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A rare sight.

The Black Swan

154 Danforth Ave.

The Black Swan is a rare species around here, in fact it’s the last Danforth dive west of Chester Avenue. But it’s hanging in and has been serving Riverdalians beer and live music since 1972.

The “Dirty Swan” hatched as a tidy workingman’s pub but after years of being flown hard and put away wet, it’s morphed into a wonderful dive. Both the bar and its regulars are like a lived-in pair of Adidas Stan Smiths: the more wear and tear, the better.

The Nitty-Gritty:

Jacksoul Poster:
Yes. Across from the washrooms.

Affordable by Riverdale Standards: Day price bottle: $5.10/After 6pm: $5.50 (Due to their strong union, beer bottles get 40 cents overtime pay after 6pm.)

Bar staff: Bubbly.
Owners: Bitter. Cynical. I like them.

Here’s a talented customer’s artistic rendering of the owners


Potluck Canadiana.

This design style features walls adorned with whatever. Historic beer ads, vintage Toronto cityscapes, famous blues musicians who allegedly played there, and all of it undercoated by the cheapest colour at RONA’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Paint Sale of 2007.

And there’s an interesting mishmash of furniture that looked vaguely familiar…then I realized it was all from defunct Danforth bars I hung out at in the ‘90s

Washroom facilities:

Educational (see Value-adds)


Clean. But let’s just say any self-respecting white swan should avoid rolling on the floors.


One of this bar’s activities is to rub the armrests bare.  And judging by this photo, the owner’s skull as well.


Accelerated Sex Ed Program

For a few loonies, the washroom’s coin-operated Kinsey Institute can take you from sinless cygnet to carnal cob.  

Follow the directions and long may you reign on the horizontal plane.

Step One: Study
Step Two: Solidify
Step Three: Shield
Step Four: Sustain
Step Five: Stimulate
Step Six: Succeed

Respect for the environment

Faith and begorrah, this is a shining example of reducing, recycling, and reusing. They’re keeping St. Patrick’s promotional material for the next time St. Paddy’s falls on a Thursday.   That will be in 2022.

Witness more alpha selection than Animal Planet

Before they head to the nearby Music Hall, you’ll often hear aging New Wavers arguing about who among them really attended the 1981 Police Picnic at The Grove.  This is apparently a big deal for them. And from what I witnessed, the ultimate Alpha-Punk Arbitration Factor™ is pulling a ticket stub from your wallet.  

I had a ticket for the ’83 Police Picnic but didn’t attend. Wonder if that would score me any alpha-punk street cred.

Historical Segregation:

At one time, Ontario drinking establishments were law-bound to segregate men and women.  Men had an area to themselves and if they even allowed women in, they could only enter if accompanied by a man.  

Suggested musical accompaniment:

Anyone who played at the ’81 Police Picnic.

The Last Call:

Dive Bar Mike recommends this bar for anyone sick of high Riverdale beer prices, David Suzuki, New Wavers looking for validation, and virgins on date number three.


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