We made it - T.O.'s temp finally got into the double digits. It must be patio time. To celebrate we offer our top 100 patios divided into 10 categories so you can set out for a spot and know exactly what to expect. Go ahead, feel the breeze!
Everything tastes better outside, so great eats al fresco are the ultimate bliss-out. Here’s where to get fed.
Boba 90 Avenue Rd, at Lowther, 416-961-2622
Barbara Gordon’s and Bob Berman’s swellegant Yorkville boîte often gets overlooked in the glitzy showbiz hype that fuels the neighbourhood’s hot spots. Under a lovely striped awning, the couple present left-coast versions of French country. How about some Asian-glazed barbecued filet mignon over noodle cakes in cashew sauce?
El Bodegon 537 College, at Euclid, 416-944-8297
With its usually crowded shady deck, this Peruvian cantina offers hybrid South American cuisine. Peruvian-style seafood stews and ceviches and hefty grilled beef heart platters guarantee full stomachs.
Cafe Societa 796 College, at Roxton, 416-588-7490
This thoroughly modern bistro serves contemporary cooking with a nouvelle French twist on an awning-topped terrace. Appetizers as innovative as mains use seasonal ingredients in combinations that sound unlikely but prove more than palatable. Three-course prix fixe $21.95 Tuesday and Wednes day, chef Ron Stratton’s tasting menu Thursday.
Chef Wondiy 1671 Bloor West, at Indian, 416-530-1609
This Ethiopian eatery near High Park might look like a Tyrolean ski chalet, but its street-side terrace is the perfect place to beat the heat with even more heat. Unlike similar spots, Wondiy’s inexpensive and incendiary stews, many of them vegetarian, are freshly prepared to order. Think steak tartare kitfo and silky-smooth roasted and puréed chickpeas kicked with berbere.
Duff’s Famous Wings 1604 Bayview, at Millwood, 416-544-0100
The winner of NOW’s chicken wing shoot-out, this smallish north Toronto sports bar serves the most authentic Buf falo-style pub grub this side of Tonawanda. Order the thermo nuclear death version and sir ens go off on the patio out front. Cookbook-correct blue cheese dip and celery crudites, too. $
El Sol 1448 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-405-8074
The best Mexican restaurant in town, El Sol’s curbside terrace offers authentic way-south-of-the-border fare. Because the spice-tacular northern Mexican dishes – pollo en mole, chile relleno – are made to order, dinner can be a very long time coming. To compensate, start with several non-mix margaritas.
Free Times Cafe and Bella’s Bistro 320 College, at Major, 416-967-1078
As if it isn’t hard enough to get a Sunday afternoon reservation for this groovy 60s space’s Bella Did Ya Eat? $16.95 all-you-can-eat brunch – $21.95 on Mother’s Day, as if I haven’t suffered enough – try reserving a table on its tiny street-side terrace. Sure you’ll work it off, traipsing back and forth to the 40-item spread – lox-flecked salmon cakes, gefilte fish, challah french toast. And it’s all set to live klezmer musicians as opposed to DJ Wotsit. So who’s complaining?
Jodhpore Club 33 Baldwin, at Henry, 416-598-2502
Packed out for its wallet-friendly weekday $7 Subcontinental lunch buffet, after dark, the Baldwin Village northern Indian eatery turns up the heat on reasonably priced and assertively spiced fare. Don’t miss tandoor-fired lamb chops with vegetable paneer tikka, fiery Goan fish curry and Hyderabadi eggplant. Pizza-esque paneer naan as well. $
La Palette 256 Augusta, at College, 416-929-4900
Here’s a funky low-key north Kensington spot with an intimate street-side enclosure serving no-nonsense bistro classics. Owners Shamez Amiani and Mike Harrington – former maître d’ and chef at Le Select – make first-timers feel like regulars and regulars like family. Expect lighter summer fare like roasted rainbow trout on black bean-horseradish timbale and grilled lamb loin over polenta, white asparagus and baby carrot ratatouille, as well as a nightly $25 three-course prix fixe dinner.
Mexitaco 828 Bloor West, at Shaw, 416-537-6693
Just west of the Pits, this cheap and cheerful taqueria delivers no-nonsense Mexi can meals from a street-front fenced-in pen. Sombrero count: nil. Summer’s the perfect weather to chow down on terrific street eats like tortillas layered with grilled steak, pineapple-marinated shaved pork or spicy sausage sided with yellow achiote rice and textbook refried beans. Bonus: super bread pudding-like flan.
Mitzi’s 100 Sorauren, at Pearson, 416-588-1234
A quirky storefront luncheonette on a tree-lined side street in Parkdale, this brunch ’n’ lunch resto serves formidable all-day noshes of thick, challah french toast dripping with ripe strawberries and whipping cream, perfectly poached eggs on spinach and maple syruped lemon poppy seed pancakes. Check out sibling spot Mitzi’s Sister (1554 Queen West, 416-532-2570) and its new backyard patio featuring 15 microbrews, Chambly mimosas and tequila-centric Twisted Sisters.
