Thursday, January 16, 2014

Urban Eats: Duke's Refresher + Bar

Image Credit: Ted Chai
Looking for a new watering hole in the Yonge & Gerrard 'hood? Mosey on down to Duke's Refresher + Bar, a recent addition to the Aura Condo complex that's sure to please any lovers of elevated bar fare with a penchant for craft beers and an excellent cocktail or three. Whether you're stopping in for breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner or that night cap, Duke's dishes up hearty shareables that go down easy with the over 40 beers on tap plus a full menu featuring generously portioned tacos and nachos, burgers and sandwiches, internationally inspired mains and even a few big salads for good measure. 

I stopped in on quiet Saturday for an early lunch with the fam but the pumping tunes and super friendly staff make it easy to imagine Duke's gets pretty live after dark. Another indication? Their Breakfast Club which offers up to 50% off their Morning Slam menu if you're among the last out at night and can still manage to crawl in early the next morn with a special Duke's stamp visible for the world to see. We didn't spy any obvious club members but can imagine it would make for quite the animated brunch crowd. 

Those looking to cure last night's indiscretions with a little hair of the dog will love the Boozy Brunch Milkshake. I sampled a creation called the Oatmeal Kickstart. It was thick, rich and spiked with an interesting oatmeal coffee stout and  it was a great companion to Hubby's Steak & Eggs, cooked to order and served with griddled garlic bread and roasted tomatoes [pictured above]
I'm always skeptical when a bar takes on ethnic comfort food so I just had to try Duke's Bacon and Eggs BiBimBap and they more than passed with flying colours. Served in a cast iron skillet, the rice was well seasoned, slightly sticky and crisp from being lightly fried. The kimchi tasted authentic--slightly sour with a subtle crunch and a hint of spicy and the crumbled bacon added great texture and of course, huge flavour. The egg is fried and not the raw yolk that's often served in an authentic Korean resto but generous slices of avocado add a lush creaminess that made it hard to stop eating...even after I was stuffed
Duke's Tacos Non Gringos also hit the mark with a generous chunk of perfectly seared tuna served on a warm corn tortilla with a colourful host of toppings like a gingery red cabbage slaw, fresh salsa and cilantro. If tuna isn't your thing they've also got haddock and shrimp versions. I won't say they're better than my last trip to Cabo but definitely impressive and with 3 per order they're great to share
If you're looking for a north meets south experience with some friends, add an order of Honey Who Shrunk My Weiners and enjoy 3 griddle mini dogs topped with cheese, bacon and ketchup. Truth: I actually ordered these for my daughter who joined us thinking we'd share but she loved them so much I only got a single bite. I could totally see why though. The dogs are flavourful and the steamed buns are the perfect delivery system. The freshly fried chips on the side were a bit heavy on the salt but after a few... I'm sure they're just what the Duke ordered. 

Now that I've ignited my love affair with their BiBimBap, I'm definitely adding Duke's to my next bar crawl. Naturally this visit will without my small person in tow and with a babysitter on deck, just in case I wind up in the Breakfast Club. 

Duke's Refresher + Bar
382 Yonge Street, Unit 8
(near Yonge & Gerrard)
Toronto, ON M5B 1S8
Phone: 416-979-8529

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