Torontonians have earned the right to be a tad cynical about the opening of yet another ye olde Irish/Scottish/English pub, with their mini-kilt-clad babes, sweet potato fries and calamari rings. But Ted and Mary (née McGugan) Koutsogiannopoulos, along with executive chef Bryan Burke, are hoping to bring something a little more authentic with McGugan’s, their new Scottish tavern on Gerrard Street. The trio, which is also behind Hank’s, Wine Bar and Great Burger Kitchen, secured the place late last summer, and has been sweating away to get it ready for launch ever since (indeed, Burke and Koutsogiannopulis did the woodwork themselves). We dropped in to check it out.
A proud Scot, Mary McGugan had been ruminating about opening a pub of her own since 2006. The two-story space (a former flower shop) is warm in deep reds, greens, dark wood with salvaged Mennonite floor planks. In addition to the main dining room, there’s a room for private functions, a rooftop patio and a backyard lounge—a total of 258 seats in the summer. Before opening the place, Burke flew to Scotland to get a handle on real Scottish food. “It was horrible,” he confessed. “Everything was deep-fried. Even the pizza. But, what I discovered was the essence of what Scottish food can be.”
The menu of elevated pub grub contains the usual suspects—fish and chips ($14.95), caesar salad ($8.95)—but there are also quirky Scottish delicacies. Chef de Cuisine
Don Gingrich rolls haggis ($12.95)—ground lamb, oats and spices—into bite-size balls, dips them in a house ale tempura batter and deep-fries them golden. His wee Scotch eggs ($12.95 for five), meanwhile, are hard boiled quail eggs, wrapped in house-ground sausage and fried. Gingrich is a stickler for doing everything from scratch: roasting bones for stock, soaking raisins in scotch for his butter tarts, hand cutting fresh fries, blending duck livers into pâté and whipping up all vinaigrettes, jams and sauces. He even infuses local honey with Scottish heather flowers.
At the bar, there’s an impressive list of Scotch and whiskey—40 to 50 labels, depending on the day, including a 20-year-old Dun Bheagan’s Rosemount from the Lowlands of Scotland (there are only 762 bottles released every year). Manager and Wine Spectator award–winning sommelier
Brian Michael works to pair the scotch and whiskeys with the kitchen’s local products. “That’s why,” he explains, “there are only three imports on tap: Innis and Gunn, Guinness and Kilkenny. The rest of our selections of drafts are all micro-brewed Ontario craft beers.” Next up for the team of industry vets behind McGugan’s: an Italian place called Aprile Bambina, two doors down at number 1054.
118098 (Image: Signe Langford) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans_introB-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans_introB.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans_introB.jpg 656 350  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans_introb/ feb12mcgugans_introb 0 0
118114 (Image: Signe Langford) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans16-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans16.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans16.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans16/ feb12mcgugans16 0 0
118113 (Image: Signe Langford) Fish and Chips ($14.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans15-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans15.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans15.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans15/ feb12mcgugans15 0 0
Fish and Chips ($14.95)
118115 (Image: Signe Langford) McGugan’s Ploughman: duck liver pate, cheese, quail eggs and smoked pork hock ($14.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans17-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans17.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans17.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans17/ feb12mcgugans17 0 0
McGugan’s Ploughman: duck liver pate, cheese, quail eggs and smoked pork hock ($14.95)
118112 (Image: Signe Langford) Sticky toffee cheesecake with caramelized condensed milk and pralines ($7.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans14-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans14.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans14.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans14/ feb12mcgugans14 0 0
Sticky toffee cheesecake with caramelized condensed milk and pralines ($7.95)
118109 (Image: Signe Langford) Stout-braised lamb shank with barley and roasted root vegetables ($21.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans11-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans11.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans11.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans11/ feb12mcgugans11 0 0
Stout-braised lamb shank with barley and roasted root vegetables ($21.95)
118111 (Image: Signe Langford) Haggis balls: McGugan ale tempura bites of hagis with root vegetable chips and single malt scotch aïoli ($12.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans13-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans13.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans13.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans13/ feb12mcgugans13 0 0
Haggis balls: McGugan ale tempura bites of hagis with root vegetable chips and single malt scotch aïoli ($12.95)
118110 (Image: Signe Langford) Red Wehani rice salad with barley, currents and beets ($8.95) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans12-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans12.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans12.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans12/ feb12mcgugans12 0 0
Red Wehani rice salad with barley, currents and beets ($8.95)
118108 (Image: Signe Langford) Chef Don Gingrich's heather-infused honey Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans10-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans10.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans10.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans10/ feb12mcgugans10 0 0
Chef Don Gingrich’s heather-infused honey
118107 (Image: Signe Langford) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans9-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans9.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans9.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans9/ feb12mcgugans9 0 0
118106 (Image: Signe Langford) Only 762 bottles of Dun Bheagan's Rosemount from the Lowlands of Scotland are released per year. $30 per shot Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans8-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans8.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans8.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans8/ feb12mcgugans8 0 0
Only 762 bottles of Dun Bheagan’s Rosemount from the Lowlands of Scotland are released per year. $30 per shot
118105 (Image: Signe Langford) Essential kitchen stuff: A Night with Robbie Burns, The Food Lover's Companion and a steel Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans7-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans7.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans7.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans7/ feb12mcgugans7 0 0
Essential kitchen stuff: A Night with Robbie Burns, The Food Lover’s Companion and a steel
118104 (Image: Signe Langford) Chef Dan Gingrich likes makes everything from scratch, from infusing honey with heather to roasting bones for stock. Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans6-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans6.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans6.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans6/ feb12mcgugans6 0 0
Chef Dan Gingrich likes makes everything from scratch, from infusing honey with heather to roasting bones for stock.
