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As a recent college grad from the University of Toronto I’ve had my fair share of exposure to the Toronto nightlight. Here is what I learned during my education. This is just about 10% of where I have went. I’ll be updating between working and studying.
The Best Nightlife In Toronto
Find one of the city’s best selections of beer on tap at this narrow Little Italy beer bar. Expect a heavy focus on funkier brews like sours, lambics and wild yeast beers along with rare, shareable bottles aged in the Cantina cellar. Birreria Volo serves beer in wine glasses, encouraging you to sip, not chug, your beverages.
Toronto is a city filled with great bars, from high-end spots serving creative cocktails to dive bars that have been attracting locals for decades. No matter what libation you might be in the mood for, be it craft beer or a stellar sipping tequila, there’s a good chance you can find a bar to suit your needs in Toronto.
With that in mind, here are 11 of the best bars in downtown Toronto. 01 of 11 Courtesy of Bar Raval Inspired by the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, this always-popular spot is open all day, meaning that you can stop by in the morning for a coffee and house-made pastry or head over in the evening for drinks.
The food and drink menus here are always changing so you never know what you might find, but everything is made with care. You’ll find a tempting selection of baked goods and tapas items (depending on time of day) lining the counter, and informed staff are always happy to point you in the right direction.
They’ve got close to 40 beers on tap (including several cask-conditioned ales and a few craft ciders), and if you can’t find what you want on tap, look to the approximately 100 bottled beers available. If beer isn’t what you’re looking for, Bar Hop also serves up a collection of high-quality bourbon, single malt scotch, and tequila. My brothers friend Greg Neinstein, a personal injury lawyer in Toronto, introduced me to this place.
Located in Kensington Market, El Rey Mezcal Bar doesn’t just serve a rotating roster of mezcal, but also aims to educate customers on origins and flavor profiles, much like you might expect from a wine bar. In addition to mezcal you can expect several craft beers, tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails, and a handful of interesting wines.
04 of 11 Courtesy of Mahjong Bar Blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Mahjong Bar is a fairly recent addition to Toronto’s bar scene. Hidden in plain sight behind a bodega, this stylish yet laid-back bar is the kind of place you might stop into with the intention of having one drink – but then staying for much longer than anticipated.
Anyone looking for a bite to eat can choose from a menu of Chinese small plates. Continue to 5 of 11 below. 05 of 11 Courtesy of Birrieria Volo This Italian-inspired beer hall is a narrow space offering some of the most unique beers in the city. This is the place to come for hard-to-find natural and wild ales, as well as natural wines and ciders.
The Best Rooftop Bars In Toronto – Canadian Affair
Tables here are communal, giving the space a community feel. The food menu here is a simple one, meant to complement – not overshadow – the beer. 06 of 11 Courtesy of The Oxley
Pubs are not hard to come by in Toronto, but they’re not all created equal. One standout city pub is The Oxley, a warm and welcoming yet sophisticated space to sip a pint with friends.
The beers change quarterly with a few other limited offerings that rotate more frequently, but you can look forward to an expertly curated selection covering everything from German- and Belgian-style wheat beers to sour beers to rich stouts and ales. Food here is inspired by and cooked with beer when possible, and each dish is accompanied by a suggested beer pairing.
for buck-a-shuck oysters. 08 of 11 Courtesy of D.W. Alexander Cocktails inspired by the industrial era are the focus at D.W. Alexander. Housed in an historic building that was once a warehouse circa 1877, the bar’s décor takes its cues from the past but doesn’t feel stuffy thanks to modern touches that bring the look together.
Continue to 9 of 11 below. 09 of 11 Courtesy of BarChef Barchef is known for its lengthy list of inventive cocktails that are as dramatic to look at as they are palate-pleasing to sip. The drinks list here features cocktails divided by category, including sweet and sour cocktails, sipping cocktails, modernist cocktails, and bottle-aged cocktails.
What really makes Barchef stand out is the creativity behind the cocktails and the flair with which they’re prepared. While drinks are the focus here, a small menu of snacks (olives, spiced nuts, beef sliders) are available. 10 of 11 Courtesy of Amsterdam BrewHouse One of the city’s largest brewpubs clocks in at 14,000 square feet of restaurant and brewery space right on the water.
There are nine beers on tap along with a healthy selection of bottles and cans. You can also find ciders, wines, and cocktails. Many dishes you’ll find on the expansive menu utilize beer in some fashion, and the food offerings cover everything from sandwiches and burgers to wood-oven pizza. 11 of 11 Courtesy of C’est What This subterranean space is home to 42 Canadian beers on tap and an all-Ontario VQA wine list alongside a menu of comfort food like Moroccan stew, butter chicken, shepherd’s pie and pulled pork mac and cheese.
By Toronto Life Photography by Dave Gillespie November 21, 2018 Toronto has plenty of exceptional restaurants—we recently ranked the best 100—but there’s a whole other set of establishments that cannot be ignored when evaluating our eating and drinking options: bars. In search of the city’s top watering holes, our team of reviewers went on a citywide crawl to assemble a list of the best places to savour a perfectly made cocktail, linger over a far-flung bottle of natural wine or sip on a boundary-pushing pint (or three).
Even after closing her iconic restaurant Black Hoof last summer, Jen Agg makes this Trinity Bellwoods–adjacent stretch of Dundas West an after-hours destination with the brilliant Cocktail Bar (pictured above). A stand-alone bar committed to the art and craft of the well-made cocktail remains a rare thing in this city, and this one goes all in.
