and stouts dominate), but a few local brews are available for those committed to Canadian beer.
Creep the Facebook page for special events like live traditional music (pipes played by men in skirts), seminars and tastings hosted by Scottish distillers, and monthly Women & Whisky nights.
Hours Monday to Wednesday 5 pm to midnight. Thursday 5 pm to 1 am. Friday and Saturday 4 pm to 2 am. Sunday 4 pm to midnight.
Access One step at entrance washrooms in basement