A classic pub on the American craft beer landscape. It’s somewhat of a dive inside, but not *too* divey, and certainly warm enough for me. The service can be slow and grumpy, and the crowds can be huge and cumbersome (especially during the Barley Wine Fest), but they always have wonderful local beers on tap (from places like Russian River and Moonlight, as well as Anchor, Bear Republic, etc.), and also have some great Belgian bottles and some occasional surprises. I like this place a lot, and I love San Francisco and the neighborhood where you’ll find Toronado (be sure to eat at Memphis Minnie’s across the street for some awesome barbeque), but as much as I hate to say it, I think the time has passed when it could be considered in the absolute creme-de-la-creme of beer establishments. I mean no disrespect, because it’s still absolutely worth a stop any time you’re in San Francisco. It’s just been surpassed by some truly outstanding, newer places that offer more.
This place is easy to pas by because it is just a tiny little bar off Haight Street. The tap list is pretty impressive, not anything really rare but a nice selection of beers from all over. The bar is pretty small though, it was hard getting to the bar to order a beer but it was happy hour though. Overall it is a nice place to go and try several different beers.
This place is a little intense and can get crowded...the service is also intense, but knowledgeable and friendly in their own sort of way. I’ve only been their twice...separated by a year or so. Selection is pretty great...one time the tap and bottle list were top notch...the other time only the bottle list impressed. Definitely up there with the most impressive selections ive encountered.
Venue is something of a medium sized local - dark, and not bright and shiny clean (though the restroom was in good condition). Bussed to the top of the Haight - ten beers later walked down the hill. Right past the Toronado. Looking the wrong direction. If it wasn’t for the window of dusty Lagunitas bottles that caught my attention I don’t know where I’d have ended up. Not too crowded about 3PM - we got a small table. Got served at the bar in less than 5 minutes - one guy for a heck of a lot of people (but there was room for lots more). The selection of the best beers is huge. Something for everyone. Essential it is.
On my last day of my trip to California. My last stop before the airport. Ambiance is of a traditional pub, a lot of wood and musky smell. Service is not friendly, and looked pissed when I asked questions. The reason to come here is selection only.. It was the belgian festival, they had well over 20 belgians on tap, and they had Pliny the Elder. Highly recommend the sausage place next door.
April 2008 - I’ve finally made it ... one of the all-timers on my wanna-visit list. And it was actually nicer than I’d be groomed to expect! This is definitely not your neighborhood yuppie beer bar. But it’s not quite the seedy joint I’d been led to believe either. It fits into the Haight scene, with an eclectic crowd of street backpackers to, well ... me. I think everyone was equally welcome. Of course, the draft beer selection was second to none and I found the bartender friendly enough. Classic.
I read about this and decided I must go. With friends in the lower haight, it was quite easy to find. My first impression was mixed, the bartender couldn’t find the tap of my requested beer and had to opt for another choice. I was a bit turned off, but had a great time... and the bartender totally changed my impression of the place when they brought me a glass of the first beer that couldn’t be found the first time on the house. highly recommended. expect anything. I highly recommend the cave’s awesome falafel to pair.
This place is a pretty interesting experience. Based on reputation I thought it would be bigger and have an outdoor area. When we walked in I thought well, this is a tiny ass hole in the wall place but holy crap their beer selection is awesome! I had been to 5 places in the Bay Area looking for Pliny the Elder on tap. I found it here! I had 2. Then I had a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. The bartender was a hard ass but he did help me quickly once I got his attention. It was LOUD in there on a Saturday afternoon. People smoking weed on the sidewalk so the occasional scent of that wafts in. So, great beer, but not a place I could hang in often, and the bathroom as a nasty of a bar bathroom I have ever seen.
I went to the Toronado twice in the last week while on vacation. The first time I went was on 2/17/08 at the tail end of the BW Fest(mistake) and the second time was the night of 2/20/08. The place is basically a dive bar with maybe 10 tables and 20 seats along the bar. Lots of tap handles and other historical breweriana line the walls. My favorite was the passenger side door of the Bear Republic Racer 5 race car. The bartenders are not very friendly, basically to get served you have to wave some greenbacks at ’em. The place is CASH ONLY so be forewarned.
When I went on 2/17/08 I was too late for any of the good BW’s and they hadn’t replaced hardly any of the blown BW’s with their regular taps so there were probably 30+ empty taps. Anyway, that one is my fault. The night of 2/20/08 there were only about 10 BW’s left on tap but still only maybe 15 other taps up and running... Still many empty taps. Very dissappointing, I drank alot of Blind Pig those two visits. Ah well, bad timing on my part, slow tapping on theirs. The potential is definitely there though.
Toronado is a great bar in my opinion but only a very good beer bar.
Visited at 4:00PM X-mas eve of 2007, my two brothers in law and I were able to slip away from a family gathering. Toronado is a great bar because it is a dive and I love dives. It attracts everyone from long haired, pierced and tattooed twenty somethings to balding, gray haired sixty something beer enthusiasts. Its jukebox is all over the map. It only takes cash and does not serve its own food but you can get a sausage from next door. I imagine that it is jammed and loud on a busy night. However, I went at an off time and not many people were there. Another plus, it is open to 6:00PM on Christmas eve then opens at 5:00 on Christmas day.
As for the beer, yes it is very good, about fifty taps (I think four casks) and about fifty bottles. Very California and Belgium centric, which is very very good by any beer lover’s standards, but I do not think it is great. It is not that hard to be California and Belgium centric when you are a San Francisco bar.
In short, I love this place!!!