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Best of Toronto

The Best New Bars in Toronto, 2013

Posted by Jen Hunter / January 17, 2014

best bars torontoThe best new bars in Toronto for 2013 offer up an eclectic mix - from Parisian-styled absinthe parlours to astroturf-stooled cocktail clubs. Though there's not much that can surprise the conceptually insensitive Torontonian these days, you might be surprised to learn that Lower Ossington doesn't feature anywhere on this list.

Also surprising to some, perhaps, is that the top spot is reserved for a bar that sits on an unassuming stretch of Bloor between Koreatown and Bloorcourt Village. It's yet another sign that quality bars aren't stacked in just two or three areas of this city. Ditto for new east side offerings in 2013. Toronto's bar scene continues to grow, and we're a better city for it.

Here are the best new bars in Toronto from 2013.

See also:

The best new bars in Toronto, 2012
The best new bars in Toronto, 2011
The best new bars in Toronto, 2010

Northwood

Northwood

Since opening at the intersection of Bloor and Crawford in April, Northwood has manage to demonstrate that the cafe by day, bar by night model can really work. The dual approach taken by owners Richard Pope and Ang Reynolds has seen Northwood comfortably filling its seats at all hours. There's no full-time kitchen but occasional small plates have proved a draw, and the excellent cocktails keep people coming back. More »

Montauk

Montauk

This is another spot without a bonafide food menu, but an admirable commitment to craft cocktails (including Negronis on tap) and local draught. Montauk's gorgeously lit interior has charmed drinkers from all over the city. So much so, in fact, that they've finally had to hire door security due to the steady stream that fill this tiny little space from around 10pm onwards on weekend nights. Pro tip. Get yourself there for about 8pm, and claim a barstool before it gets too busy to move. More »

Pharmacy

Pharmacy

This former methadone clinic in Parkdale has locals hooked. Staffed primarliy by owner and Toronto bar veteran Chris Harper, it's a small space that's focused on casually providing craft beer and rustic snacks. The volume is kept appreciably low, and there's no gimmicks at all, making it an ideal spot to come and just hang out with a few friends. It's like a cultured dive bar, and Parkdale's all the richer for it. More »

The Wren

The Wren

The Danforth's been crying out for a spot like The Wren for sometime now. It's got cheap (and good) cocktails, a solid collection of craft beer, a full kitchen slinging refined comfort food, and some polished decor. It's free of pretension and refreshingly casual despite doing so many things right. While there's an undeniable trendiness to some of Toronto's newest bars, I get the feeling that The Wren is going to stick around as a reliable local haunt for years to come. More »

The Dock Ellis

The Dock Ellis

The last bar on this list to open in 2013, The Dock Ellis has made an immediate impression on the Dundas and Dovercourt area, adding a cozy sports bar to a stretch already known for great restaurants (Enoteca Sociale, Quinta, Brockton General). With plenty of space to house a few game tables and a great menu from chef Trish Gill, this place is going to be tough to get a seat in during any big sporting event. More »

Boots 'N' Bourbon

Boots 'N' Bourbon

Rock Lobster owner Matt Pettit had a busy year in 2013, opening a new location of his popular seafood joint in the former home of Shanghai Cowgirl on Queen West and this headline-grabbing country saloon, replete with mechanical bull. Boots & Bourbon doesn't take itself too seriously, and the focus is on fun, so if you're looking for a spot to hide in the corner while checking your phone, you'll want to head elsewhere. More »

Round

Round

Kensington Market's new multi-functional event space manages to defy easy categorization on the grounds that every night it seems to hold something different. The upstairs bar is an informal club environment, so don't expect to head here for a quiet pint. There's a few informal snacks downstairs, but this is the place you'll want to hit up after a few pre-drinks with friends, when those dancing feet start itching. More »

Weldon Park

Weldon Park

Don't let the astroturf-covered bar stools fool you, nor the sweaty throng of the College Street's weekend crowd. The cocktail bar in the back carries a bit more clout than you might expect, with a range of barrel-aged drinks and a dazzling array of bitters. Bar snacks are inspired by tuck-shop classics, and the crowd is young enough to make you feel like you've gone back to school. More »

Food & Liquor

Food & Liquor

In spite of the Parkdale moratorium on new licenses, there's been no shortage of new bars opening in the area, thanks in part to the closure of older establishments. Food & Liquor occupies the former site of Poor John's Cafe, and has already proven something of a hit with a refined selection of bar snacks (including duck tongue!) and $6 pints. Food is served until late, and the place is open Mondays. Heaven. More »

Hi-Lo Bar

Hi-Lo Bar

If there's a common theme to be picked out from 2013, it's in the juxtaposition of craft cocktails alongside cans of PBR. This is part of the core concept at Hi-Lo Bar, and they straddle the line comfortably. Pinball tables? Check. Decorative tin ceiling? Check. Boxes of CrackerJacks? Double check. Excellent cocktails. Yep, yep. More »

