Toronto is a city filled with great bars, from high-end spots serving creative cocktails to dive bars that have been attracting locals for decades. No matter what libation you might be in the mood for, be it craft beer or a stellar sipping tequila, there’s a good chance you can find a bar to suit your needs in Toronto. While you can find a noteworthy place to grab a pint, cocktail, or glass of wine in every corner of the city, the bars on this list are concentrated in the downtown area, veering slightly west in some cases, but not focusing on any venues too far east or west. With that in mind, here are 11 of the best bars in downtown Toronto.
Inspired by the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona, this always-popular spot is open all day, meaning that you can stop by in the morning for a coffee and house-made pastry or head over in the evening for drinks. The intimate setting is meant to encourage conversation and interaction among patrons, much like you might experience in a small, local tavern in Barcelona. The food and drink menus here are always changing so you never know what you might find, but everything is made with care. You’ll find a tempting selection of baked goods and tapas items (depending on time of day) lining the counter, and informed staff are always happy to point you in the right direction.
There are two downtown locations (and a third in the city’s east end) of this relaxed, beer-focused bar that also serves a menu of elevated pub fare. They’ve got close to 40 beers on tap (including several cask-conditioned ales and a few craft ciders), and if you can’t find what you want on tap, look to the approximately 100 bottled beers available. If beer isn’t what you’re looking for, Bar Hop also serves up a collection of high-quality bourbon, single malt scotch, and tequila.
El Rey Mezcal Bar
If you’re curious about mezcal and want to learn more about the spirit, or you’re already a big fan, this is a bar well worth checking out. Located in Kensington Market, El Rey Mezcal Bar doesn’t just serve a rotating roster of mezcal, but also aims to educate customers on origins and flavor profiles, much like you might expect from a wine bar. In addition to mezcal you can expect several craft beers, tequila- and mezcal-based cocktails, and a handful of interesting wines. Food-wise, pair your cocktail with Mexican-inspired bites like tacos, ceviche, tostadas, and sharable snacks like guacamole and queso fundido.
Blink-and-you'll-miss-it Mahjong Bar is a fairly recent addition to Toronto’s bar scene. Hidden in plain sight behind a bodega, this stylish yet laid-back bar is the kind of place you might stop into with the intention of having one drink – but then staying for much longer than anticipated. The 2,000-square foot space features a 36-foot custom mural painted by Toronto artist Gabriella Lo and offers 10 taps of beer and cider, a well-curated wine list, and some seriously creative cocktails like the “party trick,” featuring sake, Pimm's, green Sichuan, watermelon and lime. Anyone looking for a bite to eat can choose from a menu of Chinese small plates.
This Italian-inspired beer hall is a narrow space offering some of the most unique beers in the city. This is the place to come for hard-to-find natural and wild ales, as well as natural wines and ciders. The list is always changing, and you can check the website to see what’s on offer. Tables here are communal, giving the space a community feel. The food menu here is a simple one, meant to complement – not overshadow – the beer.
Pubs are not hard to come by in Toronto, but they’re not all created equal. One standout city pub is The Oxley, a warm and welcoming yet sophisticated space to sip a pint with friends. The menu of scratch-made food is filled with British classics spotlighting seasonal ingredients, and for drinks, you can choose from a short list of cocktails, a good selection of local beers and ciders on tap and in bottles and cans, and an extensive wine list.
With 22 taps and over 100 bottles on offer, Beerbistro is a haven for beer lovers. The beers change quarterly with a few other limited offerings that rotate more frequently, but you can look forward to an expertly curated selection covering everything from German- and Belgian-style wheat beers to sour beers to rich stouts and ales. Food here is inspired by and cooked with beer when possible, and each dish is accompanied by a suggested beer pairing. Come by on Wednesdays between 4 and 8 p.m. for buck-a-shuck oysters.
Cocktails inspired by the industrial era are the focus at D.W. Alexander. Housed in an historic building that was once a warehouse circa 1877, the bar’s décor takes its cues from the past but doesn’t feel stuffy thanks to modern touches that bring the look together. Choose from over 40 expertly mixed cocktails as well as local, domestic, and imported beers.
Barchef is known for its lengthy list of inventive cocktails that are as dramatic to look at as they are palate-pleasing to sip. The drinks list here features cocktails divided by category, including sweet and sour cocktails, sipping cocktails, modernist cocktails, and bottle-aged cocktails. Absinth is also on offer as well as a small selection of beer and wine. What really makes Barchef stand out is the creativity behind the cocktails and the flair with which they’re prepared. While drinks are the focus here, a small menu of snacks (olives, spiced nuts, beef sliders) are available.
One of the city’s largest brewpubs clocks in at 14,000 square feet of restaurant and brewery space right on the water. In the summer months, the brewery’s four patios are packed with sun-seeking beer drinkers enjoying a pint with pristine lakefront views. There are nine beers on tap along with a healthy selection of bottles and cans. You can also find ciders, wines, and cocktails. Many dishes you’ll find on the expansive menu utilize beer in some fashion, and the food offerings cover everything from sandwiches and burgers to wood-oven pizza.
This subterranean space is home to 42 Canadian beers on tap and an all-Ontario VQA wine list alongside a menu of comfort food like Moroccan stew, butter chicken, shepherd’s pie and pulled pork mac and cheese. Games and pool tables provide pre or post-dinner competition, and there’s live music regularly. The cozy setting is conducive to lingering over drinks.