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Eat & Drink

10 bars to read at in Toronto

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / July 18, 2013

bars to read at torontoBars to read at in Toronto are a special breed. And while drinking alone, especially in our hyper-connected lives, carries a huge stigma for lots of people, the reality is, going to a bar alone and ordering a drink doesn't have to reek of sad, lonely cowboy syndrome. It can be a nice way to steal a little bit of time for yourself while still being around others' energy (and a great chance for people watching). It's also a nice way to pass the time if you're waiting for somebody, or, to be honest, an exercise in bravery. You might want to forgo the drinks altogether and just have a snack or a coffee, too, which are also offered by most of these spots.

And don't get upset, no one is going to steal your solo watering hole and crowd it up. These places are already well-marked on the map, and for the most part, they're packed with people and loud tunes on the weekends. What I'm talking about here is a weekday afternoon or evening, or a Sunday night type of personal hangout. Here's a list of bars in Toronto that are great for curling up in a corner with a book and a bourbon.

Tequila bookworm
Some barkeeps would get bristly about their bar being called a good spot to read a book. Not so, clearly, with Tequila Bookworm. You could just grab a book from their shelves if you happened to arrive without one, in fact. There are board games, too: it's a bit of a geek's haven, and I mean that in a good way. And the servers don't rush you, either; you're largely left to your own devices in here during the day, and not hustled to order by any means. The Bookworm has ever-changing taps, but they serve local brews like Amsterdam and Oast House. You'll also find a great selection of ciders in here.

Wallflower has to be one of the coziest little bars in Toronto. Located on Dundas West just east of Lansdowne, it fits in perfectly with the galleries and little specialty shops dotted along the stretch. It's wallpapered in vintage florals, and serves a variety of nibbleable treats like deviled eggs and cheese plates. They also make a marvelous Manhattan, dahling, and they have beers on tap like Mill St. Cobblestone stout and Duggan's, if that's more your jam.

No One Writes to the Colonel
This gem in the easternmost edge of Little Italy is a comfy, unpretentious bar with lots of space to spread out. The name comes from a novella by Gabriel García Márquez, so I doubt anyone would bat an eye at a patron with a good book. You'll find a selection of beers by St. Ambroise on tap, and their signature drink is a mojito shot. There are plain but serviceable snacks for grabs, too, like nachos and salsa. And they make a decent Negroni, too, if I remember correctly.

Northwood is one of my favourite spots in the city. One of those places where you can feel comfortable working or drinking (or both), the dark-but-not-too-dark room is a great spot to read. They mix up their cocktail menu according to season, and each cocktail ($10) is strong, artful and inventive. At the top of the list for me is Dark as Night, Sweet as Sin, which is concocted from Pimm's, gin, grapefruit, agave, sage, basil, cucumber, and cava. But if that doesn't do it for you, their menu is extensive. They also have snacks, including a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches and muffins, and their coffee, that greatest of friends, is derived from Pig Iron Coffee Roasters beans.

There are reading-friendly bars in the east end too, guys — and this one might be the best. Hitch is designed for the serious drinker (and named after one, too). Each cocktail contains a double shot, with the star of the menu dubbed The Hitch. Spoiler alert. It's a whiskey soda with lemon. There's a list of other classics on offer, as well, all waiting to be consumed under the creepy shadows of animal busts cast by the glow of candlelight.

If you're in the Queen and Broadview area, The Comrade's a good place to settle in for a quite drink and a book during the week. They offer a strong wine list, and they aren't lacking in the beer department, either. Decor includes lush daybeds to either stretch out and read upon if the place is dead, or (maybe) makeout on the edge of if it's busy. The crowning glory here, though, is the bourbon sour. You won't be disappointed. Unless you hate bourbon, in which case, I retract.

The Yukon
The Yukon is one of those deep, dark, Toronto bars with the requisite exposed brick and shelves full of LPs. Located in Parkdale, The Yukon has an easygoing nature, chill vibes, and it's easy to feel friendly with the folks sitting next to you. (As we all know, the same cannot be said for all cramped establishments in the city). They mix up their drink specials depending on the day, but, for example, you might find something like a pint of Beaus and a shot of whiskey for $10. (You can find the same deal deep in the bowels of Brooklyn for $4, but that's okay). For cocktails, you'll find all the classics for $10-$13.

Victory Cafe
Many a grad student can be found with their nose in a book at Victory. You could camp out here for ages during the week, and their menu supports that assertion. Victory serves what amounts to classic pub food, with burgs, salads, and fish and chips all making an appearance. Their mac and cheese, though, is truly phenomenal. For drinks, you'll find local brews from Amsterdam and Flying Monkey ($3.95-$5.09), as well as a decent selection of scotch, whiskey and bourbon.

You probably want to save this one for a day drink, as it tends to get pretty crammed in the evening hours. During the early evening hours on a week day, though, and definitely in the afternoon, it's possible to find seating and make a corner of the space your own. Embassy has a full bar, but the focus is on craft beers. Chances are you'll find McAuslan Apricot Wheat Ale, Black Oak Pale Ale, and Blanche de Chambly on tap.

