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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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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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 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 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 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 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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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 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 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 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 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 valianes
3.75/5  rDev -13.4%

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