NOW's definitive Patio Guide names Toronto's 100 best arenas for kicking back in the great outdoors. Romance under the stars? The finest al fresco dining? Summer starts here right NOW!
Café Nervosa 75 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-961-4642.
With two sun-dappled decks that flank one of the glitzy nabe's busiest intersections, this surprisingly affordable Italian trat is named for the coffee shop on TV's Frasier, In fact, the show's namesake, Kelsey Grammer, is said to have once walked by, smirked and kept walking. Expect a card of designer panini and wafer-thin pizza with crusts as skinny as the clientele.
Mill Street Brew Pub 55 Mill, at Trinity, 416-681-0338.
Ontario's pre-eminent organic microbrewery, this Distillery District gastro pub features a sampling bar, a retail outlet and cobblestone patios. Check out the tourists while chowing down on classic comfort food like shepherd's pie while sipping the Street's award-winning coffee porter. Traditional roast beef dinners complete with Yorkshire pudding Sundays from 5 pm for $15.99, as well as live jazz in the courtyard most summer weekend afternoons.
One 116 Yorkville, at Hazelton, 416-961-9600.
Yorkville's hottest scene, the wraparound patio out front of the Mark McEwan-helmed resto in the Hazelton Hotel has been celebutante central since it opened with considerable fanfare in time for last fall's film fest. But, as you'd expect, being chic comes with a hefty price tag. Chef McEwan's Ultimate Street burger goes for $27. You want fries with that? That'll be another 12 bucks. But, look - it's Tie Domi!
Rushton 740 St Clair W, at Rushton, 416-658-7874.
Since it opened two years ago on the Corso Italia, this boisterous bistro sibling of the equally raucous Ferro has been north Toronto's hottest cantina - the uptown Drake, as it were. Now that summer's here, the Rushton's luxurious patio doubles the capacity, so now you have twice the odds of snagging a previously hard-to-come-by table. Bonus: now serving lunch and weekend brunch.
Satori 735 Queen W, at Tecumseth, 416-860-1551.
Better known as Habitat and before that the original Future Bakery, this upmarket west-side watering-hole is one of the few outdoor arenas on Queen west of Bathurst that isn't hidden away in some grotty backyard. Helmed by chef Scott McDonough (ex-Fifth), the contempo kitchen serves a special patio menu Saturdays from noon of sashimi-style tuna over avocado rice cakes and lemongrass-marinated Alberta racks of lamb sided with potato salad and sweet pea puree.
Zelda's 542 Church, at Maitland, 416-922-2526.
Show up early, girlfriend, or join the queue for a hard-to-get curbside table at the Village's wildest patio. Once admitted to Party Central, tank up on Zeldatinis like the Bitch Slap (sour apple, raspberry and melon liqueur with cranberry juice) to a soundtrack of non-stop 70s disco until it's time for Saturday night's two-hour Cheap Show and notorious Best Ass Contest, hosted by drag queens Lena Over and Justine Touch, on its outdoor stage. Bonus: Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm, 3-ounce martinis go for $6.75!
Spice Route 499 King W, at Brant, 416-849-1808.The second joint effort from club impresarios Nick DiDonato's Liberty Group (C Lounge, the Rosewater) and Charles Khabouth's Ink (Ultra, This Is London) is their most over-the-top yet. Once a Toyota dealership, this cavernous space has been transformed into what's best described as Ali Baba Goes To Vegas. Think lots of velour and a waterfall. Outside, a 150-seat curbside deck complete with a tiki-tastic koi pond is already attracting A-listers like Paulie Shore and Sting's yogi for ex-Monsoon chef Winlai Wong's East-meets-West tapas – Kobe carpaccio, calamari and rock shrimp tempura – and Asian pear-infused sake-tinis.
Brassaii 461 King W, at Spadina, 416-598-4730.
Located in the same brick-lined courtyard as Crush, this sequestered South Beach-style terrace offers an al fresco alternative to noisier neighbouring clubs.
C Lounge 456 Wellington W, at Spadina, 416-260-9393.
Advertising itself as "the next generation of chic," this Miami-style spa-inspired bar from the Liberty Group comes complete with cabanas and wading pool.
Cameron House 408 Queen W, at Cameron, 416-703-0811.
Toronto's most in-yer-face patio, this six-seater on the sidewalk takes on the Queen West scene head-on.
Michelle's Brasserie 162 Cumberland, at Avenue Rd, 416-944-1504.
Hidden away behind Yorkville's Four Seasons, come film fest season the tree-lined terrace of this French restaurant is celebrity central, if only because smoking is permitted.
MiniMarket By Tempo 596 College, at Clinton, 416-531-2822.
