Beer drinkers from around the world should easily recognize the name, Toronado. Not the now-retired luxury automobile designed and produced by Oldsmobile for decades. Not the now-discontinued electric guitar designed and built by Fender, with dual humbucking pick-ups set into a sleek, contoured body. No, no, Toronado, the beer bar.
Depending on where you live on the West Coast, or where you have visited out West, you may be more or less familiar with one of the three of Toronado beer bars….
The Toronado Pub (simply put) is the original, an iconic institution located at 547 Haight Street in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco. This spot is notorious for its Dutch door, it’s Metal-centric jukebox, it’s surly (if not straight-up rude) bartenders, it’s cash-only policy, it’s BYO food (most likely a sausage from Rosamunde next door) policy. You may be familiar with the events, the infamous, annual Barleywine Festival. If you’ve been there, you know. It is a magical place to have a beer. So much history on the walls. So many amazing beers to consider and enjoy. I love it.
The Toronado Seattle is the newest in the “lineup” of Toronado bars. David Keane, a.k.a. Big Daddy, licenses the naming rights, but the name Toronado may be one of the few things that these bars have in common. Granted, I haven’t actually yet been to the Seattle, location, but from what I’ve heard, it is, well, really nice! They have a farm-to-table menu, they offer spirits and wine (in addition to an amazing beer list). They take credit cards, and I’ve heard that the bar staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. It looks to be an amazing spot for nightlife in Seattle, no doubt an establishment in the Pacific Northwest beer scene. I am sure I’d love it.
The Toronado San Diego was, for the years that I lived in America’s Finest City, my local. In my mind, I perhaps romanticize owner Ian Black’s iteration of the Toronado to be a fine marriage between the Toronado in SF and the one in Seattle. You walk through a Dutch door into the joint in North Park, eerily similar to the place in SF, but at once you realize that this is ever so slightly a different beast — they take credit cards, but there’s also a jukebox in the corner, just like the O.G. They serve food, but don’t expect a white tablecloth. The staff will smile at you from time-to-time, but if you catch them at the wrong time, they can hold their own to the reputations of Toro SF — they are genuinely awesome people. I visited this bar as often as I could, looking forward to arriving there, each and every time. Every time I’m back in San Diego, I make it a point to go there. I love it.
The common thread to these venues is most absolutely the beer. Uber-relevant, ever-evolving, and simply wonderful, there is always a beer on tap that you want to drink when you walk in one, if not three or four or five. Regardless of where you visit, when you’re there, you know it’s a beer bar in the truest sense of the term. I love it.