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Best of Toronto

The Best Rock Bars in Toronto

Posted by Aubrey Jax / October 18, 2013

rock bars TorontoThe best rock bars in Toronto are a loud bunch. The great Canadian north adores its piercing guitar playing, hard drinking sound. While fans know there are a huge number of options for rocking and drinking in Toronto, sometimes you don't want to mess around with gig bands who can't play hard enough, or DJs and jukeboxes with tepid selections, or clubs that are only open for specific shows. You just want to rock.

While Velvet Underground, Disgraceland, Tattoo, and Detour all deserve a shout out, they all just missed the cut for this list.

Here are the best rock bars in Toronto.

See also:

The Best Live Music Venues in Toronto
The top 10 east end live music venues in Toronto
The top 10 outdoor concert venues in Toronto
The top 5 venues for hip hop in Toronto
The top 5 nightclubs for EDM in Toronto
5 underrated live music venues in Toronto

The Horseshoe

The Horseshoe

The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern features a narrow front bar and a more expansive space in the back for live bands. What it lacks in pizazz it makes up for with a gritty charm, and by consistently booking hot ticket small and midsize touring and local rock acts. Plus, The Rolling Stones played here. More »

Sneaky Dee's

Sneaky Dee's

Sneaky Dee's will double your fun. The graffitied, relaxed bar / cheap hangover eats spot on the main floor is damn pretty rock and roll (and ideal for tattoo spotting), but the real story is the unpretentious upstairs concert venue where local bands and touring acts can whip themselves into a frenzy. More »

Bovine Sex Club

Bovine Sex Club

Since the early '90s the Bovine Sex Club, better known to tourists and the uninitiated as "that weird place on Queen Street with all the bikes attached to it," has been home to rock, punk, and metal. The random-stuff-everywhere motif continues inside, where many a crazy night has graced the chaos. More »

Rivoli

Rivoli

Another Queen West spot, the Rivoli offers a patio, restaurant, pool hall, bar, and back-of-the-house concert venue. While rock ethos permeates its relaxed atmosphere, the 30 year old building hosts everything from charity concerts, karaoke, and open mics to comedy nights and spoken word performances. More »

Cherry Cola's

Cherry Cola's

Cherry Cola's Rock & Roll Cabaret Lounge is thick with the most profound type of nostalgia... nostalgia for that which never really was. Their take on rock and roll oozes vintage motifs and a cheeky rockabilly vibe. At Cola's, live bands and DJs mix with bottle service and live dancers. More »

El Mocambo

El Mocambo

A little bit of CBGBs right here in Toronto. In its glory days the El Mo's stage supported The Rolling Stones, The Ramones, and Blondie. It's fallen on harder times now, but you can still catch a good show amid the ghost of rock and roll's legends as whoever the newest owners are try to spruce it up. More »

The Shop at Parts and Labour

The Shop at Parts and Labour

Parts and Labour's restaurant is kinda fancy, but underground venue The Shop is pretty damn rock and roll, if leaning toward the punk and hardcore end of the spectrum. The basement venue features bleachers, and at the right kind of show it can feel like those highschool Converse-sneaker glory days. More »

The Hideout

The Hideout

The Hideout boasts live music every single night, and this Queen West fixture also offers a full menu along with live rock and blues music. The patio isn't too shabby either. They're always looking for live acts to put on stage and do their part to support Toronto's rock community. More »

The Piston

The Piston

Located at Bloor and Ossington, The Piston has an eclectic malt shop kind of vibe. You can grab some decent sandwiches and knock back whiskey shooters while taking in DJs, small touring acts, and under the radar local bands making (curated) noise on the small stage. More »

Rancho Relaxo

Rancho Relaxo

Rancho Relaxo is something of a Toronto incubator. You won't see any big name acts here, but you might catch some local talent before they hit it big. Rock music shares the stage with experimental acts and more. It's a small space that can get very loud, but that's certainly not a complaint. More »