Cousin to Kensington's Supermarket, this izakaya-style tapas bar gets as crowded as the Dip across the street.
Rivoli 332 Queen W, at Spadina, 416-596-1908.
With its sleek metal furniture, reasonably priced Pacific Rim menu and unrivalled streetscape, could this be downtown's perfect patio?
Sottovoce 595 College, at Clinton, 416-536-4564.
Competently executed panini and pasta pale to insignificance next to the fabulosi who pose on the west-facing terrace come sundown.
Wish 3 Charles E, at Yonge, 416-935-0240.
Whitewashed walls, ceiling and floors provide a neutral backdrop for low-slung overstuffed sofas piled with pillows and cashmere throws.
Clinton's, 693 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-535-9541
Esplanade Bier Markt, 58 The Esplanade, at Church, 416-862-7575
Fionn McCool's, 70 The Esplanade, at Church, 416-362-2495
Horseshoe, 368 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-598-4753
Sneaky Dee's, 431 College, at Bathurst, 416-603-3090
West, 510 King West, at Spadina, 416-361-9004
Hard Rock Cafe 279 Yonge, at Yonge-Dundas Sq, 416-362-3636.
Now that Metropolis has finally been completed, Yonge-Dundas Square has become the cross between New York's Times Square and Tokyo's Shibuya that was promised all those years ago. The historic rock-themed saloon's curbside terrace provides a front-row seat for summer-long concerts and street festivals by day and panoramic Blade Runner vistas by night. Keith Richards's opera cape on display, and exemplary nachos, too.
Jump Commerce Court East, at Adelaide, 416-363-3400.
Found on the ground floor of Commerce Court East in the heart of the financial district, Oliver Bonacini's always-jumpin' joint is a second home for Toronto's business elite. Surrounded on all sides by skyscraping towers, Jump's courtyard patio offers big bang for considerable buck. Chef Filippo Mancuso's daily budget-minded Blue Plate Special - steamed PEI mussels putanesca, followed by braised lamb shank and molten lemon cake - will set the boss's expense account back $35.
Panorama 55 Bloor W, at Bay, 416-967-0000.
If you're afraid of heights or small, confined spaces - or both - maybe the penthouse bar on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre isn't an ideal spot to unwind. After a two-minute ride in a cramped elevator, step out into an elegant nightclub in the sky with two outdoor terraces, one facing north toward tree-shrouded Rosedale, the other south to the downtown core and the Islands beyond, both outfitted with sure-grip rubber carpet.
Roof Lounge 4 Avenue Rd, at Bloor W, 416-924-5471.
Back in the day - oh, 1965 - the 18th-floor rooftop deck of the former Park Plaza was the Drake of its time. And although the space is considerably smaller than it was when Toronto's literary 'n' arts set held court, it still offers a first-rate view of Hogtown's skycraping skyline to the south, including a bird's-eye view of the collapsible new ROM. Gourmet magazine named the retro saloon one of the best spots in North America to knock back a cocktail.
Vertical 100 King West, at Adelaide, 416-214-2252.
Just off First Canadian Place's gorgeous courtyard, newly expanded and surrounded by a breathtaking panorama that recalls New York City's Rockefeller Center, this lavish veranda also overlooks a waterfall and the TD towers across the way. Chef Tawfik Shehata's upcoming summer menu includes veggies from his own garden, and mixologist Rob Montgomery has come up with a cocktail card incorporating only fresh juices and seasonal ingredients. Thursday nights, stockbroker-by-day house DJ M mans the decks.
Cabana @ Polson Pier 11 Polson, at Cherry, 416-649-7437.Part of the Polson Pier entertainment complex – aka the Docks/Sound Academy – this 150-seat lakeside getaway on the Eastern Channel offers a consummately Toronto panorama of the downtown skyline and the islands. Sundays from noon to 5 pm, they fire up the poolside barbecue for burgers and corn on the cob. And what other facility also features miniature golf, beach volleyball and a drive-in movie theatre?
More great views
Flatiron & Firkin 49 Wellington E, at Church, 416-362-3444.
While the BCE twin towers loom overhead, sun-worshippers down more than a dozen draughts on tap while pigging out on pub grub like bangers, beans and mash and baskets of chicken wings.
Joy Bistro 884 Queen E, at Booth, 416-465-8855.
Weekend brunch overlooking the tennis courts at Leslieville's Jimmy Simpson park.
Even more great views
Healey's, 56 Blue Jays Way, at Wellington, 416-593-2626
Hot House, 35 Church, at Wellington, 416-366-7800
Jack Astor's, 144 Front West, at University, 416-585-2121
Maro, 135 Liberty, at Fraser, 416-588-2888
Bymark 66 Wellington W, at York, 416-777-1144.
