Toronto's coziest restaurants and bars

As winter rears in the 6, Torontonians cower to their couches, armed with an extra wool blanket and a space heater close by. But with the city’s blossoming selection of restaurants and watering holes offering fireplaces, crushed velvet sofas, and lively, rosy-cheeked crowds to rub elbows with, there’s no reason to retreat into solitude this winter – these resto-bars will keep you plenty cozy. [Photo courtesy of Kanpai]

The 3 Speed

1163 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M9

In the dead of winter, Blansdowners can be found sipping cocktails and munching eclectic fare (from mussels to samosas to smoked salmon tacos) at this red-hued bar – or they’ll be found on the huge back patio drinking down a craft beer next to the stone hearth fireplace (yeah, no wonder it won NOW’s best bar of Toronto in 2015). If you’re sold but looking for something a little farther south, check out the oh-so compact Communist’s Daughter at Dundas and Ossington or Wallflower in Parkdale – they’re just as cozy-charming and run by the same owners.

The Ace

231A Roncesvalles Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2L6

With its name etched in gold on its perpetually foggy window, The Ace is one of Roncesvalles Avenue’s top warm-up restos. The diner-meets-watering-hole-of-yesteryear is home to art deco lighting, a wraparound bar, plush twosome booths and intimate candlelit tables. A dinner menu composed of grilled octopus, braised lamb, fried chicken, Quebec duck leg, and Ontario pork belly gives way to a smaller selection of post-11pm cocktail pairings like oysters and fried chicken (not to mention some seriously tempting desserts – peanut butter icebox pie, anyone?)

The Gem Bar & Grill

1159 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON M6H 2G4

This is the type of bar where you’re as likely to see a PhD student sitting atop a retro stool (and staring wistfully into a Kierkegaardian tome, no less), as you are to spot a pack of twenty-somethings taking over the juke box and starting a mini dance party. Perched at Ossington and Davenport, this is a true local’s spot, complete with all the dive bar charms: glowing red lights, a fusion menu of standard pub fare and tex-mex, and a bearded bartender who will, on the good nights, match you shot for shot.

Woodlot Restaurant

293 Palmerston Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2J3

If you’re looking to warm up with a meal made the Canadian way, may we suggest a reso at the Woodlot? This College and Bathurst restaurant – with its woodshed-and-cabin vibes and roaring stone oven – might just give you the dose of Canuck pride you need to make it to spring. Not only is it one of the premier spots in the city to sample gourmet meat dishes like Peking duck and cocoa-braised beef cheeks, but it also hosts some truly next-level vegetarian fare (think mushroom ragu gnocchi with balsam fir, and wood-fired aubergine and mozzarella empanadas).

Goods & Provisions

1124 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1K8

This long-loved watering hole in the east end is equally great for a first date and an I-haven’t-left-my-house-in-three-days cocktail with pals. And with its rickety prohibition vibes, this is one of those bars that feels like it’s been in its Leslieville digs for, well, ever. If you’re peckish, choose from a menu of assorted oysters, smoked salmon croquettes, and blowtorched beef tartare, rounded out by heartier items like steak frites, soy-glazed short ribs and fisherman’s soup.

Nazareth Bar

969 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1L7

Almost no one minds the oft 45-minute line-up at this beloved Ethiopian restaurant in Bloorcourt – because the food is really just that good. Although it’s a top option for takeout on Bloor, with its red-hued lighting and covered-in-faux-vines ceiling, it’s also a prime spot to shed the windchill and warm up. You’ll see most patrons opting for the veggie or meat platter, and if you order it you’ll learn why: it makes for a mean supply of leftovers for the whole weekend.

The Emmet Ray

924 College St, Toronto, ON M6H 1A4

If your way to warm yourself during the winter is with a little scotch and a lot of live jazz, this Dufferin Grove charmer is the place to do it. Pull up a seat at the bar and strike up a conversation with one of the performing musicians, or take over the crushed velvet couches and armchairs by the front window and spend an evening people-watching the bustling College Street strip.