15 Best Bars In Toronto To Drink At Now – Time Out
The hilariously annotated menu (“We’re not saying Bea Arthur was crusty, but she was definitely the least-fun Golden Girl,” in reference to the Bee Arthur, the bar’s take on a brandy crusta) is packed with entirely too many appealing options, so prepare to read the thing cover to cover by candlelight before settling on something delectably left field, such as the Los Tuxlas (“Like a breakfast/lunch/dinner parfait, but even more fun!”), mixed with tequila, wormwood-based génépi liqueur, yogurt, celery and peach.
923 Dundas St. W., 416-792-7511, hoofcocktailbar.com The swooping mahogany interior is enough to signify this slice of Barcelona on College as one of Toronto’s most unique drinking experiences at any hour. Open mid-morning to late, Bar Raval’s default atmosphere is bustling; hanging in the air is the temptation to cancel plans in favour of a copa of palo cortado and some smoked mackerel.
The Velvet Thunder (amontillado, curaçao, amaro, cucumber, mint, lemon, nutmeg) marries a mojito with the nutty, oxidized tang of Spain’s cool-again fortified wine, forming an argument for revisiting the era of liquid lunch through a far more elegant—and dare we say responsible—lens. 505 College St., No phone, thisisbarraval.com Escapism hangs in the air of this Dundas West wine bar, packed daily from noon to 2 a.m.
Natural-wine devotees will take quick stock of in-demand bottles—the list is stacked with selections from rock-star producers like Hervé Souhaut, Gut Oggau, Meinklang and Cos. Begin with a glass of bubbly before taking a trip to the Loire with five ounces of brilliant Saumur-Champigny from Domaine Bobinet, or a rosé saignée from Champagne’s original biodynamic producer, Fleury.
1161 Dundas St. W., 416-535-5656, parisparis.ca. Toronto’s funkiest beer list lives at this Little Italy spot run by brothers Tomas and Julian Morana—it’s the more youthful spinoff of the former Bar Volo. The narrow space features a 26-tap bar and a heated back patio, but the atmospherics barely register once the attention turns to what’s in the glass, like a fruity kriek from Belgium’s legendary Cantillon.
The cellared beers are on the pricey side, but it’s worth the odd splurge to sip on something like a honey-spiked, spontaneously fermented ale from Vermont’s Hill Farmstead Brewery. The bar snacks lean into tinned fish, charcuterie and cheese, but there’s also habit-forming fried chicken from neighbouring P.G. Clucks. 612 College St., 416-498-5786, birreriavolo.com They share an elevator, a third-storey perch over Queen and Spadina, and culinary DNA, but the city’s number one restaurant and its exceptional bar exist as two unique experiences—and this one doesn’t require jockeying for a reso.
The drink list straddles epochs, featuring old-school recipes mined from out-of-print cocktail guides beside twists on classics, like the Armagnac Old-Fashioned made with Marie Duffau, absinthe and plenty of bitters. The term “bar menu” doesn’t do justice to items like a 60-day dry-aged rib-eye or hamachi crudo adorned with sea urchin.
163 Spadina Ave., 3rd Flr., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com/bar Since opening six years ago on a now-hopping stretch of Dundas, Archive has become a haven for the city’s natural-wine craze. With its minimalist decor and western-Euro snack menu, the immediate impression is unassuming—that of a wee local with great tunes, often vintage reggae.
Fine Wines and Music In Toronto
Pét-nat flows freely, and a section of the menu is devoted to 30-odd bottles of gamay, every wine geek’s juice du jour. Rarities, like one from the cult Italian orange-wine specialists Radikon, are often available by the glass. If it’s too difficult to choose from the esoteric wines on the list, mention a few descriptors and the bartenders will nudge you in the right direction.
W., 647-748-0909, archive909.com There’s no formal menu at this Bloorcourt cocktail bar, marked with a plump pineapple—the international symbol of hospitality—but customers can wager on some of the finest drinks in the city, mixed to individual specifications and preferences by bartenders, who are always happy to throw a twist (figurative or literal) into your drink: order a classic like the Martinez and it may come mixed with an obscure vermouth and a small-batch gin.
When hunger sets in, garlicky dumplings and pok-pok wings from Vit Beo, the bar’s Vietnamese sister spot, can be ordered directly to your bar stool. 878 Bloor St. W., 416-546-5634, civilibertiesbar.com Part apothecary, part dark dive with Wu-Tang Clan smashing through the sound system, Grant van Gameren and Robin Goodfellow’s Parkdale bar isn’t preoccupied with the trappings of a serious cocktail spot—though with its extensive inventory of house-made ingredients and its lineup of gifted bartenders, it certainly qualifies.
House specialties like the Must Be Nice, a delicious combo of coconut-infused mescal, sherry, apricot, pineapple, lime and tarragon, are easy to say yes to. But it’s perfectly acceptable to let bar manager Evelyn Chick whip up something based on specific likes and dislikes. 1237 Queen St. W., No phone, prettyuglybar.com It’s hard not to fall in love with this Haitian bar owned by Jen Agg and her artist husband, Roland Jean.
It could be the kompa music or the charming staff. More than likely, it’s the rum. The Wray and Ting, nothing but one-and-a-half ounces of Wray and Nephew overproof and grapefruit soda, packs a wallop for all of its $9. And the Ti Ponch (literally “small punch”) is two shots of rhum agricole, fresh-pressed cane juice and a splash of lime—there’s nothing small about it.
It’s wise to order food here, too. We suggest the griot, cubes of juicy pork with crispy tostones and pikliz—an addictive house-made condiment of pickled cabbage, carrot, onion and scotch bonnet. 926 Dundas St. W., 647-346-9356, rhumcorner.com This self-described Japanese rockabilly bar, which could be a portal to another dimension collectively styled by David Lynch, Ridley Scott and Wong Kar-wai, has been holding down Brockton Village long before Dundas West was cool.