Whether you prefer a cozy dive bar, a cheerful brewpub, or a swanky hotel lounge, there’s no shortage of places in Toronto to enjoy a drink. The city’s after-dark scene teems with creative mixologists, innovative drink menus, and settings that tempt you to linger.
Many of Toronto’s best bars invite you to bring both your thirst and your hunger, with top-notch food menus giving you the option to stay for a meal. Read on for OpenTable’s picks of where to go for low-intervention wine—that’s vino produced with minimum interference from the winemaker—perfectly-prepared old fashioneds, or locally brewed ales in Toronto.
Mother Cocktail Bar (West Queen West)
With a focus on high-quality, seasonal ingredients and fermentation techniques, Mother mixes up cocktails that are truly one-of-a-kind. As you might expect at a bar known for experimentation, Mother’s cocktail line-up changes regularly but you can anticipate drinks with intriguing ingredients such as kombucha or caramelised yoghurt. The food menu, just as eclectic, draws on diverse global influences, featuring dishes ranging from duck confit to mushroom and black bean tacos.
Set in the Four Seasons hotel, this posh Yorkville bar features a menu curated by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. With its sleek, minimalist design and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, d|bar is a popular spot for sharing a stunning charcuterie platter and a couple of cocktails before heading upstairs for dinner at Boulud’s other Four Seasons’ venue, Café Boulud. But elaborate entrees such as a top sirloin burger and turkey club sandwich with jalapeño mayo mean it’s also possible to make a night of it at d|bar.
Baro (King West)
Whether it’s in the main floor dining room, second-floor snack bar, or rooftop patio, Baro delivers striking interior design and a buzzy ambiance. The menu is packed with big and bold flavours influenced by a variety of Latin American cuisines—the OG duck chaufa, featuring crispy rice served in a stone bowl topped with duck confit, is a must-order, as are the ceviches. There’s a lengthy list of tequilas, while cocktails channel beach vacation vibes with ingredients such as fresh lime, mango, and coconut water.
Osteria Rialto (Dovercourt Village)
Set in a beautifully restored 1937 Art Deco building, Osteria Rialto’s exceptional menu draws inspiration from regions across Italy. The long wood bar lined with teal blue high-top chairs is an inviting spot to nibble on calamari fritti with squid ink mayonnaise while sipping vino from the restaurant’s ever-changing wine list, which has received nods from Wine Spectator. Eat your way through the menu with plates of handmade pasta and meaty mains such as dry-aged prime steak with Tuscan salt or heritage pork sausage. Opt for a family-style menu Experience in the restaurant’s wine cellar, which doubles as a private dining room, for an especially memorable evening.
Sweaty Betty’s (Ossington)
This much-loved dive bar, which opened in 2004, occupied the Ossington strip long before it became a drinking and dining hotspot. Glowing red lighting and mismatched furniture give the small watering hole a relaxed vibe, while a wood-panelled patio makes it a popular spot for summer sipping. With a simple snack menu of nibbles such as chips, along with unfussy drinks and regular DJ performances to boot, Sweaty Betty’s is a classic destination for an easygoing night out.
Chica (King West)
With a drinks program that pays homage to Spanish flavours, this King West restaurant, which opened doors in April, transports revellers to Barcelona. Bar Chica’s wine list features a mix of traditional varietals and bottles that reflect the country’s emerging winemakers and regions, along with an extensive sherry selection. Cocktails put a fresh spin on classics, with many featuring Spanish-inspired ingredients such as rum infused with Iberico ham fat. Seats along the stylish bar have a prime view of the open kitchen.
Go for the low-intervention wines—but stay for chef Daniel Cancino’s Filipino-influenced fare, which takes the experience at this refined Rosedale bistro to the next level. Though booths are available, the sexy oval bar makes a more pleasing perch. Take in the hand-painted murals as you sip on a Pompeii—a heady blend of gin, marasca cherry liqueur, crème de violette, sherry, and calamansi. Cold bar items such as prawn cocktail with roasted mango chile sauce or tuna kinilaw—a raw seafood dish comparable to ceviche—make worthy cocktail companions.
Paris Paris (Ossington)
Recently moved from Dundas West to a new home on the Ossington strip, Paris Paris’s location may be new—but its stellar wine list remains the same. The restaurant’s latest setting is as bright and airy as its previous edition, complete with a beautiful skylight and light wood furniture. Snacky dishes such as grilled Argentine shrimp, crispy onion wings, and fresh bread with whipped butter pair perfectly with a thoughtful natural wine selection. Those ranging from wine newbies to experienced oenophiles will find something worth sipping here.
BarChef (Queen West)
BarChef’s immersive approach to cocktail-making earned it pioneer status when it first opened in 2008, and the spot continues to set a standard for Toronto mixology today. The Queen West bar’s dark, candle-lit interior sets the stage for an elaborate drinking experience that involves an all-senses-on-deck experience. Cocktails might be served in a smoke-filled bell jar or presented on a platter surrounded by flowers. A short snack menu of dishes such as shishito peppers and chicken croquettes keeps the focus squarely on those showstopping drinks.
Loveless (Dundas West)
This unpretentious, all-day spot on Dundas West transitions from a co-working space during the day to a cocktail bar at night. A buzzy sidewalk patio overlooks Dundas West in the warmer months, while kitschy decor and exposed brick walls lend the interiors an intimate, laid-back vibe. Beers are mainly local, cocktails stick to well-executed classics such as negronis, and acclaimed restaurant Donna’s provides most of the snacks. Loveless is a welcoming spot for non-drinkers, too, offering a large selection of non-alcoholic beverages such as kombucha and seltzer.
Melody Bar at Gladstone House (West Queen West)
A longtime West End favourite for karaoke nights, Melody Bar recently underwent a revamp along with the entire Gladstone Hotel (now known as Gladstone House). Thankfully, the refresh maintained the beloved venue’s dive bar vibe, with black walls and neon accent lighting infusing even more moody drama to the space. The made-over Melody Bar continues to offer a legendary entertainment line-up, with Experiences such as trivia, karaoke, cabaret, and live music hosted on regular nights each week. With a menu of shareable dishes, craft beers, and easy-to-sip cocktails, the spot checks all the boxes required for a fun-filled night out.
Indie Alehouse (Junction)
Opened in 2012, Indie Alehouse was ahead of Toronto’s craft brewery pack. The polished Junction brewpub continues to scoop up wins at the World Beer Awards and Canadian Brewing Awards for its range of approachable and adventurous brews. There are around 20 rotating types on tap at any given time, including the Alehouse’s signature Italian pilsner, Marco Polo, and West Coast-style IPA Instigator. Crowd-pleasing dishes such as barbecue smoked pork nachos and Detroit-style pizzas go down easy alongside a flight of beers.
Jessica Huras is a Toronto-based food and drink writer.
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