Tried and True:
- Bar Raval: Calling this place a Spanish tapas restaurant would be underselling this spectacular architectural stunner that serves dark and moody cocktails and (most of) their gourmet food in tins.
Potential drawback: Most of the restaurant is standing room or tiny table only.
- BarChef: This is one of my absolutely favourite bars in Toronto. Is a $35 molecular gastronomical cocktail called “Spring” served in a flower pot and poured over with pine-infused liquid nitrogen a bit pretentious? Sure. But it is incredible still. Potential drawback: It is extremely dark in here.
- Midfield Wine Bar: There’s more wine than food, but if you love the former, you’re going to have a fun evening here. This place is an unpretentious sommelier favourite. Potential drawback: The vibe is extremely mellow.
- Birreira Volo: A narrow, cozy beer hall that gives you the feeling of stumbling across a hidden gem on your Italian backpacking travels. Owned by brothers Tomas and Julian Morana, this is a twist on their original Bar Volo (which is also good). Potential drawback: Only a few tables, and they are mostly communal.
- Oddseoul: The Ossington Strip Korean-fusion snack food and cocktail menu will make you glad you stopped by. I often come here before going to other restaurants on the Ossington Strip. Potential drawback: The restaurant is really hard to find on purpose (look for the name on the mailbox).
- The Broadview Hotel: This is a stylish addition to the East End that is excellent for events and summer night gatherings that require excellent canapés. Potential drawback: You may have to compete with existing events.
- Goods & Provisions: This Leslieville spot may be small, but it boasts an amazing cocktail menu and great food (oysters, fried chicken, scallop crudo) to go with it.
Potential drawback: This place is pretty small.
- 416 Snack Bar: A very cool, laid back spot with great food and fits the Toronto brand.
Potential drawback: They refuse to give you utensils (not a joke).
- Famous Last Words: One of my friends loves this booked-themed cafe/bar so much, she closed it down for her (delightful) engagement party. If literature and literature-themed cocktails tickle your fancy, you should consider a visit here. Potential drawback: It’s more suited for a quiet evening than a rowdy one.
- Coffee Oysters Champagne: This is a “real” but fairly accessible speakeasy in Toronto’s Entertainment District and a fun experience for those looking for a whimsical experience. Check out their website for more information and to make sure you know what you are getting into. Potential drawback: If you’re looking for a low-stakes bar, go somewhere else. This is the place you come to be surprised and get taken into random rooms for some jazz music or tarot card readings.
- Walrus Pub & Beer Hall: This is the bar that I would recommend going to for a drink with a colleague or after a conference if you are already in the Financial District. There are ping pong tables downstairs. Potential drawback: It is incredibly busy during happy hour on Thursdays and Fridays.
- The Queen and Beaver: This is a proper British pub on Elm Street with a super cozy second floor, great for watching sports and grabbing fish and chips with mushy peas and sticky toffee pudding. Potential drawback: If you don’t love football (soccer), you should probably steer clear during big games.
- Soluna: This recommendation comes with a big asterisk. The food (think ceviches and grilled meats with fancy flowers and flourishes) is actually great here, and the entertainment is fun (for some). Potential drawback: it is a very confusing establishment for so many reasons. You might have club bros in one corner, and then a grandmother’s family birthday party in the other. Do your research and planning!
- Shameful Tiki Room: If you’ve ever wanted an excuse to share a large bowl of spiked punch with eight of your closest friends, surrounded by tiki torches and dry ice, this is the place to do it. Potential drawback: The food is not amazing, but it is a very fun experience.
- dbar: If you are feeling fancy, the Four Seasons’ swanky lounge and the downstairs nightcap spot for Café Boulud, is the place to be. Potential drawback: It is. Expensive.
- Bar Hop: This craft beer focused bar has been a saving grace for finding a spot on King West where you can show up without stilettos, and still get good snacks past 10:00 PM. They’ve just opened up a third location. Potential drawback: You can actually sit for a long time at a table here, which means you may have to wait awhile for a spot.
Last updated: July 2023