St. Patrick’s Day is ostensibly a holiday celebrating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, but as celebrated in metropolitan Canada, it can look more like an excuse for popped-collar meatheads to get over-served while wearing green plastic hats in the name of “Irish culture.” That’s likely to be even more true this year, with the holiday falling on a Saturday — but it doesn’t have to be. Today, we’ve rounded up a few hopefully non-obnoxious Toronto alternatives to typical big, blowout parties this weekend.
First, though, a burning question: Exactly how Irish is Toronto? Click here for an exclusive DailyXY data crunch.
Now, on to the greener local pastures:
For the Traditionalists: Ceili Cottage
When Patrick McMurray opened the Ceili Cottage just a few years ago, his goal was to create a low-key local pub for the neighbourhood the way it would exist in Ireland. Ironically, when word spread of its authenticity, the watering hole started attracting Irish expats and enthusiasts from all corners of the city (i.e., hardly local). This will prove especially true on St. Patrick’s Day, a time when everyone’s a little bit Irish. Still, those who are actually Irish are looking for something a bit more authentic than green beer. This year, Ceili’s offering a whole week of festivities, including a day-of (March 17) performance of Irish traditional music by the Mere Mortals and Irish dance by Gilchrist-Canavan Irish Dance Team, plus the usual card of oysters, mussels and other delicacies. Expect lineups. $10. 1301 Queen St. E., 416-406-1301
For the Punks and the Rockers: The Horseshoe Tavern
After partaking in St. Patrick’s Day festivities to your heart (and liver)’s content, there’s no outlet quite so satisfying as scream-singing along with an Irish punk band. Kingston, Ontario’s The Mahones are often considered to be major originators of the genre (which later spawned acts like The Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly), so you really can’t go wrong with this day-before-St. Patrick’s (March 16) party at the Horseshoe. Mandolins, banjo, guitars, traditional (ish) drinking song melodies, and a high dose of energy: a recipe for a good (and messy) time. $15. 370 Queen St. W., 416-598-4753
For the Family: Gladstone Hotel Melody Bar
While St. Patrick’s Day often resembles a (very green, very sloppy) meat market by the wee hours of the morning, strip it down to its elements and it’s actually pretty child-friendly: colourful, lively, and full of costumes and singalongs. If you have a kid or two to entertain, you won’t be hard up taking them to the Gladstone’s family brunch, a special event with a kid’s menu, puppet shows and Irish-style live music from the Bellwoods Trinity, plus a live DJ for the adults. This event only goes until 4 pm; sometimes, a good party ends early. Free. 1214 Queen St. W., 416-531-4635
For the Day Drinkers: Steam Whistle Brewery
This St. Patrick’s Day bash starts at 2 pm and continues until midnight. Steam Whistle screams “Canadian,” as does its historic roundhouse location (hey, at least the bottle’s green), but entertainment from Brogue, Poor Angus and the Woodgate-Shamrock Irish Dancers, plus food by Irish Embassy, give it a nice dose of Irish authenticity. $15. 255 Bremner Blvd., 866-240-2337
Image courtesy of Steamwhistle Brewery.