Musa 847 Dundas West, at Euclid, 416-368-8484
Low-key neighbourhood noshery offers contemporary takes on casual Greek and Turk ish dishes in a funky fresh al fresco setting. Start with Azorean mussels with chorizo or garlic, lemon-marinated octopus or minty dolmados and continue with bechamel-sauced moussaka or keftades, ground beef falafel patties zapped with cumin that are stuffed into a spectacular spelt pita.
Niagara Street Cafe 169 Niagara, at Wellington, 416-703-4222
Fans of long-gone Lotus’s shabby chic will love this mostly organic deep downtown noshery with a modest, view-free in-progress patio out front. No one says the food’s in Susur’s league – whose is? – but this laid-back luncheonette offers a reasonably priced card changing daily that always includes Cumbrae southern fried chicken sided with lumpy mashed potaters and biscuits.
Seven Numbers 343 Eglinton West, at Braemar, 416-322-5183
Spilling onto the sidewalk in summer, this southern Italian uptown trat matches old-school home cooking with casual but friendly service. Don’t miss co-owner and chef Rosa Marinuzzi’s constantly changing lineup up of tapas-sized plates piled with succulent slow-roasted rabbit, barely seared mahi mahi with capers or spinach-stuffed eggplant parmesan. Warning: gets crazy at peak patio hours.
Tempo 596 College, at Clinton, 416-531-2822
Cheap, Tempo ain’t. Head to Bloor if you’re looking for an all-inclusive $7.95 vegetarian teriyaki combo. Chef Tom Thai’s modernist sushi – lob ster maki in white truffle oil, spicy oyster tempura and roasted eel scented with shiso leaf – has made this casual luxe spot a hot ticket since it opened. Watch it heat up from the Dip’ across the street as the weather warms. Being at the epicentre of downtown cool helps, too.
Universal Grill 1071 Shaw, at Dupont, 416-588-5928
With its Muskoka-like patio up front, this cool converted spoon dishes up comfort food with contemporary skill. Retro stuff like barbecued pork ribs with yam frites, roast chicken with gravy and scalloped potatoes and, as part of its popular weekend brunch, latkes with gravlox, capers and designer greens.
Ferro 769 St Clair West, at Arlington, 416-654-9119
Appropriately framed by pipe, this upscale pizza parlour is casual cool by day and super hot at night.
King Slice 1598 Bloor West, at Dorval, 416-536-3738
First-rate designer pizza on tree-lined sidewalk rated by David Chrystian, no less.
Saving Grace 907 Dundas West, at Bellwoods, 416-703-7368
Spectacular, budget-conscious lunches and brunches in a narrow alleyway just off an about-to-be-cool stretch of Dundas. $
Tavola Calda 671 College, at Beatrice, 416-536-8328
A treasure: inexpensive Italian takeout – eggplant parmigiana! – with a slight Argentinean accent right in the middle of Toronto’s hippest strip.
Terroni 1 Balmoral, at Yonge, 416-925-4020
Uptown outlet of Toronto’s best pizzeria across from the nostalgic 1050 CHUM building. Ask your ’rents.
The Restaurant 69 Nassau, at Augusta, 416-340-1110
Mostly organic all-day breakfast and brunch spot in Kensington. $
Verveine 1097 Queen East, at Pape, 416-405-9906
Backyard bistro enclave in Leslieville serves contemporary takes on classic European cuisine. Busy weekend brunch.
Wanna get outside but keep some privacy? Hide out at these spots.
Airport Lounge 492 College, at Palmerston, 416-921-3047
Things may have cooled down a bit since this super-hot 70s-inspired psychedelic funkateria took off last summer, but the party amps up again when the action moves to the enclosed rear deck. And unlike neighbouring hipster haunts, there’s more on display here than hyper-’tude: killer retro cocktails, light fixtures from the sci-fi Charlton Heston flick Soylent Green and ex-Canoe chef Timothy Ng’s innovative sushi.
Allen’s 143 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-463-3086
Pass through a New York-style saloon complete with a Wurlitzer jukebox program med with golden oldies and find this celebrated fenced-in hideaway. Waiters in white aprons dish up creditable burgers from the tree-lined terrace’s barbecue while regulars guzzle a large cross-section of microbrews and over 200 single-malt scotches.
Barraida 1000 College, at Havelock, 416-539-8239
While its front space is a noisy Portuguese barbecue take-away specializing in grilled-over-steam chicken, suckling pig and rabbit, its huge, grassy backyard decked out with rows of picnic tables makes a great spot for dining al fresco en famille. Warning: early evening children.
The Beat Junkie 306 Richmond West, at John, 416-599-7055
As its name suggests, the Beat Junkie is serious about the tunes it plays. Chill in the townhouse’s JA-style thatched-roof shack out back. A remodelled clubland Victo rian, the Beat has two main areas – a first-floor lounge with walls hung with Mayan masks and a streamlined upper dance area draped in camouflage netting. Summer weekend jerk barbecues.
Betty’s 240 King East, at Princess, 416-368-1300
Surrounded by very tall walls, Betty’s sequestered patio – once the Betty Ford Clinic until a certain ex-president’s wife took exception – attracts students from nearby George Brown and members of the tabloid press who sip a slew of microbrews.
