It’s mostly a pints of ale kind of town, but in addition to great beer lists there are still top wine cellars and well-made cocktails to be found
If you’re thirsty, Thunder Bay can help you out. The city does like its beer, and while bottles of the mainstream brews once prevailed, in the last five years or so it’s been increasingly easy to find and enjoy craft and imported beers in its restaurants and bars. It has a thriving microbrewery and another set to open this year. The pub scene is probably the best known, but you can also sip and savour cocktails both classic and inventive, as well as fine wines, in casually upscale venues. Here’s our list of five great places to say cheers.
Warm, comfy and lounge-y – think candlelight and lots of plush, padded seating – Lot 66 combines a friendly atmosphere with laidback elegance. Sample one of the solid cocktails, such as a Superior iced tea (made with locally produced bitters by Frape & Sons) or a last word (in Lot 66’s rendition it’s gin, green Chartreuse, lime juice and honey syrup). There’s also an appealingly robust selection of beer, spirits and fine wines. Complement your drink order with an apps menu item like spicy mussels or the charcuterie board, or settle in with a entrée such as premium beef, pan seared duck breast or pickerel from the Lake of the Woods (that’s a few hundred kilometres west of Thunder Bay, at the border with Manitoba and Minnesota).
www.lot66.ca66 Court St. S., 807-683-7708
This classic Irish-style pub is cosily dim thanks to lots of dark wood panelling, and is also home to a rockin’ live music scene, featuring local and touring jazz, folk, rock and indie musicians. It’s the kind of place that cries out for a pint glass in your hand, brimming with hard cider or one of the 24 draft craft beers on tap, such as Firehouse Amber Ale from Lake of the Woods Brewing Company in Kenora (another hardy northwestern community). Make a night of it and indulge in some tasty and imaginative gastropub fare like the “Foundry pogo,” a spicy chorizo sausage in a Sleeping Giant beer batter, or snacks from the late-night menu, like Thai pork spring rolls or deep fried pickle chips.
242 Red River Rd., 807-285-3188
Courtesy Dman Photography
Sleeping Giant Brewing Company
Thunder Bay’s very own craft beer is sold all over town, but why not go right to the source? Stop by the Sleeping Giant microbrewery and chat with the friendly staff – there will likely be a sample or two available – and then pick out your own freshly made beer. Hometown favorites include Elevator Ale (wheat, pale malt and northern honey), Skull Rock Stout (a blend of six malts) and the Northern Logger (a refreshing golden lager). The “North Shore Series,” aged in organic tequila and Kentucky bourbon barrels, is coming in 2016.
946 Colbalt Crescent, 807-344-5225
The Sovereign Room
A local for the locals, “The Sov” is small but mighty; a great place to stop by for a drink after work or meet a group for a night out. It used to be a Chinese restaurant – in fact, the sign remains out front – and now projects a low-key vibe with high-backed booths, embossed wallpaper, taxidermy by the bar and a tiny stage for live music. Order from dozens of regional and British beers and ciders on tap or in bottles, including a popular selection from fellow northerners, Stack Brewing in Sudbury. It regularly earns rave reviews for its inventive plating and high-quality ingredients, so check out the fried chicken, fish tacos or Wednesday night ramen bowl.
220 Red River Rd., 807-343-9277
One of Thunder Bay’s go-to spots for celebratory upscale meals, Bistro One is also an ideal place to sample a variety of fine wines – its extensive and well-curated wine list consistently earns it a Wine Spectator Award for Excellence. Buy by the glass or half-bottle, or choose a bottle that starts from the modest ($28 for an Ontario Merlot) right on up to the stratospheric ($900 for a 1995 Chateau Margaux Bordeaux), with dozens of options in between. Then relax like a grown-up and enjoy the white tablecloths, attentive service and perhaps an appetizer like the tempura shrimp or radicchio and pancetta rolls, both popular with resident T-Bayers. Santé!
555 Dunlap St., 807-622-2478