Toronto is infatuated with its bipolar summers and everything that comes with them -- including Canada’s Wonderland, home games at the Rogers Centre, and impromptu trips to Centre Island and Woodbine Beach. But once the heat waves kick in, the only thing that matters is #patioszn. Drinking (and eating) outdoors is a great Canadian pastime. With summer finally hitting peak form, we're highlighting the city’s best patios and outdoor bars.
Amsterdam Brewing’s lakeside HQ is renowned for its Muskoka chairs, umbrellas, and wooden 300-seat outdoor patio where you can recline and forget about the cottage. The BrewHouse has an extensive food menu that tackles apps, burgers, and in-house BBQ (think ribs and apple butter BBQ chicken) that's been smoked over aged Ontario cherry wood. And then there’s the beer. The bar is always stocked with Amsterdam brews -- Natural Blonde, Cruiser, Boneshaker IPA, and Raspberry Wheat. Buy a few bottles to-go from Amsterdam's own retail store.
Paul Emery and Trish Welbourn’s "Blandsdowne" bar isn’t exactly a go-to for midsummer dates, but it should be. With an open-air roof, 3 Speed’s back patio's kitschy, Southern-comfort vibe pairs well with its craft brews, veggie omelettes, and weekend specials (mussels, brisket, and pork souvlaki).
It’s fairly easy to confuse Brewco with its King West parent, so here are a few tips to keep things straight: the offshoot is the one that took over the two-story building on Peter St that was dedicated to nightclubs. It’s packed with communal tables and 36 craft brews on tap. It offers up helpings of bone marrow poutine and mean farm greens. And on a cool summer night, the rooftop deck is the perfect spot for an ice-cold Goose Island Sofie or a glass of Bowmore 15.
Grant van Gameren’s pintxo parlor has become one of Toronto’s trendiest quick-bite hangouts, in part thanks to its streetside patio -- perfect for lounging in the sun and after-work shenanigans. The botifarra ($12), chorizo ($7.25), and El Salvadorian pound cake ($4) are all maravilloso next to a glass of Pixie Blood ($16) -- a delightful mix of tequila, absinthe, and cinnamon grenadine that you should absolutely get.
Polson Pier’s day-to-night party spot is basically a mini Ibiza with $24 fruit platters, but if you thoroughly enjoy Bud Light Apple and tan lines, then the Cabana’s for you. The pool haven is typically open during peak hours Thursday-Sunday, and if the slushie bar isn’t flowing, then you’re bound to run into Hed Kandi raves and DJ sets from the likes of Lil Jon and Tiesto.
Clocktower Bar is the only reason you need to venture up to Summerhill this summer. The Yonge St spot is a lot more than just Boxcar Social on bitters -- all signs point to its backyard BBQ-like patio, which has become an intimate checkpoint for fizzes, Old Fashioneds, and the Barcelona Address, a potent mix of Lustau Oloroso sherry, Cinzano, prosecco, and lemon oil.
Done Right is a Trinity-Bellwoods gem mostly known for its dive bar charm. The Inn’s backyard patio is a wooden bench sanctuary that’s modest but perfect for post-park sunbathing, group shots, and cheap beer that isn’t too cheap. If you still aren’t convinced, it also accepts Canadian Tire money as a method of payment.
El Catrin's outdoor patio is decked out with fire pits, lanterns, sugar skulls, massive chandeliers, and playful yellow furniture that cordially invites you to test out the tequila bar, stocked with over 120 different labels. In other words, pick your poison with a side of the modern-meets-traditional Mexican fare.
The Oaxaca-themed mezcal bar is another outpost from Grant van Gameren, and much like his other setups, it’s giving the neighborhood a modern bohemian look. If you don’t believe us, then believe in El Rey’s front patio, which has become a home for picnic tables, tropical flora, and 30-plus batches of mezcal -- including rich arruqueño and tepeztate. There are also botanas such as morita popcorn, roasted plantain, grilled lamb hearts, and chapulines (grasshoppers).
Hemingway’s is a GTA throwback that's been keeping Yorkville cool for years. The New Zealand-inspired restaurant provides the calamari, jerk chicken burritos, import brews, futbol games, and a massive, covered, pub-casual rooftop patio that has your back year-round.
Kasa Moto is a Japanese restaurant that focuses on chic seafood dining, but don’t be fooled by its minimalist heart. The Yorkville establishment features celestial sushi plates, protein-heavy noodle dishes, a vast cocktail list, and a heated rooftop patio that has its own dedicated bar and cabanas, which can tend up to 180 people on a busy night.
Looking to reinvigorate the brunch dating scene? Embrace Le Sélect. Its front patio and private terrasse are a hot commodity on the weekends -- the Parisian ambience is accentuated by steak frites, Fogo Island crab ravioli, fresh croissants, and a wine list that will fulfill your inner Francophile’s every need. Just be warned: the mood switches come nightfall as the glasses of pinot noir and Sancerre turn the spaces into illustrations of 19th-century French Romanticism.