Caju 922 Queen West, at Shaw, 416-532-2550
Mojito? A contender for Queen West’s trendiest terrace, at night this impressive olive ’n’ black patio glows with rear-lit frosted white plexi panels. Taking its name from the Portu guese word for cashew, Brazilian Caju presents an upmarket but authentic South American fusion card of African, Caribbean and Portu guese dishes like Madeira-braised pork tenderloin medallions dressed with gumbo-like okra and spinach. Another mojito?
Done Right Inn 861 Queen West, at Manning, 416-703-0405
If this joint were any more laid-back, it’d be horizontal. A grungy grotto wreck room, DRI caters to an all-day and all-night crowd of serious beer drinkers. The rooftop of the Park Plaza this ain’t, dude. Ratty couches, vintage arcade video games and outsider art, as well. $
Irie Food Joint 745 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-366-4743
Despite its name being similar to the College jerk joint and the fact that this breezy, relaxed resto also shares some of Irie’s menu, the two have nothing in common. Out back there’s a relaxed patio with a tropical vibe; up front a glass wall opens to the passing parade.
Levity 1331 Danforth, at Lamb, 416-463-0438
Laid-back neighbourhood café and bakery dishes up straightforward sandwiches, soups and quiche on a small side-street terrace. Very Vancouver. $
Pope Joan 547 Parliament, at Winchester, 416-925-6662
Toronto’s most popular gay bar for women – members of the lesser sex are admitted, as well – features a varied schedule of DJs, live music and livelier hijinx. During the summer, sand is trucked in to turn this Cab bage town patio into an ocean-less beach complete with volleyball games and burger barbecues.
Queen Mother Cafe 208 Queen West, at Duncan, 416-598-4719
Still the definitive Queen West backyard retreat, the trellised Queen Mum offers a serviceable take on Thai and Laotian specialties that won’t frighten wallets or dates. Foodie facts: QM’s all-veggie Cosmic Burger and pad thai have been on the menu for 25 years!
The Rebel House 1068 Yonge, at Rox bor ough, 416-927-0704
Customers who know their suds fill this Summerhill pub’s back garden to sip microbrews – Wellington, Neustadt, Trafalgar – and pig out on bison burgers under an impressive parachute roof. The site of a skirmish during the Upper Canada Rebellion, this Rebel yells around the clock.
Rodney’s Oyster House 469 King West, at Spadina, 416-363-8105
Rodney’s recent move across town not only resulted in a larger party palace than the old place but a cozy Oyster Garden, too. Watch for lunch to start after May 24 on weather-friendly days. On July 20, Rod ney’s wooden tables and benches host the Ontario Oyster Festival – keep on shuckin’!
SHANGHAI COWGIRL 538 Queen West, at Bathurst, 416-203-6623
Retro upscale diner with a secluded rear deck.
Souz Dal 636 College, at Grace, 416-537-1883
Open only after dark, Souz Dal suggests a romantic rendezvous at the casbah set in a walled-in rear patio straight out of West Side Story. Ochre-patterned tented walls sway as overhead fans churn the sheltering air. Middle Eastern-influenced finger foods –baba gha nouj, tzatziki and grilled pita – encourage the most hard-to-get to become instantly available.
Terroni 720 Queen West, at Claremont, 416-504-0320
While salami swings overhead indoors, Toronto’s best thin-crust pizza gets served amidst faux-Roman ruins in this tucked-away grotto. Artfully decorated with minimal yet full-strength sauce and cheese plus maximum flavour from quality toppings – fresh basil, spicy Calabrese sausage, grilled peppers and arugula – Terroni’s pies are a definitive summer dining experience.
Transilvania 2579 Yonge, at Briar Hill, 416-932-9915
Who could resist Dracula’s Platter – a mountain of schnitzel and cabbage rolls – on a leafy backyard deck?
Vicky’s Fish & Chips/Sue’s Thai Food 414 Roncesvalles, at Howard Park, 416-531-8822
Though the fish is rudimentary at best, Sue’s Thai packs an inexpensive and authentic punch. Not much to look at, its back alley makes a suitable setting for the grub. $
CHiCAGO’S 335 Queen West, at Beverley, 416-977-2904
Booze, blooze and burgers.
Lalot 200 Bathurst, at Queen West, 416-703-8222
Upscale pan-Asian menu on the secluded deck of the former Aunties and Uncles.
Lily 68 786 Broadview, at Danforth, 416-465-9991
Formerly Cafe Brussell, this narrow, rear corridor still looks Belgian even though the menu features sushi, not mussels.
97 Bistro 97 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-778-0007
Tapas bar on the Danforth with Riverdale backyard action.
Best Beer Gardens
Sometimes a brew is all you’re looking for. Tap into these places when you’re in the mood for suds.
Amadeu’s 184 Augusta, at Denison Square, 416-591-1245
As the sun sets behind the Sasmart, Kensington fishmongers, local scenesters and lost tourists gather on the market’s best patio. Cheap pints, reasonably priced and deftly prepared seafood and brand new furniture make the Plate – as everyone calls it – a key weekend rendezvous. There’s sangria, too.
The Amsterdam 600 King West, at Portland, 416-504-1040
Always crowded once the afternoon sun hits its west-facing wall, the ’Dam is a microbrewery that ferments its own suds in its on-site facility. True lager lovers will want to take one of its weekend guided tours and note that its side-entry retail outlet is open every day of the year. Hooray!
