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Eat & Drink

The top 10 neighbourhoods for bars in Toronto

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / August 21, 2014

toronto bar neighbourhoodsThe top neighbourhoods for bars in Toronto each foster their own kind of intuitive pub crawl. This city is a great place to eat and drink, and while Torontonians are an adventuresome bunch, we tend to frequent the same watering holes over and over again. But barring local pride, which one is the best? If you had to drink in one 'hood forever, which would it be? Which is your favourite?

Here are my picks for the top 10 bar neighbourhoods in Toronto.

Dundas West
Dundas West grew out of an extension of the Ossington scene, and while Ossington got posh, Dundas has kept its grittier - and in my opinion, more fun - roots. Closer to Ossington, you'll find popular bars like Communist's Daughter, Get Well, Camp 4, and the Red Light. Moving towards Bathurst there's Cocktail Bar, Archive Wine Bar, May, Montauk and The Press Club. To the west, you can catch a show at the Garrison or Lula Lounge, hit the dance floor at Bambi's, watch sports at Dock Ellis, get your beer at Unlovable, a bottle of wine at Midfield, a cocktail at This End Up and finish off with a visit to Japanese rockabilly bar Black Dice.

Parkdale
Slow gentrification has kept Parkdale weird and wonderful and a little rough around the edges. Start with some day drinking and grab a pint at either Mezzrow's or The Sister, spend cocktail hour at Seventeen Eighteen, then go for a live show at the Shop under Parts & Labour or Wrongbar. You'd be a fool not to experience the charm of bar veteran Chris Harper's Pharmacy or one of the great DJ nights at the Yukon.

Ossington
10 years ago there wasn't much on Ossington aside from Vietnamese karaoke bars and the Crooked Star, the only casual bar in a sea of Portuguese chicken and auto-body shops. Then came Sweaty Betty's, and now...The Ossington, The Painted Lady, Baby Huey, Reposado, The Well, and the many restaurants that offer more formal cocktails or wine. The street's favourite honkytonk tavern, The Dakota, is a guaranteed good time.

Queen West/West Queen West
Queen West was Toronto's original arty bar scene, and there are still lots of favourites here. For live music you can't go wrong with The Horseshoe and the Cameron House, barflies congregate at the Done Right Inn, Squirly's and The Paddock, while others sample elaborate cocktails at Barchef or get their party on at 416 Snack Bar The Drake, The Gladstone, Dog & Bear or The Beaver. Nobody does the patio tan/post-work beer than the Black Bull.

King West
Large scale clubs and VIP bottle service set the tone of the King West party scene, making possible places like Weslodge, Brassai and the Hoxton, but occasionally even hedge funders need to chillax. For post-work brews they head to Bier Markt and Bar Hop, Bar Wellington, the Wheat Sheaf or the Olde Yorke. Music fans make use of Adelaide Hall or the Rock N Horse Saloon, and if you prefer a lap-dance with those pints, there's always For Your Eyes Only.

Bloorcourt/Bloordale Village
Call it what you want - Bloorcourt, Bloordale, Blansdowne - but suddenly bar-rich neighbourhood has a lot going for it. I like to think of the area's bar vibe as casual fun with twist. Duffy's Tavern has been a mainstay for years, with Disgraceland picking up the slack, The Steady is queer-positive, and there's often great little or no-cover shows at Holy Oak and The Piston. Get the gang together for food and booze at industry staples The Emerson, Whippoorwill, or 3 Speed, and jokesters head to the Comedy Bar for laughs. For top notch cocktails, hit up Northwood and for craft beer head to Wise Bar.

Little Italy
Little Italy has a long history as a social mecca that shows no signs of stopping. Here old school Italian favourites like Bar Italia mix with new kids on the block like Crawford and Weldon Park while the reputation of otherworldly cocktails at Bar Isabel draws a new crowd. Old rockers and college kids hang out at No One Writes to the Colonel, Ted's Collision, the Mod Club and Sneaky Dee's. Strangely, Little Italy also has a concentration of pubs like Snakes & Lagers, The Emmet Ray, and The Monarch Tavern.

The Junction
The Junction's bar scene has been on the rise for a few years now, and can hold its own against many neighbourhoods with older establishments. Start with a pint at brewpub Indie Alehouse, then head to the Hole in the Wall or 3030 Dundas West for a flight of craft beers and a bite. Finally, catch a show at the newly opened Junction City Music Hall before capping the night with tequila shots and tacos at Playa Cabana Cantina.

Church-Wellesley Village
Toronto's gay village is a rainbow of fun for everyone. There is no place like Woody's, the HQ of nightlife on Church, and you just can't have partied on the strip without a wild wander through its doors. Bears and leather enthusiasts reign supreme at the Black Eagle; Byzantium was Toronto's first martini bar and still kills it on the dance floor, while Church on Church and Boutique Bar added a touch of sophistication with all those great cocktails. For a classic pub try the Hair of the Dog. And don't forget Crews and Tangos, which is always packed and fun.

Riverside
The east side's newest nightlife destination is home to one of Toronto's new country and western bars so get your bull riding and line dancing on at the Boots 'N' Bourbon Saloon. If you can't stomach the weekend line-ups to get in, hit up nearby watering holes - the An Sibin Irish Pub and the Prohibition Gastrohouse for simple pub food and pints, or the Opera House for live music. For something more current, there's pseudo dive bar Hi-Lo (order the pickled eggs.) The Comrade has you covered for something a bit more sophisticated in the cocktail and beer department.

Did I miss your favourite? Tell us your favourite neighbourhood for a bar crawl in the comments.

