Sometimes bars are precisely where you’d least expect to find them, and Toronto has a small number of them stowed in places usually reserved for service vehicles, fire exits, and the more discrete incidents of public urination: alleyways. The stuff of stories passed down from one friend to another, these hidden bars tap into the negative space on Google Maps, all the while contributing to secret understandings of the city’s darkest corners and arteries and overhauling public imaginations of urban space. The best ones haven’t entered public consciousness yet, but we rounded up the ones that have so you don’t have to look too hard.
BAR FANCY | 1070 QUEEN ST. W.
You’ll have better luck finding this West Queen West bar at night, when its toothy neon tiger face glows above an alley just east of Dovercourt. But that’s about as fancy as it gets. This is not to suggest the place is a dive by any means – the joint venture from owners/chefs Jesse Fader (Fabbrica) and Jonathan Poon (Chantecler), Bar Fancy just has more casual aspirations; it’s a place that’s happy to bestow modest snack bar fare like fried chicken with butter and Wonder Bread and a small handful of draft beers on its guests.
ADELAIDE HALL | 250 ADELAIDE ST. W.
Previously a two-floor establishment that afforded concertgoers balcony sightlines from directly above the stage (and once a home to CHUM-FM and Limelight Nightclub), the space at 250 Adelaide St. West has seen a number of changes over the years. In that same spirit, after a small electrical fire at the end of 2014, this year Adelaide Hall received some major renovations that forfeited its balcony and its Adelaide West entrance, also reducing the space to a single-floor concert cave – albeit a sleeker one designed to resemble a vintage recording studio – and today event goers access the perhaps now awkwardly named space via an alley off Duncan Street.
GREEN ROOM | 296 BRUNSWICK AVE.
Popular amongst students and the neighbourhood weekend warriors for its cheap beer and late-night bar grub, this two-storey Annex dive bar matches its clientele with some pretty well lined out priorities. The stuff of some notoriety, the Green Room is an establishment that is well known to health inspection authorities, and it’s actually been shuttered for repeat infractions in the past. So yes, it’s true that entry does come with some assumed risk. But if you can get past the yuck factor, then stumble in through the alley behind the Poor Alex Theatre and be your own judge.
F-STOP | 420A WELLINGTON ST.
Keeping things classy late into the night, F-Stop is a tight, upscale dance club on Wellington Street (access it through the alley off of the south side of King Street between the Firkin Pub and Rodney’s Oyster Bar) in Toronto’s Fashion District, that has become a popular stop on TIFF celeb hunters, club hoppers, and extended last call chasers’ night crawls. Emphasizing cushy VIP booths, a private outdoor patio, and bottle service, it’s the kind of spot that’s heavy on the hedonism and lays the luxury on thick, so expect big beats from their state-of-the-art sound system.
(Main Photo by Renée Suen via Flickr)