Toronto’s locals are neighbourhood strongholds where regulars mix with visitors over cheap pints, service you can bet on, and casual vibes.
These are Toronto’s neighbourhood locals.
Brothers Ben and Jack Wilkinson’s keeps on Dundas Street West have the market cornered for cheap, community- and artist-oriented watering holes in post-prohibition Junction. Junction City Music Hall is a dive with a miniature arcade’s worth of vintage pinball and arcade games, while Hole in the Wall keeps locals guessing with menus that change weekly. Both emphasize craft brews and live music.
Head north on Roncy. Next to neighbourhood indie theatre the Revue, the Local is a perfect, quiet spot to handle the front end of your dinner and a movie date, while Loons Restaurant & Pub and its deep patio offer a chill spot to kick back on a Muskoka chair and catch up with friends over the game.
Options abound for cozy, eccentric locals in Parkdale. Motel flies in the face of West Queen West’s boutique art hotels, Pharmacy pays tribute to its location’s methadone clinic past in name while serving craft beers over the counter, and at Mezzrow’s, you can watch bands through a giant saltwater fish tank.
Formerly home to Portuguese diner Nazare Snack Bar, the Communist’s Daughter is a quaint spot where you can sip on wine and munch on pickled eggs while feeling like you’re living in the cover art from Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. The Ossington is a breathing example of what happens when you let the area creative-types take the keys.
Locals on Dundas West present a unique spectrum of amenities to attract their own crowds: Bathurst Local 322, the neighbourhood’s local by name, skips on most frills (and any preference for draught); Black Dice Cafe is a rockabilly joint that keeps a variety of Japanese whiskies behind the bar; and Dundas Video doubles as a music venue while functioning like a nostalgic living room where you can catch VHS screenings and play all the game consoles you grew up with.
Its commercial strip dotted well enough with watering holes that you don’t have to haul your bags too far for a casual drink, in Queen West, you can always duck into the Cameron House, the Done Right Inn, Squirly’s, Tequila Bookworm, or Wide Open for daily drink deals and no pretension.
Flair and funds are king in the city’s entertainment district, so laid back neighbourhood locals can be hard to come by here, but the Old York has something for everyone. Self-described as the “friendliest neighbourhood bar in the world,” it’s a veritable tavern with a well-stocked bar and something for everyone.
Local watering holes in Little Italy have had to work it to survive the neighbourhood’s shifting identity. While Ted’s Collision and Monarch Tavern double as an auto body shop and a music venue, respectively. Cloak and Dagger Irish Pub has more than 20 beers on draught selection.
In U of T’s student enclave, cheap, beer-forward digs like the Pour House and Duke of York get a lot of traffic, but off the beaten Bloor path, the Tranzac (which is an abbreviation of the Toronto Australian New Zealand Club it owes its existence to) is a (most often) quieter spot that also serves as a community hub for area improv musicians.
Watering holes in Kensington Market are as characteristically niche as you’d expect. Ronnie’s Local 069 is a well-stocked punk party that spills out onto Nassau street in the warmer months, while yacht rock is the big cause at kitsch-happy Augusta institution the Boat, featured most prominently every first Friday of the month.
The Comrade is your spot in Riverside. It’s got a fancier vibe than most neighbourhood taverns on this list, but it’s just as accessible. So the décor is more sleek than kitsch, but they have all the menu hallmarks you’d expect, and they do cocktails, too. Queen Street dive bar Hi-Lo plays its music loud and keeps the drinks coming, like a Ted’s Collision for the east end set.
Leslieville’s Roy Public House boasts “a friendly local, owned by locals.” Inside’s a warm, traditional Irish pub with a wide assortment of draught options and Irish whiskeys behind the bar and all the classic nosh on menu.
There are a couple of options out in the Beaches, and they’re not just banking on location. Area pub the Stone Lion put patios on either side of the building to make sure you have plenty of chances to soak in what you came here for anyway, while the Salty Dog is an attraction in itself, the best place to grab a pint of their house lager.
Image via Flickr/Jeff Hitchcock