#HaikuThursday: Monarch Tavern

29 Aug

You sold me my first

Toronto smoked meat sandwich.

Since then, it’s been love.


The Monarch Tavern (photo credit: The Monarch Tavern)

The Monarch Tavern (photo credit: The Monarch Tavern)


I remember timidly approaching The Monarch Tavern so many years ago, tucked away on an unassuming residential street in Little Italy.  A good friend from high school who also went to the same university as me always hung out there because it was the kind of place that would let you grab a panzerotti from Bitondo’s across the street (arguably the best in the city) and bring it INTO the bar so that you could pair it with whatever cheap draft special they had that night.  A poor student’s ideal Friday night, amiright?  Anyway, I never really cared to drop by until this same friend (let’s call him CK) told me that some guy fit a smoker on the second floor of The Monarch and was making smoked meat that rivaled Schwartz’s.  That’s a pretty hefty claim.  I probably would’ve written off CK as a liar except 1) he did tell me about Bitondo’s and was right about it and 2) future me would’ve been annoyed I lost that friendship because it turns out in 10 years, CK will publish a book and I’m in it (true story, it happened).

So anyway, there I was, nerdy and bespectacled, nervously climbing up the stairs to the second floor of The Monarch, and nearly tripping over a bunch of old men playing pool in one corner, a bunch of construction workers having a relaxing beer in the other corner, and a group of Avon ladies gossiping somewhere in the middle.  Mixed crowd – always a good bet in my books.  I don’t remember much else except stammering out my order to the waitress and the instant realization after my first bite that it WAS the BEST smoked meat sandwich I have ever had outside Montreal.  Give this guy his own deli, please!  I really did think that.  And of course, he sure did open one.  Next thing you know it, The Monarch became a regular hang out for me, CK and our mutual pals.

I graduated University, got distracted with new pursuits, and stopped frequenting the bar.  I heard the ownership changed hands.  Nearly a decade had passed and then a (different) friend suggested we stop in for a karaoke night a couple weeks ago.  I was hesitant.  Will it be the same?  Will the new crowd be too cool to really embrace karaoke?  Has another Toronto staple been lost?!

Well, here’s your average Monarch Tavern patron enjoying karaoke night:


It's important to really own your karaoke experience.


I sipped my pint of Beau’s and thought, “Yep, I’ll be back.  This place is still cool.”


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