Considered the most cosmopolitan city in North America, Toronto has a little bit of everything. If you’re in town for a summer festival (or just because) and you want to mix it up before last call, you feel like kicking back somewhere unassuming, or you just like the challenge of hunting some secret spots, here are a few ideas. Below is a list of the best bars in Toronto from hidden bars, basement bars, and hole-in-the-wall neighborhood treasures.
In the mood for a place that feels like it was just set up for the night on a whim? SP184 is a converted space at the back of a pizza joint laid out like your uncle’s garage; the one that’s never out of booze. On Friday or Saturday night, look for a back-alley door with a purple light hanging over it, and you’ll find a small bar-room decorated with vintage light-up pizza store signs. This place has a five-star rating for a reason though: it’s one half laid-back, drink from the can while chatting with an interesting rando, one half secret speakeasy only you know about.
Location: 184 Ossington Avenue
Want to check out the neighborhood music scene? Junction City Music Hall is an artsy downstairs bar with a revolving door of live bands, DJ’s and Karaoke nights. A great supporter of local musicians, this place also features weekly tribute bands and the occasional live band karaoke. So, pretty much a guaranteed good time. With its vintage pinball and arcade games, cheap booze (for Toronto, that is) and generally chill atmosphere, Junction has the feel of a college basement party. Just look for the downstairs sign and ask about their craft beer.
Location: 2907 Dundas St West – Downstairs
Junction City Music Hall
Blink and you miss this one. Fitted between two red brick buildings, Wide Open is a real bar’s bar with its graffitied walls, grunge aesthetic, and eclectic crowd (half the charm of underground bars!). It’s a friendly, fun atmosphere and happy hour drinks are $2.75 on Thursdays. Eyeball the rest of their prices; there’s a 100% chance you won’t leave sober.
Location: 139a Spadina Ave, Toronto
This underground speak-easy style cave is great for dancing, or just nursing a stiff drink at one of their vintage-looking booths. It’s got a witchy, carnivalesque look, regular DJ’s and plenty of trap and hip-hop. At 10pm, follow the red light down a mirrored hallway, take the staircase, and order yourself a Bombay Gin as a reward for finding this out-of-the-way spot.
Location: 1307 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Supposedly, this Queen Street bar got its name from its location on the opposite side of the tracks from several prominent hotels. Motel is a dimly-glowing 8,000 square foot 40-seat room that’s packed to the gills during hockey play-offs (which is exactly the best time to be there). This relaxed, friendly little watering-hole is owned by a musician which is why you’ll see a sweet vinyl collection and piano, as well as some quality live music.
Location: 1235 Queen St, Toronto
Motel Park Dale
Fans are protective of this hidden bar, made out of a defunct Portuguese diner in Little Portugal. They’re worried everyone’ll discover it, even though it’s hard to spot since the old diner sign hasn’t changed. This is a quirky, low-key spot where you can find your song on their jukebox, try a selection of ales with pickled eggs, (a crowd favourite), and spill your life story at the diner-style lunch counter. Expect to meet a few eccentrics here.
Location: 1149 Dundas St W, Toronto
There’s no shortage of interesting bars in Toronto with lots of personality, charm and friendliness. Whether you feel like a drink after pizza, a secret back-way club or just a little dive-bar after taking in Cabana, this is a great city for finding hidden gems. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.
Looking for more info on what to do and where to go? Check out blogTO.com. Also, don’t forget to read up on the best Toronto events this summer.
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