Discussion

35 Comments

Pint of Lager / August 20, 2014 at 11:52 pm
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I have favourite bars in almost all of those neighbourhoods!
Sid / August 21, 2014 at 07:51 am
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Worse neighbourhood for bars? St. Claire west.
Indianguy / August 21, 2014 at 08:44 am
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Yes? Hi! We made the jokes and made Vashi go to the Alfie's at the Queen and Sherbourne (he had the Coors light).
Kaia / August 21, 2014 at 08:46 am
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I love Black Dice! It's my favourite bar, it's so kitsch and like a throw back in time. I love the whole rockabilly style and the jukebox plays the best music. Hideki, the guy who runs it, is the coolest guy ever too! I've always wanted to go to the Mod Club in Little Italy as well, I will make sure I go there to see a band soon!
dvc / August 21, 2014 at 10:47 am
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WESTSIDE! BOOM!
Jeremy / August 21, 2014 at 11:14 am
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No arguments here. Lots of great bars, and many I'd love to try still.
Osman / August 21, 2014 at 11:53 am
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What about Mata Petisco Bar, Food and Liquor and Geraldine in Parkdale?? Those ate for sure the best options here!!
Mike / August 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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Yes, I'm gonna do it:

You missed Kensington! Templeton's, Ronnie's, Thirsty & Miserabal, Handlebar, Embassy Bar, Last Temptation, Caplansky's, Via Mercanti, etc etc.
Elvis replying to a comment from dvc / August 21, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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WESTSIDE JUNCTION!

theheck / August 21, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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Caplanskys....a good bar.

- Said no one ever.
joshua / August 21, 2014 at 12:24 pm
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Wow... from dry to this, you've come a long way, Junction.
Gary / August 21, 2014 at 01:13 pm
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What about St. Lawrence/The Esplanade?
Danielle / August 21, 2014 at 01:15 pm
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Kensington Market! Handlebar, Ronnie's, Cold Tea, Thirsty & Miserable, The Boat, Detour Bar, Supermarket....
naw replying to a comment from Gary / August 21, 2014 at 01:58 pm
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Esplanade is for bros from Ohio and New York with popped Lacoste golf shirts.
Kyle / August 21, 2014 at 02:03 pm
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I didn't realize 'Toronto' only existed West of Yonge.
google maps is your friend replying to a comment from Kyle / August 21, 2014 at 02:10 pm
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Riverside is east, champ.
ethan / August 21, 2014 at 03:26 pm
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the DANFORTH
Evan / August 21, 2014 at 03:31 pm
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How can you miss The Caledonian in little Italy.....best pub in the city.
PC replying to a comment from Kyle / August 21, 2014 at 03:44 pm
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The Only is about the only spot east of Yonge that is worth visiting bar-wise. Ten years ago I would have thrown C'Est What in there too but it's declined rapidly.

Pick up the pace, East side!
Parkdalian / August 21, 2014 at 03:47 pm
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Sorry osmin, mata is boring resto not a bar and Geraldine is stuck up its own ass. Food and liquor is good. Please out of nabe hipsters DON'T destroy mezzrows
Tallman / August 21, 2014 at 03:51 pm
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Points deducted for not mentioning TALL BOYS in Bloorcourt. Best spot in the 'hood for craft beers run by some great dudes.
PC replying to a comment from Parkdalian / August 21, 2014 at 03:51 pm
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Don't worry - they won't like the smell!

Man, haven't been to the Mezz since I moved out of Parkdale - hope the eggs in purgatory is still as delicious as ever ...
Erick Gamez / August 21, 2014 at 03:53 pm
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You have to try the Local Gest in Cabbagetwon, great place with 12 craft beers on tap, and local food. They even have a place in a farm where they grow their own ingredients. Pretty different experience, check it out > www.thelocalgest.com
NobodyInParticular / August 21, 2014 at 04:01 pm
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I am shocked Yonge/Eg isn't on the list. It's the entertainment district of midtown.
Vaclav / August 21, 2014 at 04:02 pm
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Ossington. The more I go there the more I love it. Also some good choices on Dundas between Ossington and Dufferin.
Jo E / August 21, 2014 at 04:23 pm
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Annex/Korea Town between Christie and Spadina along Bloor. Insomnia, Amnesia, The James Joyce, Victory Café and a shit load of others.
dvc replying to a comment from Elvis / August 21, 2014 at 04:28 pm
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Elvis is ALIVE!!!...and living in the JUNCTION!!!
Cry cry cry / August 21, 2014 at 04:30 pm
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I love the Beach because it's got a Gabby's.
AlexH / August 21, 2014 at 06:19 pm
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"Parkdalian", u r the only one on the comments contesting someone's preferences. Just the way you write, i can imagine why they were a little arrogant w u at Geraldine. That place has great food, service and one of the best cocktail menus of TO.
Nick replying to a comment from Sid / August 21, 2014 at 06:47 pm
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Agree.
Sandra / August 21, 2014 at 08:05 pm
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Why is it that the writers of these lists never venture much beyond downtown? There is a greater concentration of bars there but Toronto includes a lot more than the boundaries of Ossington, Yonge, Bloor and King West.
James / August 21, 2014 at 09:38 pm
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You overlooked The Dog's Bollocks as a place that barflies congregate on Queen West.
Jane Somers / August 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm
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I am opening a bar in Cabbagetown (Parliament & Carlton)next week..Southern food, craft beers, homemade cocktails, live jazz.........be sure to check us out... Ronnie B's Southern Kitchen & Taps
d / August 23, 2014 at 02:33 pm
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Good luck Jane! I hope it matches your dreams!
JSomers / October 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm
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Hey thanks "d", it's been pretty good so far, lots of great feedback, pretty good blogs written about us, great turnouts for live music on Saturday and the food is flying out of there! Stop in some time!

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