It might be an understatement to say that I like a good bar. With a good drink, a good atmosphere and good company. It’d also be fair to say that during my 2+ years living in Toronto, Canada, I went to my share of bars (with said good drinks, good atmosphere and good company). So I figured I’d let you in on my very favourite bars in Toronto.
As a preface, Toronto is jam packed with good bars, so this is not an exhaustive list by any means – these five were picked because of quality, of course, but my personal connection with them (which means a few of them are in the Old Town area – but my general top spots for good bars are Trinity Bellwoods area, King/Queen West and Cabbagetown/Leslieville).
So, a brewery rather than a bar, if we’re getting technical, but I don’t think this is the place for technicalities. Simply put, Bellwoods Brewery is one of my favourite watering holes in the world, let alone Canada, let alone Toronto. I truly do love this place, from its signature and rotating beers, the old garage it’s located in, the awesome merchandise it sells (not only does it sell its own beer next door to take home, it’s got posters and clothing – which, of course, I have) to the relaxed but stylised interior, the beautiful patio, the friendly bar staff and the awesome food (even if you’re just getting bar snacks, the fries with their mayo and ever-changing butter with their bread is amazing).
For an “experience”. Barchef is well known in Toronto as a fancy bar with the most excellently made cocktails. It has some of the best drinks I have ever tasted, and if you’re going all out, you have to try one of their Modernist cocktails. Stupidly expensive at $25-45, but honestly very fun if you’re willing to let the price slide (at the cost of sounding pretentious, it’s more than just a cocktail, it’s an “all-sensory experience”. It’s ridiculous but you really can’t help but love the whole faff).
This is for sure a treat yo’self place – I’ve only been a couple of times, one of which was instead of a meal for Valentine’s Day: we got expensive cocktails here then a Chinese takeout (seriously recommended as an idea – best night!).
I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent in this bar. DW Alexander is really still a bit of a secret, mainly due to its slightly hidden location (I mean, it’s just a door off to the side of a main street, but people never seem to know it’s there) but you can expect a good experience every time. It’s got a speakeasy-style vibe, great cocktails and some of the friendliest barmen around.
My top tip: tell them what kind of drink you like and see what they concoct for you. The bartenders are super friendly and easy to chat to, so don’t be afraid to sit at the bar. But don’t be like my boyfriend and I and become some strange sort of regulars and let them convince you into having “just one more”.
Pacific Junction Hotel
Probably not where most people would list for ‘best ever bars in Toronto’, but this was my local for the majority of time in Toronto and you just can’t beat the love for a local watering hole. Pacific Junction Hotel has cheap drinks (mixture of cocktails and so much beer) and food deals (get their poutine spring rolls) as well as a funky sort of vibe, with a colourful patio and endless entertainment upstairs with arcade games, ping pong, and my personal favourite: table ice hockey. Real ice, real miniature hockey sticks and everything.
Apparently I don’t have a picture of Triple A bar so here’s their Instagram…
Triple A Bar
It has three locations, but I always went to the Triple A Bar on Adelaide East in Old Town as it was less than a 5 minute walk from my apartment. It’s advertised as a Texas BBQ restaurant, but the one on Adelaide E has much more of a relaxed pub/bar type feel to it. I loved coming here because its small size felt cozy (even if that meant sometimes it could be pretty busy, so my boyfriend and I made sure we got there early), everything from the bartenders and waiters/waitresses to the food and drink were unfussy but top quality, yet the decor was still aesthetically pleasing and the atmosphere friendly (I’m super put off by places that don’t look or feel nice, in whatever style that might be).
Top tip: everything on the menu – I’m a sucker for the pulled pork sandwich. And if you’re in that mood, the cheap tequila shots.
Honourable mentions go to Sneaky Dee’s for their cheap drinks, trivia nights and avocado spring rolls; The Lockhart for their ‘magical’ theme, Harry Potter paraphernalia and excellent drinks; and Amsterdam Brew House for their giant pretzel, great beer and beautiful outdoor seating by the lake.