Smokeless Joe

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41 Ratings

Type: Bar, Eatery

488 College St
Toronto, Ontario, M6G 1A4

(416) 966-5050

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Ratings: 41 |  Reviews: 40
Photo of Sammy
3.94/5  rDev -9%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

NEW PLACE REVIEWED: Now a better than average bar in a city with a lot of bars getting into craft bar. Rebuilding his bottle menu. Main feature is the Sunday at 5 pm opening cask, a few veteran bartenders that know their beer and whose policy is to be very friendly, and a good location for me not too long a drive. Even a smaller main bar, with overflow welcome upstairs or on the outside patio. Decent though not exceptional tap list, I anticipate this will also change for the better. QUiet after work, this is a late hours club now. Appropriate glassware.

For a long while, this was my place to go until Volo stepped it up a notch. Volo is also closer. Joe was getting in top beers in the world, and here it was to try them, at a price to make a profit. Opens only about 5 pm, small and gets crowded quickly. Staff spotty. Well known for its great chili. Had some great times here and waiting for a revival. Still one of the top 3 and essential on a visit to Toronto.

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Photo of smcdowell
4.25/5  rDev -1.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

I headed to Smokeless Joe's on a Thursday afternoon, just after it opened for the day (4 pm), so I happened to be the first customer of the day. The first thing I was handed when I walked in the door was a 10-page handout of all the beers on hand. Now, I'm not that big a fan of the Belgium beers that abound at Smokeless Joe's, but I can't fault that kind of dedication to selection.

The service was very good (as it should be when there are only one or two people in the joint!), and guy behind the bar seemed to know what he was talking about. I had him give me two recommendations based on a set of criteria I gave him, and both selections were tasty. Most of the beer seemed priced about the same as everywhere else around Toronto, though you could easily drop $10 -15 if you went for the higher-alcohol or premium selections.

The day I was in there, they were having all sorts of trouble with the taps. Apparently, when they were last changed, they'd been changed incorrectly, so the pilsner tap was pouring ESB, the ESB tap was pouring wheat, etc. Luckily, there are only six taps and over 100 bottles, so it wasn't a big deal, and we even ended up with some free samples while they tried to figure out which tap was pouring which beer.

Overall, it was a very friendly, pleasant experience.

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Photo of SaunaKing
4.58/5  rDev +5.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Arrived here on a Friday afternoon just as offices were emptying out. It was jam packed when we got there and were about to leave when it was suggested we stay as we would probably get some space soon. Literally had to stand there with the beer menu and drink beer on your feet like at a club. That wasn't so great but after about 15 minutes we were able to get a couple stools. The place is tiny, room for about 20 to 30 people or so. A regular bar and a counter against the wall opposite the bar and a couple benches near the entrance.

We just had a couple salads since we would be eating later but my wife raved about hers and mine was fine too.
The staff were very friendly and helpful. I had my first ever Rochefort 10 - it was ok i guess - not really my thing. Had a Dennison's Wheat which was quite good with a top notch aroma and a some kind of porter I wasn't too crazy about.

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Photo of tatterdash
4.63/5  rDev +6.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5

I love this place, I often come here after a hard day of work and I can always count on great beer and great service. The menu is ever-changing, so there aways seems to be stuff I haven't tried. Proper glassware as well, you order Orval, you get it in an Orval chalice, etc.. Many great Belgian beers are the focus, and lots of stuff that isn't on the menu, so be sure to ask. The mussels are great too, several unique recipes that really compliment the beer. It isn't cheap though, but it is well worth it.

Oh yeah, it is rather small, so be sure to get there early.

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Photo of chunkylover53
4.8/5  rDev +10.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4

I really like this place. Tatterdash and I go here whenever we're not both broke.

They're an oyster bar, so if you like seafood, that's great. I don't. Can't stand the stuff. In fact, I can't even walk into most seafood restaurants without being gagged out by the smell. But I have no problems with this place at all. I'm assuming that this is because they take cleanliness seriously.

They also take beer very seriously as is proven not just by the menu, but by the encyclopedic knowledge of beer that their servers have. I'm told that if you ask for a Bud, they'll say "We don't have that, but we've got something that tastes just like it" while they pour a glass of water. You gotta like that.

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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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Photo of baiser
4.5/5  rDev +3.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5

The best beer bar in Toronto. Huge Belgian influence. They like to have every region, country etc represented. Big on belgian ales, and lambics. Great attention to glass ware. Only about 5 taps, but over 200 bottles to choose from. Check out the blackboards for 'New Stuff'. The menu lists each beer, its origin, flavour profile and style.

Atmosphere was cozy, intimate and there's always this 'buzz' in the bar. Patio is pretty plain, but there are several very nice seats under the stairs, with warm lighting, and extreme privacy. Inside is a small but quaint little bar, with about 25-30 seats I estimate.

Staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They bag your bottles for you if you want to collect them.

Great place to have a beer, there'll always be something you haven't tried. Be mindful of the mark ups however. On average, the prices are about 3 times what you'd pay at the LCBO (if it's available at the LCBO, that is). Of course, there's no reason to order anything that's available at the LCBO, because they have alot that isn't.

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Photo of ecoboy
4/5  rDev -7.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5

OK, let me give up a secret: there is a four-stool area in Toronto that is seriously the most "romantic" and perhaps "unique" setting for a quality beer. I would have to say I found C'est What, Beer Bistro and Smokeless Joe's to be among the most appealing beer-dedicated establishments in the northeast.

So without being able to discuss the various merits and selling the best bits of this place, since Toronto served me so well, I can say that I wish that I was right now sitting on a stool with a pint of dogs body in front of the small spotlights over the white stones under the stairs at Smokeless Joe.

BA Margaret and I took four pictures in the spot, which seriously you should all sit in: inside is a fine oyster bar set-up with a lengthy beer list, right up on the street is a tiny cafe set-up. The servers are top-notch: they know intimately what's on the menu, where it's from and whether it's worth the effort. But look under the stairs. There's a hideaway for beer lovers under there.

Couples who love ales: do not miss. Beer Bistro might be a more classy date dinner spot, but there's just something lovely about the under-stairs bar at Smokeless Joe.

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Photo of ManekiNeko
4.28/5  rDev -1.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Stopped by this really small, hole-in-the-wall, yet charmingly quaint pub with my girlfriend and some of her friends from college as the start to a night on the town. As mentioned by many others (including myself), this place is really small. Probably a max capacity of 25-30 people. Green walls with an almost British pub style decor. Dark and cozy, and, thank god, no smoking. So you can enjoy your beer without pesky cig smoke.

The service was quite friendly and decently knowledgeable about the products they had, not a small feat given about 250 beers. The selection was heavy on Belgium and Ontario, with a smattering of French and Quebec thrown in. England and Scotland received some props as well. A good deal of the beers were ones I'd not seen or heard of yet. Appropriate glassware was used, although the bottled beer was a bit too cold to my tastes. There are about 10 taps, and all are locally produced beers.

Foodwise, there's really not much here. It's mostly oysters, mussels, and chili. The oysters I had were ok, but I'd prefer to fill up on other things, which is about what my group did.

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Photo of sitbooboosit
4.95/5  rDev +14.3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

In Vancouver, there is nothing that even comes close to the quality, selection, atmosphere, and expertise that i was introduced to on my first visit to Smokeless Joe's.
September 14th was a very wet night in Toronto and i was more than happy to get off the street and into the wonderfully comfortable atmosphere that this establishment provides. brick walls, low ceilings, and great blues let me know that this is a place a would be spending some time at.
the quality and service were both excellent. i didn't feel at all rushed to order as is the case in most bars, and yet the staff was there with helpful suggestions when needed.
there selection is fantastic; much larger than anything i have ever seen-mind you there are no beer establishments in Vancouver of this calibre.
I drank a duvel, a chimay 'red', and rochefort 10. My girlfriend sampled a variety of lighter belgians, while her brother stuck with an excellent local stout that was on tap.
with this we had a few oysters from the oyster bar as well has some toasted bagette with a variety of toppings. the menu at Smokeles Joe's is small, but prepared very well and serves to highlight the fine selection of beers
my only criticism is that it is in fact a little too small. Due to its limited size there is very little room for any tables which i prefer and find more relaxing than bar stoles. all in all Smokeless Joe's is a fantastic establishment and one that will always be on my itinerary when in Toronto

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

This was one of the first pubs I tried when visiting Toronto. I must say that I was greatly impressed. The selection of beers was awesome. Coming from Saskatchewan, we have very little choice when it comes to selection. I was like a kid in a candy store. What took us there was the fact that it had so many beers but it was also smoke free. Having Joe there only adds to the great ambiance of the place. It was tough to find a place to sit but that was only due to its popularity. Now I make it a stop every time I am in Toronto.

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Photo of steelreign
4.94/5  rDev +14.1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5

Wow, this is what a pub should be. Everything a pub should have, and nothing it doesn't need. A very small and inviting little bar off John Street in downtown Toronto, this place offers some of the world's best beers along with a nice helping of courteous and knowledgeable service. My wife and I chose to sit outside on the street patio overlooking John Street. I found it very comfortable and cozy. The atmosphere in the bar itself was very comforting and a warm, friendly correspondence between beer snobs was most welcome also! Joe is a class act all the way - offering his suggestions on which Belgians to try, and giving input on the various crafts and micros on draught. Such a wonderful place, this one - I only wish there were more like it around.

