Hidden from view just off College Street in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood, the Monarch Tavern was established in 1910 and licensed by 1927, giving visitors to the city a cold pint and warm bed to spend the night. While the Toronto institution has let go of its lodging accommodations, the building’s rich history, age and comforting location — squeezed between houses on Clinton Street — is reminiscent of its former hospitality. Signs of the Monarch’s past intermix with modern additions: presented behind the stage is a massive photo of Monarch patrons celebrating the end of the Second World War.
When current owners Michael Dorbyk and Evan Georgiades took it over around 2011, they prioritized using the space for shows, film events, and book and magazine launches, an intersectional fork where artists from different fields could meet. Spread over two stories, the Monarch to this day features smaller indie bands, DJs and cabaret-style entertainment on their main stage, welcoming an audience of about 120 persons. Toronto noise punks WLMRT, Maritimes supergroup Weird Lines, and UK-based singer-songwriter Jackson Nova have all performed on the Monarch’s stage, while an event by Toronto zine buffs Broken Pencil and Wavelength Music Arts Projects have brought in the literary crowd on one “Sex and Death” inspired night in 2017.
The upstairs at the Monarch offers your more traditional pub fauna, with cask-conditioned ale, 15-plus craft beers on tap and 35 bourbons alongside pool tables, pinball machines and big screen TVs. The Monarch still allows you to bring in fare from their longtime neighbours, like Bitondo’s pizza or the classic San Francesco veal sandwich, but they also offer a mix of pub favourites and Asian street food, with gluten-free options to boot.