The Best Karaoke Bars in Toronto
The best karaoke bars in Toronto are a varied bunch. Like their loyal patrons, the venues on this list represent the best of every flavour, each fighting for its time in the limelight. The traditionals offer private rooms, or karaoke boxes - the original term in karaoke days of yore - while neighbourhood locals offer something more akin to Canadian Idol (read: public humiliation) any and every night if the week.
The tradition of studio recordings lacking the vocal track is an old one - a string and horn section doesn't run cheap, nor a live band - but it wasn't until the 70's that some bar in Japan made it available to more than just the troubadour. The history is much-disputed, and would become a discussion of patent law before long, but somewhere along the line the desire to get on stage and fulfill the rock star fantasy took hold and literally swept the globe.
So, when it comes to karaoke, Toronto is replete with options, and variations on every one. The following list, voted upon by readers of this site, is just a taste of what you can find on a quick sweep of the streets. Try one, none or some.
Here are the 12 best karaoke bars in Toronto.
Core-dwellers with a penchant for exhibitionism gather at the Gladstone on Fridays and Saturdays for Peter Styles’ infamous karaoke parties. Named Now’s Best Karaoke seven times over, Melody Bar karaoke offers choice picks for the ironic and discerning as well as karaoke-to-go, so revelers can bring their embarrassment home on DVD. More »
All karaoke, all the time in the heart of K-Town. Ten years in, XO still keeps its private rooms open all night long. And with a catalogue of 500, 000 songs, start in the 70s and emerge somewhere between Mary J. and BSB by dawn. Even better, with rates starting at $20/hour, you can focus on your liquid finances. More »
Rooted in NYC, Toronto’s first Hip Hop karaoke night takes place at Revival every third Friday. HHK is touted as the place for wannabe MCs to cut their teeth before a live audience. That the audience gets to hear songs it actually knows makes the $5.00 cover worth every cent. More »
The pride of North York takes form in the family-owned Twister Karaoke. It’s the only joint in town offering “karaoke boxes,” though exactly what differentiates them from private rooms must be more nuanced than I can tell. The folks at Twister say they once hosted a 15-hour karaoke marathon. Whether it was in English, Russian or another of the nine languages offered is unclear. Rates start at $25/hour and increase by the head for a party of more than five. More »
For those about to rock - Kickass Karaoke at the Rivoli. This is karaoke for the grungier half. Every other Sunday (first and third of the month) rockers roll in to hear their peers belt it to Bowie and Byrne. It’s sweaty, but anything worth its studs is. More »
If in Leslieville on some dusking Saturday, consider stopping by the Duke. Though pub grub and pints are aplenty, the commodity to get in on is the karaoke. This is the only East-end entry, so you know it’s good. The century-old inn no longer operates, but raise a glass to history and whistle for the oaf singing Journey.
BMB is the best place to exercise foreign-language prowess - the catalogue is extensive and largely Korean. Worry not; Toronto’s largest karaoke bar has plenty of English pop songs to go around. Lights and lasers distract from the tacky decor, but the utterly random videos never fail to amuse. BMB is best for small groups; a gang of four will pay $20/hour, but it’s $5 extra a head per hour for larger groups. More »
Clean, modern decor and fair rates –$25/hour for a group of five–make up for the fact that it exists at Yonge-Gerrard. I’ve been twice with large groups and there are no bells or whistles. Just rooms with couches and microphones, and lyrics projected on screens. All the better to make the party our own. More »
Like a ghost from Ossington’s past, Baby Huey serves up karaoke every Tuesday, if in better style. Previously home to a brothel-slash-karaoke dive, as the legend goes, Baby Huey’s hip and relaxed atmosphere offers a different groove in the karaoke scene. More »
Karaoke with a side of professional sports. The only true-blue sports bar on the list makes the best of its casual atmosphere and friendly host of regulars and staff. Pop in on Wednesdays to play spectator to a weekly match of Bloor West Idol.
Unpretentious is the order of the day at Opera Bob’s. Have a drink with Bob himself – owner/Canadian Opera Company member - and jump on stage for a song on Thursdays. Unlike most bars on or just-off Ossington, Bob’s is a great place to enjoy a good vibe and avoid hipsters out on a bender. More »
I’m pretty sure TEN23 is the only place in the GTA that offers private karaoke rooms and a menu complete with ox tongue and spaghetti Bolognese. But know this - Decent weekday rates double by week’s end and the rooms are rented by the evening, not the hour, so fill them up and plan for a full night of singsong. More »