For all practical purposes Toronto is basically just Queen Street. It’s Toronto’s St. Laurent, except without the park or the mountain or Schwartz’s or all the frogs. It runs across town from east to west but we’re only actually concerned with Queen West. Queen East is a bit of a mystery. Most of the bars and restaurants in this guide are on Queen West. We’re going to be jumping around to places on Dundas, College, and Bloor but even when we do they will all be west of Yonge. There just isn’t much going on east of Yonge. Sorry East of Yonge.
The 360 (326 Queen St. W.) A great staple bar that is apparently owned by bikers, the 360 is actually a Canadian Legion Hall so there are always old dudes wearing war medals and drinking well-deserved discount 50s. Monday night it’s $2.50 beers and Wednesday $2.50 mixed drinks but they won’t tell you about it unless you mention it and will happily charge you full price.
Amadeu’s (182 Augusta St.) One of the only decent patios in Kensington Market, stocked with old-timey Portuguese drunks. Drink an entire pitcher of sangria and eat a plate of grilled sardines, then another pitcher of sangria but lay off the sardines. One plate is all you can handle.
The Beaconsfield (1154 Queen St. W.) Designed with the “I-Hate-the-Drake” crowd in mind, The Beaconsfield is a nice dark bar perfect for your first few drinks of the night and the food is excellent. If they are playing drum and bass get the check and run, it isn’t going to let up all night.
The Black Bull (298 Queen St. W.) Yes, the patio is full of after-work wankers but no patio in the city comes close, ergonomically speaking. Southwest exposure, that’s the key in Toronto. In the summer it’s a license to print money but one night we spotted the owner eating cheap tuna right out of the can, which was weird.
The Boat (158 Augusta Ave.) Your wife wants to go on a cruise but you don’t have the money? Take her to the Boat for a couple drinks and some prawn crackers. When she wakes up in the morning she’ll think she had the most wonderful holiday and she kind of did. This place is trippy.
The Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen St. W.) A portal to the dark side, for a lot of good reasons. And the dark side in Toronto is dark, like an LA, aluminum-foil-on-the-windows kind of dark. The smoking ban really put the hurt on this place so the owner built a smoking room. Now everyone is crammed into what is probably the most disgusting smoking room in the city. You can smoke through your pores in there. When Slash and Nikki Sixx are in town they drink here and have to beat off the rock sluts with a stick. A necessary stop on the route.
Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen St. W.) OK, this place has an actual Cadillac mounted on its façade. The effect is similar to that Jeep sticking out of the side of the Much Music building. GAY. But it has a huge backyard patio, real country bands with pedal-steel guitar and we like that. Go with a bunch of people and it will be fun. Go alone and the irony of this theme bar may overwhelm you.
The Cameron House (408 Queen St. W.) Hipsters from a previous generation hang out here. They are arty but have a lot of money too. Commercials and music-video people. They listen to “free jazz” and shit like that and usually have a goth-meets-rock look but this isn’t a negative review.
The Chelsea Room (923 Dundas W.) Better then most lounges of similar ilk, its out-of-the-way location makes it a chilled-out alternative for a drink but there’s not much incentive to go here when Cocktail Molotov is right across the street (see below).
Cloak and Dagger (394 College St.) Cloak and Dagger has an unpretentious friendly vibe and is packed with action and romance, much like the famous comic book before it. This place used to have a good Thursday night. Someone should go to the new Thursday night and tell us what it’s like.
Cobalt (426 College St.) A martini lounge with a good ambience that often has decent DJs. This review is short and to the point.
Cocktail Molotov (928 Dundas St. W.) This bar doesn’t live up to its name but then again that would mean it would have to burst into flames every night in protest. Overall it’s a nice little bar in the heart of nowhere Dundas West. The environment is conversation-conducive so make sure your date isn’t just a brain donor you’d like to hump before suggesting it as place to go. Also, if you’ve got time to be blown away check out the Holy Communion photography window display next door.
