A Tall Boy is a 16-ounce can of beer. First introduced by Schlitz in 1954. A Tall Boy can be a larger size, such as the 24-ounce cans which debuted in the 1990’s, but the 16-ounce can is the original Tall Boy. – Urban Dictionary.
In a city of draught and bottles, cans can have an undeserved bad rap. Named for a slang term for canned beer, Tall Boys Craft Beer House offers approximately 30 types of local craft beer in cans and a couple of ciders along with 5 taps.
Tallboys Craft Beer House is the latest business to open in Bloorcourt Village, the stretch of Bloor Street West between Montrose Avenue and Dufferin Street. It’s a neighbourhood that’s been evolving. New places are opening at a quick pace, and a number of properties are for sale or lease.
Opened by brothers Phil and Tom Cacace and their cousin Kevin Kennedy, all veteran bartenders, Tallboys opened on September 1 in a space recently vacated by one of many Ethiopian restaurants in the area. We returned from long weekend vacation on their third day in business and, after dropping our bags, turned around and went to the bar. I visited three times that week, with the third visit resulting in a Tall Boys hangover. It’s bound to happen on a Friday night with so many beers to choose from. It’s week two and I’m there consecutive three days. I can’t help it. Jason and I are both beer and food nerds.
The barflies of Cheers had Cheers. The Friends had Central Perk. Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall & Lily of How I Met Your Mother have MacLaren’s. Jason & I now have Tall Boys. Now we can say “go downstairs for a beer” and mean on our block.
We met our next door neighbour for the first time at the bar, though she’s lived next door for nine months. Neighbourhood hangouts are just like that.
Tall Boys decor
Decor is simple and clean. I jokingly refer to the red lighting fixtures as “bordello red” but it’s far from. Wall decals corresponding to subway stations on the correct walls were supplied by Walloper, who the boys found via ad in Spacing magazine. The restroom, which had been renovated not long before the boys took over the space, is clean and fresh. The front features a roll-down window, which I never saw used by the previous tenants. The Boys use it all the time. It’s rare that I see it closed now.
The boys chose not to commit to just one brewery or distributor, instead bringing as much local, quality beer to the bar as would fit. Currently the taps pour Mill Street Brewery’s Organic & Cobblestone Stout, Steam Whistle, Amsterdam Nut Brown and Junction Craft Brewing Conductor’s Ale. All are brewed in Toronto. Cans come from local brewers, some of which include Muskoka Brewery, Wellington, Cameron’s Brewing, Nickelbrook, Denison’s and Neustadt Springs Brewery (I’m a new convert to their 10W30), with Double Trouble Brewing Co. Hops and Robbers Dry Hopped IPA and Kensington Brewing Company’s Augusta Ale.
Many of the beers they stock in cans are not available at the LCBO, so you might be surprised by what you find. My beer nerd was. Whatever style of beer you like, there’s something for you. On various visits I’ve found Thornbury and Williams ciders.
Cans are $6.25 with the $5 daily specials: Steamwhistle (draught) Mondays, Trailhead Tuesdays, and organi Nickelbrook (cans) Mill St. (draught) Wednesdays.
The intention is to change the beers with the seasons and also phase in some growlers. There are so many great craft beers out there but many aren’t set up for tallboys (cans). Canning operations are more expensive to set up than a bottling lines.
Not just ordinary pub food.
Consulting Chef Craig Wong trained with Paul Bocuse in Paris. He’s cooked at Alain Ducasse’s Plaza Athénée in Paris, worked at Sen5es in SoHo Metropolitan Hotel (Toronto) and was most recently sous chef at Luma at the TIFF Lightbox Theatre. For Tallboys he has developed a menu with a focus on homemade food that’s different than the ordinary.
The menu is quite varied but not too long, but well executed by chef Wong, Dustin and the rest of the team.
Double smashed burgers are ground fresh in house daily and served with fries or salad. One evening I tried the Koreatown Burger with kimchi, bacon, cucumber and green onion mayo ($13). Spicy, creamy and moist, a great flavour explosion. The accompanying fries were a pleasant surprise, especially with so many bars and restaurants selling terrible fries. Crispy and fluffy as fries should be, it was evident that these were cut earlier that day. They were perfect. Other burgers are the Classic ($10) and the Tallboys Signature Burger ($13).
On another visit I tried the Breaded Goat Cheese & Roasted Vegetable Salad ($11). Baby greens and roasted vegetables are topped with fresh goat cheese fritters – goat cheese breaded and fried. This time the salad was made up of roasted asparagus and roasted red peppers. Unlike at many other restaurants, they are not too heavy handed with the salad dressing. There is no drowning of greens. The fried cheese ball is crunchy on the outside, velvety soft and creamy on the inside, a lovely juxtaposition of textures.
Bison Sausage Rigatoni Al Forno ($15) is rigatoni with homemade bison sausage presented as meatballs and tomato sauce pasta, oven-baked (“al forno”) with roasted peppers, mozzarella and Parmesan. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the top was lightly browned, there was just enough cheese and Jason declared it “Ooey, gooey good”.
The Beer Battered Fish Tacos are a delight. Three soft shell corn tortillas from La Tortilleria are filled with Steam Whistle beer battered basa fish, lettuce, salsa fresca and sour cream, served with a wedge of lime ($14 with side salad or fries). There is no shortage of fish in these tacos. Pan fried fish is available.
Though I haven’t tried it yet, the Crispy Fried Chicken Breast Sandwich is made with a free-range fillet that’s been marinated in Wellington Imperial Russian Stout and buttermilk. Chicken is procured across the street at Gasparro’s Quality Meats. Chef Wong sources many of his ingredients from local businesses. Hearing this, we gave him a few neighbourly tips.
Wings come in 1 lb for $10 or 2 lbs for $19. Garlic bread, quesadilla and nachos are available.
Shout out to the entire kitchen staff and to Kevin’s wife Sulie who puts in her time behind and in front of the bar. The boys named a salad after her.
After a menu-tasting visit arranged specifically for this blog post (everything but the burger and “other eats” mentioned), in daylight hours, we sidle back up to our usual seats at the bar. It’s good to be home.
Just call Bloorcourt “Brewercourt”.
Address: 838 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON. (west Shaw, east of Carling)
Bar hours: 6pm-2am
Kitchen hours: 6pm-11:30pm
Dining capacity: 30 on current liquor license, with intention to expand to 65.
(*The image that accompanies this post on my home page and appear when the post is shared is courtesy of Tall Boys.)
Tell me: What’s your style of beer?