Cafe Diplomatico 594 College, at Clinton, 416-534-4637
Long a magnet for sun-worshippers and moon-howlers, the Dip’ celebrates its 35th anniversary this summer. With its old-school Italian menu – pizza, mussels, insalata – and rock-bottom prices, this family-run business prevails while neighbouring spots don’t last 35 minutes. Great optics, too. $
Castro’s Lounge 2116 Queen East, at Lee, 416-699-8272
An offshoot of Sarah’s on the Danforth, this all-things-Fidel curbside patio in the Beach serves subversive cocktails to capitalists. Bonus: more than a hundred imported beers by the bottle and Homer-erotic Duff’s on tap. Open daily 3 pm to 2 am.
The Green Room 296 Brunswick, at Bloor West, 416-929-3253
First-timers have a hard time finding this obscure Annex inner courtyard complete with burbling water feature hidden down the alleyway behind the Poor Alex Theatre. Eventually, they find a grotty grotto decked out in Goodwill castoffs serving cheap all-day breakfasts. Warning: goth poets. $
The House On Parliament Street 456 Parliament, at Carlton, 416-925-4074
An inviting below-street-level Ye Olde English Pub with accompanying terrace, this completely restored Cabbagetown local – low tin ceilings, damask banquettes with round tables, brocade carpeting – hosts women’s softball leaguers for après-game brewskis. Lots of inexpensive plonk by the glass, too. $
Le Petit Liban 580 Church, 416-963-2222
Defying the location’s jinx – several restos have opened and died unceremoniously here – the Middle Eastern boîte’s leafy, street-side terrace across from the 519 is one of Church’s sunniest. Warning: iffy food, great firewater.
The Looking Glass 582 Church, at Dun donald, 416-929-4779
Straight out of the other side of the mirror in Alice Through The Looking Glass, this mostly women’s resto-bar has two outdoor stages: a sunny street-side terrace perfect for weekend jazz brunch and a large backyard grotto that continues the Won der land theme complete with wood-burning chiminia.
The Madison 14 Madison, at Bloor West, 416-927-1722
Start lining up now if you ex pect a table on this three-storey party palace’s multi-tiered terraces. Bonus: Holly wood hunk Colin Farrell – hubba hubba! – hangs here when filming his latest local blockbuster. $
Old York Bar & Grill 167 Niagara, at Wellington West, 416-703-9675
Downwind from the police department’s horse barns and across the street from an abattoir, this Meat Packing District verandah caters to local butchers, off-duty cops on horseback and arty types alike. Cheap grub, cheap suds, rootsy musical policy. $
The Only Cafe 972 Danforth, at Donlands, 416-463-7843
A crowded, smoky neighbourhood patio just beyond the borders of My Big Fat Greektown, the Only is an oasis on a decidedly down-at-the-heels stretch of the boulevard of broken plates. Guinness on tap and massive all-day breakfasts guarantee that every seat gets taken on weekends.
Planet Kensington 197-1/2 Baldwin, at Augusta, 416-341-0310
Spot the al fresco Goof! Atmospheric dive popular with squeegie kids and Kensington characters, with a tiny terrace next to a fish store.
Good weekend brunch, believe it or not. $
Rowers 150 Harbord, at Brunswick, 416-961-6277
Despite its misleading Gone With The Wind porticoed patio facade, Rowers is a temple to all things jock – walls hung with Ned Hanlon paraphernalia, snapshot collages of volleyball tournaments, upside-down racing scull on the ceiling. No wonder U of T varsity teams unwind here after the game.
Sarah’s Cafe 1426 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-406-3121
Eastsiders relax on this neighbourhood patio that’s part Allen’s, part Celtic pub and part Greek taverna. The beer selection impresses – 15 Belgian marques, four Dutch, seven German, 10 Canadian, a dozen UK names as well as "others" like Jamaican Red Stripe and Kenyan Tusker. Bonus: 13 euro brews on tap.
Spreads 4 Temperance, at Yonge, no phone
Although the sign out front says Temperance Bar, bike couriers know this tiny, no-frills hang in the core as Spreads. Tunes are as loud and aggressive as the after-work gang is relaxed. Where else can you ask an urban road warrior’s advice on repacking your bottom bracket, man, with a straight face? Bonus: unexpected skyline view. $
The Toolbox 508 Eastern, at Logan, 416-466-8616
A trellised maze of SM tableaux, the ’Box is Toronto’s oldest leather bar. Don’t confuse it with the biker gang clubhouse a block down the street with the picnic tables out front. Those are real Hell’s Angels.
Victory Cafe 581 Markham, at Lennox, 416-516-5787
With a wraparound curbside patio, Markham Village’s Victory hosts boho book launches, jammin’ poetry slams and alterna-hootenannies. $
The Village Rainbow 477 Church, 416-961-0616
Although it’ll always be the Unicorn Family to us older girls, this Greek restaurant – insert punchline here – with all-day sun is one of boystown’s most boisterous boîtes. Premium spot: the front table right on the railing.
The Wheat Sheaf 667 King West, at Bathurst, 416-504-9912
Opened in 1849, the Sheaf is Toronto’s oldest bar. Hell, it’s almost the oldest anything! Somewhat tarted up, its very noisy street-side patio – both the King and Bathurst cars regularly rocket past – makes this a classic watering hole complete with pickled eggs. Urban legend has it there’s a secret underground tunnel to nearby Fort York.
