Sometimes it feels like half the restaurants in town turn into mini-discos at night, complete with DJs and stone-faced bouncers. This is often a hit-or-miss proposition, but a few spots do the small DJ bar quite well.
Toi Bar (577 College, 416-915-1571) feels very much like a club except for the fact that there are other venues with bathrooms bigger than this entire place. Expect sweaty techno parties on Fridays and soulful house Saturdays, with occasional international guests looking for an extremely intimate gig.
A little farther east on College, you’ll find Bird (503 College, 416-323-3957), an even smaller DJ lounge hidden up a flight of stairs. The tall ceilings make it look even narrower, but partiers still manage to find space to dance when the mood strikes.
Stroll another 10 minutes east and you’ll find Thymeless (355 College, 416-928-0556), a Jamaican/Greek restaurant by day and booming roots reggae club by night, with a sound system bigger than some dance clubs. Only in Kensington Market does this make sense.
On the edge of clubland you’ll find the relatively new Toika Lounge (471 Richmond West, 416-868-6452), which feels clubbier than its name suggests and has a decent dance floor for a venue this size. You’ll hear deep house, soul, hiphop and R&B, depending on the event.
Out on West Queen West, the Beaver (1192 Queen West, 416-537-2768) has DJs most nights and brings a queer-punk attitude to the rapidly gentrifying strip. Depending on the night, you could hear underground house, spastic post-punk or even a night of torch songs.
A few blocks east on Queen, you’ll find pub-turned-party spot 751 (751 Queen West, 416-703-2171). It’s on two floors, and it’s hosted everything from loud rock bands to hiphop DJs. Young rowdy crowd, cheap beer.