118103 (Image: Signe Langford) Twelve brews on tap and many more by the bottle Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans5-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans5.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans5.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans5/ feb12mcgugans5 0 0
Twelve brews on tap and many more by the bottle
118102 (Image: Signe Langford) Just about everything but the stools was built by the owners. Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans4b-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans4b.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans4b.jpg 624 400  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans4b/ feb12mcgugans4b 0 0
Just about everything but the stools was built by the owners.
118101 (Image: Signe Langford) Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans3-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans3.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans3.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans3/ feb12mcgugans3 0 0
118100 (Image: Signe Langford) Ivan, the daytime bartender, is not a Scot. And no, he's not asked to wear the kilt. He just does because he likes it Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans2-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans2.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans2.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans2/ feb12mcgugans2 0 0
Ivan, the daytime bartender, is not a Scot. And no, he’s not asked to wear the kilt. He just does because he likes it
118099 (Image: Signe Langford) The sign outside Introducing: McGugan’s https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans1-96x96.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans1.jpg https://torontolife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/feb12McGugans1.jpg 400 624  https://torontolife.com/food/introducing-mcgugans/slide/feb12mcgugans1/ feb12mcgugans1 0 0
The sign outside
McGugan’s, 1058 Gerrard St. E., 416-901-9859, mcgugans.com
22 thoughts on “Introducing: McGugan’s, a friendly new Scottish pub on Gerrard Street East”
Please tell them NOT to make their fries greasy. yuck!
Bad Music, along with the un-pub like style and very nervous looking what we would take as the manager.- Mr. Suit = NOT A PUB…….\on the up side the food was sensational…..but its not a PUB
The bartender was great, the food was great, but the pricing was out to lunch for what they delivered. I had those hagis balls for $13.00. They served 3 and they weren’t worth $4.32 per ball.
If you want to be a pub, then change your pricing to reflect pub fare. $12.00 for 6 chicken wings. I think the grilled cheese sandwich was $11 or $12.00.
Pay some attention to your location. If you want to succeed and have staying power, then I recommend making some amendments to your menu. I won’t be back unless it’s changed.
I went in and was given a tour by the super friendly host, Monique. I met chef Bryan and saw the upstairs and rooftop patio spaces. Judging from the smiles on the faces of the patrons, and the welcoming attitude of t staff, this place is going to be a real winner. I look forward to making it my local.
as a local resident, my neighbours and i are delighted to have such a place open in the hood! food is great, service has been great and friendly.
by having the higher prices it just keeps the local riff raff away which is totally fine.
only suggestion i would make is offering a kids specific menu with lower prices. this area has a lot of young families and for the place to really succeed it will need to cater to these families. much more enticing to pop in for a quick family friendly dinner if the prices are lower!
i support local businesses and wish only the best for Ted and Mary. another new restaurant 2 doors down? very exciting!!!!
Like all new places, we had a few growing pains in the first few weeks including getting portions consistent (ie. haggis, wings comments) and lowering the price points a bit. We have recalibrated the menu to be what the neighbourhood is telling us they want while still keeping the quality high. I am very glad to hear most everyone remark on our friendliness because that is so important to us. Please keep talking to us and letting us know what we can do to serve you best. Thank you all so much for warmly welcoming McGugan’s to your neighbourhood! Cheers!
One Last Thing — My web guy is away for the weekend so the new menus, although in effect, might not get uploaded until Tuesday! Bear with us! Thanks!
New menu uploaded!
don’t listen to the people who want you to be more kid friendly, a pub is a drinking place first and not a place for kids.
I’ve been to McGugans twice now and have been slightly disappointed both times. The bartender needs to learn how to pour a Guinness properly and for that matter, beer in general. The head on my Guinness was served with a “Pope’s collar”, which is a bad thing for a pint. My companion had a craft beer that was served liked it had a big gulp taken out of it.
My other friend, a foodie, was disappointed with a very greasy grilled cheese sandwich.
