10 uber-unique bars, restaurants and cafés in Toronto

December 5, 2016

by Nicole Gottselig

Toronto’s smattering of neighbourhoods hosts a dynamic selection of bars, restos and cafés. Whether hankering for a Cortado, all-butter scone, or a killer cocktail, these 10 spots have scored an A+ in both gourmet grub and inspired interiors. [Image credit: iStock.com/kizilkayaphotos]

10 uber-unique bars, restaurants and cafés in Toronto

Sip cocktails with an aerial view as your backdrop

51 floors up, The One Eighty is one of the city’s best spots to share a hand-stretched pizza and a Shaken & Stirred house-bottled cocktail. Just steps from Yorkville, this modern restaurant and cocktail lounge boasts some of the most Instagram-worthy views (180-degree north and south) in the city.

Refuel with a killer cortado and a little people-watching

Despite its location on the Yonge corridor, the Dineen Coffee Company feels more like a New Orleans French Quarter café. Grab a seat at the plush banquette and watch the world go by while baristas geared up in smart waistcoats and collared shirts make your super smooth cortado or flat white. Sit back and sip against a background of jazzy trumpets, brass and oak finishes and gorgeous French Moroccan tiles.

Gaze at inspiring decor over a leisurely Spanish lunch

Hit up Little Italy to the “ridiculously beautiful” Bar Raval for top-notch tapas, doughnuts and a custom-made Drink Me cocktail. The vibe here is cool and cozy sans attitude. We guarantee you’ll go gaga for the swoon-worthy baroque interior and swirls of rich woodwork. The Barcelona-inspired spot has garnered plenty of accolades, including being voted one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2015.

Stroll through Parkdale’s eclectic cafés and bars

The tea room at Parkdale’s Kitten and the Bear is somewhat reminiscent of your best childhood party infused with a cozy country-style English tea shop. Refuel over housemade all-butter scones; wash ‘em down with a selection of Toronto-based Sloane Fine Tea out of a fancy mismatched china tea cup. Later, stroll west and check out architectural gem The Commodore. The owners at this date spot favourite for cocktail and dinner brings a yacht-style galley to land – fully decked out with porthole-style overhead lights, rounded archways and sleek wood finishings. As you might expect, the seafood here is top-notch; we suggest the halibut ceviche accompanied by a Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

Hit the Distillery Historic District for a sexy slice of Mexico

Food and cocktail lovers flock to El Catrin Destileria for equal parts decor and menu offerings. Start off with a michelada (aka a Mexican Caesar) or a smooth and smoky mezcal-based cocktail and share the Gucamole En La Mesa before moving to heartier share plates. Between bites, ogle the intricacies and vibrant colour palette in the sprawling restaurant, which includes a two-storey mural that took almost three months to complete. Winter-ready patio, complete with fire pits and blankets? Check.

Give pub night a literary twist

Take a literary journey to the Junction’s Famous Last Words and share your favourite quotes with fellow bibliophiles over craft brew or fierce cocktails. Peruse the wall of books while your cocktail is being mixed before holing up at the bar and feasting your eyes on the Scrabble bar top (all arduously fastened, piece by piece).

Head to Anthony Rose’s Dupont Row for a piece of Paris and a savoury schmear

Once you spot the Lite Brite-inspired happy face on Dupont, you’ve arrived at Bar Begonia. Anthony Rose’s hip Parisian-style bar pairs low-lit ambience with rich French fare. Grab a seat at the horseshoe bar and chat with locals for recommendations on what to eat and drink. A five-minute walk east will bring you to Rose’s small-but-mighty Schmaltz Appetizing, a super-authentic nod to Jewish appetizing shop of New York. Known for its drool-worthy foodie snaps on Instagram, this spot is the place for hand-rolled bagels piled with whipped Quebec cream cheeses and sustainably-caught smoked fish.

Put another dime in the jukebox and stay for one more song

Just off the pulse of the Ossington strip, Communist’s Daughter on Dundas West is a local favourite for its inclusive vibe and no frills backdrop. Chat up a local or get lost in conversation at the retro wraparound bar, framed by soft lights and a no-frills ambience. While the stocked jukebox will eat up your loonies, you’ll be hard pressed to leave before one more song.

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