The Best New Bars in Toronto, 2013
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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