Wilde Oscar’s 518 Church, 416-921-8142
Ah, the love that dare not speak its name. One of the gay nabe’s best patios, its non-tented area catches late afternoon rays and offers an unobstructed view of the goings and comings at the Spa on Mutual across the street. Not that anyone’s paying attention, like.
The Banknote 663 King West, at Bathurst, 416-947-0404
Cheap mussels every Tuesday.
The Black Eagle 457 Church, at Maitland, 416-413-1219
Restless revellers bump into each other in the dark: rooftop raunch.
Esplanade Bier Markt 58 The Esplanade, at Church, 416-862-7575
Belgian brasserie featuring mussels and suds.
Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub 70 The Esplanade, at Church, 416-362-2495
Celtic vibes deep in old York.
L’Arte 2060 Dundas West, at Sorauren, 416-535-3181
Out of the way neighbourhood local just north of loft land.
Margarita’s 14 Baldwin, at McCaul, 416-977-5525
Tex-Mex grub on two patios overlooking Baldwin Village.
Vinnie’s Social Hall 22 Duncan, at Adelaide West, 416-979-5565
Theatre District sports bar with outdoor hijinks.
The combination of fresh air and a cosmo or superb single malt is unbeatable. Set ’em up.
Brasserie Aix 584 College, at Clinton, 416-588-7377
When it opened over a year ago, Brasserie Aix was the hottest joint in town. But now that the fabulosi have made like lemmings and moved elsewhere, its curbside verandah separated from street traffic makes a stylish perch for sipping Persecco while eavesdroping on Bar Italia next door.
Byzantium 499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-922-3859
Though its open front windows make the perfect perch to cruise or be cruised, the best restaurant slash martini lounge is also home to an intimate backyard grotto away from prying eyes. Check out the kitchen’s unusual takes – well, for this nabe – on bistro classics, an extensive lineup of cocktails and Killer Lemonade with a kick.
Queen’s Head Pub 263 Gerrard East, at Parliament, 416-929-0940
Downstairs from the Queen Victoria-themed Pimblett’s, this picayune, subterranean piazza on the fringe of Cabbagetown stocks more than a dozen different $6.50-a-shot single malts.
Sutra 612 College, at Clinton, 416-537-8755
Brasserie Aix? Xacutti? How last summer, darling. The strip’s latest it-spot – owned by the Souz Dal dude, doncha know – features raw oysters for a buck and a half a shuck on its secluded rear terrazzo, while the small deck out front offers a fantastic view of those coming, going and turned away. Champagne, dawg, champagne!
Wett Bar 7 Maitland, at Yonge, 416-966-9388
With no sign and a tiny front courtyard wrapped in gauze obstructing the view in and out – a good thing considering its just-off-Yonge location – Wett is the Village’s most stylish lizard lounge. Recline on knockoff Mies van der Rohe daybeds under Calderesque mobiles and swill swelegant ’tinis to the latest house hits.
Wish 3 Charles East, at Yonge, 416-935-0240
See feature on page 69.
The Cameron House 408 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-703-0811
Killer cocktails right there at a stand-up bar on the curb.
Xacutti 503 College, at Palmerston, 416-323-3957
Heated interior patio so hot it requires reservations.
Admit it – you’re sitting there just to look at the passersby. Trust me, you’re not alone.
Adega 33 Elm, at Yonge, 416-977-4338
The touristy Elm Street resto strip is best viewed from the second-floor verandah of this posh Portuguese eatery headed by the folks who are also responsible for chi-chi Chiado on College. Dig into the day’s fresh catch – tender calamari, smoky sardines, whole grilled snapper – and wash it down with one of several Madeiras and ports by the glass.
Avli 401 Danforth, at Chester, 416-461-9577
Sedate by Danforth standards, this upscale Greek cantina’s street-front terrace offers a noisy, bustling Riverdale setting for better than usual grub. Expect expert mezes like tarama salata and tzatziki and mains of whole grilled fish, all set to choruses of retsina.
Bellevue Diner 61 Bellevue, at Nassau, 416-597-6912
The north market stretch of Nassau that runs between Bellevue and Augusta has to be one of downtown’s most happening blocks. But outlaw coffeehouses, burlesque boutiques and vintage musical instrument shops all take a back seat to the Bellevue’s bucolic all-day-sun patio action. Figure in first-rate Mediterranean mains and weekend brunch and it’s no contest for cool.
The Black Bull 298 Queen West, at Soho, 416-593-2766
A sea of black leather, a row of shiny Harleys and an endless flow of suds. Bootblack Night at the Toolbox? Nope, just another sunny afternoon booze-up on the patio at Toronto’s second-oldest watering hole. Though there are over 200 seats, they come at a premium.
Cafe Nervosa 75 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-961-4642
The intersection of Yorkville and Bel lair has to be this glitzy nabe’s celebrity central. Isn’t that Catherine Zeta-Jones sharing a desi g ner pizza with hubby Michael Douglas? Didn’t think so, but the girl on the upper deck in the dark glasses definitely looks like former Spice Girl what’s-her-name.