Kanpai Snack Bar

252 Carlton St, Toronto, ON M5A 2L1

Torontonians know well the solitary vibes that strike during the winter months, but if you’re desperate for a lively atmosphere and a catch-up with pals, Kanpai is the spot to do it. With communal tables, amber industrial lighting, and warm architectural wood detailing on the walls, Kanpai is the marriage of a Canadian cabin and a Taiwanese snack bar. The menu is stocked with drool-inducers like fried chicken and OG bao (an original night market treat, served with pickled cabbage, 5-spice pork, and teriyaki shoyu), while cocktails with titles like the Montauk Tame Impala will be hard to overlook ;)

The Federal

1438 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y6

If you live in the west end, you’ve probably walked past this tucked-away restaurant on Dundas Street and noted the charmed expressions wiped across the faces of diners inside. The compact, Canadiana-inspired spot is as good for a long-overdue dinner with pals as it is for a hearty brunch on a Sunday (The Eggs Federal is a dish you’ll remember ‘til death). Yes, it’s tiny, and that helps create the oh-so-cozy vibes of The Federal. But it also often means a solid line for dinner, particularly on the weekends, so come bundled because it's definitely worth the wait.

Midfield Wine Bar

1434 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1Y6

Nevermind #ThirstyThursdays, what happens when you’re parched for company on a Monday and looking to enjoy a glass of wine in any place that’s not your couch? Lucky for you, Mondays at the Midfield are half-priced wine night – and hey, if it’s a Tuesday, this Dundas West bar for the vino-minded is one of the best spots in the west end for a rarely-seen bottle, not found in the LCBO. Grab a seat at one of the low-lit parlour tables, and snack on such menu stand-outs as smoked trout, gnocchi, duck confit and seafish stew.

Dumpling House Restaurant

328 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2E7

A late-night serving of dumplings in Chinatown is not only a Toronto rite of passage, it’s also the swiftest way to feel like you’re smack in middle of 90s Rom-Com. If you’ve got the craving, make your way to this famed Spadina haunt. Grab a spot at the communal tables and commiserate about the windchill with fellow patrons, before warming up on a basket of pork buns or soup dumplings, or a green onion pancake. Open ‘til 11 every night of the week (except Tuesday – they’re closed), it’s the ideal locale for some late-night comfort food.

Edulis Restaurant Inc

169 Niagara St, Toronto, ON M5V 1C9

Looking for the coziest prix-fixe dinner in town? You’ll find it in the modern, French-inspired fare served at this impossibly charming bistro. Nestled in Trinity Niagara, the so-quaint-so-compact Edulis is a definite departure from the sprawling King West spots that surround it. The menu changes daily – but it has hosted everything from quail to truffled cheese to mushroom and cider gratin – and has been heralded as some of the top cuisine in the city. As you might imagine, it makes a pricey-but-worth-it spot for a winter-time special occasion.

Our talented brewmasters are among the most beloved makers in the city, having carved out Toronto’s status as a destination for award-winning craft beer. Although the culture is home-grown and goes way back, post 2011, a slew of new spots have popped up across the city. Here are the stories behind both our famed microbreweries and innovative newcomers on the scene. [Photo credit: Celine Kim]
From second-storey terraces to canopy-covered courtyards, 2016 has been a good year for Toronto’s patio game. We’ve got the goods on the brand-new brewery on Roncesvalles and the Lakeshore’s most recent party-worthy spot. East to west, these resto-bar newcomers have created inspired outdoor spaces so you can start patio season off right. [Image credit: Pavone] 
On Sunday May 1st 2016, the Artscape Wychwood Barns hosts TO’s largest festival for gluten-free foodies. With workshops led by gluten-free experts and over 65 food vendors to sample from, this event is a must-attend for wheat-sensitive Torontonians. From cupcakes to malt beer and cider tastings, the Gluten Free Garage is where to snack up and stock up this weekend. [Photo by Franco Deleo; courtesy of the Gluten Free Garage]
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