As a local resident – I want this place to succeed. I agree with some of the other comments above, a new place will have a few kinks, I’ll go again as it’s so close – they just need to work them out before I become a regular. Otherwise, it’s back to McCarthy’s or The Ceili Cottage.
i think actually jamie kennedy was behind wine bar.. as for all 3 i dont know how they stay open they are always empty..
isn’t greasiness a known quality of grilled cheese sandwiches? a foodie? really?
Nice to see Innis & Gunn getting a tap. I had a bottle of Innis & Gunn oak-aged ale and goes so nicely with lamb and other Scottish fare.
Of course, you can never go wrong with Guinness Extra Stout on tap – although it sounds like the bartender isn’t doing justice in the pour, which is important if you’re going to bother at all. My wine/beer guru returns improper pours; yep, he takes it that seriously – and why not? You’re not paying for “the beer”, you can drink it at home for far cheaper – it is about the dining experience and the care that the servers put into providing a quality experience, and for which they’ll be expecting a tip, right?
When u say you came to acotland to taste thelocal food. and everything was deep fried you obviously never left glasgow. try looking at the east coast and further north where normal scots live . we are moveing to toronto soon from bonnyrigg and will pop in to see how you are getting on but it aounds like you havnt really hit the nail on the head just yet with your fancy menu . try looking online at some of our scottish restaurant menus. there is a fresh sea food restaurant here called Lough fine. check it out . good luck for the future.
Nice enough place, but it’s about as Scottish as The Comrade. It’s just a marketing hook; it’s a generic room with a couple of UK beers on tap.
No “e” in Scotch Whisky. That’s for the Irish and Americans.
Toronto is crying out for a “real” Scottish pub, but sadly, after rushing to read this review when someone sent it to me, yet again, I dont think this sounds like it fits the bill ….. while its commendable to have Innis & Gunn on tap, Kilkenny and Guinness are from the other side of the Irish Sea. Fine beers they may be, but Scottish they are not. where’s the 70/- or 80/- .
As for the descriptions of the food, I agree with the previous commenters that if the “research” showed everything was deep fried then the research probably didnt go much past one particular city …. There’s a huge variety of foods in the country and not everything is a heart attack waiting to happen.
Haggis may be traditional in a once a year kind of thing for most Scots, but I would venture that Stovies, Mince and Tatties, Scotch Pies, Forfar Bridies or even Arbroath Smokies would make the dinner table more often. Pair that with the glaringly absent staple of Scotch Broth in your soup menu instead of Chowder and you might be getting there …..
At least your menu does have a nod to some traditional food with the mention of Black Pudding, but you have to choose between bacon, sausage and black pudding? Thats not “full on”. No tattie scones? No Square Sausage? and I hope the bacon is ‘middle’?
You lost me when you tried to gentrify haggis and then cemented it when you fell into the trap of mentioning deep fried mars bars … Yes, they are Scottish, invented as a novelty in a chipper in Stonehaven, but they are about as mainstream in Scotland as some of the quirky foods you see at the Ex once a year !!!!!
Visited this new local pub for dinner last evening. The ambiance, service and food were great…but the prices were a bit of a shocker. While this may be “elevated” pub food, the prices are way, way too elevated for the neighborhood. I am very happy to see that such welcome new businesses are moving into the area, but I fear that the prices at McGugans will not encourage the locals to become regulars. For those sandwich prices, you should not have to pay an extra $3 for the fries or $4 for salad. $15 for Fish & Chips, $16 for Bangers and Mash? $8 for a glass of Canadian cider? I wish them great success, I hope that they can make it work…but with these prices, it will be more of a “special occasion” place rather than a regular go-to for quick, tasty pub grub for me and my friends.
I should mention that their signature sandwich (which is not on the menu on their website for some reason) of roast beef in a large Yorkshire pudding served with horseradish cream is absolutely stellar. The beef in gravy was tender, perfectly cooked and delicious, the Yorkshire pud was lovely and crispy on the outside and pillowy on the inside. Neither myself nor my dining partner are fans of horseradish, but we couldn’t get enough of the cream and were fighting over the last drops!
Amen to the last poster, the roast beef sannie on homemade Yorkie knocked me dead. I live almost next door to McGugan’s (we call it McPricey’s)but limit my visits due to budgetary constraints. It is welcome that they have introduced a sandwich and pint special for $13, a great lunch and I am happily working my way through the menu. The chips are among the best I have ever eaten.
The bartender Ivan wears a Wallace tartan kilt, and wears it right.
do the math
Hubby and I went for dinner a little while ago to check it out. Food was fine, and service was friendly and efficient.
However, ordered a glass of the ‘house wine’, and was a bit shocked when I found out it was $15! For one glass. Couldn’t have been more than 5 oz. Sorry, but seemed a bit much for what it was. I guess you’re only supposed to drink beers or something? Prices a bit high in general for the area I think :( Otherwise would go more often for sure.
Otherwise, wish you all the best and success :)
This pub is about as Scottish as McDonalds. I was tempted to ask the staff if they knew what a Glasgow handshake was
I too was shocked by the prices. This is the kind of gentrification I can do without. The crowd look like the same Yuppies and Hipsters that frequent Starbucks next door
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