The Communist Daughter (1149 Dundas St. W.) You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a bar named after a Neutral Milk Hotel song. The place is tiny so it’s good for getting to know strangers while eating pickled eggs. Has one of the better jukeboxes in the city, just don’t play the namesake song because that is really unimaginative and you’re smarter and more creative than that.
College St. Bar (574 College St.) This would be the perfect time to plug a friend’s night here but we can’t because he fucked another friend’s girlfriend. Despite investing in DJs there is nowhere to dance but it’s still one of those few places on College you can still frequent.
The Done Right Inn (861 Queen St. W.) Funny name. It’s a dive, not very exciting and a bit of a last resort, but in the summer the big patio is a great place to get hammered. They have vintage arcade games inside and have been known to take Canadian Tire money at the bar.
The Drake (1150 Queen St. W.) Every other city in the world has boutique hotels (except Paris for some strange reason), so why not Toronto? Thursday-Saturday it is wall-to-wall 905 douchebags but on the other nights it can be a good spot for random goings-on. Great rooftop patio. The bizzillionaire that owns it blew a wad on sound so it sounds great. The brunch is expensive but amazinghave the steak and eggs. Check this out: If you ever rent a car from Advantage near the airport you can meet the guy who used to own this building for years before the bizzillionaire. He works behind the counter.
Duke of York (1225 Queen St. E.) A real tavern, go here on welfare-cheque day and see how the down-for-life crowd parties. They will put you to shame. The “hipster country karaoke” parties on Saturday afternoons can get embarrassing.
The Embassy (223 Augusta) This is one of those spots where you can go by yourself and chat with the bartender for hours about old TV shows. They serve Quebec microbrews like Blanche de Chambly. Sorry Toronto, but this beer is better than anything brewed in Ontario, admit it.
The Gladstone (1214 Queen St. W.) Still the spot to go for karaoke if you can’t afford to get a private room, which is what you should always do if you have six people or more. If you want to sing more than once be nice to the karaoke overlord “Peter Styles” as he has that karaoke MC’s disease that forces him to run the show like Uday Hussein ran his Friday night bedroom bashes. Hotel to follow although they are renting rooms now amid the construction. Thank you to the owners for using your buckets and buckets of money to do something good and save a Toronto architectural landmark. You people are rare.
The Green Room (296 Brunswick Ave., but not really) Some say it’s the Korean Mafia, some say it’s the Vietnamese Mafia, we say who cares as long as it’s a good time. What does concern us is the rumour that they defrost chickens on the kitchen floor. On second thought, fuck it! Cheap eats, good times, opium!
The Horseshoe Tavern (370 Queen St. W.) This choice is kind of “well, duh” but come on, where else are you going to go that’s busy on a Monday night, or Easter, or whenever really? You are incomplete and thrive by socializing, so stick to crowded bars like this and you will live that much longer. All the good shows happen here.
Last Temptation (12 Kensington Ave.) Your typical, smelly, Asian-run dive bar. Nice because it’s in Kensington and has a patio but that’s about all that it has going for it.
Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor St. W.) A mid-size concert venue with a dance hall upstairs retardedly named “The Dance Cave.” Depends on the event but the music in there can be a pube away from either perfect or pathetic. On the weekends beware of jock spill-over from the Brunswick House.
OVs (1302 Queen St. W.) Hosers, African immigrants, Italian sluts… the only place in the city where race and income don’t matter, OVs is Darwin’s wet dream. We are almost afraid to talk about it lest too many people start to go there and ruin it. Neon beer signs on the walls, crazy-cheap drinks, local scumbags with unironic mullets, and so on. Want to see a cover band named Detour rocking some Bon Jovi with a huge Detour road sign behind them? No problem. Plus it’s a private club so you can smoke.
Paddy Murphy’s (751 Queen St. W.) Mike Wallace, one of Toronto’s best DJs, had a night here when it was called the Ancient. And there used to be a “mod” after-hours somewhere around this place as well, so it’s in the zone but not necessarily in the pocket, you know?
