Speakeasies were all the rage during the prohibition era, where flappers would dance the Charleston to swinging jazz while drowning themselves in free flowing, illegal alcohol.
Today, even though those days are long gone, underground watering holes are still available to satisfy your inner Gatsby. These are some of those establishments. Please don’t hesitate to tell us what we might have missed or never heard of as they are hidden, after all.
Escobar | 606 King Street West
If you know your King West Latin eateries, you should be familiar with Valdez. Behind the freezer door, there’s access to South American drinks, pisco and tequila that is aptly named after the late Colombian drug lord and Entourage story arc, Pablo Escobar.
Junction City Music Hall | 2907 Dundas Street West
Follow the sketchy, steep staircase off Dundas Street West toward a concert venue with great eats. They recently celebrated their first birthday, but continue to host some of the most interesting and provocative independent music acts. Also, their Tuesdays To Tape initiative to record a live album for free is a total game changer.
The Libertine |- 1307 Dundas Street West
Glowing neon advertisements for tarot cards will guide you toward this carnavalesque Dundas Street West location. Owner Forrest Kendlbacher has said that it is the “worst kept secret” in Toronto and reservation lists are nearly always packed, but if you have the opportunity – don’t deny yourself. Their cuisine is served up by Momofuku alum Leonie Lilla with deep fried chicken to enjoy while you wait for the in-house fortune teller.
The Temperance Society | 577 College Street
This is a mixologist paradise located above Sidecar. They have some of the finest concoctions onsite that will scratch your Harry Potter-obsessive itch. Important to note: no cellphones, no smooching and no cosmopolitans.
York Station | 100 Front Street West
The Fairmont Royal York is an 85-year-old majestic hotel that initially served as a Chateau building for the wealthy and elite that traveled along the Canadian Pacific Railways to commemorate its luxurious inception. Tucked away on the mezzanine level is a train-themed bar that is built to simulate that nostalgic transportation. It has been run by the same bartender for decades and is only open during weekdays.
(Photo from The Libertine’s Facebook)