The Underground Garage

The Underground Garage

If the words "urban saloon" could play into your ideal night on the town, The Underground Garage is waiting for you to come get blackout wasted, or just chill and down some rail drinks. No judgements here in this club district bar, just good live bands and a ceiling hanging with patrons' donated bras. More »

Silver Dollar

Silver Dollar

Silver Dollar is attached to Hotel Waverly and after hours club Comfort Zone, which both narrowly escaped demolition earlier this year. The bar has a blues focus but hosts a ton of local and touring rock acts, especially in recent years. Google "Hospitals vs Dan Burke" for a little Toronto history. More »

The Rockpile

The Rockpile

With west and east locations, the Rockpile has fans in Etobicoke and now Scarborough covered thanks to Big Bop's former owner. The fully licensed, all ages venue offers ear plugs on sale at the prison themed Etobicoke location. They play host to local acts, touring bands, tribute nights, and more. More »

Hard Luck Bar

Hard Luck Bar

This stripped down bar near Dundas and Bathurst focuses on heavy rock, but their intimate stage also opens itself up to to rockabilly, country, punk, metal, and even electronica. Patrons young and old aren't shy about ordering Jack Daniels, but there's also a decent beer selection. More »

The Central

The Central

Multi-floor Mirvish Village bar The Central's got something going on for everyone. Not one but two patios make it a hit in the summer time, while live music and a restaurant keep things cozy year round. Local rock and indie bands can be found here, rocking out in an intimate setting. More »

Discussion

12 Comments

boys 'round here...want to know / October 18, 2013 at 03:38 pm
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Can we do a Best Country bar list next?

Or is there unfortunately not enough(if any, outside of Nashville North in Georgetown) to warrant such a list?
Simon replying to a comment from boys 'round here...want to know / October 18, 2013 at 04:03 pm
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Everyone knows the Best Country Bar is the Dakota Tavern. No contest.

I 100% agree with the Top 3 of this list, in this order.
The fact that The Garrison didn't even get a shout out is wrong.

la la lee / October 18, 2013 at 04:18 pm
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lees?
evan / October 18, 2013 at 04:32 pm
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I'm surprised not to see the opera house, lees and the phoenix on this list… Maybe post-rock doesn't count.
krb replying to a comment from evan / October 18, 2013 at 05:15 pm
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i wouldn't really call opera house a bar, though. they have one, but the bar-to-band ratio isn't really the same, though. it is nice that they can do all-ages sets, which is the trade-off there.
Frank replying to a comment from Simon / October 18, 2013 at 05:55 pm
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The Garrison sucks - sound is horrible and they were justifiably left off this list.

Lee's should be there though.
Phil / October 18, 2013 at 06:58 pm
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Leaving Lee's Palace off this list should be punishable by having to go for a night out in Brampton.
Laura replying to a comment from evan / October 18, 2013 at 06:59 pm
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Those are more concert venues than bars.
K / October 18, 2013 at 08:15 pm
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Where is that first photo under the title taken? I can't seem to see a description or sourcing anywhere and I don't recognize the venue..
Aubrey replying to a comment from K / October 18, 2013 at 08:27 pm
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Lead is Japandroids at Sneaky Dee's, 2011. http://www.blogto.com/music/2011/09/japandroids_and_metz_conjure_a_tempest_at_sneaky_dees/
allanna replying to a comment from K / October 19, 2013 at 01:41 pm
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there are always so many comments and asks about what the lead photo is on BlogTO posts... why won't you properly label/credit the photos BlogTO?! it's such a simple, helpful and basic thing... it's usually what brings a reader to the story!
Sam I am replying to a comment from Simon / October 20, 2013 at 09:58 pm
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Although not Toronto but instead Georgetown, I beg to differ.....i love the Dakota but I think Nashville north is a better actual country bar (line dancing, two step, etc). Dakota is more just a bar bar.....maybe bluegrass, honky Tonk, folksy

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