10 Toronto restaurants with great music playlists
Music in Toronto restaurants can be a huge part of a meal. If you've ever eaten at a place where the music is mediocre, or worse - no music - was playing, you know how it puts a damper on the experience. Along with lighting, decor, service and, of course, the food - many Toronto restaurants' expertly curated soundtracks are one of the main reasons patrons return.
Here are my picks for Toronto restaurants with great playlists.
Now boasting three bustling locations (College St., Queen East and John St.), La Carnita's Mexican street fare is matched with one of the best hip-hop soundtracks in town. Whether the classics (Ghostface Killah, A Tribe Called Quest) or more contemporary rhymes (Chance, The Rapper, Childish Gambino), you're guaranteed to find just as much flavour in the tunes as you will on your plate.
The Drake Hotel
"We want our patrons to experience both new and familiar music," says Nathan Stein, The Drake's head of music programming. Whether you choose to dine in the cafe, lounge or Sky Yard, this West Queen West mainstay will have you grooving to a blend of classic soul, progressive indie and upbeat synth-pop. Don't forget the Drake Underground, home to live shows with a focus on local acts.
In this cozy Yonge and Wellesley craft beer bar, you can expect owners Julian and Tomas Morana and their roster of DJs to start the day with laidback soul, jazz and funk before transitioning into a mostly trip-hop soundtrack that complements the dimly lit space and extensive beer list. "We showcase styles of music that wouldn't be commonly heard in a typical craft beer bar," says Julian.
Parts & Labour
Before heading underground to The Shop for P&L's Saturday night hip-hop dance party, the laid back, communal-dining style brunch and dinner spot is set to a mix of new wave, post-punk and indie/alternative. "We have a little something for everyone," says P&L's music programmer, Scott Wade. "But we always stay true to the overall vibe of the space."
"Fat Pasha was really born out of a place to put all my Grateful Dead posters," says owner Anthony Rose about the restaurant that brings Middle Eastern-influenced flare to an otherwise quiet stretch of Dupont. While the colourful decor and diverse, shareable plates are what get you through the door, it's likely that the modern R&B and retro hits will keep you after your meal for dessert and more cocktails.
Parkdale staple Grand Electric limits their selections to the "hip-hop golden age" (late 80s to mid-90s), which lives in the personal music libraries of co-owners Ian McGrenaghan and Colin Tooke. To the masterminds behind one of the city's most popular taco joints, "hip-hop and Mexican feels like a natural combination."
Inside one of King Street East's quirkiest haunts, you'll find both an endless flow of eclectic beer and music selections. While you sink into one of the worn-in couches beneath a packed wall of vintage memorabilia, you'll sample everything from Fleetwood Mac, Wu Tang Clan and Joey Bada$$ all the way to Guppy Ranks and Nina Simone.
This cool Cabbagetown joint not only serves up old school hip-hop on their speakers - they serve it up on the menu, too. Hand-crafted cocktails and Taiwanese street dishes like "Edamame Said Knock You Out" and "Piggie Smalls" (to name a few) are nods to beat-heavy songs that "ignite a memory for the customer," according to co-owner Trevor Lui.
This homey Dundas West restaurant and bar is as laid back as laid back gets - allowing the staff on duty to curate the music for their loyal neighbourhood patrons. Whatever they're choosing is working; over a few glasses of wine, you could find yourself swaying to dusty jazz and old country before discovering your new favourite indie rock band.
The brains behind 416 Snack Bar are also to thank for this Chinatown hot spot, where the soundtrack is as much of a cultural fusion as the menu. Whether it's Leon Bridges' smooth soul, stomping Steely Dan or Madlibs' Shades of Blue album, co-owner Adrian Ravinsky says they "always try to keep it funky, no matter what."
What did I miss? Add your suggestions for Toronto restaurants that play great music in the comments.
Writing by Jess Huddleston / Photo of La Carnita Queen East by Jesse Milns
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