Craft Beer, and Where To Eat in the Tri-Cities

For those that know me, you are likely fully aware that I’m a big fan of craft beer. In this blog, I’ll feature the restaurants that do it right and a small description of why I love the places so much. It’s easy to get lazy when it comes to finding the places to eat and support, due to how easy it is to just hit chains. They’re familiar, you know the menu, you understand what you like from there, it’s quick and easy… fully get it.

Arabella Beer Bar:

When they initially opened, I thought it was an extremely cool spot; they had a wicked selection of beer, excellent snacky food and a cool hipster vibe. Arabella doesn’t have TVs to fully promote chatting with people, instead of staring mindlessly at a sports game. Then, they went through a phase of constantly being slammed with people, extremely loud, music was even louder, and it was difficult to chat in a friendly setting. On top of this, they went through a phase of having A LOT of sours (yuck!). Recently, I decided to give it a few more chances, and to my happiness, they are back, and with a vengeance. Start with the food; they have a top-notch smash burger, the legendary chip truck fries that are deep-fried with a malt vinegar type oil, and many other incredible sharing options. Arabella has also honed on their beer selection – they have various top craft beer options and do an excellent job of mixing and matching Porters, Stouts, IPAs, Lagers, Barrel-Aged, Pilseners, etc., from the best breweries in Ontario. Also, their patio setting is excellent in the cutesy Belmont Village area… I highly recommend giving them a shot on a hot summer day.

Falls Road:

Right around the corner from my place is the hole-in-the-wall pub, Falls Road. The building is TINY, formerly an Enterprise car rental place. What makes this place unique, besides the fantastic regulars that can constantly be seen there, is their live music. Every weekend they get top-notch musicians, and being such a small establishment, the sound is fantastic. The pub food they offer is one of the best in the city, and they constantly upgrade their sauces and recipes, experimenting with new flavours. The craft beer selection is alright, they bring in a few of the different KW-craft beers, but that isn’t their specialty… they pour the best Guinness in the city, and it’s a wicked vibe there always.

The Bent Elbow:

The Elbow’s vibe is great. You sit down and receive a beer bible, which is a book that explains the flavour of each beer – they have blues/jazz/classic rock playing in the background. Harold is the snarly owner that loves to chat and knows his stuff in regards to food, beer, and sports. The food is excellent, coming in huge portions with a lot of flavours. The Elbow is the OG of craft beer bars, doing it around a decade earlier than everyone else… and poke fun at the Coors Lite and Bud Lite drinkers of the world by having the urinal flusher being a Bud Lite keg handle, while the Coors Lite keg is literally water. The beer selection is constantly revolving and has some misses and some hits, but it’s really about the against-the-grain vibe that makes it so appealing.

AOK Craft Beer and Arcade:

It was a happy day when AOK re-opened their doors post-lockdowns – they were only open for a few months before having to close down due to the pandemic, it was a great feeling. AOK has classic video games, ballpark-type food, and a wicked craft beer selection. The coolest thing about their bar is that you never know if you are going to have people hitting it up after work, a family with kids playing the games, or craft beer lovers. It’s a unique place that is run by a top-notch staff and is by far the most fun place to have a quick bite to eat and a couple of great pints. Whether you want to shoot hoops, play Tetris, classic pinball, Super Smash Brothers, AOK has it all… it’s very likely you will see me there at 5 pm on a Wednesday or Thursday weekly.

The Gator’s Tail:

The crown jewel of Southern Ontario. They do it all! Yuk Yuks, sports bar, karaoke, great service, fantastic cajun style food, and THE BEER… The difference between Gator’s and the rest is that if you want a Bud or Coors, you can get that, but the gem is their craft beer menu. Every single brewery that they bring in is the cream of the crop – they also specialize in IPAs, which makes it so difficult to choose a couple of beers, because I have to drive. There’s nothing better than going to Gator’s on a Sunday afternoon, watching 3 different football games at the bar area, having their famous gumbo, and sipping on a Third Moon and then a Badlands. I can’t say enough great things about this place, they are generally pretty quiet and have a really cool bar seating area… the owners are extremely good people, that take care of their employees, and the regulars are all super-nice.

If you haven’t checked out these places, I highly recommend checking them out. One thing that you’ll notice is that all f of these places are small businesses and their love of the food, vibe, and beer has earned them regulars like myself.

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