Let’s face it. The big city can be demanding at times, and as a 20 something trying to navigate my way through the world of young professionals meet weekend warriors, finding those little hole in the wall spots is a “raise your arms in the air” sort of moment. After years of hitting the pavement, I’ve compiled a list of amazing hot spots in downtown Toronto that are perfect for that first date or a night filled with gin and tonics. I’m just here to set the mood; the rest is up to you.
1. LA CARNITA
College and Palmerston (Age: 20-45)
I’m a big proponent of food being it’s own art form, and trust me, La Carnita brings an A-Game Mexican Street styled menu with unique Asian accents throughout. Now I’m not one to frequent most hipster-inspired bars often, but I have to say the “get-it-while-it’s-here’ mentality alongside Kanye and Kendrick playing on the speakers really paired well with my house-made duo of chorizo. While the $5 charge per taco might seem steep, I think it’s perfectly justified in this case because I still can’t stop thinking about the Ox-Tailed taco special I ordered weeks ago. With a cocktail menu that had the right amount of “I’ve never had this before” combinations, this is basically your own perfect excuse to take her for drinks and gorge on guacamole. But be warned, there are no reservations and it’s often packed, so prepare to line-up. It’s worth the wait though.
King Street West(Age: 19-50)
Sometimes the gourmet burger trend just doesn’t cut it when you want a night out with a solid pint of beer. Being introduced to WVRST, a Munich inspired sausage hall (cue all the sausage party puns), definitely filled a void in my life I never knew was missing. From incredible game meats to duck fat fries, pairing your sausage roll with a local brew or European import feels as authentic as it can be. Keep it casual and come with an appetite.
fredi’s Tip: Get a bit adventurous and order the Bison. Everything about it feels just right.
3. O&B CANTEEN
TIFF Bell Lightbox (Everyone)
Part market, part café, Canteen is like the casual cousin to your usual Oliver & Bonacini fix. With a counter that offers food for those on the run and a great all-day menu, it definitely boasts unique options at reasonable prices. A standout for those looking to take someone out for a first date. Am I speaking from personal experience? I can’t give too much away.
4. THE HOXTON
Bathurst Street (Age: 19-35)
Dancing is my favourite form of cardio and the Hoxton fits the bill perfectly. If you consider yourself an aficionado of electronic music culture, or just really love a night out seeing some amazing DJ sets, this is your place. You’ll find me dressed in black in the middle of the floor.
5. LOBBY LOUNGE
Shangri-La Hotel (Age: 25-60)
Come for the elegant atmosphere, stay for the excellent service and amazing drinks. For those who love live music, Lobby Lounge is definitely it’s own experience. Plus a tea library and five- volume compendium of wine are literal cherries on the proverbial cake. It’s definitely for those who want to invoke their classier side.
Bay and Adelaide (Age: 19+)
As a lover of all things Japanese, Blowfish has always blown me away with their incredibly crafted menu of authentic sushi. Whether you are looking for the sophisticated cool of Blowfish Bay Street, or the high-energy vibe of their King Street location, prepare to have an evening filled with passionately made food. Definitely pricey, so I wouldn’t suggest it for your Tuesday night craving binge.
Bloor and Bathurst (Age: 21-30)
As the successor to the much-loved dance club Footwork, Coda was designed with the music lover in mind. With an amazing PK sound system and an existing fan base of loyal club goers, it definitely is one of the premier locations for techno in the city. This isn’t the place if you’re afraid to get down and dirty.
8. 416 SNACK BAR
181 Bathurst (Age: 19+)
Talk about taking finger foods to new places. 416 Snack Bar is an incredibly cozy gastropub that has built its menu around the idea that you should remove utensils from eating. Expect incredibly interesting choices, the pork belly pun being a personal standout. The menu and portions might be small, but it provides a not-so-expected experience.
Yorkville (Age: 19-45)
With 24 beers on tap, Hemingway’s has always been known for both their selection and fantastic pub food. Plus believe it or not they recommend that their brunch menu is delicious. I say take the plunge into your own personal pitcher.
10. THE CARBON BAR
Queen Street East (Age: 19-45)
When your servers exclusively wear Adidas sneakers with their own identifiable coloured shoelace as part of their uniform, you know you are in for a good time. The Carbon Bar embodies a down-home concept that is refreshing to say the least. Locally sourced foods with beautifully made sharing plates are definite highlights. Plus the cocktail menu is top notch.
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