Food & Drink

The Most Important Bars in Toronto

Published On 09/02/2015 Published On 09/02/2015
Bar Volo | Flickr/Tongue & Cheek
The Horseshoe Tavern
Bar Volo
Sneaky Dee's
Flickr/Rob Hyndman
Instagram/Coldteabar
Flickr/Chris Barker
Duffy’s Tavern
Vladimir Fonov/ Communist's Daughter
Toronto Temperance Society
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1. Horseshoe Tavern 370 Queen St W, Toronto, M5V 2A3

A mainstay on the Toronto rock scene, this intimate venue is a part of the city's history. Big ticket acts have included The Rolling Stones, The Strokes, Wilco, Spoon, and more.

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2. Bar Volo 587 Yonge St, Toronto, M4Y 1Z4

A beer lover's paradise. Also a whiskey lover's paradise. Decent for people who love cider. And, oh man, the meats and cheeses too! We'd say it's just a pretty great place for anyone who like to drink alcohol (which is you, probably.)

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3. Sneaky Dee's 431 College St, Toronto, M5T 1T1

A dive bar. Get the nachos. (Some things in life are straightforward, Sneaky Dee's is one of them.)

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4. Bar Raval 505 College St, Toronto, M6J 2J3 (Little Italy)

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.

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5. Cold Tea 60 Kensington Ave, Toronto, M5T 2K1

While its location may be a bit off the beaten path (tucked away deep within an urban shopping center), Cold Tea's drinks good enough to turn you into the mallrat you were in middle school. Cut through the commerce and head straight to the cocktails-- if you're feeling gutsy, "choose your adventure" and let the bartender mix you a unique drink from scratch. Cold Tea also scores bonus points for its in-house food option, its very own dim sum cart.

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6. The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar 194 Queen St W, Toronto, M5V1Z1 (Chinatown)

This Queen St West venue is a hotel/jazz club/resto, which many consider the BEST place in the city to hit up for quality live jazz and blues, not to mention tasty food and quality drinks.

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7. Duffy's Tavern 1238 Bloor Street West, Toronto, M6H 1N3

Open since 1949, the years have neutralized this classic pub, making it a common ground for the young and the old, locals and visitors, drinkers and... other drinkers. Live music and scrumptious nibbles certainly don't hurt either.

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8. The Communist's Daughter 1149 Dundas St W, Toronto, M6J 1X4 (Little Portugal)

Although this has become a relatively popular place, it still features a laid-back atmosphere in the west end of the city. And the "Snack Bar" sign out front? Pay no attention, that means you've found it.

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9. Toronto Temperance Society 577 College St., Toronto, M6G 1B2

This members-only cocktail lounge hidden above Sidecar Restaurant boasts one of the best selections of liquors in Toronto with an extensive cocktail program that focuses on recipes that date back a century or more, with some newer concoctions thrown in. The look and feel here is old-fashioned, kind of like an upscale speakeasy. And there are house rules to follow, like no phone calls at the bar, no talking to a lady until spoken to, and our favorite: “Do not ever attempt to order a cosmopolitan. You will be asked, politely, to leave.”