Mill Street Brew Pub
55 Mill, at Trinity, 416-681-0338.
Having established itself as Ontario's pre-emininent organic microbrewery, scrappy Mill Street has now expanded its Distillery District suds factory, sampling bar and retail outlet to include a gastro pub and not one, but two brick-lined patios. Given the choice, we'd pick the sunny southern terrace over its shady neighbour to catch some rays, check out the crowd and chow down on classic comfort food like lager-battered fish 'n' chips and shepherd's pie while downing the first of several pints of Mill Street's award-winning coffee porter. Traditional roast beef dinners complete with Yorkshire pudding Sundays for $15.95, as well as live jazz in the courtyard most weekend afternoons.
30 Baldwin, at Henry, 416-977-1287.
The stretch of Baldwin between Beverley and McCaul is probably home to more patios than any other two blocks in the city. Though John's Italian and Margarita's are always packed to the gills, our favourite on the strip is the vine-wrapped curbside terrace of this classy French bistro owned by former Le Sélect chef Paul Biggs. Bonus: $19.95 lunch/$29.95 dinner three-course prix fixes.
75 Yorkville, at Bellair, 416-961-4642.
Now that Sassafraz has sassed its last fraz, this surprisingly affordable Italian trat named for the coffee shop on TV's Frasier (Kelsey Grammer is said to have once walked by, smirked and kept walking) is Yorkville's new celebrity central. Its two sun-dappled decks flank one of the glitzy nabe's busiest intersections. On the menu: designer panini and wafer-thin pizza as skinny as the clientele.
500A Danforth, at Logan, 416-778-0500.
Though some prefer the curbside terraces at Avli, Christina's and Megas, this cheerfully modern taverna on the Danforth is our favourite al fresco destination. A multi-page menu doesn't stray far from the classics - mousaka, spanokopita, souvlaki - but also includes communal platters of fried calamari, sautéed prawns and grilled octopus. Bonus: the kitchen stays open till 2 am Friday and Saturday evening.
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 its capacity, so now you have twice the odds of snagging a previously hard-to-come-by table. Bonus: now serving lunch and weekend brunch.
505 College, at Palmerston, 416-972-1475.
Conveniently located on the same block as fashionista faves Xacutti, Arthurs and the just-launched Ku, this swanky wine bar spills out to two curbside decks once the party's in full swing. With a lineup that includes eight martinis, 17 cocktails and a late-night pasta 'n' burger menu, this happening, artsy space is nearly always full to capacity.
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 cruisiest 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 Cheap Show hosted by drag queens Lena Over and Justine Touch and its notorious Best Ass Contest. Bonus: during the show, 3-ounce martinis go for $6.25!
More patios for people-watching
1154 Queen W, at Beaconsfield, 416-516-2550.
Directly across the street from the Drake, this cozy local offers all the fun of its chi-chi neighbour but without the lineup.
133 John, at Nelson, 416-595-8201.
Sprawling over several levels, this rambuctious clubland terrace is a favourite of the after-work crowd who like to blow off steam over chicken wings and absinthe cocktails.
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.
735 Queen W, at Tecumseth, 416-860-1551.
Now a symphony of modernist brown and beige, the luxe patio of the former Future Bakery makes the perfect perch to scope out the passing parade.
484 Queen W, at Dennison, 647-438-7664.
A rock 'n' roll resto boasting a large side patio with a prime view of Queen West.
368 Queen W, at Spadina, 416-598-4753.
Stompin' Tom's former stomping grounds takes it to the street on wild Queen West.
Hot House Cafe
35 Church, at Wellington, 416-366-7800.
Expect lengthy lineups at this popular all-you-can-eat weekend brunch spot.
576 Danforth, at Carlaw, 416-466-2931.
In a stylish art deco storefront, crowds wolf down thin-crusted pies topped with the likes of warm prosciutto, mascarpone and honeyed figs.
144 Front West, at University, 416-585-2121.
Pan-global pub grub in a surprisingly chic setting across from Union Station.
245 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-977-0056.
A South American cantina in Kensington Market specializing in Latin turnovers features a smoke-free curbside deck.
300 College, at Robert, 416-920-0366.
Suck back terrific margaritas and massive portions of Mexican food on the College strip.
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?
595 College, at Clinton, 416-536-4564.
Competently executed panini and pasta pale to insignificance next to the beautiful people who pose on the west-facing terrace come sundown. You look fabulous, darling!