Dwarfed by the four black Modernist monoliths of the Mies van der Rohe-designed Toronto Dominion Centre, this elegant Yabu Pushelburg-appointed patio is home to the legendary $36.95 Bymark burger, the priciest Whopper in town: 8 ounces of USDA prime beef topped with Brie de Meaux cheese, crisp pancetta, grilled porcini mushroom and shaved truffle. And onion rings. Bonus: sea-salt margaritas!
Cafe Diplomatico 594 College, at Clinton, 416-534-4637.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, this old-school Italian trat features an equally old-school menu - straightforward tomato-sauced pizzas, steamed mussels, leafy insalata - at rock-bottom prices for the chi-chi nabe. True, few come strictly for the food. But with its location at Little Italy's busiest intersection, the Dip makes a great spot to soak up the sun by day and observe the College Street scene in all its glory by night.
Julie's 202 Dovercourt, at Argyle, 416-532-7397.
A terrific Cuban cantina year round, this tucked-away trat on a sleepy west-side street really blooms come summer. As trees whisper overhead and candlelight reflects off wine glasses, affable hosts Jesus and Sylvia dish up a classic pre-Castro Havana card - peppery corn fritters, superb Cubano sandwiches, pork picadillo de marnita hash with jalapeÃ±os and raisins - that's perfect for sharing à deux under a starry sky. Reservations, needless to say, are essential.
Terroni 720 Queen W, at Claremont, 416-504-0320.
Though downtown's favourite pizzeria's new flagship in the old Courthouse on Adelaide East gets all the buzz, the original - as Dobie Grey once attested - is still the greatest. Against a backyard backdrop of faux Roman ruins and surrounded by apple trees, the double-sided deck makes a suitable tableau to while away the evening under the stars over plates of house-made papardelle tossed with crumbled sausage, wild mushroom and garden peas.
Best classic haunt
Black Bull 298 Queen W, at Soho, 416-593-2766.Since its sunny west-facing patio first opened back in the 70s with a couple of picnic tables, the unbeatable Bull has grown into one of downtown's most popular outdoor destinations, so much so that on a balmy Saturday night you can wait in line for more than half an hour for one of its highly prized 164 seats. A recent reno has added art nouveau lighting, retractable awnings and fancy red umbrellas.
Coffee Mill 99 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-920-2108.
Schnitzel, anyone? Established in 1963 and Toronto's very first patio, this tucked-away Yorkville gem specializes in rib-sticking Hungarian grub.
Madison 14 Madison, at Bloor, 416-927-1722.
Taking up two three-storey Victorian houses in the south Annex, this student-friendly pub is a maze of red velvet rooms leading to four separate covered and heated decks that face the evening sunset.
Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe 712 College, at Montrose, 416-531-7755.
Founded in 1959, this old-fashioned Italian ice cream parlour was one of Toronto's very first patios. Stop in for dessert on one of two patios watched over by a large bronze statue of an eagle.
Even more classics
Lahore Tikka House, 1365 Gerrard East, at Highfield, 416-406-1668
Last Temptation, 12 Kensington, at Dundas West, 416-599-2551
on the rooftops
Cheval 606 King W, at Portland, 416-363-4933.
Located down an alley in a former body shop, this seriously luxe lounge is aimed at the upwardly mobile downtown condo crowd. Sneaky Dee's this ain't. Instead, patrons repose on the upper deck on low-slung chaises draped in pashminas, swilling champagne cocktails.
Globe Bistro 124 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-466-2000.
Start calling now if you expect a table on this highly rated resto's super-chic rooftop any time soon. There, and shaded by palm fronds, eco-conscious foodies chow down on chef Ben Heaton's locally sourced lineup. Prince Edward County pickerel with Swiss chard over wild rice, anyone? They also keep it to themselves that their favourite bistro does weekday lunch and Sunday brunch. Bonus: water misters on really hot days!
Pilot 22 Cumberland, at Yonge, 416-923-5716.
The venerable downtown institution (65 years and counting) has completed its long-term overhaul of its three floors, making its rooftop Flight Deck one of Yorkville's most impressive patios. Fittingly, the deck's been given a retro, streamlined aeronautic look, all rivet-studded stainless steel and aluminum panels, that reflects the esteemed pub's heritage. Bonus: an automated awning makes patio partying possible year-round.
Sky Yard @ Drake Hotel 1150 Queen W, at Beaconsfield, 416-531-5042 ext 244.