Kubo Colony 157 Bloor West, at Avenue Rd, 416-591-9997
After two spectacular flops, Club Monaco hands the resto reigns to the Kubo crew. Combine interesting takes on pan-Asian plates and a non-stop parade of passing beautiful people – even the homeless look fabulous in Yorkville – and Colony can’t lose for a third time, can it?
John’s Italian Caffe 27 Baldwin, at McCaul, 416-537-0598
Fresh By Juice For Life 894 Queen West, at Crawford, 416-913-2720
With a view from its brand new deck of Artscape’s gardens and surrounding Bellwoods Park, the Juice also offers a front-row seat to passing condo dwellers. Re gularly voted best vegetarian by NOW’s Readers Poll, this totally vegan juice bar reaches beyond dairy-free smoothies and rejuvenating elixirs with healthy green salads, slammin’ sandwiches and nourishing noodle noshes. $
Jumbo Empanadas 245 Augusta, at Bald win, 416-977-0056
A South American cantina in Kensington Market selling delicious Latin turnovers stuffed with all sorts of good things, Jumbo has just taken possession of its liquor license. Chow down on the curbside market terrace and dig the bizarre cavalcade of local colour that passes here at all hours. $
Pho Hung 350 Spadina, at St. Andrew, 416-593-4274
The Hung has the only Vietnamese patio in Chinatown. Year round, the partially tented Spadina-side patio offers multiple variations of delicious pho. Drawing a loyal following of budget-conscious diners, the always-packed spot also offers rarely seen stuff for culinary thrill-seekers – snail vermicelli, beef fondue and congee with heart, blood and intestines. $
The Rivoli 332 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-597-0794
The combined patios of the Riv plus adjacent holding pens at the 360, Fresh by Juice for Life and Le Select offer in-yer-face views of Queen West at its quirkiest. Throw in the joint’s newish metal furniture and a reasonably priced mainstream Pacific Rim menu and get Toronto’s perfect patio.
Spaha 66 Harbord, at Spadina, 416-260-6133
Spaha has been one of Toronto’s trendiest spots since it opened a few years back on the ground floor of that U of T building with the giant letter O hanging over Harbord. Its patio wraps around three sides and fronts noisy daytime Spadina. But at 3 am, where else can you buy creditable white-wine-steamed moules et grease-free frites, French onion soup and swell salade niçoise?
Teatro 505 College, at Palmerston, 416-972-1475
Though its fashionista days are long gone, this swanky wine bar spills out to its covered curbside deck when the weather permits. Bonus: with Airport, Lava and Xacutti nearby, someone swell is bound to show up shortly.
Zelda’s 542 Church, at Maitland, 416-922-2526
Staff in gender-fuck drag and the sunniest patio on the Village strip make this a very hot spot. Loud, brash and in-yer-face, Zelda might not be the most tasteful queen in town – warning: food – but she certainly knows how to throw a trashy party. Expect lineups and non-stop campy disco shenanigans. Martooni?
Amber 119 Yorkville, at Hazelton, 416-926-9037
Subterranean ultra-lounge where fashionistas meet trust-fund kids for cocktails in a Japanese-inspired garden. Warning: Ben Mulroney and Justin Trudeau hang here.
Alto Basso 718 College, at Crawford, 416-534-9522
Check out the urban street scene at this kewl beat club.
Bar Italia 582 College, at Clinton, 416-535-3621
A small Italianate piazza in front offers optimum optics.
CafE AGO 317 Dundas West, at Beverley, 416-260-2482
Snacks ’n’ lattes on the edge of Chinatown.
Casey’s 123 Front West, at University, 416-955-4550
Hang with suits across from Union Station and the Royal York.
The Fish Store 657 College, at Grace, 416-538-1732
Late-night nautical scene buzzes around outstanding grilled fresh seafood sandwiches. $
Future Bakery 483 Bloor West, at Bruns wick, 416-922-5875
Grab a coffee and a blintz and watch le tout Annex parade past. $
Habitat Lounge 735 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-860-1551
Formerly fusty ol’ Future Bakery, Habitat goes upmarket as killer cocktails replace kielbasa.
Hot House Cafe 35 Church, at Wellington, 416-366-7800
St. Lawrence local near market.
The Last Temptation 12 Kensington, at Dundas West, 416-599-2551
Great spot to kick back with a beer after an afternoon spent vintage clothes shopping. $
Lava 507 College, at Palmerston, 416-966-5282
Take to the shady deck while cutting-edge DJs rip it up inside.
Liberty Street Cafe 25 Liberty, at Mowat, 416-533-8828
Deep in the heart of the warehouse district, a terrace for dot-com types.
Momo’s 196 Robert, at Harbord, 416-966-6671
Middle Eastern grotto in south Annex.
Moonbean Cafe 30 St Andrew, at Kensing ton, 416-595-0327
Under the morning sun on the patio, the Bean dishes up all-day breakfasts and brews strong, fair-trade organic beans. $
Southside Louie’s 583 College, at Euclid, 416-532-1250
Where people who live on College go to drink.
All Day/All Night
Patio lovers looking for outdoor action 24/7 can count on these hot spots.
