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30 Essential Toronto Bars That You Need to Visit

30 Essential Toronto Bars That You Need to Visit

Discover the top 30 essential bars in Toronto that you need to visit! From chic wine bars to cozy pubs and lively sports bars, this guide showcases the best of Toronto’s vibrant nightlife. Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast or a craft beer lover, find the perfect spot for unforgettable drinks and experiences.

Toronto’s vibrant nightlife is a tapestry of diverse bars, each offering unique experiences that reflect the city’s eclectic spirit. From hidden speakeasies to lively sports bars, elegant wine bars to cozy neighborhood pubs, the city boasts an impressive array of venues that cater to every taste and occasion. Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast, a craft beer lover, or simply looking for a great place to unwind, this guide highlights 30 essential Toronto bars that you need to visit. Each of these spots has something special to offer, making them must-visit destinations for both locals and visitors alike. Discover the best of Toronto’s bar scene, where unforgettable drinks and unforgettable moments await.

Top Bars in Toronto

1.    Bar Raval

Location: Bar Raval

Bar Raval, inspired by its sibling Bar Isabel, offers an evolving menu of Spanish tapas in a casual, mostly standing-room setting. Helmed by Grant van Gameren, it features a range of offerings from coffee and pastries in the morning to cocktails and conservas at night. The bar’s unique aesthetic, with its swooping wooden design and intimate corners, creates a cozy atmosphere. Diners can enjoy house-baked goods, cold-smoked mussels, squash with romesco, and whimsical snacks like the mushroom tower. Cocktails are creatively presented and named, adding to the venue’s charm.

Bar Raval

2.    Black Dice

Location: Black Dice

Black Dice, known for its 1950s ambiance, offers a wide array of Japanese whisky, sake, and craft beer. Owned by Hideki Saito, the bar combines unique beverages with vintage decor, including personal items from Saito’s collection. The bar features inventive taps made from motorcycle parts, enhancing its retro vibe. Guests can enjoy Japanese-inspired cocktails, light and floral sake, and bar snacks like takoyaki. The establishment’s atmosphere is complemented by vintage televisions and old records spun by Saito, creating a nostalgic yet lively experience.

Black Dice

3.    Cry Baby Gallery

Location: Cry Baby Gallery

Cry Baby Gallery is a hidden cocktail and oyster bar located behind an art gallery. The venue transitions from a brightly lit gallery to a dark, curving bar seating about 14 people. It features reflective wallpaper and bathrooms covered in art. Popular cocktails include the Golden Sombrero and the Pimms Cup, while the food menu offers oysters and spicy olives. The bar was designed by Robert Granicolo and opens at 7 p.m., with the gallery available by appointment.

 Cry Baby Gallery

4.    Civil Liberties

Location:   Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties is an enigmatic bar on Bloor near Ossington, marked by its unassuming exterior with a pineapple sign and the phrase “This must be the place.” Inside, it is lively and known for custom cocktails tailored to customer preferences. Owner Nick Kennedy showcases his bartending skills with creative drinks, surrounded by a decor featuring copper accents and jars of dried ingredients. The bar has a small stage for live music, and its snack menu includes items like hummus and grilled cheese. Prices for custom cocktails are around $15.

Civil Liberties

5.    Sweaty Betty’s

Location: Sweaty Betty’s

Sweaty Betty’s is a long-standing dive bar in Toronto, known for its packed atmosphere over the past 20 years. Managed by May Brand, the bar features maroon walls adorned with flash art, vintage mirrors, and twinkly lights. It primarily serves beer and whisky, including their popular “pickleback” shots. The bar also offers simple cocktails like the Greyhound and Dark & Stormy, alongside vegan-friendly snacks. A back patio, recently renovated, doubles the bar’s capacity, making it a popular spot. Betty’s aims to remain a cultural landmark while embracing new patrons.

Sweaty Betty's

6.    Sneaky Dee’s

Location: Sneaky Dee’s

Sneaky Dee’s is a well-known punk dive bar in Toronto, established in 1990 at Bathurst and College. Famous for its graffiti-covered walls, live punk rock shows, and Tex-Mex cuisine, it has been a cornerstone for Toronto’s alternative scene. Many renowned indie bands, such as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, have performed in its 200-capacity room. The menu features large portions, with the King’s Crown nachos being a standout. Drink options include a range of beers, cocktails, and themed meals named after local bands. Sneaky Dee’s continues to be a vibrant spot for both music and food lovers.

