The pub, tavern, the neighbourhood local, the public house: call it what you will, your favourite casual food-and-beverage watering hole with sports on the TVs is your favourite because you love it, you feel comfortable there and it’s an oasis from the week’s (or the day’s) toils.
Here’s a random collection of some of Waterloo Region’s most beloved pubs. Sorry if yours isn’t here: there’s so many that it’s not possible to capture all of them!
[Note: as businesses re-open during Phase 3, menus and hours will change and evolve. Please check with individual venues for up-to-date information.]
Huether Hotel, Waterloo
There are a few destinations in this multi-venue heritage hotel in Waterloo’s central core. The Lion Brewery Restaurant is closed due to Covid, but the Barley Works Public House and Grill can serve you on the patio.
The business started off as the Huether in 1842 and has been operated by the Adlys family for decades. It’s one of the oldest breweries in Canada and the lower level pub was the original brewery (when open) and is characterized by stone walls and floors and what can only be called a cavern-like atmosphere that’s cozy, not cold.
Thirteen Food and Beverage (Cafe 13), Cambridge (Galt)
Another 40-year institution, Thirteen sits at the corner of Main and Water. While perhaps as much restaurant – with a street-side patio – as anything, there is a pub vibe in the front of the dining room. The menu serves traditional pub fare with a few interesting forays into other cuisines and more than a dozen Ontario craft beers.
The space is relatively small, but the beer “Bible” is massive (available pre-Covid-19). If you could only pick a handful of pubs with outstanding beer selections – at about 40 taps and close to 60 bottles from around the province and around the world – The Elbow would be among the top.
And the food rivals that: owner Harold Kroeker loves to cook (he grinds his own meat for hamburgers) and makes virtually everything in-house. From ketchup to braised onions and Reuben eggrolls, here beer is a cooking ingredient – even in the special ice creams they make.
Malt and Barley House, Kitchener
Malt and Barley, in the Williamsburg neighbourhood, has pub favourites but as well a touch of East Coast community; that includes a lobster roll, “Newfie” fries and the “Halifax Classic” – a Halifax-style donair of seasoned shaved meat and sweet sauce.
Morty’s Pub & Patio, Waterloo
Simply put, Morty’s is a nearly four-decade pub institution in the region, especially when it comes to sports – and that gets ratcheted up a notch when it’s their neighbour Wilfrid Laurier University playing.
They serve an awful lot of very popular wings on the massive new patio, rest assured; however, Morty’s is about community, according to owner Jay Taylor.
“We are a unique place where all ranges of society, race and gender gather as friends and make memories,” he says. “Almost all our food is made from scratch daily, but we are equally proud of the fact that many of our staff have worked with us for decades.”
Ernie’s Roadhouse, Cambridge (Hespeler)
Ernie’s has seen a recent renovation which warms it up and adds to the family-friendly atmosphere, according to co-owner Nicole Borysiewicz. The kitchen puts up classic pub fare with from-scratch preparation: burgers, Wing Wednesdays, pizza, ribs and Fish Fridays. Prior to the lockdown, they had 16 local beers on tap and are rebuilding that as business grows. There’s a large enclosed patio.
Ernie’s will be representing Waterloo Region and Hespeler in the Lone Star State soon, too.
“Our Chef, Rick Duffy, is headed to Dallas in early November to compete in the World Food Championships at Fair Park,” says Borysiewicz.
Have a wee dram and a bite to eat (scran) at this public house in a newer commercial plaza; inside there’s an older Scottish-pub feel, something that was the goal of co-owners Dave Hutchison, who hails from Scotland, and Sabrina Hutchison.
“We wanted to bring a sense of family and community to small-town Ontario,” says Sabrina Hutchison. “Our most popular dish is the house-made Scotch egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded, fried and served with local Mountainoak Gouda and our signature Scran dip.”
There’s single-malt Scotch, craft beer and other pub fare that includes the egg and Rabbie Burns Supper, as well as breaded pickle spears, nachos and chicken wings.
And perhaps deserving of a category on their own – again, it’s the idiosyncrasy and unique quality that counts – are country pubs.
While they may have the chops to warrant being aligned with the classic “Spotted Dick” pubs of the England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales of yore, many public houses and taverns in the region’s townships maintain a touch of our Germanic and Pennsylvania-Dutch heritage too.
The Commercial Tavern, Maryhill
Currently closed, but this 1854 tavern was a stalwart public house when it came to country music.
The Baden Hotel Tavern and Restaurant
Popularly known as EJ’s, the pub began operations in 1874 and now is open for patio and take-out. Their specialty is what they call “country road-house food.”
Kennedy’s, St. Agatha
Now open for take-out, dine in or dinner on their patio, Kennedy’s plays its part as a contributor to the Waterloo County Fare found in the Townships – that includes rolled ribs and pig tails.
The Old Heidelberg Restaurant & Tavern, New Hamburg
It’s been a busy place since it started life as a stage-coach stop in the 1800s. It’s the place to go for classic roadhouse eats like battered mushrooms, but also “Waterloo County Fare:” schnitzel, pigtails, smoked pork hocks (from Stemmler’s just down the road) and country sausage.