Queen St. West is widely reputed as one of Toronto’s trendiest neighbourhoods, and its hipness isn’t exactly a secret – thanks, in part, to the fact that Queen West nabbed the #2 spot on Vogue’s list of ‘15 Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World‘ in 2014. Regardless, whether you’re wrapping up an afternoon of shopping, celebrating the end of the work week, or out for a special occasion, Queen West has no shortage of bars. Follow this guide for ten of the best spots to enjoy a libation (or three) in one of the city’s coolest ‘hoods.
Rush Lane & Co.
In the ‘pursuit of cocktail excellence,’ Rush Lane & Co. promises to create the finest, original cocktails in Toronto. You can sense the innovation once you walk through the door and take a seat in the comfy lounge areas with its minimal 70s-inspired décor. You can actually see innovation in effect through the window to the lab where the cocktail connoisseurs come up with their creations. Shelves of infusions and tables with flasks and evaporators show the science and creativity that goes into every cocktail. Try a cocktail from the lab, starting at $20 for an inventive spin to a regular night out, or stick to house cocktails like the Bert n’ Ernie Juice: The Sesame Street Flip ($14) made with Brugal Añejo, Luxardo Apricot Liqueur, salted caramel syrup, sesame oil, and Angostura bitters. Rush Lane & Co. offers bar favourites from house-baked soft pretzels ($5) to grilled cheese ($7); or add some spice to your night with options like thai coconut curry ($8) and jerk fried chicken ($10). Served by smartly dressed servers, these cocktails must be both seen and enjoyed – down to the last smokey detail to the last mint leaf.
Rush Lane & Co., 563 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 551 7540
Queen St. Warehouse
Just across from the Bell Media building, you’ll find Queen St. Warehouse, the successor to the Annex’s El Furniture Warehouse. With its brick walls, wooden slat tables, and effortlessly cool servers, this bar has the perfect vibe if you are looking to have fun and party in a casual, chill environment. Queen St. Warehouse offers a generous portion of food for $4.95 to soak up those kamikaze shooters ($5.22); alternatively, you can just keep those Tequila Sunrises ($6.30) coming. With draft beers and bottles from Guinness to Stella starting at $5.44, Queen St. Warehouse is a great bar for a relaxed night with good friends (and a handful of fries).
Queen St. Warehouse, 232 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 344 7326
Tequila Bookworm is a charming little bar that offers a classic menu from chips and dip to burgers and sandwiches, along with a drink menu that is refreshingly focused on local beer, wine, and cider. With a café-type atmosphere, an afternoon of coffee (or wine) drinking and thesis writing can easily transition into a night full of drinks and talks. Tequila Bookworm also has an upper level reserved for events. Staying true to its name, you’ll find all the drinks you need, in a cozy setting, with walls lined with book shelves and ambient lighting.
Tequila Bookworm, 512 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 504 2334
The Horseshoe Tavern is a Toronto favourite and chock-full of history. Opened in 1947 as a live music bar for country artists, this bar has gone through many changes over the years, staging artists from Willie Nelson and Stompin’ Tom to The Police and The Rolling Stones. The venue is split into two areas – an intimate concert area and a bar area equipped with a pool table and an A&W’s delivery window. The ‘Shoe is a great place for some quality live music and affordable beers.
Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 598 4226
Looking for a ‘house party’ vibe, but don’t want to bother with party clean up? Apt. 200 is one of the newer bars along Queen West and has cool apartment-inspired décor. Set up with a pool table over a living room rug, a line of vintage arcade games on classic black-and-white kitchen tiles, and comfy couches with sports playing on a TV, Apt. 200 is the perfect place to hang out. The menu has a few select beers, but it’s their specialty cocktails ($13) that are a must-have libation. Apt. 200’s signature drink is the Cosmo T.O. – hibiscus vodka, Cointreau, lime and cranberry and… need we say more?
Apt. 200, 1034 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 357 1299
Food & Liquor
It’s all in the name. Food & Liquor is a Parkdale favourite to grab some great Asian-inspired snacks and local beers. Its rustic theme with exposed brick, high tables, and a patio covered with string lights give off a cozy vibe, perfect for a warm summer night. Snacks ranging from fresh peas in the pod ($3) to steak tartare ($11) go wonderfully with any in-house cocktails or wines. Locals love Food & Liquor for its selection of local beers, including Toronto-based brews such as Junction Conductor’s Ale ($7) and Hogtown Kolsch Ale ($7).
Food & Liquor, 1610 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 748 7113
The Black Bull
The Black Bull opened in 1833 and has become a staple in the Queen St. West neighbourhood. A dependable pub with a summertime-fine patio, The Black Bull is a great place to take a break from all that Queen St. shopping. A classic pub interior and décor – pool table included – it serves all requisite pub fare. From deep-fried favourites to burgers and sandwiches, they all go perfectly well with the wide selection of beers. Whether you’re in the mood for a draft beer, premium beer, domestic, or imported, name it and The Black Bull probably has it. From Frulis ($6.85) to Strongbows ($7.52) to Keiths ($6.85) to Guinesses ($7.52), The Black Bull is one of those joints that never disappoints.
The Black Bull, 298 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 593 2766
BarChef is unique among the bars on Queen West and is home to Toronto’s artistically made cocktails. In its dim and intimate space, pure creativity and innovation are taking place in the form of alcohol. Although cocktails at BarChef range from $14 to $45, imbibers insist it is worth every dollar to experience the beautiful intricacy and devotion that goes into every creation. Have a classy night out with charcuterie boards ($18) and cheese boards ($20) or shrimp tacos ($4.75) and an original cocktail infused with in-house made bitters and syrups. It is an experience like no other.
BarChef, 472 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 868 4800
Bovine Sex Club
Inspired by the Dada art movement, The Bovine Sex Club façade is recognizable to any Torontonian. A front sign consisting of recycled bicycle parts prefaces what can be found on the inside, with a continuation of this edgy design, which perfectly complements the live music offered. Local artists from genres like rock, punk, metal, British pop, and more collaborate with The Bovine to give off that bold street edge Queen St. West needs. It’s a fun and exciting atmosphere when the night calls for some great live music. And because it’s the little things that matter, their long bar makes grabbing a drink easily accessible during the live shows.
Bovine Sex Club, 542 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 504 4239
The entrance to Bar Fancy gives off a sort of speakeasy vibe. Located down an alley with a neon tiger head as its main signage, this bar actually has a casual and laid-back atmosphere like many of its hip Queen West counterparts. The brick walls and minimal lighting create a cozy space. Their open kitchen serves bar snacks like nachos and artichoke dip, and drinks like beer, cider, and wine. Beloved for their happy hour’s fried chicken ($2) and half-priced oysters, Bar Fancy is the perfect place to hit up after work to chill with beers starting from $5 and draughts starting at $7.
Bar Fancy, 1070 Queen St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 546 1416
By Kristen Wong
Kristen is a communications specialist with an interest in culture, lifestyle, and fashion. In her free time she likes to try new restaurants and binge-watch TV shows on Netflix.