This little bar on Dundas St. W. just west of Dufferin is a bit of a nameless hole in the wall, open to interpretation. That in itself makes it an ideal spot to let your imagination roam. That, and the 19 or so different varieties of scotch waiting to warm your belly. Aside from the scotch list, specialties include the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan. Like many spots on this list, be warned that if you pop by on the weekend, you shouldn't expect to get any reading done whatsoever. But during the early part of the week, this is a great choice for nabbing some time to yourself.


Photo of Wallflower



Crap / July 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm
Come on, don't be lazy, throw a Google Maps of these locations up.
Uh replying to a comment from Crap / July 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm
C'mon, don't be lazy, Google them yourself
Ben P / July 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm
How is the Imperial not on here?
egad replying to a comment from Ben P / July 18, 2013 at 01:03 pm
if you have to ask, you clearly suck.
howaboutdemparks / July 18, 2013 at 01:05 pm
Trinity Bellwoods under a tree bro! One stop read, drink and urinal! I'll Instagram it for you later. :D
Yes replying to a comment from Crap / July 18, 2013 at 01:09 pm
Google maps is in the bottom right corner. Maybe it's not visible on your smartphone. Maybe you need to google it yourself. lol
Tanja replying to a comment from Crap / July 18, 2013 at 01:23 pm
When you click on the name, you go to the blogTO profile page that has a map and everything.
BaghDad / July 18, 2013 at 01:32 pm
Did this tickle me? I don't have a drinking problem, I have a reading problem. Did you tickle me?? Pinch my eyes shut, please.
Me / July 18, 2013 at 01:44 pm
Who the fuck goes to a bsr to READ????
RRR / July 18, 2013 at 01:45 pm
You know theres a reason why there is labels on bottles.

To READ at the bar.
mark / July 18, 2013 at 02:34 pm
I used to read at a bar occasionally to get away from a horrible job during lunch. It's very relaxing.
jennsanerd / July 18, 2013 at 03:35 pm
I haven't heard of most of these bars. I am a terrible hipster.
lalala replying to a comment from jennsanerd / July 18, 2013 at 03:56 pm
Beyond that, also sound like a complete asshole.
Me replying to a comment from RRR / July 18, 2013 at 04:11 pm
Good point.
Me replying to a comment from mark / July 18, 2013 at 04:12 pm
So quit.
evan / July 18, 2013 at 04:12 pm
Volo is nice before they turn the lights down, although more so before the renovation. The imperial's great too.
Steven / July 18, 2013 at 05:25 pm
Cheaper to buy a bottle and read/drink at home. You save lots of $$$ and NO tipping required!
lizzy / July 18, 2013 at 06:55 pm
I've been to Tequila Bookworm many times on my own either studying or with a magazine. it's very comfortable and the staff are great. Thanks for this posting. I look forward to checking out some of these other bars when I need my me time.
Matt / July 18, 2013 at 07:13 pm
Blogto might want to employ a fact checker. Tequila Bookworm hasn't had bookshelves up for at least a year and a half. Maybe go check out the places you write about before publishing?
Steph / July 18, 2013 at 07:20 pm
I was excited for this article. I was a little bummed that half the ones are already bars that I read at all the time and the others are too far. But at least I know I'm going to the right places.

Fact-checking comment is a solid point though. The one I noticed is about there being "19 or so..." Scotches at 1602. There are in fact upwards of 60. And even more bourbons....
Me / July 18, 2013 at 07:55 pm
Well, it's doubtful Robyn/Amy/Sarah is even old enough to go in any of them, let alone actually having done so.
MM / July 18, 2013 at 09:53 pm
Good list! Looking forward to checking some of these gems out.
Kat / July 19, 2013 at 07:35 am
I haven't been back to Tequila Bookworm since Pavel the Lover accosted me there, but if it's turned into a drinking library I might consider it...
Paul / July 20, 2013 at 10:44 am
No one is going to put The Imperial on this list? For shame.
turismo rural en la rioja / July 26, 2013 at 03:02 am
10 bars to read at in Toronto, me ha parecido muy genail, me hubiera gustado que fuese más extenso pero ya saeis si lo bueno es breve es dos veces bueno. Enhorabuena por vuestra web. Besotes.
John / February 24, 2014 at 08:25 pm
Osteria del Ganzi! Jarvis
LK / February 24, 2014 at 09:27 pm
I loved tequila bookworm for years until last summer the waiter was incredibly rude and did rush me to order right away and looked at me strangely because I needed a few minutes to settle down before ordering something. I have not been back there since and stopped recommending it to others.
BOTW / February 24, 2014 at 10:53 pm
The Imperial Public Library excluded?
Again, another list with only West End selections.
east-side steve from kinkardine / February 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm
Hitch is way too dark. Jilly's for the win!
Coco replying to a comment from BOTW / February 25, 2014 at 01:15 am
Hitch and Comrade are both in the East end.. relax
Kingharvest / February 25, 2014 at 10:23 am
Bar Volo in the afternoon, especially in the summer with the front window open, is a great place to read and/or write.
Laura / August 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm
Also the Only on the Danforth!

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