CityPlace’s new Tex-Mex joint is fortified with eclectic apps from chef Guillermo Herbertson -- think house wings, mini tostadas, and corn quinoa fritters -- but here, the 100-seat patio is king. The enclosed space faces Canoe Landing Park and is connected to a wall of arcade classics (Pac-Man, Street Fighter). The beverages are also really hard to top, as Macho’s drink list is loaded with cocktails ($8-$10), margaritas ($8-$20), sangria ($25), and agua frescas ($8) that will either bite back (hibiscus + gin) or tingle your senses (mango + Olmeca Altos Plata tequila).
Toronto has its fair share of rooftop patios (Mascot Brewery, Harvest Kitchen), but The Porch is a casual spot that welcomes all types, including office cliques, Tinder dates, and Pokémon Go experts. The always-bustling deck is above Adelaide’s Rock ‘n’ Horse Saloon, making it a place for quick Snapchats with the CN Tower and doubling up on Selfie Sweet Tea ($8.75) and lime margaritas ($14.75). If all else fails, at least there’s the Pizzadilla Rolls ($17).
West Queen West
Ask any Queen West aficionado: The Drake will always be there for you. The hotel has become a year-round retreat for all things music and trivia, and for this summer, Sky Yard has become a Palm Springs-esque hang that throws it back with vintage photographs and a retro diving board. The rooftop deck is also outfitted with nippy cocktails, brunch snacks, and modern art pieces such as Micah Lexier’s "Finger Drawing" and INSA’s GIF-iti mural, "I Would Die 4 U," which honors the late, great Prince.
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1. Amsterdam BrewHouse245 Queens Quay W, South Building, Toronto
2. Three Speed1163 Bloor St W, Toronto
3. Bar Hop Brewco137 Peter St, Toronto
4. Bar Raval505 College St, Toronto
5. Cabana Pool Bar11 Polson Pier, Toronto
6. Clocktower Bar1210 Yonge Street, Toronto
7. Done Right Inn861 Queen St W, Toronto
8. El Catrin18 Tank House Lane, Toronto
9. El Rey Mezcal Bar2A Kensington Ave, Toronto
10. Hemingway's142 Cumberland St., Toronto
11. Kasa Moto115 Yorkville Ave, Toronto
12. Le Sélect Bistro432 Wellington St W, Toronto
13. Macho Tex Mex Radio Bar92 Fort York, Toronto
14. The Porch250 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
15. Drake Hotel1150 Queen St. W., Toronto
With over 800 seats and waterfront placement, Amsterdam Brewhouse offers plenty of breezy and relaxed socializing opportunities for beer drinkers and their friends alike. Inside, the place is huge -- it's got two floors, and a second-floor open kitchen devoted entirely to food prep -- and all in all houses two separate dining areas, a bar, a running brewery, and a retail store selling exclusive brews. Beer is obviously the great unifier here (though food is also on offer), and the alehouse offers an extensive list of non-pasteurized bottled, draft, and canned beer. There're also cocktails of the classic and frozen variety, and, an extensive wine list, because no lakeside hang is complete without a glass of rosé
For those in Bloordale Village seeking a casual, convivial night out, consider stopping by The 3 Speed. The experience is that of an elevated gastropub sans pretension, striking the perfect balance between homestyle and hip (think exposed brick, kitschy furniture, and a patio enclosed by lush, hanging plants and winterized for those dedicated to dining outdoors). Popular food items range from vegetarian omelettes and seasonal specials like mussels, and the bar pours craft brews -- local drafts and domestic bottles, keeping the focus on community.
This multi-level bar in Queen Street West is a behemoth-- not merely content just to be a great biergarten and pub with a killer brew selection, Bar Hop Brewco's also a 162 seat restaurant and brewery. Chow down on snacks and sides like glazed pork belly steamed buns with kimchi and okra tempura while enjoying local Canadian brews.
There are wine bars you expect, and then there are wine bars that look ripped from one of Antoni Gadui's sketchbooks, and Basque-inflected Bar Raval in Little Italy is of the latter category. The actual bar itself qualifies as a work of art: its curving, sculptural wood undulates and climbs up the walls to form an alien canopy above drinkers' heads. A pinxto menu provides all the toothpicked snacks you could hope for, from salt-cured tuna loin to petit mushroom towers. A thoughtful selection of Spanish wines go down smoothly, but do take care to order one of the specialty sherry pours, complete with background on the bottle history from knowledgable bartenders.
An unexpected paradise on Polson Pier, Cabana Pool Bar is less of a bar and more of an upscale, around-the-clock party. Those seeking sunlight in Toronto can head here Thursday through Sunday to rent private cabanas and get their vitamin D fix on plush white chaise lounges and daybeds. The bottle service, fine French-inspired bar fare, and live DJ may err on the side of extravagance, but if you’re in it for the tan lines and Instagram likes, you won’t be disappointed.