The Pilot (22 Cumberland St.) Two things come to mind when the Pilot is mentioned: drinking underage and budget fetish nights where dudes that don’t have enough money for gimp suits wrap their heads in tinfoil and hope it turns someone on.
The Queenshead Pub (659 Queen St. W.) The Queenshead is the closest thing in Toronto to an East Village dive. They’ve tried to turn this space into eight different restaurants and none stuck because the spot has been a pub for 100 years, which means it reeks of fermented alcohol and pee. Cheap beer and well drinks and good DJs, the Queenshead is hard to beat any night of the week.
The Rivoli (332 Queen St. W.) The Rivoli is also a safe bet pretty much all the time. You’re not going to break any Good Times World Records but the venue does offer a good patio for weirdo watching, a restaurant, live music in the back room, and a pool hall upstairs, if you like to be boring and act grown-up.
The Silver Dollar (486 Spadina Ave.) According to a recent study, the booker for this infamous live music venue has been identified as one of the weirdest people in the world, which means it puts on some of the best live shows in town. The Comfort Zone downstairs is an all-night rave party strictly for crack heads who enjoy stepping on vials.
Sneaky Dees (431 College St.) Maybe people are so cheap and hungry that they don’t care that this concert venue/bar/late-night eatery is commonly referred to as Sneaky Disease and that people have been shot there because it’s always rammed. So much for humanity, let’s get another pitcher and some nachos.
Squirrely’s (807 Queen St. W.) Some people hate this place because everyone they know goes there but that’s what we call a “community.” Be a grown-up and deal with it, you are part of a circle of friends and that’s a good thing even if you might run into your ex. The food and drinks are reasonably cheap and they almost always play good music. See you there.
Stone’s Place (1255 Queen St. W.) This is a good bar that has benefited from the recent progression made by hipsters to spots farther west on Queen. It’s a Rolling Stones-themed bar but you can’t appreciate that on crowded nights. You should go before it gets busy to check out the memorabilia but more importantly, check out the owner’s face, he may have had surgery to look like Mick.
Sweaty Betty’s (13 Ossington St.) A little hole-in-the-wall that serves imported absinthe, sake martinis, and Cheez Whiz on toast. Get falling-down drunk and then wander over to a Vietnamese “karaoke bar” and puke on one of their couches. That goes over really well. They love that.
Syp (56 Kensington Ave.) Previously known as Club 56, this bar should be called The Subterranean Death Pit as it disregards every possible health and safety regulation known to man. This grim cavern used to have fish tanks and Polish bouncers but since they’ve left the personality meter is reading minus a thousand. A situation that we are going to monitor.
Ted’s Collision (537 College St.) The best bar left on College, a house of refuge amid the dross. Ted’s Collision is a great place to drink, but staff, we have a tip for you: We are smart enough to carry on conversations, and we like the company, so lower the fucking music. It’s too loud and you’re driving people away.
The Tap (517 Bloor W.) With Christmas lights on the ceiling, $3 nachos, and bubble hockey in the back, this is the spot to go for drinks before a show at Lee’s. Rumor has it the dude from the Pursuit of Happiness owns it, income to add to his CANCON-secured infamy.
Thymless (355 College St.) One more themed bar: Thymless is a reggae bar (cringe) on College Street that is far enough away from the main strip to be safe from suburban intruders and the mainstream herd and has been embraced by alpha scenesters like Will Munro who throws his NO T.O. nights here once a month. That’s a good night.
The Wheat Sheaf (677 King St. W.) We knew someone who used to work here and hated it so much he told his manager he had developed an acute allergy to wheat and would have to quit. A great selection of beer but who orders fancy beer?
Wide Open (139 Spadina Ave.) Wide Open has drink specials pretty much every night including a $2.50 martini night that makes no sense at all. Don’t they lose money pouring 3 ounces of booze for $2.50?