Get off at Spadina station and turn left on Madison Street. Walk in through the alleyway and head up the red staircase. Try not to get lost as you look for a washroom.

The Madison Avenue Pub, better known amongst students as “the Maddy,” is one of the most popular hangout spots for U of T students. Located on 14 Madison Avenue, this pub is only a short walk away from campus and has achieved iconic status within the U of T community for its music and unique interior design.

The Varsity spoke with manager Steve Dumbrova about the Maddy’s enduring popularity with students. The main reason for this reputation, he believes, is all the different themed floors within the pub.

Comprising six British-style pub counters inside three Victorian mansions, the Maddy has many different floors, seating sections and patios, which gives it a maze-like feel. Students can “hang out at the piano bar,” “go to the dance floor and go crazy,” or “go upstairs to play a game of pool,” Dumbrova described. 

Toronto’s melting pot

Self-described as “Toronto’s melting pot,” the Maddy is a good place for students to create new friendships. The Varsity spoke to U of T student Lauren De Luca about her experiences at the Maddy. De Luca stated how she went to the pub for the first time last year after she began in-person learning. She was struck by the multiple floors and crowds of students, which made for an “exciting and fun atmosphere.”

Aside from the nightlife, the Maddy hosts a range of other events, including “Greek life night” on Mondays and chess nights on Wednesdays. Soccer fans can also come to watch Champions League matches — especially Manchester United (ManU) fans, since the official ManU Supporters’ Club of Canada has designated it as Toronto’s official ManU home base. As a Barcelona fan myself, watching soccer at the Maddy can be quite painful. 

Dumbrova also noted that students can look forward to a live band play during Saint Patrick’s Day weekend later this month.

A community staple

The Maddy has been serving students for generations. The pub was first opened up by owners Dave and Isabel in 1983, initially to serve the Annex, but became an instant hit.

With their growing popularity, Dave and Isabel began buying out the different floors — Steve recounts how the piano bar used to be a dentist’s office — before also buying out the neighbouring houses.

De Luca also explains how she first heard of the Maddy from her parents, who frequented the pub in their own days as U of T students. De Luca said that her parents recall how it was the go-to spot to hang out after late classes.

Food and Drinks

The Maddy’s menu has a diverse array of meals. Patrons can get the Blackened Salmon for $19.47 or the voodoo chicken for $13.93, amongst other mains and shareables. The food is also relatively cheap. For example, the classic pub burger and salad at the Maddy cost $14.15, whereas insurance provider Apollo estimates that the average meal at a Toronto pub or restaurant is roughly $25. Dumbrova also recommends the butter chicken poutine. 

However, the Maddy is probably best known for its drinks menu. There are various beer cans and bottles, along with draft beer. Some of the more interesting cocktails include the Blue Hawaiian and Love Potion, each for $11.85. There’s an assortment of red and white wine for those feeling more fancy. The menu also includes a “TMU” shot and a “UofTEA” shot in case students want to drink their pain away. I have not yet tried the U of TEA myself, but I may or may not do so after final exams. 

Dumbrova explained that the Maddy team is always monitoring social media for the latest trends — for example, when Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila came out, it became an instant bestseller at the Maddy. Tequila, in general, remains Maddy’s current most popular drink. Dubmrova said the bar goes through “about 65 bottles of brand tequila” weekly. 

How does the Maddy stay profitable with low prices and no entry fee? Dumbrova said it comes down to keeping their staffing efficient. “We’re careful with labour, we watch everything,” he said. For example, he makes sure not to have too many staff working when the pub is not busy. Dumbrova also pointed to keeping their menu small to give the pub fresh ingredients and lower prices. 

Altogether, the Maddy is a hallmark of the U of T student experience — and who knows, maybe I’ll get to watch Barcelona lift the Champions League trophy there someday.