I had my first Duvel here, as well as an obscure dark ale on draught called Durham Black Katt, which was simply unreal! Even my wife, who does not share my appreciation for fine crafted beers, found something she liked in Amsterdam's Blonde ale; another suggestion from Joe's nephew who works there. A simply classy, eclectic and wonderful pub - a must visit to anyone in Toronto. Cheers!!

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Photo of fattyre
4.63/5  rDev +6.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Smokeless Joe is a cozy little bar below street level on John street. You will know you are there by the almost continuous blues on the stereo.
They always have a cask on tap and four or five drafts. Their biggest strength (aside from that cask) is their voluminous bottle list. Everything seems to change very regularly and even when I have been there on succesive days the kegs have changed. The staff is fairly knowledgable(unless Joe is there-then very) and what they lack in knowledge they make up for in friendliness. Very nice fresh oysters, excellent pub food, and great patrons(I met a great guy who I have traded with and met when we are in the area) round out the whole experience. It is a bit pricey but is worth it for the quality of the beer served there. If you are in Toronto it is a must see!

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Photo of KFW
4.9/5  rDev +13.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

Very small beer bar, but has an outside patio (also small, but great for people watching on John St.). Excellent selection of beers, both Canadian and imports (heavy on the Belgians). Taps rotate quickly, and they usually (?always) have a real ale on tap. I paid several visits during a recent trip to Toronto, because it was close to my hotel. Service was always prompt and quite friendly. The menu looks a bit limited, but everything I tried was excellent (even the sandwhiches). Their pear soup was outstanding. Dessert hint: have a bottle of St. Ambroise stout with their chocolate porter cake!

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

What more can you ask for from any establishment, this place we found on St. Paddy's expecting it to be packed it wasn't at all. This place is such a relaxing homey little place that packs so many good characteristics it will be hard to fit em' all into this review.

Everything is done right here from the food, to the 250 bottled beers, to the chilled out jazz and blues played in the background, and most importantly the people make this happen. Rob, Joe's nephew was a great host to us for the first half of our dining experience and when Joe got there he came down and greeted us all. What followed from here was at least a 45 minute conversation about beer and life in Canada and the US. Joe Sacco is the heart and soul of this fine beer bar, and I will continue to go there when in Toronto. Definitely not an every day stop, but my advice to those worried about the marked up bottles is that you need to find a bargain on tap. I found some La Chouffe for four something canadian, and that was a nice little deal that I took advantage of thoroughly.

Smokeless Joe's carries a rotating selection of about 250 bottled beers along with a nice small selection of handpicked kegs of local micors, belgiums and other treats they get ahold of. For Canada it is amazing that they get the amount of Rogue productst that they do, and I was talking to Joe and they have to order each Amercian beer about 5 to 6 months in advance. That shows how much planning and care goes into this fine place.

For dinner I had my first experience with a Belgium specialty mussels steamed in beer (Unibroue Blanche de Chambly) was amazing. The mussels were mouthwatering and my friends who weren't into seafood ordered a couple sandwiches that were also delicious. We all agreed this was our favorite stop in Canada, and we got a picture with Joe before we left. Oh, yeah and right now I am drinking out of my complementery La Chouffe glass that after I asked to purchase Joe says you have been a good customer just take it. That was class!!!

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Photo of Popsinc
4.68/5  rDev +8.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.5

(Footnote Oct 29/03...i have just retured from Belgium. After visiting 20 of Belgium's best beer bars, I now have to say that Smokeless Joe ranks up in my top 5 of Best Beer Bars in the World. Nice to know that in Toronto i have access to simply one of the classiest beer bars around)

A great, TINY bar in the middle of Toronto's entertainment district. The food is home-made and tastes outstanding. The beer, WOW, what a selection. But the price? Well...

Whether you come to Joe's for the beer menu, the oysters, the cool jazz tunes or the small low-key atmosphere, i guarentee you 'll leave the bar with a smile...until of course you get the bill. The only downside about Smokeless Joe is that the mark-up on bottled beer is about 3 times what you might pay at the local bottle shop. Do i really want to spend $20 on a 750ml bottle of Maudite or $10 on a 330ml bottle of Celebrator Dopplebock?

Every time i've been to Joe's i've had a fabulous time. I drink well, i eat well and i enjoy myself. But at the end of the day, and $100 later, the overall cost of a night out at Joe's make it hard for me to be a regular. All aspects of this bar pull me back, it draws me in. i want to be there every Friday after work....but how? I simply can't afford the outrageous mark-up price on bottled beer. Instead of being a once or twice a week customer, i'm a once or twice every 2 month customer.

This is a fabulous bar, but not a bar for the working man. Not a bar for the family guy with the mortgage and bills to pay. I WISH i could be at Joe's on a more regular basis, but my wallet just won't allow it.

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