There’s something exhilarating about stumbling upon something hidden or unexpected, rounding a corner or descending a darkened set of stairs and realizing you’ve discovered that the door in front of you actually leads to a bar. There are several such drinking establishments in Toronto, some easier to find than others, some attached to or affiliated with restaurants and some stand alone, just tucked away enough to appear hidden. Intrigued? Read on for an introduction to some of the best hidden bars in Toronto.
If you’re looking for an expertly-mixed cocktail in a sophisticated yet unpretentious setting, look no further than Cloak Bar, beneath Marben. The speakeasy-inspired space is tough to spot if you don’t know it’s there, but you can access the bar via a stairwell between Marben’s bar and kitchen, behind a velvet curtain.
There’s not much that’s more secretive than having to use a password to get into a bar, which is the case at Escobar. The hidden watering hole can be found on an upper level of King west Latin restaurant, Baro and the password changes daily. Your best bet for getting the password is knowing a member of the staff, but if you don’t you can try your hand at asking nicely for the magic words that open the secret door to access the slick space serving potent cocktails.
Hole in the Wall
The aptly named Hole in the Wall is easy to miss if you’re not keeping an eye out for it. The narrow Junction bar has a door that’s slightly hidden and when you do see it, looks like it might just lead to a residential building. But it’s there and walking through it is well worth your while. Inside, friendly service and home cooked menu items await with a rotating list of specials. The cozy spot also has an extensive beer menu with a focus on Canadian brews including sixteen taps of Canadian craft beer.
Superpoint is a relatively new addition to the Ossington strip, serving up decadent pizzas and house-made pastas. But in addition to rustic Italian fare, the restaurant is also home to a relatively hidden bar. The restaurant’s empty back room is now a bar that’s not visible from Ossington so you’d likely miss it unless you were specifically on the hunt for it. SP184 is worth seeking out for beers and drinks you might not find on Superpoint’s menu. You’ll know you’ve arrived by the purple light and a door marked SP184.
Junction City Music Hall
Another hard-to-spot bar in the Junction, Junction City Music Hall, is a funky subterranean bar accessed through a hidden door along a narrow hallway and down a set of stairs. As the name might suggest, the relaxed basement space is host to a variety of live music events of varying genres and DJ nights, and they’ve got arcade and pinball if you feel like playing a few games while you sip your beer.
While the secret about Cold Tea has been out for a while, it’s still tough to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for or where to start your search. The bar is located at the back of Kensington Mall, down the hallway past closed up vendors who during the day sell various tchotchkes, vintage clothing and knick-knacks. The only indicator that you’ve reached the right spot is a red light on the door and the sounds of music coming from behind it. Well, that and a line of people if you’re going at a busy time. Cold Tea is named for the practice of serving beer after hours (specifically known to be a practice in Toronto’s Chinatown), wherein beer is served in a teapot to avoid detection.
Pair expertly-crafted cocktails with a menu of Chinese-inspired small plates at this stylish bar tucked behind an unassuming bodega storefront along Dundas St. West. Mahjong Bar might be easy to miss, but once you find it, you'll likely want to keep returning. In addition to creative cocktails, the bar also serves 10 taps of beer and cider. The 2000 square foot space features a custom mural by Toronto artist Gabriella Lo.
While not technically hidden, Convenience can be easy to miss seeing as the Parkdale Bar masquerades as a convenience store in the front. Walk in and you might think you've just landed somewhere to buy nostalgic candy like Pop Rocks and Milk Duds, but look just past the store's counter and you'll see the small entrance to the bar. There are playful cocktails to choose from as well as wine on tap, along with comfort foods like mac and cheese and fried chicken.