bars toronto

The 10 most essential bars in Toronto

Essential Toronto bars are places you would tell your very best friend to go if they needed to drink STAT. Or maybe the type of place you'd tell an out of town buddy to check out. These bars are a bunch of establishments that consistently add flavour to the city and we're thankful they're here to do so.

Here are my picks for the most essential bars in Toronto.

Sneaky Dee's
We once described this place as "a longtime institution of Toronto's downtown core that caters to the young and cash-strapped." Covered in graffiti, smothered with massive plates of nachos and spilling over with well-priced pints, this punk dive bar is a must.

Communist's Daughter
This bar is the size of a large walk-in closet, but instead of amazing pieces of clothing and shoes, it's packed with extremely friendly neighbourhood drinkers. There's often a show in the front window.

This is the ultimate starting point for gay Toronto. Lots of friendly men (and some women) gather there on any given night of the week for good drag shows, cheap pints and of course, the best ass contest every Saturday night.

Cold Tea
Head straight through Kensington Mall, down the hallway, past the friendly woman selling dumplings and into this cozy dive bar. The bar itself is tiny, but it's the lively back patio that has all the kids talking. Lots of seating, special guest DJs and sunny afternoon jams.

3 Speed
We once described the look of this Bloordale bar as blending "the chic look of exposed brick wall and fancy art pieces with comfortable retro-basement touches like faux wood paneling and tacky lamps." I'll also mention the friendly neighbourhood back patio, 30-something crowd of calm drinkers and a reliable menu.

Get Well
This Dundas West favourite is co-owned by Al (you may recognize him from Victory CafĂŠ) and Jeff and Tim from Sonic Boom. They have a commendable craft beer selection, lots of seating, the crowd is anything but boring or obnoxious and the music selection is always entertaining.

Done Right Inn
An extremely low key bar near Trinity Bellwoods that you've probably walked by hundreds of times. It's very unassuming but very charming and the perfectly tree-covered patio out back is a warm neighbourly hug just when you need it. It's like a miniature legion, frequented by West Queen West's most non-pretentious.

Track and Field
The youngest bar on this list has fast become a Toronto bar staple. It's our city's first ever lawn games bar! Bringing summer sports indoors, all year long on College Street, the bar is mostly made up of room to stand or sit and drink, but with a bocce ball and shuffleboard bonus.

The Drake
The bar that changed Toronto's west side forever made this list because patrons showing up on any night of week (full-disclosure, weekends are nuts, so enter at your own risk) will find a well-made drink and something to do, if they want. The Sky Yard is a TO summer-must and cocktails on the main floor are great for people watching.

The Only
Holding fort for the east side, the essential drinking hole has hundreds of bottles of beer to chose from, a great selection of micro-breweries and dozens of stuff on tap. It's a neighbourhood gem that patrons swear by and a must-sit-and-drink spot on the Danforth.

Thanks to Moosehead for sponsoring this post.

Did I miss your essential Toronto bar? Let us know where you think we absolutely must have a beverage. Cheers!

Photo of Cold Tea by Jesse Milns.

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