Can't make it to the beach - never mind the Beach - this summer? Open weekdays from 5 pm and weekends from 11 am, this 150-seat island-style rooftop aerie is the next best thing, complete with palm trees and overstuffed day beds. Sunday afternoons, Get Riddim DJs spin roots reggae and "abstract rhythms" while sun-worshippers nosh at communal teak tables on the likes of lime-and-scallion-sauced jerk chicken and coconut cream pie. Lineup too long? Then check out the less frenzied wraparound curbside patio downstairs.
Ultra 314 Queen W, at Peter, 416-263-0330.
As tasteful as a centrespread layout in Architectural Digest, this swanky white-on-white rooftop deck is the complete opposite of its former incarnation as the Bamboo's funky treetop lounge. Instead of roots reggae and Red Stripe, expect a South Beach-style spa complete with former YYZ chef Chris Zielinski's shareable seafood platters and Monday night's $20 whole lobster specials. Dress code, bottle service and Tuesday fashion shows, too.
Tati Bistro 124 Harbord, at Major, 416-962-8284.Launched this spring in the former Kensington Kitchen space, it's become the hottest thing to hit the Annex since the Birkenstock boutique opened on Dupont. No longer home to falafel platters, the kitchen under ex-Teatro chef Laurent Brion keeps it traditionally French – bavette frites, duck confit – while its famed and notoriously wobbly backyard deck has been completely rebuilt. Not too worry, the spreading chesnut still stands.
Black Eagle 457 Church, at Maitland, 416-413-1219.
Toronto's only leather bar boasts an outdoor play area obscured by camouflage netting and a Sunday-afternoon barbecue from 3 pm.
Fox & Fiddle 1535 Yonge, at Glen Elm, 416-967-3400.
Uptown's only tri-level terrace. Bonus: happy hour pub grub weekdays from 3 to 5 pm.
Murphy's Law 1702 Queen E, at Kingston, 416-690-5516.
This breezy fourth-floor retreat in a converted bank with a view looking south over Ashbridges Bay Park and the sparkling lake beyond isn't your typical Irish pub.
Pauper's 539 Bloor W, at Albany, 416-530-1331.
Once a branch of the CIBC, this neighbourhood pub features a roadside patio on the ground floor and, up a series of stairways, one of Toronto's best rooftep retreats.
Scallywags 11 St Clair W, at Yonge, 416-922-3737.
Uptown sports bar sports a third-storey deck open year round where you can catch live UK football matches on several tellies as early as 6:30 am - sadly, pint-free.
Wayne Gretzky's 99 Blue Jays Way, at Mercer, 416-348-0099.
Hockey's Great One takes it to the roof for suds, sun and barbecue close to the Rogers Centre.
Wetbar 102 Peter, at Adelaide, 416-599-2224.
Think of this swanky outdoor lounge on the top floor of a dance club as Ultra without the dress code and bottle service.
Even more rooftops
Brazen Head, 165 East Liberty, at Hanna, 416-535-8787
Amuse-Bouche 96 Tecumseth, at Whitaker, 416-913-5830.
Since its launch three summers back, owner/chefs Jason Inniss and Bertrand Alépée's beautiful bistro in Susur Lee's old Lotus has been hailed as one of the finest dining experiences in Toronto. Come summer, it's even more so, especially when you're tucking into the likes of foie gras sticky pudding and escargot ravioli on the exclusive street-side grotto next to a burbling water feature. And, to show their support of local food producers, every Tuesday the chefs prepare a special made solely from foods sold at that day's Trinity-Bellwoods organic farmers' market.
Biagio 155 King E, at Jarvis, 416-366-4040.
This upscale Italian eatery set on a sculpture-lined terrace behind historic St. Lawrence Hall is one of the core's most clandestine rendezvous. While fountains tinkle, regulars tuck into starters like Caesar salad and grilled calamari, followed by massive secondi like veal scallopini with marsala-marinated mushrooms. Endearing old-school servers charm.
Boba 90 Avenue Rd, at Cumberland, 416-961-2622.
Fancy a trip to rural France without all that bothersome travel? Owner/chef Bob Berman's and Barbara Gordon's country French kitchen has been one of Toronto's most innovative for more than 25 years. Come late spring, the culinary action spills to its curbside terrace, where, under a large striped awning, Berman barbecues smoked Ontario-raised baby back ribs and pairs them with salads of locally grown heirloom tomatoes.
Fat Cat Wine Bar 331 Roncesvalles, at Westminster, 416-535-4064.
Cousin to Fat Cat bistro on Eglinton West, this sleek supper club's sheltered backyard garden has to be one of the loveliest patios on the avenue. Under the shade of a flowering magnolia, oenophiles nibble on tapas-sized plates like garlic-buttered shrimp baked in piri-piri sauce while sipping low-mark-up consignment wines by the glass. New this season: $20 lobster night Tuesdays, and guest chefs Wednesday evenings on the barbecue. Regular wine-tastings, too.
