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Best of Toronto

The Best New Bars in Toronto, 2011

Posted by Luke Champion / January 5, 2012

best bars Toronto 2011The best new bars to open in Toronto in 2011 continue to parallel Toronto's ascent up the cultural stratosphere. None of these places are merely neighbourhood locals — they're destinations. Whether it's for a calculated cocktail, dizzying live music or just an invigorating atmosphere, these are all establishments of merit, worthy of a streetcar or taxi ride. And if any of these happen to be your local? Well, the neighbourhood just got that much better.

Continuing a recent trend, this list reveals just how enthusiastically the city has embraced cocktail culture. No longer is a couple of taps and a few bottles of plonk enough to attract the masses. Far from it. Many of the establishments here has a sophisticated cocktail menu, often boasting both classic and modern offerings without even a whiff of saccharine, neon abominations like sour apple or melon liqueur. Yes, we've grown up: we're a discerning bunch who wants our beer local and our spirits mixed. Skillfully.

Here are the best new bars to open in Toronto during 2011.

See also:

The best new bars in Toronto, 2010
The best new bars in Toronto, 2009

Cold Tea

Cold Tea

Named after the not-so-secret codename of after hours beer at some Chinese restaurants, Cold Tea the bar takes that sense of secrecy and runs with it. Located at a hard to find location in the depths Kensington Market, this dark, dank and divey hole in the wall feels like an unlicensed speakeasy even though it isn't. With dim sum till close, cheap beer, decent cocktails and of course, great music, what more do you need? More »

Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar

For those interested in finding the best Manhattan in town, look no further. It's not on the menu, but rest assured the oak aged version at Cocktail Bar is beyond compare. 3 oz. of smooth, subtly earthly perfection topped off, of course, with a macerated cherry. Of course, if Manhattans aren't your thing, this Black Hoof outpost has a menu full of classic and original concoctions that can measure up just as well. More »

No One Writes to the Colonel

No One Writes to the Colonel

No One Writes to the Colonel (named for a novella by Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Marquez) is the antidote to the chaos of College and Bathurst. Sandwiched in between the sticky, student bars just to the east and the sickly swank to the west, The Colonel fills the void for those of us looking for a drink in a cool, comfy and classy environment. More »

416 Snack Bar

416 Snack Bar

Open just barely a year now, this place is still rammed nearly every night of the week. The folks at 416 Snack Bar have managed to do what all aspiring bar owners dream of, build at atmosphere that's at once urgent, inviting, unique and full of possibility. It's not the place to go for a full meal, but the food is so good I often don't want to eat anywhere else. More »

Spin Toronto

Spin Toronto

The concept is simple. A ping-pong hall with a bar. But forget about dimly lit, subterranean basements, Spin Toronto comes equipped with a full cocktail list, impressive draught selection and a menu you'll almost want to put your ping pong paddle down for. Fortunately there's enough snacky stuff on there that you won't really have to. Bourbon and bacon caramel corn anyone? More »

The Hoxton

The Hoxton

The Hoxton is part bar, part club, part event space and partly owned by Kenny vs. Spenny's Kenny Hotz. If that's not reason enough to go, it's worth noting that the other two owners are Richard Lambert and Jesse Girard who own Parts & Labour, last years number two spot on the Best New Bars list. The place is central, minimal and been packing in talent since it opened this fall. More »

Bar Neon

Bar Neon

Bar Neon takes over the space formerly occupied by the short lived Calico Cafe after chef Jared Davis moved on to bigger and better things. This off shoot of sister site, Cafe Neon just a few blocks away offers a light snacking menu featuring oysters, flat breads and delicious mini croque monsieurs. To drink you'll find a small cocktail list featuring an excellent bourbon based negroni, as well as a handful of carefully curated craft beers on tap. More »

Poetry Jazz Cafe

Poetry Jazz Cafe

This brand new Kensington haunt, inspired by bygone be-boppers like Miles Davis, is perfect addition to the ever-changing market. While gourmet burgers joints seem to be multiplying faster than the plague, this place radiates the kind of classic cool that is rarely seen these days. Back to a time when calling someone a hipster was a term of endearment and the avant-garde was the sound of rebellion. More »

Yours Truly

Yours Truly

It's tough to stand out on Lower Ossington these days, and it can seem like there's a new hot spot opening practically every week. So when a truly great place makes an appearance, it's especially welcome and Yours Truly is truly great. What's their secret? A casual, inviting atmosphere, sublime cocktails and a simple, unique menu. If only everything were that simple. More »

Discussion

31 Comments

Guzzler / January 5, 2012 at 11:29 am
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I really love the depth and breadth of these new bars. They're so cool and really do a great job of serving me what I love to drink with my friends.

The Legend / January 5, 2012 at 11:29 am
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First.
Josca / January 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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How is it possible that there is nothing on this list east of Yonge?
k replying to a comment from Josca / January 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm
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should be called blogtowest
Adam / January 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm
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No One Writes to the Colonel and 416 are really cool places (416 has quickly become almost too trendy and crowded, though...I'm sure that'll wear off over the coming year.)

