Hip haunts to visit during the Toronto Jazz Festival

Cool cats rejoice! More than 1,500 musicians will bring some serious sizzle to the city when the TD Toronto Jazz Festival returns on June 18-29. There’s plenty of action happening at the mainstage marquee in Nathan Phillip’s Square and soulful singers and instrumentalists will be performing at dozens of jazz clubs and bars across the downtown. Here are a few hip haunts where you can catch your favourite acts.

The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar

1
194 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1Z1

This Queen West legend has been attracting musicians from around the world since the late ’80s. The bar hosts over 30 performances throughout the festival so you’ll have to plan ahead to if you want to catch your favourite artists. On June 20, check out Brooklyn-based ensemble Huntertones, whose performances blend jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, rock and gospel. And if you’re looking for that big band sound, visit on June 26 to hear eclectic bassist icon Chris Tarry.

N'awlins Jazz Bar & Dining

2
299 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1J5

Get a taste of NOLA in the heart of the Entertainment District at this longstanding jazz bar. The King Street hotspot hosts free performances throughout the festival with Sam Heinement, Stacie McGregor, the Jim Heineman Trio, Brooke Blackburn and more. Visit on weekends during the festival to check out the sweet sounds of the N’awlins All Star Band. If you’re feeling hungry, the bar specializes in authentic Cajun-Creole cuisine. The diverse menu features Cajun chicken breast, pan-fried blackened catfish and a Bourbon Street inspired pasta dish with bacon, chicken and a vodka rose sauce.

Alleycatz Restaurant Lounge

3
2409 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P 2E7

You’ll find hip cats and Mediterranean-inspired eats at this Yonge and Eglinton jazz bar. During the festival, the club will be hosting nightly performances with local jazz favourites — including Lady Kane, Jamesking and Carlo Berardinucci — and there’s no cover charge when you make dinner reservations. The menu features crowd-pleasing appetizers (think spinach and cheese dip and fish tacos), salads, pastas and meaty mains. If you’re hungry, there are $25, $30 and $35 two-course set meal options.

Grossman's Tavern

4
377 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2G3

As one of the longest running live music venues in the city, this Spadina Avenue haunt has a dive-bar vibe and a seriously cool legacy. Toronto’s self-described “Home of the Blues” will be hosting more than 10 performances during the festival. Your best bet? Visit on June 27 when Toronto-based Happy Pals take the stage to play their foot-stomping, hand-clapping old-time New Orleans party music. The joyous seven-piece jazz band has been bringing their Southern-style big-band sound to Grossman’s every Saturday for over 30 years so they know how to put on a memorable show.

The Local Gest

5
424 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A 3A2

Stop by this Cabbagetown restaurant in the afternoon on June 21, to enjoy a free performance by Zimzum. The melodic jazz funk quartet plays a free show at 4:30 pm, making it the perfect musical appetizer to enjoy before dining on The Local Gest’s farm-to-table dinner fare. The seasonal menu features a tasty variety of sandwiches, burritos, salads and mains prepared with sustainably sourced local ingredients

Morgans On The Danforth

6
1282 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1M6

Dine on elevated comfort foods during a day of live jazz at this east end gastropub on Sunday, June 23. European songstress Carin Redman will charm audiences with her silky vocals when special guests Mark Kieswetter and Ross MacIntyre join her on stage for an intimate lunchtime performance. Later on that evening, jazz performer and flutist Bill McBirnie will perform alongside pianist Stephen Gardener. The neighbourhood eatery is also known for its fine craft beer selection so we recommend pairing a pint with an order of the Morgan’s buttermilk fried chicken.

Gate 403 Bar Grill

7
403 Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2N1

This Roncesvalles jazz and blues club venue is a neighbourhood favourite with its affordable bar menu and live music throughout the week. Part pub, part piano bar, the laidback local hosts two shows a night for all 10 days of the Toronto Jazz Festival so there’s plenty of variety for music lovers. Highlights include the talented Denielle Bassels, who brings her neo-soul-meets-Amy-Winehouse sound to the stage on June 19, and Juno-winning singer, songwriter and piano player Julian Fauth who will perform on June 24.

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