Fuzion 580 Church, at Dundonald, 416-944-9888.
Although she has several unsuccessful makeovers under her belt, the Village's prettiest and most urbane patio's current incarnation could best be described as Gone With The Wind Does South Beach. With the best optics on the strip and a contemporary kitchen under the direction of new chef Sam Girgis (ex-Oro, Lure, Vibo), this shaded ante bellum boÃ®te now offers weekday lunch sur la terrace.
Best Romantic Grotto
Olivia's @ 53 53 Clinton, at College, 416-533-3989.With her new name, owners and menu, this once-quirky cantina has morphed into the only resto in town with its own microwinery. There's a streetside terrace out front just up from the Dip, but it's the secluded backyard garden that warrants serious oenophile attention. There, in early June, owners Alejandra de Miguel and Julian Pinder host a stomping of the grapes accompanied by live tango music.
La Maquette 111 King E, at Church, 416-366-8191.
This tony downtown patio faces not just the Sculpture Garden but St. James Cathedral as well. A favourite with wedding parties, this elegantly appointed space features Cal-Ital mains and a nightly pre-theatre $35 three-course prix fixe.
Provence Délices 12 Amelia, at Parliament, 416-924-9901.
Mainstream French bistro in Cabbagetown with garden and $17.95 all-you-can-eat weekend brunch.
Southern Accent 595 Markham, at Bloor, 416-536-3211.
Except in the dreaded dead of winter, diners can eat outdoors on a covered, heated patio at this New Orleans-style eatery in Mirvish Village. Special Cajun barbecue Wednesday evenings!
Even more romantic
Auberge du Pommier, 4150 Yonge, at York Mills, 416-222-2220
La Maquette, 111 King East, at Jarvis, 416-366-8191
Sauvignon, 1862 Queen East, at Rainsford, 416-686-1998
Allen's 143 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-463-3086.
The Danforth may be home to more Greek tavernas than you can shake souvlaki-on-a-stick at, but this long-running New York-style saloon is cetainly one of the nabe's faves. While its indoor dining room can be quite chaotic, those in the know prize Allen's private patio out back. Shaded by a weeping willow named best tree in NOW's Readers Poll several years running, waiters in white aprons dish up creditable burgers from the barbecue while regulars guzzle a large cross-section of microbrews, an all-QVA Canadian wine list (many available by the glass) and over 200 single-malt Scotches.
Bairrada 1000 College, at Havelock, 416-539-8239.
While its front space is a noisy Portuguese barbecue take-away, its huge, grassy family-style backyard, complete with rows of picnic tables and a water feature, makes a great spot to pig out in the great outdoors. Besides suckling porkers every Wednesday, count on succulent grilled-over-steam chickens doused with house piri-piri, sided with roasted potato balls, gargantuan carnivorus platters of egg-topped steaks sided with smashed spud 'n' olive, grilled sardines and barbecue salt cod.
Boulevard Cafe 161 Harbord, at Borden, 416-961-7676.
Perennially popular south Annex spot on Harbord's restaurant row, this candlelit, shady Peruvian patio makes an amorous backdrop for lovers looking to dine al fresco on grilled seafood fired with searing hot sauce that sets both taste buds and passions on fire. The less romantically inclined will appreciate the Boulevard's extensive kids' menu, while the frugal will want to check out owner/chef Lirio Peck's daily specials.
Cafe 668 885 Dundas W, at Claremont, 416-703-0668.
Mouths dropped when this popular vegan eatery left its modest home in Chinatown for swanky new digs on the west side last fall. But fear not, herbivores: self-taught chef Ngoc Lam's unique takes on Southeast Asian vegetariana have only gotten better (don't miss her simply named signature Salad #1), especially now that they can be enjoyed on 668's first-ever patio along with organic beer and wine by the glass.
Citizen 730 Queen E, at Broadview, 416-465-0100.
Sister to Rodney Bowers's Rosebud, this boisterous east-side bistro has been a zoo since day one. And for good reason. Where else in the GTA can you get a correctly composed Caesar salad, let alone a damned good wiener schnitzel? Whoever finds a place at the patio out front - it seats only a dozen - is very lucky indeed.
Torito 276 Augusta, at College, 647-436-5874.
Despite opening Pepe downstairs this winter, owner Veronica Laudes and chef Carlos Hernandez's Kensington tapas bar still has lineups every night. With the launch of a secluded backyard deck and a streetside terrace out front, downtown's hottest spot doubles its capacity. Watch for the return of summer savouries like baby fava bean 'n' artichoke heart salad and gazpacho laced with avocado, gooseberries and shrimp, as well as first-time scallops with Spanish chorizo. New this season: weekend lunch!