But Cold Tea Room? I can't believe people are lining up to get into that place. It's too loud to talk, the beer selection is awful (can't speak to the bartender's skills though) and there's a horrible sense of phoniness about the place—that it's called Cold Tea Room, and has a Chinese woman selling dumplings at the door to a bunch of middle-class white hipsters, has weird race connotations to me as well, like it's designed to give the kids an "urban" experience and make them feel like they're part of something exclusive. It's strange.
Richard / January 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm
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I'd add Mugshot Tavern to the list!
tk / January 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm
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Why has harry,s social kitchen and bar at 21 st. Clair not been mentioned?! 5 dollar stoli martini,s between 3 and 6 Monday to Friday for social hour. The appetizer,s are the best in the city and the staff are friendly on their pours. Tsk tsk not all good bars are downtown. Missing out if you haven't been to Harrys.
Derek replying to a comment from Josca / January 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm
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How is that you can make a comment like that without suggeting an east end bar that simply must be on this list?

Anyone?
sumre / January 5, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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iraq
Meredith / January 5, 2012 at 01:31 pm
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The answer is Bar Neon
cultureshot / January 5, 2012 at 02:48 pm
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Now let's wait and see how many hipsters start commenting about how every one of these places has too many hipsters.
Jamie / January 5, 2012 at 03:07 pm
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Let's see how many hipsters start talking about hipsters – because hipsters hipsters hipsters hipstershipstershipstersHIPSTERS
Hip Stur / January 5, 2012 at 03:21 pm
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This places are like kind of not very cool anymore. Im into just like kicking it in my kitchen right now. it's called KitchenBar. We server rolling rock and 3 dollar PB&J sandwiches.

Vice Magazine.
Mark replying to a comment from Josca / January 5, 2012 at 03:28 pm
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Because everyone knows that the 'real' Toronto is only south of Bloor and in a small geographical area that didn't vote for the current Mayor.
w-hat replying to a comment from Mark / January 5, 2012 at 05:19 pm
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I don't know what to say to you if you think the people in Riverdale and the Beaches voted for Rob Ford.
Chino / January 5, 2012 at 05:19 pm
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BarChef is still the king. often imitated, yet never duplicated. that is all.
Scott / January 5, 2012 at 10:32 pm
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I NEED to get to spin.
jal / January 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm
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I too like Bar Neon, but I think it was open for not even a month in 2011 - how can it make best new bar?
ella / January 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm
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one day me and my firends dicided to go to a bar that day.
so we got ready and set out to walk to the bar. the moment we walked in we were like yes tonight we will party!!!!i loved that place.good memories we got a bit drunk and when we were about to exit she spilled red drink on the carpet and said your walking on red carpet good times
http://collectivemills.ca/
Mike / January 6, 2012 at 12:16 am
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What?? 2 Cats didn't make the list?? :->
Sib / January 6, 2012 at 04:31 am
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Yeah Bar Neon is really new, but it's awesome. Really diverse crowd and really good music. I've been three times and each time was extremely different....but always great!
Mike replying to a comment from Mike / January 6, 2012 at 08:55 am
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You mean the bar that's been open for years isn't one of the best new bars of 2011??? The nerve.
seriously? / January 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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Spin sucks. I went to that place once and paid something like $8 for a beer. They never have ping pong tables available either and are often closed for private events. That's not a bar, that's a social hall.
reality replying to a comment from seriously? / January 6, 2012 at 04:23 pm
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Yeah Spin is a total douche fest... overpriced, tool central, this sense of over solidification I don't get... seems like a bunch of "experts" got together to create this place yet all of them are out of tune with reality and have no idea what they are really doing
Haters / January 6, 2012 at 04:50 pm
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They gotta hate.
brad hip replying to a comment from cultureshot / January 8, 2012 at 07:03 am
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THE FIRST RULE OF HIP CLUB IS:
YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT HIPSTERS.
POETRY JAZZ CAFE replying to a comment from Josca / January 8, 2012 at 07:38 pm
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Josca don't worry my friend, your time is coming like tomorrow, i can see it, i love the new vibe E of Yonge. For now, all eyes on Kensington Market, neglected for so long by big media, it's bout time.

What i love about the market is that we're not about the ultra modern cold, lifeless straight lines. My opinion, i feel a deep sense of suspicion of bars and restaurants that claim completion and perfection.
The vibe in the market is bout surviving, being true and living in the moment.

Sean: Poetry Jazz Cafe
Thanks BlogTO / January 11, 2012 at 01:09 pm
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Shoutout to BlogTO for seeing beyond the glitter and façade of Yorkville, to seek out and recognize bars in areas where, the soothing scratch and skip of an old vinyl 45 somehow eases your blues at midnight.

Long live Ronny’s, Detour, Embassy, Cold Tea and the rest of the sanctuaries that remembers your name when you step into their dim lit spaces.

Fellas, if your girl can’t hang and have a scotch with you in Kensington market, it’s bout time you find someone who can…
Sean: Poetry Jazz Cafe
lizzy / January 29, 2012 at 04:22 pm
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Need to check out this Poetry Jazz Cafe. I'm intrigued.
Yay Kensington / July 27, 2012 at 02:52 am
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I'm a student at OCAD but don't live in the city so I haven't been able to discover the night life that I've always imagined Toronto to have. The places this site suggests is what I've been looking for. Kensington has always been dear to my heart. I hope these places are as good as this site makes them sound.
Cosplay / September 26, 2012 at 10:36 am
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How is it possible that there is nothing on this list east of Yonge?

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