Sneaky Dee's

7.    Communist’s Daughter

Location:   Communist’s Daughter

Communist’s Daughter, affectionately known as “Commie’s,” has been a staple in the Dundas and Ossington area since 2003. Owned by Paul Emery and Patricia Welbourne, the bar aimed to attract a younger crowd to the neighborhood. The cozy, intimate space encourages socializing, often turning strangers into friends. The bar is known for its basic yet creative drink offerings, like the Blackbird shot and Dark and Stormy. Its decor features a collection of dollar bills from around the world and a real jukebox for music selection. The establishment’s name was inspired by a song from Neutral Milk Hotel.

 Communist's Daughter

8.    3 Speed

Location: 3 Speed

3 Speed, located in Bloordale Village, is a cozy and unpretentious bar known for its popular patio. Marked by a simple image of bike gears, the bar offers an inviting interior with exposed brick and twinkly lights. Its menu features affordable and flavorful dishes like the kitchen plate with meats and cheeses, brown sugar salmon, and crispy free-range chicken thigh with mac n’ cheese. The bar focuses on draft beers, aligning with the city’s bike culture. The charming atmosphere and friendly service make it a favorite among locals.

  3 Speed

9.    Embassy

Location: Embassy

Embassy, located in Kensington Market, stands out as a tastefully decorated bar with an impressive beer selection, eschewing common brands like Molson and Labatt for more unique options such as Blanche de Chambly and McAuslan’s Apricot Wheat Ale. The bar’s decor features exposed brick, retro booths, and metallic gold loveseats. The menu, supplied by Freshwood Grill, offers organic sandwiches like steak and Moroccan curry chicken. Embassy is a relaxing spot for those seeking a well-crafted beer in a cozy, understated setting.

Embassy

10. Done Right Inn

Location: Done Right Inn

The Done Right Inn, located near Trinity Bellwoods Park, is a relaxed bar perfect for unwinding. It’s particularly popular in the summer when patrons can enjoy pints on the shaded back patio. Known for its laid-back atmosphere, it provides an inviting spot for casual drinks without the frills.

 Done Right Inn

11. Hole in the Wall

Location: Hole in the Wall

Hole in the Wall is a long, narrow bar with a history dating back to around 1900, located in Toronto. The bar, now run by brothers Ben and Jack Wilkinson, features exposed brick and warm wood tones, offering a cozy atmosphere despite its slender size. The menu includes chic nightly specials like soft scrambled eggs with escargot and spicy Chinatown calamari. Drinks include well-executed classics like a gin sour and seasonal cocktails like the Little Citrus in the Big City. The bar also boasts a rotating list of craft beers and hosts live music nearly every night.

Hole in the Wall

12. BarChef

Location: BarChef

BarChef, co-founded by Frankie Solarik and Brent VanderVeen, pioneered Toronto’s cocktail renaissance with its molecular mixology concept. Known for innovative and detailed cocktails, such as the $45 Manhattan served in a smoke-filled bell jar, BarChef also offers simpler drinks priced between $13 and $14. The ambiance features a sultry, candle-lit lounge with a backbar full of Solarik’s branded bitters and tinctures. The menu includes items like shrimp tacos and pakoras, complementing the unique drinks. BarChef remains a top spot for inventive cocktails and memorable experiences.

BarChef

13. The Dakota Tavern

Location: The Dakota Tavern

The Dakota Tavern, affectionately known as the Dakota, is a beloved music venue in Toronto, open since 2006. Known for its folk and honky tonk acts, the dim, basement bar features a long wooden bar, old show posters, and a small stage with twinkly lights. The venue hosts live music almost every night, with a weekly schedule displayed above the bar. Drinks are straightforward, with draft beers at $7.50 and bourbon at $6.50. The Dakota is known for its nostalgic atmosphere, drawing music lovers with its unique charm and live performances.