Best Fine Dining
George 111 Queen E, at Mutual, 416-863-6006.Toronto's most acclaimed resto, this luxe supper club in a converted 19th-century warehouse-cum-spa features a breathtaking grotto in the complex's four-storey atrium. Against a backdrop of shade trees glowing with fairy lights and a water wall, foodies nosh on chef Lorenzo Loseto's just-introduced $55 dollar four-course lunch tasting menu with pairings of local private-order wines by the glass. Come July, expect the likes of the former Susur sous's signature olive-oil-poached cherry tomato salad served with pan roasted pickerel, and Ontario-raised Wagyu beef tataki with fava tartare and soya shallot. Bonus: vegetable gardens fed from a rooftop water reserve!
More great food
Amadeu's 184 Augusta, at Denison Square, 416-591-1245.
This beloved Kensington Market covered deck offers relatively inexpensive pints and pitchers of sangria alongside fabulously grilled Portuguese-style sardines with lupini beans.
Atelier Thuet 171 East Liberty, unit 153, at Hanna, 416-603-2777.
Now doubled in size, chef Marc Thuet's bistro spinoff in Liberty Village barbecues preservative-free Mennonite beef on its "celebrated Thunder Grill" while pouring up fresh strawberry champagne cocktails.
Beaconsfield 1154 Queen W, at Beaconsfield, 416-516-2550.
Call it the anti-Drake: friendly staff, regular regulars, and on weeknights from 5 to 7 pm, while quantities last, dishes like beer-battered fish 'n' chips and a pint for 8 bucks!
Cluck, Grunt & Low 362 Bloor W, at Walmer, 416-962-5050.
Beleaguered Southern barbecue joint kitty-corner from the 24-hour Dominion in the Annex shines with retro mac 'n' cheese and pulled pork sandwiches. Ribs not so much.
Cowbell 1564 Queen W, at Sorauren, 416-849-1095.
Tables at chef Mark Cutrara's highly acclaimed bistro du jour are already some of the hottest in town. Just try getting one of the only two on his curbside deck!
House on Parliament 456 Parliament, at Carlton, 416-925-4074.
An inviting below-street-level Ye Olde English Pub with accompanying patio in Cabbagetown famed for its $14.95 prime rib Sunday dinners.
Karuchie 924 College, at Dovercourt, 416-850-1729.
Last summer's hottest new bistro opens to a small enclosed deck on the curb. Look for an impressive card from chef Chris Thorn that includes starters like chesnut risotto with grilled quail and mains like house-made veggie gnocchi.
King Palace 820 Church, at Asquith, 416-515-8188.
Now ensconced in the donut shop next to the carwash across from Canadian Tire, this pre-eminent Pakistani takeaway features fiery grub every day of the year till 6 am at picnic tables in the parking lot.
Lambros 397 Danforth, at Chester, 416-461-7157.
An offshoot of Avli next door, this modish east-side eatery is home to the best Greek grub in town. Why settle for souvlaki when you can feast on mezes like grilled shrimp with oyster mushrooms and sharp saganaki cheese instead?
Le Select 432 Wellington W, at Spadina, 416-596-6405.
This relocated Parisian bistro just off the King West strip offers a solid franco card on a classy brasserie terrace. Bonus: a 6-ounce steak frites dinners with soup du jour and crème brûlée still goes for only $19.95.
Live Organic Food Bar 264 Dupont, at Spadina, 416-515-2002.
T.O.'s best vegetarian restaurant embraces the great outdoors on its secluded lantern-lit backyard deck. Known for its raw vegan card - love the lasagna! - the lineup now includes several cooked dishes as well as gluten-free beer and egg-free Sunday brunch.
Rashnaa 307 Wellesley E, at Parliament, 416-929-2099.
Sri Lankan specialties like fiery kottu rotty and string hoppers on a quiet Cabbagetown side street.
RaviSoups 322 Adelaide W, at Peter, 647-435-8365.
Former Mildred Pierce soup guru Ravi Kanagarajah turns lowly starters into the main event with a seasonal lineup of purees on a backyard deck in Clubland.
Yu Shan Dumpling Cuisine 771 Dundas W, at Markham, 416-869-0606.
In the space that used to hold the West Side Grill, one of the few Chinese restaurants in town with outdoor dining speciallizes in all things wrapped in dough and a few Szechuan-style dim sum dishes.
