The Best New Bars in Toronto, 2011
The 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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