The modern, naturalistic vibe of Clocktower Bar is pervasive whether you decide to sit indoors or outdoors: from the crisp pine tables, the white birch wallpaper, and the deer horns mounted next to liquor shelves, this Summerhill spot has a bright, airy feel befitting for the freshness of its cocktail offerings. Expect nuanced updates to old classics -- a Negroni made with pink salt tincture, for example -- and signature concoctions like the Persephone, made with Prosecco, cucumber-infused gin, St. Germain, and lime juice. For those looking to snack while sipping, consider stopping by on the weekends for a shared barbecue with Boxcar Social, the older sibling just next door.
Done Right Inn is certainly a dive bar, but it's the kind that everyone -- not just the town lowlives -- actually goes to. Cheap beer, a small working TV, and friendly bar maids with years of unpretentious service experience draw crowds on the weekends. A back patio offers a nice escape and you'll find that cozy seats and tables under verdant foliage await you for an inexpensive all-night catch-up. This is a dive done right.
Every aspect of El Catrin is predicated on the marriage of Mexican tradition with modern dining: from the variegated tapas and the curated tasting menu to the extensive list of mezcal, tequila, and corresponding signature cocktails. Stepping into this Distillery District spot is like falling down the rabbit’s hole into Mexico City: a hallucinatory wonderland of neon colors and stylized sugar skulls, culminating in a massive wall mural by renowned artist Oscar Flores. Before you become too transfixed, be sure to check out the patio; between the overhead heat lamps and the central fire pit, you might forget you’re in Canada at all.
Tradition is a focal point at this cozy Kensington Market outpost. The light bites pack heavy flavor, and there’s no forsaking authenticity (no joke: if you want the cacachuate mix without the grasshopper garnish, that’s on you). As the name implies, these libations are mezcal-obsessed, and illustrative of the spirit’s surprising adroitness when it comes to flavor profiles. Fortunately, the drink list is broken down by different types of agave, alcohol content, and even the material in which each one is aged; whether you’re a seasoned vet or imbibing for the first time, consider camping on one of the bohemian picnic benches to pick your poison.
A Yorkville staple since 1982, this bare-bones gastropub serves New Zealand-inspired bar fare in a casual, buzzy space. Regulars come for the happy hour deals or televised sports events, and often wind up staying for the craft drafts and favorite plates like the Kiwi lamb burger or the Cajun fries. Whatever brings you to Hemingway’s, make sure to arrive sooner rather than later: the rooftop patio is a popular destination for post-work drinks.
Refined Japanese cuisine is showcased at this upscale Yorkville restaurant, and thankfully it involves more than sushi. Specifically, diners here can choose from an omakase tasting at the sushi bar, a cold soba noodle salad drenched in creamy tahini, or a salmon and tuna ceviche salad mixed with carrot and root vegetables. All the dishes are artistically plated -- perhaps where the higher price points are introduced -- and likely best enjoyed at the ivy-dressed rooftop patio.
Located on a street of tame office buildings on Wellington St, this charming Parisian-style bistro with a striped awning beckons casual strollers and couples out on date night in for steak frites and crab ravioli. The whispered mood is set by dim lights, brown booths, and intimate quarters lined with historic art. But you don't need to be celebrating anything to enjoy a brunch here -- mimosas, steak & frites brunch option are universal favorites, while the chocolate mousse leaves nothing to be desired.
The Tex-Mex joint in City Place occupies the space that was once Citta, and thanks to design firm Studio Munge, it’s fully decked out in neon lights and arcade classics such as Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man. The main attraction, however, is the enclosed patio and how it goes hand-in-hand with the alcoholic agua frescas (spike 'em with tequila, vodka, gin, white rum, whiskey, or bourbon). If you’re with friends, you may as well order a giant pitcher of the stuff.
As far as rooftop patios go, the entertainment district's The Porch is one for the bucket list. Offering gorgeous, unobstructed panoramic views of the city and the iconic CN Tower, this outdoor bar elevates the drinking experience to cinematic levels. At night, a lively crowd sipping on mango margaritas and house sangria creates a party-like atmosphere, while a chiller daytime brunch crowd congregates around eggs benedict and watermelon plates. Draped in floating twinkle lights, the Porch is the kind of neighborly space where you're either bound to run into someone you know, or make a friend while catching the Jays game.
Since opening in 1890 as a modest hotel, the Drake has since transformed into a boutique eat, drink, and stay destination. The entire space is designed to symmetrical perfection, with each venue within exuding its own style and attracting a different clientele to the mix, while seamlessly complementing the rest of the hotel. Diners can choose from menus at the Dining Room, Raw Bar, Lounge, Cafe, and Sky Yard, or join the night crowd in the Underground. The Drake is a mecca for culture -- for tourists, West Queen West locals (where the venue is located), and Toronto residents from beyond -- and a good pick for any mood, any day of the week.