Food + Drink

March 8, 2017

The Jester on Yonge isn’t fooling around

Everyone loves a great local bar. These days, that’s especially true when it’s a craft brew-centric bar. That’s just one of the ways the Jester on Yonge has evolved with the neighbourhood over the years. Situated on the southeast corner of Yonge + St. Clair since 1989, The Jester is one of the longest serving bars in the area. Known for its wide selection of beers, live music Fridays, and friendly atmosphere, it’s an establishment that has consistently reflected the ever-changing energy of the community and city.

We sat down with owner Shelly Zelden, who has seen the Yonge + St. Clair neighbourhood evolve since taking over ownership in 2002. “The area has gone through quite a demographic shift over the years, with more young professionals coming in,” explains Shelly, “and we wanted the Jester to reflect that.” So in 2015, the longtime sports pub converted 25 of their 32 taps over to local craft beers – becoming the craft brew house of midtown Toronto.

Shelly recognised the importance of being proactive early on. “Not many restaurant owners my age like to change much,” he shares, “but my two young daughters are very connected to the trends of the city.”

The Jester understood the city’s rising interest in craft and local beers, and with no real midtown options for craft beer, the switch in 2015 became obvious.

Today, The Jester on Yonge’s 31 of 32 taps serve local favourites like Collective Arts, Amsterdam, Great Lakes, Double Trouble and Mill Street. This includes a selection of ciders and a rotating seasonal tap.

“Nobody from Eglinton to Rosedale can compete with our selection.”

With a change in beer selection, The Jester also upped their food offerings with a new chef and the introduction of rotating specials like Chicken and Waffles ($17) and Coconut Sole ($17).

“I always recommend the California Blasters ($11). It’s our signature appetizer,” manager Wendy tells us. “Chicken, avocado and cheese, hand rolled and fried in a flour tortilla shell. It’s served with a sweet chili sauce and is perfect for first timers and sharing. It’s a local favourite.”

Longtime friend and customer of The Jester on Yonge, Adam, also sat down with us to share his thoughts. “The build your own burgers ($12 +) here are really good.”

“There’s a sandwich here called the Mother Clucker ($14). It’s a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich that’s also really good.” The sandwich is served with bacon, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli, and an onion ring.

“I don’t think that a potential customer would expect to find this kind of craft beer selection and quality menu,” shares Adam. “I think the quality of it all is indicative of the proactive direction Shelly is trying to take Jester.”

To that end, The Jester launched a Friday night live music series last year to address the desire for more arts and culture in the neighbourhood. “Having lived here for 15 years – it’s becoming easier to see the differences as the community grows.”

“Live music is going to be a big deal here” – and it already is. The Jester has been able to attract many outstanding artists for Friday shows, including Juno nominated and Maple Blues Award-winning musician Paul Reddick. “The community needs to keep growing culturally to continue to bring that  caliber musician into midtown, and we are excited to be a part of that.”

Ultimately The Jester on Yonge is “trying to bring the downtown experience uptown,” explains Adam. “You don’t have to go downtown to get the full Toronto experience. It can be found right in your backyard.”

The Jester on Yonge is located at 1427 Yonge Street and open 11AM to late seven days a week.