Even more great food
Batifole, 744 Gerrard East, at Howland, 416-462-9965
D-Ganz, 815 St Clair West, at Atlas, 416-410-1812
Ethiopian House, 4 Irwin, at Yonge, 416-923-5438
Saigon Pearl, 2A Kensington, at Dundas West, 416-598-1573
by the lakeside
Boardwalk Pub 1681 Lakeshore E, at Northern Dancer, 416-694-8844.
The only patio in the Beach anywhere remotely near the water, this family-style roadhouse on Ashbridges Bay offers an impressive view of the park's volleyball court and the dappled waters of Lake Ontario in the distance. Typical for the area, Boardwalk's pub-grub menu doesn't venture far beyond burgers, chicken wings and nachos, but it does highlight a few gluten-free items (i.e. salad). Twenty brews on tap, too.
Waterside Bistro 255 Queens Quay E, at Sherbourne, 416-203-0470.
Until you set foot on one of this tennis club's three elevated decks, you'll wonder why the fuss. Though its surrounded by a barren parking lot and condo construction, this hidden gem recalls the long-gone Sgana. A panoramic view of the harbour and islands as well as the downtown core to the west and a competent card of burgers and salads guarantee a full house whever the sun shines. Bonus: weekend brunch!
Best Lakeside spot
Rectory 102 Lakeshore, Ward's Island, 416-203-2152.Nestled in a grove of tall pines, this idyllic Ward's Island café just off the south-shore boardwalk will be open seven days a week for the summer starting in mid-June. While its front-yard beer garden makes the perfect pit stop for those who want to grab a quick pint while blading, the main attraction's the former community centre and ministry's patio on its south lawn, where day trippers nosh on the likes of braised rabbit stew with spring vegetables and blue-cheese-topped lamb burgers sided with herbed frites.
More by the lakeside
Iroquois Centre Island Ferry Docks, 416-203-8795.
Heading over to Hanlan's Point for a spot of nude sunbathing? Linger a while on this lakeside deck, take in the skyline and, by the third drink, clothing-optional won't seem like such a scary proposition.
Sunnyside Pavillion 1755 Lakeshore W, at Parkside, 416-531-2233.
Once the Sunnyside Beach Bathing Pavillion, this Moorish revival hacienda offers a lakeshore view into Toronto's historic past.
Cadillac Lounge 1296 Queen W, at Grove, 416-536-7717.
Behind its strorefront marquee of a sawn-in-half Caddy, Parkdale's self-described "home of roots, rock and country music" also houses the biggest backyard hideaway in Parkdale. Partially covered and now twice as large as when it first opened, this grungy grotto is a favourite with local music buffs, who knock back six bottles of Amsterdam Blonde for $19.13 while chowing down on 35-cent chicken wings Mondays.
Hair of the Dog 425 Church, at Wood, 416-964-2708.
Kitty-corner from Maple Leaf Gardens and just south of Toronto's gay village, this relaxed multi-level watering hole also sports an exceptionally lovely curbside garden deck and a recently launched roof deck. Trellised and overflowing with plants, it's just the spot for a discreet encounter over multiple martinis and unusually tasty veggie burgers. Water fountains and weekend brunch, too.
Hot Box Cafe 191A Baldwin, at Augusta, 416-203-6990.
Hidden away from prying eyes in a walled-in backyard behind a head shop, this hippy-dippy café was the first patio in town to allow its customers to smoke marijuana in the open. To the inevitable Bob Marley soundtrack, tie-dyed stoners and their grandchildren share tokes with suits or knock back smoothies while killing the munchies with hemp cookies and veggie-friendly sandwiches.
Leslie Jones 1182 Queen E, at Rushbrooke, 416-463-5663.
Now that spring has sprung, this terrific Leslieville café just east of Jones (hence the handle) spills into a fabulous backyard cloister. The only sound is the wind in the trees above and the appreciative murmurs of customizers as they bite into owner/chef George Wensley's - who's worked under Greg Couillard and Restaurant Makeover's David Adjey - assured card of summery salads and pasta specials. New this season: Happy Hour Mondays: all apps $5, all pizzas $10, and a buck off every beer.
Madeleines, Cherry Pie And Ice Cream 1087 Bathurst, at Dupont, 416-537-3131.
Swoon in Proustian bliss at this secret Annex garden retreat. Furnished with wicker furniture and gazebo, the shaded backyard of this much-loved bake shop and ice cream parlour hosts $19.95 prix fixe Sunday brunches through Labour Day.
Queen Mother 208 Queen W, at Duncan, 416-598-4719.