Mel’s Montreal Delicatessen 440 Bloor West, at Howland, 416-966-8881
With four grades of fat – from lean to well-marbled – this family-style Annex deli comes as close to authentic Montreal smoked meat on rye as can be found in Toronto. Authentic house-made chopped liver with caramelized onion, hard-boiled egg and drippings of chicken fat and smoked-meat poutine with gravy and melted cheddar curds, too. Best: an after-the-clubs patio that rocks right round the clock.
7 West 7 Charles West, at Yonge, 416-928-9041
Started in the 70s as a basement grotto, this restaurant-that-never-closes has taken over the entire three-storey building. Its curbside patio may have a higher profile and a propensity for car exhaust, but West’s tiny rooftop deck makes a romantic setting for tuna melts in the middle of the night.
Ready for Romance
Every date needs the right atmosphere. You can get close at these sexy spots.
Bonjour Brioche 812 Queen East, at Degrassi, 416-406-1250
If French is the language of love, its cuisine must be a love song. Bakers of Toronto’s most acclaimed croissants and – yes – brioches, this cozy south Riverdale terrace makes lovers of all kinds welcome. First-class baked goods and fab al fresco breakfasts, too. $
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 outdoors on grilled seafood fired with searing hot sauce that sets both taste buds and passions on fire. Sunday morning-after brunch features Eggs Boulevard – spicy scrambled eggs, sausage and black turtle beans on three-grain toast.
Crush 455 King West, at Spadina, 416-977-1234
Though the buzz has moved on since it opened last spring, this casual New York loft-style French bistro is sure to heat up again when it takes it to the cobblestones of its west-side courtyard for the first time this season. Find classic grub – tiny slabs of foie gras terrine spread on contrasting toasts with boozy jelly, dainty roasted lamb with caramelized endive – and a sommelier-led wine list.
Julie’s 202 Dovercourt, at Argyle, 416-532-7397
Patios don’t come more conducive to romance than this side-street Cuban grotto on Toronto’s west side. Surrounded by trees, the tiny outdoor cantina is like a little bit of pre-Castro Havana with its lineup of tapas, pressed pork ’n’ cheese sandwiches and subtle Cuban stews. Reservations a must.
Nonna’s 96 Tecumseth, at Adelaide West, 416-364-0312
Once the home of Susur Lee’s Lotus, this unpretentious storefront on a quiet side street serves straightforward and reasonably priced northern Italian mains – amply portioned pasta, expert grills and no pizza. Off the eaten track but worth rediscovering.
Red Tea Box 696 Queen West, at Euclid, 416-203-8882
Patios don’t get any better than this luxe bakeshop’s tiny rear terrace and coach house. Dine under a picture-perfect pear tree on sensational pan-Asian bento boxes, spectacular Pacific Rim sandwiches and salad combos. Breathtaking desserts and pricy cups of estate teas make this Toronto’s most exclusive al fresco rendezvous. Warning: reservations are not taken.
Winchester Cafe 161 Winchester, at Su mach, 416-924-4362
See feature on page 66
Auberge Du Pommier 4150 Yonge, at York Mills, 416-222-2220
Its secluded garden terrace makes this a north Toronto dining destination for lovers. The faux stone cottage complex (think Disney does French country) surprises with its Gallic finesse and contemporary spin.
Bordello 603 Markham, at Bloor West, 416-536-8383
Multi-tiered patios in Mirvish Village on the site of now-deceased True Grits.
Brassaii 461 King West, at Spadina, 416-598-4730
When a restaurant opens with this much splash – a semi-secret courtyard catering to a cutting-edge clientele – shouldn’t the food be equal to the hype?
Noce 875 Queen West, at Walnut, 416-504-3463
Contemporary Italian fare on a covered patio overlooking Bellwoods Park.
Up on the Roof
Make your own noise with some rooftop revelry away from the street.
The Beverley Tavern 240 Queen West, at John, 416-598-2434
The rooftop patio gets heavy summer action, and every Friday night the first-floor open garage doors offer a ringside view of the desperate hijinks being taped across the street for Citytv’s Electric Circus. The Bev’s music history goes back even further –both Martha & the Muffins and the Dishes started here. Ask the bartender nicely and he just might spin the Demics’ circa-1978 I Wanna Go To New York City.
Epicure 512 Queen West, at Portland, 416-504-8942
Popular with the theatre crowd – Theatre Passe Muraille and the Factory Theatre are nearby – this low-key bistro serves such classic French fare as grilled calf’s liver and pâté à la campagne. Even with its two patios – one out front, the other on the rear roof – expect crowds for June’s multiple $4.99/lb. mussel and July’s garlic fests.
The Fifth 221 Richmond West, at Duncan, 416-979-3000
Past the laughable shtick of walkie talkie-toting doormen and up a freight elevator to the fifth floor, find an haute rooftop haunt that caters to the moneyed set. A heated, tented deck overlooks those overlooked and less fortunate left behind the velvet rope. All this and barbecue, too!
Imperial Public Library 58 Dundas East, at Church, 416-977-4667
A Rye High hang, this second-storey terrace overlooks bleak Dundas Platz. Beyond the strasse, the hi-tech neon towers along Yonge add a touch of sci-fi Tokyo to downtown Toronto. Legendary jukebox decked out with swing-era Sinatra tunes, too.
