Smokeless Joe

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41 Ratings

Type: Bar, Eatery

488 College St
Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1A4

(416) 966-5050

// CLOSED //

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Ratings: 41 |  Reviews: 40
Reviews by CAMRAhardliner:
Photo of CAMRAhardliner
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This bar has the largest selection of beers in Ontario, with 200+ bottled beers and 10 taps. It is located in the basement of an old style townhouse in Toronto's entertainment district, Theres also a very small patio on street level. There are no tables on the patio, only high bars with about ten chairs. The indoor part is tiny, with only a modest sized L shape bar for sitting at (and maybe one table). The hardwood floors, multi colored brick walls and well worn bar give this place a really cozy atmosphere. Oysters on ice sit in between beer displays behind the bar, nice touch.

The menu is expansive with a lot of hard to find Belgian and English beers. I settled on a Storm King Stout and a Prima Pils which were both incredible, fresh and in the proper glassware. The Service was excellent. The bartender really knows his beers and was more than willing to give out samples. We only ordered Bruschetta to share and it was very tasty.

This is one amazing bar with a totally natural and simple atmosphere that lacks any hint of pretention. One small complaint is that the beers were a little pricey, not a rip off like biermarkt but not as reasonable as Cafe Volo.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of valianes
3.75/5  rDev -13.4%

Photo of ltdan546
4.13/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3

One of my favourite beer places ever in Toronto, and home to some of my favourite bartenders (Colin, Eddie, Steph and Kaylea) of all time. Alas, it has now closed. Word is it will re-open in a new location, possibly Little Italy, probably late this year or early next. Fingers crossed.

If you're looking for something similar, try C'est What at the corner of Front & Church. If you just need something nearby I'd suggest the Adelaide Street Pub...completely different feel, but decent beer selection.

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Photo of TheSevenDuffs
3.9/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

An interesting little beer bar in the heart of the entertainment district. They had a decent selection of local craft beer and European beer on tap. There were about 10 taps in total along with an extensive bottle list from all over the world.

Overall the selection was pretty good but I thought the choice of taps could have been better. I had a pint of Black Katt, which was very good but there was nothing else that really jumped out at me to stay for a second pint.

The service was very good. The bartender was EXCELLENT. She had a great knowledge of beer in general and knew the beer they had on tap cold.

The atmosphere was great too - very small and intimate setting. I will go back some time soon...

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Photo of cratez
4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Dropped by in Winter 2011 and I’m really impressed with the new space. Beer selection is 20 micro draughts, a small but carefully selected bottle list, and a different cask ale every Sunday.

Bar is probably about three times the capacity of the old place when you factor in the upstairs and patio. Had a Durham Black Katt Stout and Spearhead HSPA on tap, both in fine form.

It’s nice to see Colin and Steph at the helm again. Aside from Adam Grant at The Monk’s Table, you won’t find better servers in Toronto. Haven’t tried the food yet but fresh oysters and other beer-friendly items are always available.

Seems like Smokeless is back in a big way, and I’m looking forward to many more visits in the future.

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Photo of MeisterBurger
3.7/5  rDev -14.5%
vibe: 2 | quality: 3 | service: 4 | selection: 5

Smokeless Joe has an incredibly impressive list of bottled beers though their tap selection was limited to six. Six very good, very well chosen beers though.

The decor was pretty standard Toronto bar decor. I don't know. I went there for the beer, not for the decorations.

There were maybe two dozen people in the bar when I visited, which meant it was packed. This is just a small little basement bar on John Street, a short walk south of the Chum City building. The cramped space made it seem really loud, almost unbearably so. Plus Smokeless Joe must have been hosting the general meeting of The Toronto Annoying Laughs Society when I was there.

Surprisingly a great deal of the bottled selection is stuff that you can find readily in many LCBOs. The main difference is the price. As a for instance, a Rogue Brutal Bitter which retails at the LCBO for $6.35 is going for $16.95 here.

Don't get me wrong, they can charge whatever they want and if people are willing to pay that then more power to them. As I am very cheap and could never pay more for something than I had to, I opted to go for Durham ESB on tap. Which was really nice, probably more of a bitter than any ESB I have had, but a really nice mild beer with a wonderfully creamy, smooth mouthfeel.

Only trouble was, there was a weird smell when I was there which reminded me of the inside of a rubber boot. It wasn't enjoyable and it detracted from the enjoyment of my beer because I don't like when beer tastes like I am drinking it from an old boot.