The Dakota Tavern

14. Paradise Grapevine

Location: Paradise Grapevine

Paradise Grapevine is a wine and beer bar located in Bloorcourt, offering affordable small plates and a lush back patio open until 2 a.m. The interior has been refreshed while retaining the charm of the original antique bar and mural. The menu features rotating small plates like semi-sun-dried tomatoes and pickled peppers, alongside Burdock’s specially produced bread and Monforte Dairy cheese. The extensive wine list includes lower-intervention wines from smaller producers, served optimally, and unique wine-beer blends. Beers from Burdock and Bellwoods, among others, are also on tap.

Paradise Grapevine

15. Bambi’s

Location: Bambi’s

Bambi’s, located at the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt, offers a polished charm with minimalistic furniture and an industrial aesthetic featuring exposed stone walls and pipes. This basement bar, known for its late-night crowd, provides a stylish yet unpretentious atmosphere. The bar staff are friendly and efficient, handling the influx of patrons with ease. The music is predominantly techno, enhancing the underground vibe. Bambi’s is a hotspot for night owls, with a diverse and stylish crowd enjoying the edgy yet laid-back ambiance.

Bambi's

16. Bar Volo

Location: Bar Volo

Bar Volo, previously on Yonge Street for nearly 30 years, now resides in a speakeasy-like laneway. Known for its extensive selection of rare and imported craft beers, particularly cask ales, Bar Volo features a main bar with an alphabetical chalkboard menu and a seating area. The interior is adorned with salvaged antique wood and an eighteenth-century Egyptian door. Offerings include rotating cask beers, draft beers, wines, and amari. The food menu features items like bresaola, alici, burrata, nduja, and rigatoni. Bar Volo’s unique setting and diverse offerings continue to make it a popular destination.

Bar Volo

17. Overpressure Club

Location: Overpressure Club

Overpressure Club, near Bloor and Ossington, is the latest addition from Alfred Siu, known for Project Gigglewater. This bar stands out with its extensive variety of cocktails on tap, paired with Japanese-inspired small plates. The chic design and ambient lighting create a relaxed yet elevated atmosphere, perfect for dates or meeting friends. The cocktail menu, crafted by Sasha Siegel, features unique drinks like Peach Punks and Queen of Hearts, alongside mocktails and Japanese whisky highballs. The food menu offers diverse options, including shrimp cocktail, short-rib steak, cucumber salad, and loaded fries.

Overpressure Club

18. Only Cafe

Location: Only Cafe

The Only Cafe, a staple on The Danforth for over 30 years, is renowned for its impressive beer selection and cozy atmosphere. Despite its name, it functions primarily as a bar with 24 craft brews on tap, including nitro stouts, IPAs, and ciders, all from Ontario and Quebec breweries. The decor is eclectic, resembling an undergraduate’s residence room, with images of cultural icons and board games available for patrons. The bar also offers over 200 tall cans or bottles, house wine, basic well drinks, and a selection of bourbon and tequila. It features a back patio that can accommodate 50 people and serves all-day breakfast and delivery from Big House Pizza.

Only Cafe

19. Shameful Tiki Room

Location: Shameful Tiki Room

Shameful Tiki Room is an authentic tiki bar in Toronto, meticulously designed to recreate the original tiki experience from the post-war era. Founded by Rod Moore, the bar features a dimly-lit room decorated with bamboo, wicker, and pufferfish lamps, providing an escape from the real world. The cocktail menu includes classics like the Jungle Bird and Chi-Chi, as well as larger shared drinks like the Mystery Bowl. The kitchen offers a full menu until 11 p.m., followed by late-night snacks, with dishes like “Luau” Sliders and “Humuhumunukunukuapua” Tacos. The venue also hosts live music acts, adding to its vibrant atmosphere.

Shameful Tiki Room

20. Grey Tiger

Location: Grey Tiger

Grey Tiger, located in Bloordale Village, is an artist-run cocktail bar renowned for its creative approach to bar craft. Owners Ryan Ringer and Becky Ip view the bar as a medium for magical art, evident in their high-end cocktails accompanied by illustrations and poems. The menu, or “grimoire,” features unique drinks like the Holy Wolf and Scrying Eyes, using house-made ingredients and crystal-clear ice. The bar offers plant-based snacks such as herbed nut cheese and hurricane popcorn mix. The redesigned space features open windows and reclaimed wood, creating a welcoming indoor-outdoor atmosphere.

