Patios for Pride Weekend in Toronto
The patio scene in the Village is one of the first signs that Pride has descended upon Toronto. What is usually quite lively and bustling has suddenly become downright electric; and I'm pretty sure white wine sangria had something to do with it. While I've always been partial to the patio scene in the Village — it's friendly and vibrant without too much of a rush — the jovial atmosphere infinitely amped up around this time of year. Plus, there are rainbows everywhere you look. So if you're keen on soaking up some sunshine and preemptive Pride Parade good vibes, here are some patios worth checking out in the Village.
The patio at Statler's Lounge is perhaps the most exclusive on this list, with room for just 14 people. In short — keep those elbows out and your eyes on the prize if you want to snag a spot. The second floor patio lets you gaze out over Church, with a musical backdrop provided by the live performers below. It's sunshine and soundtrack; what could be better?
Crews & Tangos
Crews & Tango can get pretty wild on occasion, though its back patio is known to offer a space to kick back. During the day, at least. With space for close to 100 people, the patio offers drinks from its own outdoor bar as well as burgers and wings grilled up fresh out back. Count on the party spilling out to the patio on weekends.
O'Grady's definitely has one of the liveliest patios on the Church Street strip. While its kitchen is open super-late both during the week and at its end, you're more likely to find this patio saturated with pitchers and pints. No surprise, then, that the volume in the area can get pretty high. Keep on walking, haters. (Non-haters enter off Maitland.)
Sugo's patio seems to be packed every night of the week — and with good reason. Right out front on Church Street, the patio offers plenty of room for diners to sit back and indulge in some carbonara and red wine, and make all of those wine-less passersby supremely jealous. Italian food and Church Street entertainment is a definite win.
Byzantium's back patio is probably one of the only outdoor spaces in Toronto where you can have your pick of dozens and dozens of different types of martinis. The space out back is private and cozy; a good place to relax with friends on a weekend and perhaps enjoy some live DJ tunes. The only stressful part will be deciding between the tiramisu martini and the green tea mojito.
Churchmouse & Firkin
Churchmouse & Firkin is one of the few places in the Village than can rival O'Grady's in terms of patio activity. Yes, this pub is just one among many in the Firkin empire, but Churchmouse distinguishes itself with superior patio service and overall great ambiance. And the food is said to be not half bad either. There's always a conversation or two going on between those seated on the patio and passersby leaning against the rail. Count on slow pedestrian traffic on Maitland.
Black Eagle's patio is lauded less for the voyeuristic opportunity it affords than its abundance of leather fetishists. That is, don't expect much people-watching here, unless you're keen on locking eyes with the person to your left. And with leather chaps, open vests, tank tops, kilts, and hoods, why would you really want to look anywhere else? This upstairs patio is mostly uncovered (smokers, thus, can assemble) and hosts a Sunday barbecue every week.
The Vic Public House
The Vic has arguably the prettiest patio on the strip with little touches of green and hanging plants, lanterns and general loveliness. Wicker armchairs and full tables make the space conducive to a little Sunday brunch nosh, but the space is by no means too stiff to deny a thirsty traveller a pint of one of its 13 beers on tap. The Vic's patio also has heaters for when it gets a little chilly and light scaffolding through which you can stare up at the stars. *Sigh*
A bit north of the heart of the action, Lola's Kitchen has a raised front patio that's perfect for brunch on a Sunday afternoon. Locavores, vegans, and carnivores alike flock to Lola's patio for some tofu scramble or housemade sausage patties, both of which can be enjoyed to the backdrop of the buzzing on Church. And like every good patio, Lola's is licensed. Wine sangrias all around.
Hair of the Dog
Hair of the Dog offers the best of both worlds at the foot of the Church and Wellesley Village and a stone's throw from Ryerson's campus. While the patio technically faces a parking lot, you still feel among the action without the constant annoyance of exuberant passersby. The patio can be equal parts sun and shade during the day, allowing you to arrange you party based on skin sensitivities. Super brunch.
Spirits Bar & Grill
Spirits Bar & Grill often hosts a business casual crowd both during the week for lunch and for an early evening pint. The front patio, while small, is the coveted spot for most Spirit-goers, while the more likely option is a table during a rush is on the double patio in the back (the fence helps to hide the adjacent parking lot). For those who are averse to barely-legal antics, Spirits Bar & Grill offers a bit of a respite in that it is largely undiscovered by the city's youngins. Kick back and relax, without fear of a scene by a carded under-ager.
Boutique Bar's patio boasts people-watching opportunities that are a "step" above io the rest. (That was a bad pun.) The slightly raised patio faces east onto Church and is typically lined with unabashed voyeurs. It has been said that there actually is space beyond the seats immediately hugging the rail, but the experience offered in that section is far less entertaining. Ah well, there are still those killer cocktails.
Guu Izakaya's patio offers an experience somewhat removed from the Church/Wellesley vibe. It's typically quieter, oddly, on the patio than in the restaurant, with a special patio menu and summer weekend lunches. Must love cedar. Patio patrons can indulge in one of Guu's signature cocktails (i.e the sake mojito) or can opt for some Sapporo beer on tap.
Photos by Jesse Milns