I'd planned to stay and have a couple of beers but with the noise and the smell...pretty much I was done.

If this was the only place in Toronto with a great beer selection I'd probably rank it a lot higher and rave. But there are at least three or four other places in downtown Toronto that I would much rather spend my money at so I'd have to say I was disappointed by this place.

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Photo of hammerhead24
3.78/5  rDev -12.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4

Joe's was the last stop on a trifecta night of C'est What, Beer Bistro and then Joe's.

Let me start by saying that it is extremely hard to find for an out-of-towner. It is not far from the subway stop, but it is a basement bar that I walked by twice on a freezing cold, snowy night. Let me also say it was worth the search.

It is a small, intimate place with a bar that runs the length of the narrow deep space. There are also bar stools set up along a ledge on the far wall and just a few tables. It can get crowded quick I would imagine.

I was able to get a bar seat relatively quicky and set about perusing the beer list. Here, the emphasis is on bottles, not draft beer, although Joe's does have a few taps.

I stuck to the bottles and many countries of the world were represented (including Kenya), although Canadian micros and Belgians dominated the list. The highlight for me was a bottle of Sgt. Major IPA from the Scotch Irish Brewing Company. It was like a bitter hop bomb of the tastebuds -- a highlight of the evening. I also had a Well's IPA, which was quite good as well, just not in the same league.

I did not eat here, although the mussels smelled divine. I had had mussels at my last stop, so I had to pass. But, they are cooked right behind the bar and smell wonderful. People around me raved as they tucked into there orders.

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Photo of TurdFurgison
4.13/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This pub is basement level, to the left of the Fat Belgian restaurant. The atmosphere is decent, a long bar dominates the room with many seats along it, also several tables sprinkled along the wall. The beers seemed on the pricy side ($7-8 CAD for drafts) but they were good selections. I had Denison's Weisse beer, a highly rated Canadian beer. The bottled list is about 50 beers deep and strongly influenced by Belgian craft beers, although there are some respectable American beers in stock too. The food was reasonably priced and VERY good. I had Mussels steamed in Blanche de Chambly, probably the best mussels I've had to date. There were 7-8 other methods used for mussels and I bet they were all good. The bottom line is this is a good pub to go to for dinner, and you can move on to C'est What or Beer Bistro afterwards for more selection of draft beers.

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Photo of Peterborough
3.26/5  rDev -24.7%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3.5

I was excited to visit Smokeless Joe's, having noticed their name in a recent copy of Beer Advocate Magazine (best beer bistros in the world, I believe, was the category they were placed under).

I'm sad to say that I was disappointed. The menu featured many beers which can be purchased at the LCBO (Ontario's government run outlet wine, beer and spirits), for under 5 dollars, marked up to 10-12 dollars, with no obvious justification (beers did not appear to be poured into their proprietary glassware, or served on a proprietary coaster, setting was bare bones). I understand that the LCBO does not tend to charge retailers a significantly lower amount for wholesale purchases, and that profits must be made, but 120% markups, with no obvious fringe benefits, are unacceptable. In the realm of special order and rare beers, I just flat out found the prices too high.

I found the servers to be friendly but, on the whole, inattentive. I will not likely return to this establishment. It is sad that my local beer bistro, St. Veronus, beats the pants off Smokeless Joes, particularly because I live in a small city, with very few immigrants, and a high unemployment rate, hence a population with limited beer tastes, and expendable income (Peterborough, Ontario).

If you want an insanely rare beer, I bet you might find it here, but you will pay a premium, and the setting, though charmingly spartan, really lacks something.

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Photo of JJFlash
3.88/5  rDev -10.4%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

This is a great little find on John Street. Also right next door to the Fat Belgian which was convienent. Quite small and narrow, much like an average neighborhood bar. The opening hour is generally between 3 - 4 o'clock. The staff was very knowledgeable about beer and attentive to our needs. The beer list is long, tho the Belgian list was a bit too skimpy. However, the two big highlights were a 2005 Pannepot Grand Reserve, and Deus. Well worth stopping at and checking the specials on the chalk board. Good place to hang out. We did not try the food as it didn't appear to be a food place. Recommended.

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Photo of sphmiel
4.71/5  rDev +8.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

One of my all time favorites, even compared to Brugges (beer heaven) and Munich.
wonderful staff, all knowledable about the selections, and when not otherwise occupied, willing to talk.
Only 6 draughts, but a selection of light, dark, hoppy, session beers, and even Koenigshoeven Dubbel. Was able to work through four of the six while watching the Bluejays- tried the the others earlier this week on a prior visit.
Pleasant mix of young and old, beer geeks and newbies.
Didn't try the food, but the mussels smelled wonderful, and the oysters looked fresh...
Somewhat hard to find, but worth the work.

