Toronto Patio Guide: West Queen West
These days some folks think West Queen West is the next Entertainment District. Others just think it has outgrown itself. Either way, if you can fight your way through the Paco Rabanne-scented striped shirts (weekend evenings only) and the American Apparel leggings, you can find some top-notch patios that are worth the effort.
Here are 18 of the best patios on West Queen West.
The Drake Hotel
Sure, it can be insufferable on a Friday night (who actually likes lining up for a bar?), but during the day the Drake has the wham-bam two hit punch of a relaxing side patio and the fun SkyYard. The food can veer toward the trendy, but they do good nibbles like sandwiches, oysters and sashimi salad. The side patio is particularly great for street-watching, as it's sufficiently set back from Queen to be peaceful.
Found directly across the street from the Drake, the Beaconsfield's patio has a vibe a little less frenetic with prices and hefty portions more likely to draw the local crowd. And while the Drake gets all of the glory, the food at the Beaconsfield is never disappointing. Also, if you order a special with a pint of 50, it will come out to $8. Note: don't get too comfortable! Like the Drake, the Beaconsfield's street-side patio closes around 10pm to keep the noise down for the neighbours.
With its cheap suds, Squirly's draws a younger, more collegiate crowd. But its funky, covered and heated patio - fun in any weather - has the potential for mass appeal. Everyone also swears by the wings, and I'm inclined to agree. Or try the North Americanized pad thai for the full university eating experience. With prices this good, you're likely going to be here for awhile. Eat to keep your strength up.
The Beaver Cafe
Recently expanded, the Beaver's patio feels about as large as the Beaver itself. During the day, it's filled with locals who love the great staff, the lamb burgers and the super-sweet cupcakes. At night, the patio transforms into the epicenter of Queer Street West. On the weekend, the patio gets crammed. Watch out for cigarette burns, flying wigs and scandalous behaviour.
Done Right Inn
The Done Right Inn is a time warp back to a moment in time when West Queen West was but a couple of flophouses and some art stores. It has everything you want in a local: no attitude, great craft beer on tap and a leafy patio. Sure, the place looks like it needs a good sweeping, but who has time for that? There's plenty of seating out back, and you get to drink under possibly the largest patio tree in Toronto. If you're really nice, they might let you play their Jenga.
Fresh on Queen
For Toronto's vegetarian set, Fresh needs no introduction: it's the city's go-to place for vegan dining. Their west facing patio is large, comfortable and nicely furnished and covered in an awning when the sun gets too bright. Their mind-altering freshly blended juices provide the needed energy boost for a West End patio crawl, and they also serve microbrews and organic wine.
One of Queen's favourite brunch spots, Bar One has two patios: a small one in the front and a larger one out back. For larger groups or those looking for a bit more seclusion, the back patio is more spacious and relatively quieter. Either way, once you're sitting in the sunshine, order some of the muy excellente coffee to pair with the sweet and savoury banana pancakes over brunch. Sweet!
It may not look like Czehoski has a patio but climb the stairs to the second floor and look north and a whole new world appears. This is the patio of many people's dreams - large, secluded and elegant. It's the perfect spot to escape from the commotion on the dining room downstairs and refresh with a cocktail or one of their 8 beers on tap.
The Red Tea Box
This courtyard patio is dainty with a capital D. It's the type of place one might contemplate taking their grandma, or anyone who's really into finely crafted desserts or intricate and tasty bento box lunches. Caution: service can be slow and prices aren't cheap.
Formerly Irie Food Joint, the space re-branded last year and updated its menu to one not unlike the owner's original Harlem restaurant on Richmond Street East. But whether Caribbean or soul food is your saviour, the good news is that the quaint back patio is still in tact.
Creperie La Brehandaise
Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, this French creperie has a discreet garden patio that might not feel like France but may get you as close to the European experience as you'll find near Queen and Shaw. Order a strong Quebec cider and one of their sweet crepes or homemade desserts.
For cheap and cheerful Tex Mex on Queen, longtime resident La Hacienda still packs them in on the back patio. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the restaurant's menu features burritos and quesadillas which can easily be washed down with pitchers of red or white sangria, margaritas or whiskey sour.
The patio here might be small and narrow but don't let that dissuade you from heading here for Sunday night all you can eat tacos (they refer to it as TACO HELL). The rest of the time, fill up on one of their venison burgers, fresh fish or $4 bottles of Molson Stock Ale.
With one of the most popular back patios on Queen line-ups here are de-rigueur. And why not? Where else are you going to find salads and pizza this good (wait....) and massive zuccinis evesdropping on your most intimate conversation.
For white table cloth service and Italian a bit more refined, head across the street from Terroni to this longtime neighbourhood destination for fresh pasta and exquisite antipasti on their east-facing patio. Note: even though Noce has an excellent wine selection and bottles of Italian beer this isn't the type of place to run up a bar tab. Open for lunch and dinner.
For Ethiopian food al fresco, grab some injera and tibs on this recently updated patio on the far end of West Queen West. There are plenty of meat and veggie options available plus the traditional coffee ceremony.
Between Queen and Dundas on Dovercourt, the city's best Cuban restaurant has a small and casual front patio that's perfect for sipping on mohitos, sharing guacamole and wolfing back a filling plate of ropa vieja. And where else around here are you going to find bottles of Cristal beer?
Also on Dovercourt, Luna Cafe may not be open late but if brunch is what you're after, Luna creates a makeshift patio at the corner of Argyle with comfortable enough tables and chairs. No, they're sadly not licensed but they do make excellent pancakes.
A special thanks to Bud Light Lime for sponsoring this section. Watch for 10 more neighbourhood patio profiles in the weeks to come.
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