Bars for Toronto Nightlife
Whether you’re a Toronto resident looking for a bar to hang out with friends or you’re visiting Toronto for business or pleasure, you may find that sifting through Toronto’s myriad bars is an exercise in option overload. The following eight Toronto bars cover all possible descriptives including upscale bar, sports bar, friendly bar, casual bar, quasi-dive bar, rowdy bar and hole-in-the-wall.
The Keg on York Street, just north of Adelaide, 416-703-1773, is one of the busiest after-work bars in Toronto. The darkly-lit bar area is particularly crowded on Thursday evenings, a favourite cocktail night for Toronto office workers. You’ll find a mix of suits and more casually dressed folk, big screen TVs broadcasting Leafs’ or Jays’ games and a generally down-to-earth experience at this Keg, with patrons in the 25-45 age range. The management’s desire to please customers is bar none. This is not the place for an intimate tête-à-tête, however, as the Top 40 music, particularly in the bar area, can impede conversation. Get there by 5 p.m. if you want to claim any square footage of real estate.
If you’re looking for über cool and über chic, the Thompson Toronto Lobby Bar at 550 Wellington Street West is the place. The bar exudes refined elegance mixed with postmodern decor and attracts well-heeled, well-groomed young businessmen after work. Bar service is surprisingly without airs and professional. The modern, hard-backed-sofas suggest that this is not the place to let loose; there are other bars along King Street West where you can get crazy.
Getting a table during Leafs’ games at this deluxe Toronto sports bar at 15 York Street is going to take a reservation made several weeks in advance (416-815-7325) unless you arrive on the arms of the city’s corporate power-brokers. If you make it in, however, you’ll have a blast watching the Toronto Maple Leafs on the largest HGTV screens in Toronto [one in fact is two-storeys high]. Drink prices are expensive; however the sports bar fare is surprisingly tasty and the portions are large so that should nullify the long wait to get into what ESPN has called North America’s best sports bar.
What’s fun about Spice Route at 499 King Street West is the Asian decor, rich tapestries and exotic artifacts including a waterfall behind the bar that suggest an other-worldly encounter is about to be experienced. Spice Route gains full marks for artistic ambiance, but falls a notch or two in the friendly hospitality category as there is a mildly pretentious air permeating throughout the room. Nevermind. Simply gather up your friends for after-work drinks and create your own fun in this ultra-lush haven.
Mill Street Brewery has a prime location at 55 Mill Street in Toronto’s Historic Distillery District, as well as its own premium Ontario handcrafted beer. The spacious room and friendly vibe of this Toronto beer pub is tailor-made for large groups, which may account for why this brew-pub is busy most nights and weekends, notwithstanding the fact that there are 13 beers on tap. The food is above-average for pub fare, but the beer is what keeps the crowds coming. Call 416-681-0338.
As its name suggests, Pravda Vodka Bar at 44 Wellington Street East, 416-366-0303, will immerse you in a Russian underworld, where lush, red tapestried caverns and alcoves welcome the after-work crowd. The second level is great for schmoozin’ and groovin’ with other 20-, 30- and 40-somethings, but the music does reach a blistering crescendo during the later hours. You name the vodka and they’ll probably have it. Drink prices are comparable to other Toronto upscale bars. Ladies, ditch the jeans in favour of that new dress you just bought on Queen West.
You won’t find fancy cocktails, upholstered chairs or a place to put your feet up at 2Cats, but what you will find (once you get in) is a bar with some of Toronto’s friendliest customers greeting each other shoulder to shoulder in the narrow bar area. If you love singing at the top of your lungs to retro 80s and 90s tunes without someone telling you to shut up, then this is your bar. Located at 569 King Street West (near Brant Street), 416-204-6261, 2Cats attracts the 30+ crowd and the dress code is anything goes. The place doesn’t start heating up until about 11 p.m., but if you get there much later, you may find yourself standing in the obligatory line that admittedly moves fast.
The Communist’s Daughter
This Toronto bar is one that you’re likely to miss driving back and forth along Dundas St. W. looking for it unless you are aware that the bar’s retro front sign reads “Nazaré Snack Bar.” When you do end up locating this bar (at 1149 Dundas St. W., 647-435-0103), what you’ll find is a welcoming atmosphere among the albeit small floor space, cheap food and drinks and a heavily-used jukebox in this eclectic bar that is frequented by Ossington area creative types. Regulars love the live music on weekends and Tuesday nights when the bar closes at 4 p.m.