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Photo of Conrad
4.3/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

This was the last stop on my Toronto Pub Crawl of 9 May 08. I't a good thing it wasn't the first stop because I would not have left to explore the other places on my list. As others have mentioned, it is small, and very friendly. When I told the barkeep that I was on a pilgrimage pub crawl, he ensured I had an excellent experience. I had my camera and took several pictures. (I am not technically savvy enough to post them on BA. Can anyone help?)
My dinner consisted of a giant bowl of curried mussels, prepared with flair right in front of me. Excellent stuff.
Another highlight was meeting Marcus and Thorsten, a couple of German beer reps from Weihenstephan.
Having read previous reviews, I got no rude suprises about price or selection. Bottom line: make it a point to go there, preferably early enough to get a bar stool. Bring money and check your liver at the door.

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Photo of DoubleJ
4.72/5  rDev +9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

I stepped in Smokeless Joe's a long while ago when I was attracted to the "over 200 beers" underneath its name. There were lots of establishemnts to get beer in west Toronto (the part of town I stayed at), but I wanted something good. Happily, I found this.

My experience almost never happened. The place is as big as a crackerjack box and was rocking, yet there were no more seats in the house! I was almost forced to leave until a customer freed up a seat for me at the bar, and we soon started talking. He helped me select a few beers from the menu (Delirium Tremens and Mill Street Coffee Porter) at a time I was overwhelmed by the choices. Anyway, the beer menu is organized by the country of origin, with a handful of "guests" beer (one of them I fondly remember was Negra Modelo). Lots of imports here, especially Belgians. Also offered are some Canadian micros. But it's too bad they don't have much in the way of American micros here too.

The appropriate glassware is paired with the style of beer, both my beers were served in outstanding fashion, the service is well trained, and this place really is all about the beer, but which all comes at a price. Not terribly expensive by Canadian standards, but very pricey for an American used to paying less for dinner than one 330 ml bottle of Delirium. But don't let your wallet do the talking, you only live once. Come to Smokeless Joe and experience one of the best beer bars Toronto has to offer.

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Photo of crwills
4.45/5  rDev +2.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I've been to this place countless times, and it remains my favourite beer bar in Toronto, hands down. Volo and Beerbistro are good, but for a real pub feel it's Smokeless all the way for me. I always sit at the bar, and feel comfortable and welcome regardless of whether I'm with friends or alone.

Fantastic selection of beer, obviously, although it would be nice to see a little more variety on the (6?) taps. New, semi-obscure Belgians on a relatively regular basis, with a permanent list of good fallbacks (including most Trappists). My one criticism would be an almost non-existent supply of American beers, which Volo seems to get more of, but not a huge deal for me. Food menu is limited, but the mussels and oysters are excellent and great matches for the wide selection of Belgian beers. I'd also recommend the vegetarian chili if you're there in the Winter.

Service is usually prompt, knowledgeable, and friendly, although they can be a little standoffish if you go early and the place is empty. Prices are on the high end; you can find some of the Belgians at better prices elsewhere in the city, but you really can't beat the selection here.

Although I like to try (and return to) most of the good beer joints in Toronto, I'll continue returning here on a regular basis.

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Photo of cyrenaica
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

Probably my favourite place to have a quiet beer. This is a bar that is the 'basement' of a house in Toronto's Entertainment district. It consists of a bar, 2 tables, a ledge with barstools, and some outside tables. The selection is fabulous with a claimed 150+ brands on hand from 20+ different countries. The atmosphere is very bar like with the main menu being nothing more than a set of stapled 8.5x11 pages with the beer list on it. (I like that apsect) The service was amazing, I was greeted at the door with the 'menu' and after 5 minutes or so was asked for my choice. The prices were very decent in my opinion given the selection and another place I will be visiting soon

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Photo of Chaz
4.13/5  rDev -4.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

