About Bruce Wine Bar:
Described by Simcoe.com as an ‘off-the-beaten-path gem’, Bruce Wine Bar – or simply ‘Bruce’, as its regulars call it – is tucked behind the TD Canada Trust Bank on Thornbury’s Bruce Street South. Being slightly hidden away has done nothing to affect its reputation, though: extremely popular for many years, on TripAdvisor it holds Certificates of Excellence from 2016 to 2018, was an OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award winner in 2015, it boasts a distinguished Wine Spectator award, and is the number two restaurant out of all the eateries in Thornbury.
Opened in 2011 by trained sommelier Jen Vipond and her husband Steven – who renovated the building Bruce Wine Bar sits in – along with locavore chef Shaun Edmonstone, the eatery is just a short distance from the shores of Georgian Bay and the town’s harbour. Described by Google as a ‘charming spot for wines and gourmet bites’, owner Jen just likes to call it ‘a quirky, West Coast inspired kind of place’ where ‘our values are reflected in our farm-to-fork food, local art displays, outstanding wine and craft beer list, and our indie musicians. We love what we do.’
- Vegetarian-friendly, vegan and gluten-free options
- Great for groups or parties
- On- and off-street parking available
- Does eat in, take out and catering
- Regular live music on Fridays
- Service can be a little slow during peak times
- Interior is on the small side and can fill up quickly
The establishment’s slick exterior is a smart blend of greys and burnt-red coloured wood, with a small outdoor seating area. The interior – split over two levels, with live music played upstairs on Fridays – is modern and tasteful, packed full of wood panels and flooring, with an open kitchen and wood burning pizza oven, while the second level is a bright and airy loft. One OpenTable reviewer described it as having ‘great design, ambience and vibe!’ and as a ‘jewel by the lake.’
The Bruce Wine Bar menu covers lunch and dinner, with the cuisine described as ‘American (new), pizza and vegetarian’. Simcoe.com states the selection of food is seasonal and offers weekly specials paired with particular wines, while the majority of the produce is sourced either locally or from the restaurant’s four thousand square foot garden where myriad herbs, vegetables and fruits are grown on-site. Shaun Edmonstone, the co-owner and chef, makes most of the products from scratch, from curing his own bacon to producing pâtés and even making the house ketchup.
The menu itself is varied with appetisers such as wood-fired focaccia or crispy jalapeno and garlic polenta, handmade wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches including a local grass-fed beef burger or the ‘big salad’, and mains such as red wine braised boneless short rib or cauliflower chickpea Panella. Bruce Wine Bar also offers an array of alcoholic and soft drinks, as well as cheese and dessert selections, while the wine list – as you would expect from a qualified sommelier – is extensive and even offers a range of reds and whites from Ontario and British Columbia.
Online reviews for Bruce Wine Bar lean heavily towards the positive, with one Facebook user describing it as having ‘excellent food, friendly staff, very efficient food service, cool interior and perfect dining atmosphere’, while another patron took to Zomato to state ‘This is by far the best restaurant in the Collingwood/Thornbury area that I have been to. Always interesting and delicious food. I have been back several times now, and I've never had a negative experience or thing to say other than you need more seats!!’. There are some negative comments, such as one Google user bemoaning the fact that ‘Service (is) so fast that you feel rushed’, while a one-star review on TripAdvisor states ‘We waited a very long time for a pizza and a burger. The pizza toppings were okay, but the dough was awful. It was tough and flavourless.’ It is quite typical for the owners to respond politely to any criticism with an offer for the reviewer to return to Bruce and try them again to see if they have improved.
Bruce Wine Bar takes bookings, welcomes walk-ins, offers a takeaway service and also provides catering for events. Reservations are recommended as the place is very popular. As well as the live music on Fridays, it hosts an Open Mic night each Wednesday where musicians, poets and performers can take to the stage. Opening hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 11.30 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday 11.30 am to 10.30 pm.