It’s no secret that Toronto is a world-class destination for all things food and drink, but if you look below the surface, you’ll find an enthralling world of covert establishments that are spicing up the cocktail game. Who would’ve suspected that unassuming storefronts like bodegas, religious supply stores and yogurt shops could be concealing some of the city’s must-visit watering holes?
If you’re ready to take your tastebuds on a wild ride, here are the coolest hidden bars and speakeasies to visit in Toronto.
AfterSeven (50 McCaul Street)
Hidden behind Kome Yogurt Bar (and just a few steps from the Art Gallery of Ontario) is one of the city’s most exciting experiences – AfterSeven. Order a “Number 8” from the yogurt bar and you’ll be whisked through a door that looks like a vending machine into a sleek lounge.
This Japanese cocktail bar has a warm, welcoming vibe with a menu that includes creative interpretations of the classics along with exciting new concoctions carefully crafted by owner Andy Shi and his team of bartenders. Most of the seating is reserved for walk-in guests, but a limited number of reservations are available.
XXX Bar (102 Portland Street)
XXX Bar, a 1920s-style speakeasy, is nestled below Little Sister Food Bar on Portland Street. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 7 PM to late, you’ll need a playing card from the host or bartender at Little Sister to gain entry to the 20-seat space.
Once you’ve settled in, sample one of the inventive cocktails alongside small bites with Dutch-Indonesian flare. You won’t be able to reserve a spot at XXX, but you can make a reservation at Little Sister and then make your way to the speakeasy to continue your evening.
Vatican Gift Shop (1047 Gerrard Street East)
If you find yourself in the city’s hip east end and you come across a shop selling religious supplies, look again. What you’ve actually discovered is the Vatican Gift Shop, a speakeasy and live music venue known for its Neapolitan-style pies and house-made cocktails.
Spacious compared to other hidden bars in the city with a capacity of 130 people, the decor is heavy on the Roman Catholic influences, including a confessional window. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 6 PM until late, make it your destination, or head there for an aperitivo or a nightcap.
The Lonely Bar (434 College Street)
College Street’s Midnight Market is home to Lonely Bar, an oasis of calm in the vibrant party space. Sectioned off by a zig-zag entrance, this hidden bar is perfect if you’re looking to escape the dance floor for an intimate conversation.
The cocktail menu is an impressive one, featuring Asian whiskeys, sakes and wines, or if you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the Omakase cocktail that changes on the regular.
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Mahjong Bar (1276 Dundas Street West)
What appears to be a blink-and-you-miss-it bodega is actually the gateway to Mahjong Bar, a 2,000-square-foot hidden destination for lively libations and scrumptious snacks.
Once you pass through the glowing keyhole doorway, you’ll enter a lounge filled with warm light, a pink marble-topped bar, and impressive decor — including a 36-foot custom mural by Toronto artist Gabriella Lo. The ultra-cool Little Portugal spot is open Wednesday to Saturday from 8 PM to 2 AM.
à toi (214 King Street West)
Across the street from Roy Thomson Hall in the Entertainment District is Coffee Oysters Champagne, a spot where you can start your day with a cup of java and end it with some bubbly. On closer look, hidden behind a wall of champagne, is à toi, an exclusive lounge with a 1920s Parisian hotel vibe.
Step inside for exquisite cocktails made with cognac, absinthe and other fine spirits, or sip on French champagne. Just remember to keep those phones tucked away as there’s no photography permitted anywhere except for the selfie mirror in the bathrooms.
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Bar Sous Sol (592 Sherbourne Street)
In the basement of Maison Selby (aka the historic C.H. Gooderham House) is Bar Sous Sol, an underground cocktail bar featuring a carefully curated list of cocktails and wines. To find it, you’ll have to find the discrete entrance on the same level as the washrooms.
Open Thursday to Saturday from 7 PM until late, this upscale speakeasy that seats 26 people is where you want to go for a date, to catch up with an old friend or for a post-dinner nightcap.
Cry Baby Gallery (1468 Dundas Street West)
Little Portugal’s Cry Baby Gallery and event space holds a secret cocktail bar with an industrial feel. Designed to resemble an artist’s loft, it’s all concrete, brick and exposed pipes. The gallery motif even carries through to the bathrooms, which have been decorated with art by some of the talented artists who’ve exhibited at Cry Baby.
Their menu includes wines, beers and inspired cocktails along with oysters and olives. They’re open Tuesday to Sunday and it’s first come, first served; no reservations are offered.
The Cloak Bar (488 Wellington Street West)
Did you know that one of the city’s top dining destinations, Marben, is home to a speakeasy called The Cloak Bar? Located beneath the Wellington Street West restaurant, simply call a number on the door and someone will escort you deep into the building and behind a heavy curtain to the softly lit bar, decorated with large animal lamps and melted candles. Get comfy in a large booth and try one of its signature cocktails and small bites prepared by Chef Chris Locke.
Open Wednesday to Saturday 7 PM until late, it is a non-tipping establishment and hospitality is included in all menu prices.
Lopan Cocktail Bar (503 College Street)
Located above Little Italy hotspot DaiLo is Lopan Cocktail Bar, an intimate spot for cocktails and snacks. Decorated in teal and gold with neon light accents, the menu features inspired cocktails and a selection of tequila, mezcal, sake, scotch, rum and bourbon along with shareable bites like Mapo Poutine and the Big Mac Bao from Chef Nick Liu.
The best time to hit this bar is Fridays and Saturdays between 5 PM and 2 AM.
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