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Toronto’s Best Dive Bars

It’s easy to forget that this was the town where the Viletone’s Steve Leckie picked fights and threw beer bottles and where Igor Kenk stole his bikes. The real estate values in this city have changed a lot of things, but now and again you’ll find a bar that’s still around, representing a different time and a different clientele. There’s no such thing as a “best dive bar” and a separate list needs to be made for the east end alone, but here’s some mentions for bars that at least come with a little local character.

This place gets number one, if only for the infamous Yelp! review that brought it to the attention of many. If you believe that a good dive bar is aesthetically gruff, where the bathroom is a little scary, and the beer is reasonably priced, then harken over, my friend. Behold a place where there will be no hipsters.

Novo Horizonte Sports Bar
Maybe it would be wrong to call this place a dive, but it’s off the radar. A joint in little Portugal mainly frequented by a Brazilian crowd, the burgers at this place are legend. The X-Everything burger comes with hamburger, chicken, bacon, fried egg, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pieces of corn. If this bar is too friendly, though, feel free to walk over to any of the other local Portuguese bars frequented by grumpy old men.

Online commenters will remind you that, “Stella was where the pimps bought $3.00 Labatts and watched their sketchy hoes walk Bloor @ St. Clarens Ave.” Renovated in 2011, it’s now managed by Ronti Hosen and the curry and beer they serve is quite nice. A dive bar on the up and up, like the neighborhood around it.

Wide Open
wide open
It’s like walking back into the 90s: dim lighting, decent playlist, unbeatable daily specials. Wide Open used to be a straight-up alleyway before someone attached some walls and a roof – and that’s where it gets its rustic charm.

The Imperial
The Imperial has been around for over 70 years, and like the Wide Open, its impressive how this bar has remained in a location where everything around it has been knocked down and revamped. Come for drinks and stay for the random live music.

If you’re in your 20s and wearing a plaid shirt, chances are the proprietor will make you wait outside a bit longer before opening up for 11:00 brunch. But this place is like a blue collar uncle that grudgingly shows love over time, if you show up enough the staff with remember your order and maybe, eventually, your name.

Done Right Inn
dunn right
A dark place to get an old man pint, it might be getting trendier just because that’s the way of Queen West. Nonetheless, it’s a comfortable, laid back spot where there’s usually at least one grey-haired man at the bar, to remind you of old Toronto.

The Gem
This pub has been at Ossington and Davenport for over 25 years now. The service is slow, but the nachos are great. The on-tap selection is limited but they have lots of bottles and cans. Definitely a neighborhood kind of place.

The Abbey
the abbey
They have a decent selection of beer and a big patio, but it’s an off the radar spot where the young and trendy don’t usually show up. A comfortable place where the paint is peeling off the walls and where there’s definitely no pressure to look your best.

The Duke Live
the duke
The Duke Live is an old bar with an old history. After an unfortunate incident in 2008, it feels a bit uncomfortable to recommend this pub, but there is a strong community vibe in this place and the karaoke night here has won a few grizzled fans.

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