With its overgrown trellis overhead and cobblestones underfoot, the Queen Mum's backyard terrace has been one of downtown's definitive outdoor dining spots for more than 20 years. While soft 80s rock plays at a comfortable level, kick back with an eclectic card that includes pad thai, wasabi guacamole and the infamous Cosmic veggie burger. Warning: to reach the rear deck you must navigate two steep stairways and a trek through a very low-ceilinged basement.
Red Tea Box 696 Queen W, at Euclid, 416-203-8882.
Now in its seventh summer, this luxe bake shop with a tiny rear terrace and two-storey coach house specializes in sensational pan-Asian bento boxes stuffed with the likes of quinoa-crusted salmon and Thai coconut chicken salad, as well as a large selection of estate teas and house-baked desserts. Warning: reservations are not taken, so if you hope to snag one of the three or so mismatched country-chic tables in the coach house, show up early.
Rok Boutique 200 Bathurst, at Queen W, 647-428-7273.
Decked out in basic rock 'n' roll black-on-black with hot pink highlights, this intimate glam lounge doubles in size with a walled-in backyard deck lined in corrugated tin and blinking Christmas lights. Bonus: Sunday-afternoon burger and hot dog barbecues!
Urbano 942 Queen W, at Shaw, 416-532-5088.
Once home to beloved brunch spot Sugar, this Italian-style tapas bar has a cloistered brick-lined backyard garden where regulars live la doce vita while dining on bresaola meatballs.
Sidecar 577 College, at Clinton, 416-536-7000.Taking its name from the retro cocktail, this low-key College cantina has been the surprise hit of the spring. Mark McEwan vet Bill Sweete has turned one of the strip's emptiest boîtes – Versace's Driveway, anyone ? – into a dining destination. Of course, it helps that Sunday through Wednesday Sweete's three-course prix fixe – Caesar salad followed by roast chicken with spaghetti squash, grilled Atlantic salmon with Swiss chard, or steak frites, and dessert – will set you back all of $22.
Alice Fazooli's 294 Adelaide W, at John, 416-979-1910.
A popular Italian resto-cum-lounge, this converted garage and courtyard attracts an upscale crowd of suits after work on weeknights and an older, better-dressed clientele on weekends.
Bar One 924 Queen W, at Shaw, 416-535-1655.
Hip decor, solid Italiana and mid-range prices make this pair of patios - one on the street, the other out back - two of the strip's most happening.
Betty's 240 King E, at Princess, 416-368-1300.
Surrounded by very tall walls, Betty's out-of-the-way patio is the local of choice for students from nearby George Brown and members of the tabloid press.
Byzantium 499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-922-3859.
The Village's classiest cocktail lounge, this long-running resto-bar is home to more than 50 types of martini and a swellegant backyard grotto.
Central 603 Markham, at Bloor W, 416-913-4586.
Ever been to Bordello, True Grits or Red Guitar? Then you've frequented the latest incarnation of this Mirvish Village student pub. Bonus: two decks, one on the curb, and another upstairs.
Done Right Inn 861 Queen W, at Manning, 416-703-0405.
If this backyard boÃ®te were any more laid-back, it'd be horizontal. A grungy grotto wreck room, all ratty couches, vintage arcade video games and outsider art.
Green Room 296 Brunswick, at Bloor, 416-929-3253.
First-timers have a hard time finding this obscure inner courtyard complete with working water fountain hidden down the alleyway behind the former Poor Alex theatre.
Imperial Public Library 58 Dundas E, at Victoria, 416-977-4667.
A Rye High hang, this second-storey terrace may overlook futuristic Dundas Square, but its jukebox soundtrack is strictly retro swing.
Irie Food Joint 745 Queen W, at Tecumseth, 416-366-4743.
This JA-style resto's balmy walled-in backyard patio features Caribe-inspired mains like beer-battered shrimp and jerked pork chops. To drink? Red Stripe, of course!
Ku 488 College, at Markham, 416-923-7665.
The too-cool crew from Wild Indigo convert the beautiful two-tiered garden terrace of long-gone Pony and Palmerston into a cocktail lounge.
Not My Dog 1510 Queen W, at Fuller, 416-532-2397.
Boho Parkdale watering hole with a heated patio and a music policy that runs from troubled troubadours to old-time bluegrass and the occasional noise merchant.
Souz Dal 636 College, at Grace, 416-537-1883.
A true College original since 1992, its candlelit enclosed rear patio's a cross between some futuristic sci-fi flick and the set of West Side Story, complete with fire escapes to the sky.
Even more hideaways
Langolino, 50 Clinton, at College, 416-530-4710
Molly Blooms, 191 College, at McCaul, 416-916-6448
Mozart Piano Cafe, 2 Murray, at Elm, 416-596-1205
Shanghai Cowgirl, 538 Queen West, at Bathurst, 416-203-6623