Geraldine

Geraldine

Within spitting distance of Food & Liquor is this take on a Parisian absinthe parlour. Replacing Parkdale institution Cowbell is no simple feat, but owners Alexandra and Peter Ramsay have assembled a talented team featuring bartender Michael Mooney. The result is an outstanding combination of seafood (amongst other things) and refined speakeasy cocktails. It's an effortless exercise in casual refinement, and though this may be Parkdale, it wouldn't hurt to slip on a nice blouse or a tie when you pay a visit. More »

The Libertine

The Libertine

Continuing on the theme of the speakeasy (and also since Cold Tea's fame betrayed its status as the bar no-one could find), The Libertine currently holds the award for most effectively obscured bar in Toronto. Tucked behind a tarot reader near Dundas and Dovercourt, it's become another of those bars that's best to hit early in the evening before it gets absolutely packed. Cocktails are booze-forward, and the food is fresh and seasonally-informed. Try not to fall down the stairs. More »

Discussion

23 Comments

weej / January 17, 2014 at 01:14 pm
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I've had good times at Dock Ellis. Really nice staff, good prices, solid food, and the game.
too authentically vintage / January 17, 2014 at 03:11 pm
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Having trouble finding visible minorities in the photos accompanying each review.
Chester / January 17, 2014 at 03:46 pm
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Northwood is pretty awesome! THE LIBERTINE is garbage! Never had worse service in my life. They made me feel like I should feel privileged to be there, never going back.

Also I agree with JN, you guys seem to hype all the trendy, hip places while ignoring other areas just simply because there a little more business or white collar.
oh well / January 17, 2014 at 05:24 pm
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Damn. Northwood number 1.... time to find a new first date bar.
Steve / January 18, 2014 at 09:36 am
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Is it just me, or do all the bars shown look like they were designed by the same person?
Great Hall / January 18, 2014 at 09:52 am
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Most of them seem to be in the west end.
Mike / January 18, 2014 at 09:59 am
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Really like Montauk. Nice vibe and the music is always really good.
Ami / January 18, 2014 at 10:43 am
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I don't see the difference between them at all. Looks like the same bar over and over again. Hipster central
Kped / January 18, 2014 at 02:00 pm
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Love the Wren! One of my favourite spots in the East End. The area is really coming alive with Red Rocket Coffee, Sarah's and now the Wren. Solid beer list and very good food. The staff there is aces!
inquisitive yuppie / January 18, 2014 at 06:21 pm
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perhaps you could also categorize them by what percentage of the interior is reclaimed, and possibly by how unorthodox the reclaimed industrial light fixtures are.
Stu Gaats / January 18, 2014 at 06:47 pm
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The Wren is great in the east end but two doors over is Sauce. Totally killer spot that doesn't reek of hipsters.
Anna / January 18, 2014 at 08:56 pm
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HAPPY CHILD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
danforther / January 19, 2014 at 07:45 pm
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I wouldn't consider the wren a bar because they close before midnight on most nights. Its a good place, but its a restaurant that often has children in it.
Sasha / January 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm
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NEW = New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created.
tryharder / January 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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Affirmative action has everyone working harder these days....less time to party
Aaron replying to a comment from Chester / March 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm
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Totally agree with Chester. The Libertine is one of the worst places I've ever been. My girlfriend and I were told to take a seat at the bar as it was quite busy. Before we could order a drink the bartender told us that we couldn't sit there because she was saving the seats for her friends! What kind of service is that? We complained to the manager, who offered us a free shot for our trouble, but we declined and walked out.
Shea / April 13, 2014 at 12:08 am
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Hey yeah! This post,or every post for that matter, should be called "Stuff White People Like". Craft beer? Check. Donut shops? Check. Brunch? Check. And comments should be renamed "How the fuck could you leave (insert favourite neglected establishment name) off this list? You guy suck!"
Just Sayin / April 13, 2014 at 02:06 am
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Montauk sucks! They served me flat beer, watered down cocktails and hot whiskey! It was so gross and overpriced. Pharmacy is super boring and the bartender always seems like he wants you to leave as soon as possible. Also, way too quiet, like, can hear someone peeing in the bathroom quiet.
Adrienne / April 13, 2014 at 04:08 am
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Pharmacy wasn't a methadone clinic .. It was , you guessed it , a pharmacy . You know a place to pick up Advil , hair ties , anti biotics and toothpaste ! Methadone clinics are usually very discreet with a single function ( not a shop) . if it was a methadone clinic , wich are government run , it would be awful to shut down a social service I turn it into a bar !
Don't try to make something sound hipster cool on the backs of people who are unfortunate. It was a pharmacy , they sold things like gum , and mouthwash .
Nick / April 13, 2014 at 06:53 am
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Where's tom cruise?
Methhead / April 13, 2014 at 08:46 am
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Actually Adrienne, lots of pharmacies dispense methadone. It is a program, not a clinic. When I got my fix at the pharmacy I appreciated that I could also get gum and toothpaste!
boom / September 1, 2014 at 02:54 am
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Lipstick & Dynamite!
mark / October 18, 2014 at 04:35 pm
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but they all look the same.

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