While it’s nothing much to look at from street level just wait ‘til you see their beer list! This hole-in-the-wall crams as many as 250 domestic and imported brands into its cellar, including Canadian craft brews that you’ll likely never see in the States. I’d heard good things about this place in the Great Lakes Brewing News, and after a plate of fresh bread and butter was presented to us prior to our order being taken I can see why – great customer service, they really made us feel at home. I didn’t feel the need to quiz them on their beer knowledge, but their keeping of the beer seemed to prove that they knew their stuff. Intimate is an apt descriptor of the interior (cozy works, too), although bigger / louder / younger folks may find that it cramps their style somewhat. Jazz music was playing lightly in the background, but apart from that I don’t think there were more than two other couple is the place that evening, so it was quiet, relaxed, and very intimate atmosphere. When we visited* there were no televisions that I could see - WOW! This made for an extremely welcome break as well, as did the smoke-free atmosphere which was a true novelty at the time. No video games, Big Buck hunter, pool tables . . . it’s just you and your drinking companion(s), your conversation, and music played at a level that doesn’t intrude on conversation – I like it! Between the two of us we tried a regional specialty taps and a 750 of Duvel, paired with a salad and sandwich, both of which were very tasty. Minus the size of their outdoor deck, Smokeless Joe is about the size of the Contended Cow, including the kitchen area, and it impresses me what they can do in such a small kitchen! I am very happy to have visited. It made for a very welcome surprise during our* visit to Toronto.

(Note: I made this visit several years ago with an ex. Times change, eh? I reviewed SJ for a now-defunct webzine and the review went down the Memory Hole, but I was impressed enough with the place. I look forward to visiting Toronto again, both to re-visit Joe’s and try the newer -and reputedly better- places this town has to offer. I just hope the new gal is up for the trip!)

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Photo of milljs
4.15/5  rDev -4.2%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5

This was a fun place. It has an amazing selection of like 250 beers. They rotate their draft selection almost daily. Whatever you are in the mood for, they have it. I sampled many different varieties and regions on their "world list". The basically have a beer from most major countries in the world. If you want it, they surely have it. This is a very impressive place that you should all check out.

The staff was very knowledgable of the different beers and the overall atmosphere is enjoyable.


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Photo of seagoat
4.47/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

As the photo of the place shows, all you can see from the street is the fence around the patio area and the awning in the background. You have to go down 5 or 6 steps to get into the bar.

Small, comfortable place with space for about 12-15 people at the bar, a couple high tables in the corner, and more bar area along the side wall.

The sign out front claims 250 beers but I think that fluctuates depending on availability. There were 5-6 taps, one hand pump with nothing available on it, and a bottle list and new arrival chalkboard with at least 200 beers from around the world. A lot of Canadian, Belgian, English beers and then only one or two selections from other countries. The only beer they had from the US was Sam Adams. Apparently the importing laws prevent them from getting many US beers.

Prices were about $5-$6 for the draft and seemed to range anywhere from $5-$10 for the various bottles. We didn't eat there but the main food they seemed to serve were oysters and mussels, but I think they also had sandwiches available.

Really cool little place. Casual, comfortable, with friendly, good service.

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Photo of Caesar1pup
4.18/5  rDev -3.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4

If I were setting up my very own bomb shelter or if I were designing my basement to wait out tornado warnings I would use this place as my inspiration. I would have it stocked with an endless supply of great beers in a cozy yet comfortable setting below ground. I would have friendly people working there. I would have a limited but very good supply of food to keep my belly full. That is what you have at Smokeless Joes.

I love how they arrange their beer selection by country, and yes, Quebec is listed separately from Canada.

I highly recommend you check this place out!

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Photo of Viggo
4.2/5  rDev -3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Nestled in the basement area of other restaurants, living areas, etc. Smokeless can be pretty difficult to find for the newbie. There is a nice patio area outside, great for when the weather is warm. The inside is very small, although not cramped. Long bar with stools, another long table with stools across the opposite wall, and a table and chairs in the front corner are the seating options. Little bit dark inside, but the beer bottles and lists on the wall will brighten it up. There are usually around 5-6 beers on tap, and maybe a cask ale. Hundreds of bottles as well. The food is excellent, especially the mussels. I have always had great service there, knowledgable bartenders, and the HD TV by the bar is real nice while watching a game. I do find the prices are quite a bit higher than the other beer bars in the city, however its worth it if they get in something nobody else has, which happens pretty often. Definately worth a visit.

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Photo of assurbanipaul
4.47/5  rDev +3.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5

I would certainly not describe this place as "seedy" but it is quite informal and unkempt as compared to some of the other classier BeerFly places in Toronto, which I believe actually works to its advantage.

A very small place below street level with a single bar/room that also serves as the kitchen. The owner is fanatical about carrying as many beers as he possibly can, so although they only have six well-selected taps (though I would like to see more), their cold room has something on the order of 250 bottles.

