Here in Toronto, summer is affectionately known as “patio season.” It seems there’s nowhere better to wile away the hours with a few old friends than on a patio with a pint. Luckily, a number of Toronto restaurant owners have caught on and created some seriously cozy outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed year ’round. So if you’re hoping to revel in the season just a little longer, we’ve rounded up some of the city’s best winter-proof patios.
This one-of-a-kind patio is definitely worth the trek to Dupont and Davenport if you don’t live in the neighbourhood—especially if you’re a meat-eater. And when you step inside you’ll feel like you travelled a whole lot further north of downtown than that. In winter, Big Crow’s pine interior is heated with lamps, wool blankets, and adorable lanterns that make the space feel a bit like a backcountry lodge. Then there’s the communal picnic tables and hardy barbecue on the menu that really accentuate its cool, outdoorsy vibe.
Craving a campfire or a little time in a tent, but can’t wait until summer? Drake Sky Yard provides the ultimate winter escape, right in the heart of the city. This chic patio on West Queen West is given a rustic touch in the winter with stump stools and vintage skis and toboggans. You can stay warm by cozying up in one of the colourful tents lining the patio, or better yet, sipping a cocktail next to the fire pit in the middle—that is if you’re willing to brave the cold in the first place.
No matter what the weather is like outside, you can indulge in dinner and drinks on The Pilot’s rooftop bar, otherwise known as The Flight Deck. Its heaters and retractable awnings give you the chance to take in the icy city’s skyline in comfort. And even though The Pilot is located in one of Toronto’s swankiest neighbourhoods, this low-key pub is anything but pretentious.
If you tried getting a spot on Bellwoods’ patio this summer, you may have had to settle for a seat inside if not move on to one of the many other trendy hangouts along Ossington. If that’s the case, why not try to get a table at this popular craft-brew pub in the off-season? When the weather turns, you can enjoy one of their custom creations under a beautiful awning, with powerful heat lamps to keep you cozy and some string lights to add ambiance.
This Parkdale favourite’s backyard patio has covered sections and heaters so you can enjoy its fun, retro vibe all year long. If you’ve never been, you’ll be surprised by the patio’s size, which makes it the perfect place to head with a big group of friends. Along with heat and ample space, the karaoke is another draw, though the pub’s cheap drinks and wings are often enough to keep regulars hanging out for hours.
One of Mexico City’s top chefs moved to Toronto to create a tapas menu of authentic, modern Mexican fare at this Distillery District restaurant. But the south-of-the-border cuisine isn’t the only thing that’s likely to heat things up at El Catrin—the atmosphere is warm, both inside and out, which means you’ll have no problem pretending it’s summer. The restaurant’s sprawling patio isn’t only home to colourful chairs and flashy light fixtures, it also has its own bar, equipped with Canada’s largest mescal and tequila selection, and an open fire pit.
Okay, so maybe this one isn’t exactly a patio, but a yurt may be an even better place to spend a cold evening—especially this handmade, heated outbuilding in the east end. The Ceili Cottage’s owners were looking for a way to utilize their outdoor space during Toronto’s unpredictable winter season. For them, a yurt seemed like the best solution, and we couldn’t agree more! To insulate the structure, which is banded in horsehair, the frame is wrapped in layers of sheep’s wool and cotton canvas. This unique space is fully licensed, heated, and furnished to seat up to 40 people.
Electric Mud—a barbecue counterpart to the now famed taco joint around the corner known as Grand Electric—is tiny inside, so naturally, it can fill up fast. Luckily, if there’s no room inside the restaurant’s plywood walls, covered in vintage signs and taxidermy, the party can extend to the patio. In the colder months, the outdoor space is covered with an industrial-strength canvas ceiling and lined with clear plastic walls. But if that’s not enough to keep you warm, Electric Mud’s extensive bourbon selection paired with their non-traditional slow-smoked ribs might!