 Grey Tiger

21. Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern

Location: Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern

Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern, established in 2012, is a true wine bar in Toronto, focusing on wine rather than food. Initially offering charcuterie boards, it has expanded its menu to include diverse bistro fare crafted by chef Leah Marshall Hannon. The menu features eclectic dishes like deep-fried cauliflower with za’atar and arepas stuffed with chili shrimp. The star winter dish is the braised short rib with a root beer-based sauce. The wine list emphasizes small producers from Greece, Portugal, and France, with all wines available by the glass, encouraging exploration without full-bottle commitment. Midfield balances being a wine-focused bar and a restaurant, making it a favorite spot in the city.

Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern

22. Project Gigglewater

Location: Project Gigglewater

Project Gigglewater, named after a prohibition-era term for alcohol, celebrates classic cocktail culture with an experimental twist. The bar’s sophisticated design is inspired by notable bars like Employees Only in New York. The cocktail menu, which changes seasonally, features unique drinks such as the Peppermint Sally and Uncle Terry’s Mule. Small plates include olives all’ ascolana, grilled chorizo, and a miniature hanger steak. Desserts like the fried CB&J sandwich are also available. Owner Alfred Siu emphasizes the bar’s dynamic nature, with frequent updates to both cocktails and food.

Project Gigglewater

23. Reposado

Location: Reposado

Reposado, located on Ossington, specializes in tequila without the typical Mexican bar clichés. The bar features fresh-squeezed margaritas, five imported beers on tap, and live music three nights a week. The intimate, refined atmosphere is set by exposed brick walls, a long narrow room, and mood lighting. The bar offers premium tequilas like Don Julio 1942 and Sauza Tres Generaciones, as well as unique cocktails such as the grand margarita palta martini. The menu includes small tapas like tequila-cured salmon and chorizo. Live jazz and swing performances are held on Thursdays and Fridays, with DJs on other nights.

Reposado

24. Paris Texas

Location: Paris Texas

Paris Texas, located on King West in Toronto, is a sports and country bar that combines the elegance of Paris with the rustic charm of Texas. The venue, formerly Arcane nightclub, features a grand saloon ambiance with burnt-orange leather seating, exposed brick, and hardwood flooring. The expansive patio offers views of the CN Tower and is adorned with palm trees and cabanas. The restaurant transitions to a bar after 9:30 p.m., featuring popular country music and sing-along anthems. The menu includes upscale Western fare like Bone-In Ribeye Steak, Chicken & Waffles, and Buffalo Cauliflower Bites. The cocktail menu offers a range of drinks, including the refreshing Watermelon Sugar and the fruity Cactus Jack. Paris Texas plans to amplify its sports bar concept with Sunday brunches ideal for football fans.

Paris Texas

25. Houndstooth

Location: Houndstooth

Houndstooth, located on College Street in Little Italy, is a versatile cafe and bar that offers a free pool table, DJ nights, and a rentable rehearsal space downstairs. Previously a Portuguese restaurant, Houndstooth now features minimal, eclectic decor with touches like a chandelier from co-owner Alex Gray’s grandmother. Open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. most days, it transitions from serving espressos to Woodhouse tall cans. The bar never charges a cover, making it a favorite among various patrons, from university students to seasoned bar-goers. The basement, once a gambling den, now serves as a rehearsal space and a small concert venue, providing an affordable option for performers.

26. Drom Taberna

Location: Drom Taberna

Drom Taberna, located in the former Tortilla Flats spot, is an all-day Eastern European bar with a patio and nightly live music performances. Open from midday to last call every day, the bar features world music and dance performances. The menu includes Georgian veggie dishes like adjika-spiced eggplant, peach salad, and traditional Balkan items such as pljeskavica and cevapi sandwiches. Unique cocktails include the garlicky Bloody Revolution and the Balkanizer, an Eastern European twist on a negroni. Run by Shamez Amlani, Drom Taberna offers a vibrant, culturally rich atmosphere with a focus on live music and diverse cuisine.

