Want some fries with that? Oh yeah. Here are some places where the kitchen's always open late, so you don't have to imbibe on an empty stomach.
The team behind 416 Snack Bar kept the name of this Chinatown restaurant when they took over last year, but swathed it in gold and wooden accents, pumped it full of deafening hip-hop and looped in Jewish menu influences as a nod to the history of nearby Kensington Market. The menu leans a little more that way these days (the slider-sized fried beef tongue sandwich, $7, is fantastic – hot, brisket-like beef dressed with pickles and yellow mustard), but still does right by the restaurant’s roots with snacks like melty chunks of General Tso tofu ($4).
Access Two steps at door, washrooms in basement.
Hours Daily 5 pm to 2 am.
This Coxwell-area neighbourhood spot isn’t a small-plates, loud-tunes kind of joint you can take your friends, date or mom here. The awesome craft beer selection rivals the Only down the road, while the menu and atmosphere play at gastro-pubby luxury – to varying degrees of success. Overdone plating doesn’t help the lacklustre surf ‘n’ turf ($18), a hearty jumbo shrimp vastly outshining the definitely not rare, definitely not tender tenderloin hanging out in an inexplicable pool of mayo. Wild boar meatball pizza ($16) is tempting on paper but, aside from its ultra-smoky bacon and wood-fired crust, doesn’t deliver.
Access One Step at Door
Hours Daily 3 pm to 3 am.
The former Ortolan is now an intimate late-night joint, but it’s hung onto chef Daniel Usher, who’s transformed a few of the old spot’s dishes, like lamb ragù gnocchi ($9), into bar-friendly snacks. The rest of the menu (curiously, for a boisterous beer bar) is a blend of Mediterranean and Balkan. Lamb socca ($9) is crisp-edged, beautifully un-gamey shaved lamb nestled in a nutty buckwheat crepe, and the fave e cicoria ($7) – puréed bean dip topped with sautéed dandelion greens and plenty of olive oil – is salty, slightly bitter and strangely addicting.
Access Barrier-free at the door, washrooms in the basement.
Hours Tuesday to Sunday 6 pm to 2 am. Kitchen open till late. Closed Monday.
The second-floor sister bar to DaiLo is playful and coolly relaxed, like a house party with furniture pushed to the walls. The menu sticks to just eight items, with chef Nick Liu’s Big Mac bao ($6) the reigning king. It’s uncannily dead-on – moist beef filling offset by iceberg lettuce and pale orange “secret sauce.” (Apparently, he makes his own cheese because Kraft Singles don’t taste authentic enough.) Other items draw on the downstairs kitchen, including mammoth duck confit wings ($9) bathed in sweet sauce and encrusted with nuts, a happy by-product of DaiLo’s Peking duck.
Access Upstairs via a steep flight of steps (separate entrance beside DaiLo), washrooms upstairs.
Hours Tuesday to Saturday 6 pm to 2 am, closed Sunday and Monday.
Oddseoul’s Leeto Han’s ramshackle snack shop just off Dundas and Ossington only seats about 30, but once you nab a seat your reward will be the twin scents of deep-frying and teriyaki sauce wafting from the open kitchen. The unholiest creation: Dyno Wings ($9 for two Flintstones-sized pieces), which pack pork dumpling filling into deep-fried drums coated in thick, crunchy breading. Lighter fare includes colourful hamachi tartare ($12) tossed with chili ponzu, nori and avocado, and mind-bending miso ice cream dusted with nori powder and little pearls of puffed rice ($7).
Hours Monday to Saturday 6 pm to 2 am.
An early front-runner in the trend of mixing small plates with a lively night-spot vibe, 416 has reliably stayed packed to the rafters, even on off nights. The menu, devised as an ode to Toronto, skips across global cuisines to sate drunken food cravings of all kinds, from grilled jerk fish to tuna hand rolls. Beef tartare, served on a baguette, is reminiscent of Middle Eastern kibbeh ($7), and the buttery-crusted, just-falling-apart beef empanada ($6) will save you a trek north to Kensington Market.
Access One step at door, washrooms on same floor.
Hours Daily 5 pm to 2 am.
Grant van Gameren’s latest effort is the snack bar heard round the city, as much for its gorgeous wood-wrapped transformation of the former Teatro – like a hobbit hole imagined by Salvador Dalí – as for the kitchen’s delicate handling of Spanish pintxo classics. Humble small plates like light yet meaty Gallician octopus ($9), earthy blood sausage and egg ($8) and house-smoked and canned mackerel ($8) pack enormous flavour. The first bite of the spicy-sweet chorizo in the pig cheeks and cider ($9) would have knocked me off my chair if I’d been able to find a single bar stool anywhere in the packed house.
Access One step at door, washrooms in basement.
Hours Daily 8 am to 2 am
The laid-back Buca offshoot is a popular after-work destination on a see-and-be-seen stretch of King West, but the substance on the menu far outstrips the spot’s (already considerable) style. Grab an order (or six) of the nodini ($3), hot, pretzel-like bread nuggets rolled in olive oil, rosemary and sea salt. If the word “smelt” doesn’t scare you, go for a double header of sardella Calabrese – anise- and chili-inflected fish topped with loosely whipped burrata on a ciabatta – or a plate of fried smelts topped with lemon and salt (both $6).
Hours Monday to Friday 7 am to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 2 am, weekend brunch 10 am to 4 pm, aperitivo daily 4 to 7 pm.
Follow the neon tiger down a hidden side entrance into this dim bar where Chantecler’s Jonathan Poon does junk food with some surprises built in. Aptly named “numbing wings” ($7) come coated in a tangy blend of Szechuan pepper so nerve-dulling they almost make a pint of Guinness taste like root beer, miracle-berry-style. Meanwhile, the breading on the fried chicken ($18 for a four-piece platter with pickles and Wonder Bread) features a touch of coriander and cinnamon that evokes Chinese five-spice.
Access No barrier at door, washrooms in basement.
Hours Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Closed Sundays.
While novelty-hungry crowds ram the room at Grant van Gameren’s Raval, his Bar Isabel – the Old World Spanish taverna from which his knack for pintxos flows – is still holding steady to the west. The menu moves past bite-sized morsels to shareable snacks like flash-fried shishito peppers ($8) reminiscent of seared green beans (albeit with an element of danger stemming from the burn in every tenth or so bite). Van Gameren has a knack for making typically heavy-tasting, oily fish stunningly mellow in flavour, like Isabel’s boquerones ($9), gently brined anchovies teamed with restaurant-style tortilla chips. Believe me, you’ll want to scoop up every last morsel.
Access barrier-free, washrooms in basement.
Hours Daily 6 pm to 2 am.