Duke’s Refresher + Bar is but a few days young, but the new Yonge and Gerrard spot sports an antiquated look that strikes a beautiful balance between cool and kitsch. Reclaimed wood doors and a weathered pastiche of tin siding make for creative wall collages. Mismatched bar stools. Clustered light bulbs serve as fixtures over the long wood bar in their 98-seat dining room. Next to the shuffleboard table in their 60-seat upstairs lounge dubbed “The Nosebleed Section” there are communal picnic tables and vintage furniture.
If the antlers, old trophies and wood framed big screens that surround the bar don’t suggest it enough, it becomes quickly evident that Duke’s isn’t of the fold – locationally speaking. Flanked by strip clubs, knock-off retailers, and financial services offices along this strip of Yonge Street, Duke’s may do well to appeal to the local university cohort that circles the College Park neighbourhood.
Offering what General Manager Jay Burrows calls a place where guests can “guiltlessly kick back, take some time out and let loose”, he promises it will be a local spot with an “unapologetically different attitude”.
Starting off their separation from other local watering holes and eateries is Duke’s startlingly large beer list. Boasting 40 beers on tap – a good percentage being local craft beers – and 15 more bottles available, curious drinkers will be able to sip their way through the selection with 3oz samplers starting at just over $1.
For those looking for a large volume pour, you can sign up for their Einstein Club, a $20 in-house 24oz beer stein membership for the “enlightened beer drinker”. House your numbered stein behind the bar and get preferred pricing on every refill. A daily menu of boozy milkshakes and $4.50 Caesar Sundays will satiate the liquor-fueled locals.
In the edible category, chef Tim Tutton offers an inventive breakfast selection on weekends starting at 9 am. Way up my alley is “The Pig & The Egg”, an intensely delicious amalgamation of fried egg, sausage, bacon, pulled pork, American cheese and crispy avocado on a bacon focaccia bun. A sinfully sized plate of Shameless Waffles with fresh berries, blueberry whipped cream, almonds and dried fruit even made my savoury taste buds swoon.
For those that want to cash in on their frequent visits, join Duke’s “Shameless Breakfast Club”. Get up to 50% in discounts for guests who return the next day for breakfast still sporting a stamp from the night before. The more exposed the body part, the greater the savings – and subsequent shame.
Other comforting creations from the Duke’s Refresher + Bar kitchen include a sinful assortment of sandwiches and burgers. The Woody packs a 100% beef brisket patty brushed with woody BBQ sauce, American cheese and caramelized onions between a bacon focaccia. Fish tacos like seared tuna and spiced shrimp offer a lighter option that’s still loaded with flavour.
After you’ve tossed some Valentina hot sauce on a rare, seared tuna BLT you can baste me in it. Duke’s Refresher + Bar may just aid in spicing up this otherwise bland block as 78-stories of the Aurora College Park come up across the street.