Staff is extremely knowledgeable about the different beers and will remember your name if you go in twice -- I don't know that I got a warmer reception anywhere in the city. Proper glassware for everything but the beer list is kind of a mess, so it takes some study. Food is out of this world ($6 mussels on Sundays).

The one and only criticism I have is the smells. Fresh oysters are available on ice behind the bar and with the "kitchen" sharing the room, spices and mussels waft throughout. Not that this is offensive but with the recent ban on smoking, it seems to only replace one overpowering odor with another. I do enjoy the smells of a fresh seafood kitchen but I also enjoy the aroma of my beer, which I often found in competition with the food. A minor point, but worth mentioning.

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Photo of PuckLSHS
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

What can't I say about Smokeless Joe's. Came here while on a trip to Buffalo, NY. Decided to spend the day up in Toronto to meet up with a few of my buddies who were there for a conference. They found this gem the night before and had already made friends with the bartenders.

Smokeless Joe's is a little hole that leads you to heaven. The menu for beers is HUGE and they have pretty much anything you could ask for at very good prices. You have to love the exchange rate.

I ordered a couple beers from Canada and another from Belgium while I was buddies got a few beers from some other country...I can't really keep track as I was rather happy and carefree.

The place is no frills and really just allows you to enjoy the company that's around you while drinking some good beers in the appropriate glassware.

I really loved my visit here. The place is rather small, so be sure to get a spot before it gets crowded. What I wouldn't give to go back to Joe's one more time. Who knows...maybe I will see it again someday. One would hope.

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Photo of TerryW
4.15/5  rDev -4.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Wow, what a neat place. Small and cozy with a wee bit of a patio out front. Great selection of beers on display and on the menu board, four rotating taps, some great local beers to hand. Friendly, approachable staff.

Short menu. Mussels, fresh oysters, some Italian, a lot of simple things reflecting a limited kitchen space. Tasty, though. Food was real slow the night we were there, but the silver lining was that it just meant more time to sample various brews. Dirt cheap mussels Tuesday nights, other specials on some weeknights.

Had a thoroughly enjoyable visit and look forward to going again. Make sure you drop in.

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Photo of DrJay
4.22/5  rDev -2.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Quite a small and cozy downstairs establishment, almost hidden from the street. There's a small seating area outside the front door, partially underneath the stairs. Inside it's quite long and narrow, with the bar running most of the length of one wall. Foldaway tables line the opposite wall and can be pulled out when things get busy and more places to set beer is needed. Service is quite quick and I've been somewhat impressed with the staff's beer knowledge. Although there are only a few beers on tap, they do keep a beer engine running most of the time and there is an extensive bottle list, at least for a bar in Ontario. Bottles include the best of that offered by the local LCBO plus a rotating line-up of US and foreign imports brought in through other importers. These are normally listed on the chalkboard and can disappear quickly. The menu consists of a selection of simple sandwiches and appetizers, as well as a focus on mussels, etc. Definitely a great place to grab a beer.

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Photo of GreenWBush
3.9/5  rDev -9.9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5 | food: 4.5

Smokeless Joe’s seems rather antiquated in Toronto now in at least name: as far as we could see, most everywhere was smoke free – and the places that did have divided smoking rooms really advertised it. That said, having such a progressive attitude against the inhalation of carcinogens in light years ahead of anything I’m used to in Bum-Fuck, er, Indiana so I was pleased.
This establishment is slightly hidden from the street, located in the bottom part of a converted old house. The place is cozy, or darned small depending on how you look at it. The bar and tables are gorgeous green and brown, with random bric-a-brac adorning the walls. A large beer menu screams out to you with new selections from Belgium. I found these Belgian beers to be a bit disappointing, more of the pedestrian ones you could get anywhere and no trappists. The prices seemed a bit high especially when you consider that those Belgians are the well-distributed ones, for the most part. Plus, why have the whole Koeningshoeven line and not have St. Bernardus Abt 12? We decided to go with the draft offerings from Durham County, which I have to say sucked.
The food and service were both very good. I had a sandwich which was reasonably priced and very tasty and the wifey had a nice salad that was also good and modestly priced. The atmosphere in this place was really where it shined.
I have to say Smokeless Joe’s was a bit of a disappointment as well talked up as it was.

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Smokeless Joe in Toronto, ON, Canada
Place rating: 4.33 out of 5 with 41 ratings