With such a bounty of bars in Toronto, it’s not easy to decide where to grab a drink, which is why it’s just as difficult for us to pick out some of the city’s best bars. But if we have to choose, there are definitely some standouts, and these old-and-new hangouts are all worth braving the brisk autumn temperatures for.
Shameful Tiki Room
If late-fall’s never-ending darkness and cool temperatures have you down, head to Shameful Tiki Room for an evening escape. The bar’s all-black exterior is unassuming, but when you step inside you’ll find a dimly lit room decked out in bamboo and wicker. Serving Polynesian-influenced snacks and rum-infused drinks with names like Mystery Bowl and The Jungle Bird, Shameful Tiki Room is like a little piece of paradise right in the heart of Parkdale.
Track & Field
Track & Field has repeatedly been named one of the city’s best new bars, and once you witness the unique concept, it’s not hard to see why. It’s the city’s first-ever lawn games bar, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s no small feat to pair craft beer and cocktails with bocce ball and shuffleboard without giving it a Dave & Buster’s vibe, but that’s exactly what owners Dustin Keating and Nickie Minshall have done.
The Second City
If you’re looking for a night of comedy, decades-old Second City is the obvious choice. It’s the city’s premier comedy venue, best known for its sketch and improv shows. They host shows nearly every night of the week, which consistently receive positive reviews. The best part, though? General admission is only $14 per person on Mondays and $25 all other evenings, so you’ll never second-guess whether your night out was worth it.
If you rarely venture north of Bloor, Big Crow is more than worth it (and will have you wondering why you didn’t head there sooner). The entrance might not be obvious at first, but as soon as you spot the alley next to Rose and Sons, the smell of smoked barbecue will pull you in. Once you step inside the covered patio and see long, communal picnic tables, flames spitting off the grill, and cowhides covering the seats, you’ll know you’ve arrived.
If you’ve been dealing with Bar Volo withdrawals since the famed establishment closed its doors to make way for a condo development, a visit to Little Italy’s Birreria Volo might be just what you need. Tomas and Julian Morana, the brothers behind Bar Volo, opened the new bar earlier this year and it’s been met with positive reviews. The 10-foot-wide bar focuses on barrel-aged and saison brews, served alongside traditional Italian snacks like sardines and a Sicilian roasted vegetable peperonata dish.
Midfield Wine Bar
We’re not sure about you, but as soon as the temperatures start to drop, we start to crave wine. Bars with good by-the-glass lists have proliferated throughout the city, and Midfield Wine Bar has become a must-visit for oenophiles in the city. With a wine list featuring three-ounce and half-glass pours for tasting, affordable prices, a low-key vibe, and an eclectic assortment of snacks—from deep-fried cauliflower to arepas—it’s no surprise that Midfield has gained notoriety since it opened in 2012.
This low-key bar is located along a relatively quiet strip of Bloor, near the corner of Bloor and Symington Streets. With the owners of Reposado and Communist’s Daughter behind it, you can bet the cozy, candle-lit space has the perfect combination of grunge and sophistication. It’s the perfect place to head with a friend or two if you just feel like hunkering down for a few hours and ordering some well-crafted yet affordable cocktails. They also offer a fair-sized list of craft beers, tequilas, and whiskeys, as well as a menu of small plates to snack on.
It’s hard to stay in when there are so many great bars in the city, but especially if you and your friends all live in shoebox-sized apartments. If you’re craving more of a house-party vibe, head to Queen West’s Apartment 200, which has been staged to look like (a very luxe) loft. Along with drapes, plants, and couches, the residence-inspired lounge is fitted with a set of couches, arcade games, and even a few pool tables.
Junction City Music Hall
As you head in through the bar’s narrow hallway and steep set of stairs, you’ll feel like you’re entering some sort of secret, which isn’t surprising, since it’s owned by brothers Ben and Jack Wilkinson, who also run the equally hip and inconspicuous bar down the street known as Hole in the Wall. This friendly, local establishment is filled with vintage arcade games and serves a fair selection of craft beers, mixed drinks, and cocktails. (Their bartenders might even whip you up something special if you’re willing to ask.) As for the “music hall” part, it’s a small stage at the back, where they host a mix of events, like “Good Enough Karaoke” and local bands.
Part restaurant, part micro-brewery, part music hall, there’s something to appease everyone at Burdock. This relatively new hangout opened last summer, and has since made a major contribution to Bloordale’s growing reputation as an up-and-coming neighbourhood. The Music Hall hosts live bands most nights of the week (there’s no consistent schedule) and seats an intimate crowd of less than 100. The small venue is also completely soundproofed, which means if you’re interested in a more mellow evening slinging back a few house brews next door, you can do that too.
Image courtesy Bigcrowbbq via Instagram