Drom Taberna

27. Handlebar

Location: Handlebar

Handlebar, located in Kensington Market, is a bar that caters to cycling enthusiasts with its bike-themed decor and relaxed atmosphere. The long, narrow space features bronzed bikes on the walls and a small stage suitable for intimate performances. The bar focuses on simple drinks like beers and whiskies, with an unpretentious menu that includes homey dishes like spaghetti and meatballs or tacos, typically priced around $6. Handlebar encourages a cozy, intimate setting, making it a favorite among locals. The venue also hosts events like vinyl sixties soul and rock ‘n’ roll dance parties.

28. Glad Day Bookshop

Location: Glad Day Bookshop

Glad Day Bookshop, one of the oldest queer bookstores in Canada, offers a wide range of queer literature, including poetry, plays, theory books, sci-fi, horror, and more. Previously located on Yonge Street, it has moved to a more accessible location on Church Street in the Village, featuring a spacious and inviting environment. The store now includes a bar, serving drinks like the Paper Plane cocktail, and offers coffee made with Propeller beans. Food is provided by Cardinal Rule, focusing on local, diverse options, including veggie, vegan, and gluten-free dishes. The bookstore’s design incorporates elements from its previous occupant, Byzantium, creating a unique and welcoming space.

 Glad Day Bookshop

29. 915 Dupont

Location: 915 Dupont

915 Dupont is a unique coffee shop and Hi-Fi listening bar located near Ossington Avenue. This hidden gem offers a serene space divided into rooms, centered around a bar where patrons can enjoy coffee or cocktails, including Japanese whisky. The cafe operates mainly during the day but occasionally extends its hours for special events. The cozy atmosphere makes it a perfect spot for both coffee lovers and those seeking a relaxed bar experience.

30. Big Trouble Bar

Location: Big Trouble Bar

Big Trouble Bar, located above Sichuan Ren in Chinatown, combines Chinese heritage with a modern North American twist. Named after the movie “Big Trouble in Little China,” the bar features moody paper lanterns, movie posters, and murals, creating a unique atmosphere. The menu includes creative items like guacamole with wonton chips, spicy coconut firecracker shrimp, and a dumpling tower with options such as ginger butternut squash potstickers. The bar also serves baijiu, a potent Chinese liquor, mixed with mangosteen and lemon. Happy hours are on Thursdays, and food is served until midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Big Trouble Bar

Conclusion

Toronto’s bar scene is as diverse and dynamic as the city itself, offering a multitude of options for every type of night out. From the chic and sophisticated to the casual and laid-back, the 30 bars highlighted in this guide represent the best of what the city has to offer. Each venue provides a unique atmosphere and exceptional drinks, ensuring that every visit is memorable. Whether you’re exploring a new neighborhood or revisiting a favorite haunt, these essential bars showcase the creativity and hospitality that make Toronto a top destination for nightlife. So, raise a glass and toast to the incredible bar experiences that await you in this vibrant city.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What makes these 30 bars essential to visit in Toronto?

These 30 bars have been selected for their unique atmospheres, exceptional drink offerings, and their ability to provide memorable experiences. They represent the diversity and creativity of Toronto’s bar scene, making them standout destinations whether you’re a local or a visitor.

2. Are these bars suitable for all types of occasions?

Yes, the list includes a wide range of bars that cater to various occasions. Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated night out, a casual place to relax with friends, or an exciting spot to enjoy live music, you’ll find a bar that fits your needs in this guide.

3. Do these bars offer food as well as drinks?

Many of the bars featured in the list offer food options ranging from light snacks to full meals. Some bars focus on unique bar snacks that complement their drink menus, while others provide full dining experiences with diverse and innovative dishes.

4. Are reservations required at any of these bars?

Reservation policies vary from bar to bar. Some of the more popular or upscale venues may require reservations, especially on weekends or for larger groups. It’s always a good idea to check the bar’s website or call ahead to ensure you have a spot.

5. Can these bars accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences?

Yes, many of the bars on the list are mindful of dietary restrictions and preferences, offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. It’s advisable to check the menu in advance or contact the bar to confirm that they can accommodate your specific needs.

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