Kensington Kitchen 124 Harbord, at Major, 416-961-3404
For years now, KK has been winning Now’s Readers Poll in the best patio category. It’s not difficult to figure out why: moderately priced Mediterranean mezes – baba ghanouj, lamb burgers and vegetarian couscous with handcut frites – are all served on a rickety rooftop under a spreading chestnut and evening stars.
606 606 King West, at Portland, 416-504-8740
A laid-back saloon popular with both an after-work and late-night crowd, the 6 is entered through an alleyway. Beyond its stainless steel kitchen, a narrow stairway leads to a Caribbean-inspired rooftop shack – all corrugated tin, tropical plants and potent island punch.
Wayne Gretzky’s 99 Blue Jay Way, at Mercer, 416-979-7825
Something to do with a hockey player, this once party-tastic gazebo-in-the-sky is now surrounded by high-rise condos and boutique hotels, though the faithful can still spot the CN Tower from the east deck. Sticks, suds and some of the best pub-grub chicken wings in town, even if – as the menu claims – "Wayne doesn’t do sauce."
Bauhaus 31 Mercer, at Peter, 416-977-9813
Swank art deco clubland nightspot attracts an industry crowd for Martini Mondays.
HEMINGWAY’S 142 Cumberland, at York Lane, 416-968-2828
Year-round sports action on heated roof.
Toronto’s café culture busts out this time of year. Here are some places that stand out from the crowd.
Jet Fuel 519 Parliament, at Winchester, 416-968-9982
Past the narrow stainless steel kitchen, up a few stairs and around the corner, this bike-friendly joint’s rear garden makes a great place to hide and read a good book. Knock back huge $3 lattes on a high, walled-in flagstone terrace decked-out in log furniture. Too kewl. $
Lahore Tika House 1365 Gerrard East, at Highfield, 416-406-1668
In summer, the House takes its fiery Pakistani eats to the picnic tables out front. Right in the heart of Little India, this family-style eatery features skewered meat and veggie tikka kebabs. Don’t forget to take a snap of the kids perched on the rickshaw-like pedicab. $
Louie’s Cafe 235 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-593-9717
In the two summers since this tiny coffehouse on the sidewalk opened, Louie’s has become the caffeine-fuelled crossroads of the market. High octane java and steaming hot Moroccan mint tea are the power source and casual, funky digs provide the atmospherics. $
Narula’s 1438A Gerrard East, at Ashdale, 416-466-0434
Yes, it’s probably the shabbiest terrace on the list – and not shabby chic – but this southern Indian vegetarian take-away’s remarkable grub more than makes up for what it lacks in scenery. Sit at a beat-up picnic table and devour sensational stuff like Bhel Pouri or vegetarian thali that causes the palate to detonate in myriad directions – hot, salty, sour, sweet. Bonus: nearly everything’s two bucks on Tuesday! $
Vienna Home Bakery 626 Queen West, at Markham, 416-703-7278
With its secluded, fenced-in backyard, Gay Couillard’s – superstar chef Greg’s sis – luncheonette slash bakery is always packed when the weather cooperates. Thoroughly understandable considering her stellar menu of simple but posh breakfast noshes and super south-of-France quiche-and-salad lunch combos. Seasonal fruit pies and cassis-soaked cakes, too. Warning: weekend lineups. $
I Deal Coffee 84 Nassau, at Bellevue, 416-364-7700
Boho coffeehouse in the market appeals to the alternative set. $
Java House 537 Queen West, at Augusta, 416-504-3025
Java jive and pseudo-Asian eats from the Green Room’s Just William on a patio right on the main drag. $
Timothy’s 500 Church, at Alexander, 416-925-8550
South Beach on the sidewalk. $
Tournayre Patisserie 1856 Queen East, at Woodbine, 416-693-7997
Fabulous French fare – croissants, baguettes and quiche – street-side near the beach. $
Skylines, shorelines – Toronto has lots of scenic eye candy.
Bymark 66 Wellington West, at York, 416-777-1144
Located right on the courtyard with 50-storey skyscrapers looming overhead, Mark McEwan’s Bymark claims one of downtown’s most impressive skyline views. And you don’t have to leave the ground to see it! TD architect Mies van der Rohe would approve of the resto’s Yabu Pushelberg interior, huge wine cellar and adjacent sculptural cows.
Il Fornello 207 Queen’s Quay West, at Bay, 416-861-1028
A spectacular view of Toronto harbour and the nearby island ferry docks almost makes up for smallish pizzas priced higher than the going rate. Almost. Located at the south end of the Terminal Building, this is the most atmospheric branch of the local chain’s outlets.
Iroquois Centre Island, 416-203-8795
Right at Centre Island’s ferry dock, this beckoning beer hall is all some visitors see of the park. Burgers ’n’ nachos, non-stop pitchers and a skyline-perfect vista of skyscrapers continues until a last call that conveniently coincides with the last scheduled boat back to the mainland.
Panorama 55 Bloor West, at Bay, 416-967-0000
If you suffer from claustrophobia or acrophobia – or both – Panorama, the penthouse bar on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre, won’t be your idea of a place to party. After a two-minute ride in a cramped elevator, you step out into an elegant nightclub in the clouds. Two outdoor terraces – one facing north toward tree-shrouded Yorkville, the other south to the dow