The Communist’s Daughter is an effortlessly hip bar with a cozy, candle-lit ambiance. The bar can be a bit difficult to spot for first-timers, with a sign for the previous business ‘Nazaré Snack Bar’ still hanging out front. The tiny bar is furnished with just eight small tables, and its eclectic décor includes a jukebox with a excellent selection of tunes, as well as a compelling portrait of a sad-looking young girl. A chalkboard outlines the small snack menu, which features items like beer cheese sandwiches and pickled eggs. Wines come in white and red, and the reasonably-priced beers on tap include MacLean’s Pale Ale and Creemore. On weekends, live bands play in the front window alcove, often drawing in passers-by from the street.
The Communist’s Daughter, 1149 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 435 0103
With no official name, the bar at 1602 Dundas St. West is known as the Half Point, 1602, or simply No Name Bar depending on who you ask. A small collapsible blackboard out front is the bar’s only signage. Inside, the low-lit bar is decorated with well-worn furniture, a tabletop arcade game, and soft metallic colours. The bar itself is made from a single long piece of wood, and there’s a large chalkboard on the back wall where visitors can write or draw whatever they like. The bar specializes in classic cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned. The beer selection focuses on craft brewers like Grasshopper and Junction Conductor’s.
1602, 1602 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 823 0661
Named for the ‘painted ladies’ of New Orleans, the Painted Lady is decorated with images of women, including black-and-white photos of prostitutes from the city’s red light district. With velvet couches and dark wood accents, the bar is classy yet also intimate and inviting. Its diverse entertainment line-up ranges from burlesque shows and DJs, to live music performances and open-mic nights. There are 14 beers on tap, including a number of Canadian microbrews along with some European imports. A mixologist serves up cocktails, including the Painted Pink Lady which is made with gin, brandy, and lemon juice, topped with egg froth. The food is house-made and remarkably budget-friendly. The White Trash Nachos are the most popular dish, featuring Frito Lay corn chips layered with the bar’s signature chili, Cheese Whiz, and sliced Pepperoncini peppers, all served in a Chinese takeout box.
The Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 213 5239
The Lockhart has been receiving attention all over the world for its Harry Potter theme. Despite the hype, the Lockhart’s references to the famous book are actually quite subtle, providing enough to keep ‘Potterheads’ entertained without alienating non-fans. The bar takes its name from one of the book’s Defense Against the Dark Arts professors. Inside, visitors will spot a wall mural of a stag patronus, as well as a neon sign quoting the last line in the series, ‘All was well’. Cocktails with magical names like Befuddlement Brew are served up at a bar reminiscent of an apothecary.
The Lockhart, 1479 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 647 748-4434
The Dock Ellis is a sports bar with a slightly more upscale feel. The menu includes imaginative dishes like Wonton Nachos, a combination of wontons topped with house-made chorizo, green chilli cheese sauce, salsa, pickled jalapeños, and crema. There are eight local beers on tap, including brews from Stone Hammer, Beau’s, and Amsterdam. Although the menu is sophisticated the prices are cheap. The interior offers seating on antiques couches or at long communal tables. The décor includes pennant flags and news clippings about the bar’s namesake, a pitcher for Pittsburgh Pirates who infamously threw a no-hitter in the 1970s while high on acid. There are 11 flat-screen TVs, three projector screens, as well as a shuffle board, foosball, and pool tables. One wall features a mural by local graffiti artist Globe.
The Dock Ellis, 1280 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 792 8472
With vintage chandeliers, panels of floral wallpaper, and quirky knick-knacks scattered throughout, The Wallflower exudes an eccentric, feminine vibe. The bar’s cozy interior features tables made of deep red-coloured wood, and a bar illuminated by Christmas lights. The bar offers a solid wine selection, along with five craft beers on draught, including King Pilsner and Beau’s, which are served in three-quarter pint schooner mugs. The snack menu is as offbeat as the décor, including items like deviled eggs served with shrimp and avocado, as well as oysters with horseradish and hot sauce.
The Wallflower, 1665 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 647 352 5605
The Dakota Tavern is a country-themed basement bar known for its stellar live music line-up. The bar’s interior is reminiscent of kitschy American Western movies, with vintage rural photographs, horns, and guns decorating the barn-wood walls. There’s no cell reception in this subterranean venue, adding to the impression that you’ve stepped into another place and time.The menu is typical pub fare, with the addition of Southern-inspired dishes like pork & beans and southern fried chicken. There are 10 beers on tap, including Steamwhistle and Mill St, but in true cowboy form, whisky is the drink of choice for most patrons. The bar hosts live music performances every night on a tiny stage decorated with Christmas lights. Plenty of emerging artists are showcased, but the bar also attracts higher-profile acts for ‘secret’ shows.
The Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 416 850 4579
The Garrison features a bar/restaurant in the front and a popular indie music venue in the back. The front area includes black-and-white photographs depicting the history of Garrison Creek, which is the waterway running under Toronto’s streets from which the bar takes its name. Candle lighting and a small capacity of about 350 people give the bar an intimate atmosphere. Despite the venue’s no-frills appearance, it attracts some of the city’s top acts, including live bands and the occasional DJ. Drink prices are reasonable, and the menu is Tex-Mex-style fare.
The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 519 9439
Get Well offers a fantastic craft beer selection, as well as its own cask beer. The beer options vary from night to night, but brewers like Beau’s and Wellington are often featured. The bar’s mismatched interior includes unusual decorations like a disco ball, a set of golden dragons, and a stained-glass portrait of a knight.There are some old arcade games in the back, including Tetris, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders, which visitors can play for free. Elton John and Dolly Parton-themed pinball machines offer entertainment, while a jukebox provides the background music. A branch of North of Brooklyn Pizzeria is set inside the bar, serving up tasty slices and pies to enjoy alongside your beer.
Get Well, 1181 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON, Canada, + 1 647 351 2337
The Crooked Star is another Little Portugal hide-a-way, with a tiny capacity and hip atmosphere. The bar’s half-moon shape makes the most of its small space, and seating is offered in large wooden booths. The bar is perhaps best known its unique Caesars, which are inspired by the city’s diverse multi-cultural community. Examples include Indian Caesars made with tandoori sauce, as well as the French version which features capers and Dijon. Theme nights are held throughout the week, ranging from Tuesday’s vinyl night on which visitors can bring their own records to play; to Sunday when the bar airs a week’s worth of episodes of the British soap opera Coronation Street.
The Crooked Star, 202 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada, +1 416 536 7271