Toe’s Place

I took this photo years ago:

You were served your cold quarts of beer by middle-aged men in white shirts, at plain tables with ashtrays and cigarette burns, with nice, big artwork of different Canadiens’ players lining the walls. A thick haze of smoke filled the air, and people huddled at tables, talking Habs and solving world problems.

Except for the pictures on the walls, it could’ve been just another plain and slightly rundown beer parlor in any town or city, filled mostly with men who took their drinking and hockey seriously.

But of course it wasn’t just any old tavern. It was Toe Blake Tavern on Ste Catherine St. in Montreal, where many went before the short walk to the Forum to see the big game.

Sometimes Toe himself would be there, although I never saw him. My buddy Ed Wolk did, though. And the pictures on the wall? Apparently they’re safe and sound at Toe’s son Bruce’s place.

Toe Blake Tavern opened in 1952 and closed in 1983.

2 thoughts on “Toe’s Place”

  1. Dennis..thanks for this post on Toe’s…i recall as a teenager seeing the ad in the Forum program…and as soon as i turned 18 I would go to Toe’s on a regular basis…either for lunch during the week ( i worked around the corner)…and it became a Saturday ritual at 1 pm. A great place…the beer was cheap..the food, typical tavern fare…sausages and mash, small steak, pigs knuckle etc..was also cheap. No blaring music…a few tv sets. Were else can you order a table of draft for $10.!!
    The atmosphere at Toe’s was punctuated with the scent of beer and the stink of cigarettes…the patrons mostly working only saw suits during the weekday lunchtime crowd. Because it was designated a tavern…women were not permitted…one of the reasons Toe decided to close the place was that he didn’t want to change it into a brasserie..which was open to both sexes…lots of taverns in Montreal converted to brasseries because then they could charge more for their suds….and at the end of the day the difference between a tavern and a brassiere?…a designated women’s washroom…so with a bit of plumbing..the conversion was a no brainer….ironically Toe’s landlords were the Grey Nun Order of Montreal. I was at Toe’s on the last day…among many others paying homage to the place that Toe built.
    Thanks Toe.

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