Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Griffin Gastropub: Bracebridge's Hidden Gem

Up a small cobblestone lane off Bracebridge's Main Street in the heart of Muskoka, is the quaint ivy-covered Griffin Gastropub, run by owners Jed Corbeil and Curt Dunlop, which the duo opened in 2008. A cosy pub with a lovely outdoor patio open during the warmer months, The Griffin is known for offering a great selection of craft beers from small microbreweries, a small but excellent menu and musical events year round.

Griffin Gastropub owners and acoustic folk artists Curt Dunlop and Jed Corbeil, 
who perform with guitar and stand-up bass on Thursday nights

Once a lawyer’s office, the building that houses The Griffin was built in 1920 and was converted into a pub in 1997. After changing ownership a couple times, the pub was purchased in 2008 by childhood friends Dunlop and Corbeil who were looking for a change in their careers. "We bought this out of the love of music and entertaining, not because of any expertise in the field," says Dunlop. Though they may not have had any formal experience running a pub, what they did know was how to entertain people, and both enjoyed inviting friends to their homes and providing great food and drinks. "It’s kind of an extension of that," Dunlop says. "We wanted to create a place where people can come and hang out. It’s a cozy and friendly atmosphere."

The pretty outdoor patio with ivy covered walls and overflowing flower boxes, 
overlooking Chancery Lane

The Griffin sign hangs over the cobblestoned lane that leads up to the gastropub 
from Main Street in Bracebridge

The Griffin’s staff is an extension of the clientele, says Dunlop. They’re passionate people. Some are vegan, others vegetarian. Many are gardeners and they’re environmentally conscious. All are friendly. Hugh, who works behind the bar, makes you feel like you’ve known him for years. Having great staff is one way that The Griffin wanted to stand out. At the time Dunlop and Corbeil bought the pub, there were a couple chain restaurants opening in the area. They were determined to create a unique identity, wanting that reflected in everything from their hand forged cutlery to their unique beer offerings. 

One of the pub's wide selection of local craft beers from Ontario microbreweries

"Getting involved with craft breweries was the first step," says Dunlop, who adds that there was a lot of excitement from the breweries, which were eager to help when the pair took over the pub. Educating people about beer is something The Griffin is eager to offer. “Really, you should be able to go anywhere in the world and say, ‘I want a merlot from Australia.’ Ordering a beer should be similar. You should be able to go somewhere and say, ‘I want a malty beer,’ or ‘I want a German-style wheat beer.’ We’re trying to get people to understand the flavours that they’re looking for in their beers.”

The outdoor chalkboard announces upcoming musical events

Much like a wine suggestion paired for a menu item, The Griffin’s menu has two columns: food suggestions on the left and beer type pairing on the right. There's even a beer suggestion for the dessert offerings. Whether you're interested in exploring the beer options, the menu is equally worth a visit to this  small gastropub, with all of the dishes fresh and made to order. The limited but delicious menu features appetizers like Arancini, Artichoke Dip and home made soups to a selection of pizzas, pastas, pot pies (Chicken or Steak & Mushroom) and burgers — both  Bison and Lamb — as well a two fabulous salads — The Griffin and Chicken Taco Salad with Corn & Bean Salad — and of course their addictive fresh cut fries. Whenever we're on our way up to Muskoka, we always make a point of stopping in Bracebridge for lunch at The Griffin. It's the ideal start to our cottage weekend, and judging by its popularity, it's not our little secret any longer.

Bison Burger with maple bacon, seared apple, and smoked cheddar

The Griffin Salad with goat cheese, mixed greens and addictive curry roasted walnuts

Chicken Pot Pie with puff pastry dome

Griffin fresh cut frites

Taco Salad with grilled chicken breast, goat cheese and Tex-Mex bean salad

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