As dance clubs get bigger and downtown restaurants turn into DJ-driven supper clubs cum lounges, trying to find a good ol' fashioned saloon where you can kick back with friends after work in a familiar setting can drive you to drink. In that spirit, we present NOW's third annual lineup of T.O.'s most essential dives, gin joints and watering holes. Bottoms up!
Bars listed as barrier-free have no obstacles at the door and at least one accessible washroom on the same floor, though not necessarily equipped with assistance.
Unless otherwise specified, all bars listed are open daily from 11 am or noon till closing time, usually 2 am.
THE CHELSEA ROOM 923 Dundas West, at Gore Vale, 416-364-0553 The folks from defunct Azul and Citron revive the debauched spirit of the legendary Shag Club at this tiny west-side lounge. Bombed-out black decor offset by ironic artwork and black padded walls and banquettes contrast with exotic cocktail mixology. And if you're feeling a tad peckish, you can always order a frozen TV Dinner. Soundtrack: retro 80s alterna-rock meets kitsch. Bring your iPod. Open Monday to Saturday 8 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday.
COCKTAIL MOLOTOV 928 Dundas West, at Gore Vale, 416-603-6691 Once a trendy knick-knack boutique of the same name, this Cocktail is as sleekly fashionable as the former tenant, from its tall Eames-style bar stools to its chic blond-on-blond back space. Against this serene backdrop, count on anything-goes on the CD player as long as it's the Stones, the Ramones or just damned loud. Open nightly 5:30 pm to 2 am.
THE COMMUNIST'S DAUGHTER 1149 Dundas West, at Ossington, 647-435-0103 Although there's a tiny, smudged chalkboard hanging in the front window of the diminutive Dundas dive, most people can't find this local named for a Neutral Milk Hotel tune. Hint: one door west of Ossington on the south side. Regulars like it that way. With half a dozen seats at the bar and a few tables, this definitively funky joint features a Gypsy jazz matinee Saturdays, complete with trumpet-playing bartender, while Sunday afternoons find journeyman rocker John Borra getting up-close and personal. Open Monday to Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 4 pm to 2 am.
CROOKED STAR 202 Ossington, at Dundas West, 416-536-7271 This cozy neighbourhood spot has been a hit with regulars since it opened last Christmas Eve. Decked out with folksy wooden booths and lit by regulation candlelight, the small space hosts alterna-DJs most nights, offers crockpot specials from the kitchen weekdays and Coronation Street brunch every Sunday afternoon from 1 pm. Open from 11 am daily.
GATE 403 403 Roncesvalles, at Howard Park, 416-588-2930 Right across the street from the Revue rep cinema, the 403 looks from the outside like just another dreary west-side beer garden. But push through the entryway curtain and discover a jazz lounge that recalls 52nd Street in 50s New York - a long room with a polished wooden floor, an old-school stand-up bar lit with Christmas lights and a grand piano in the corner where jazzy crooners hold court. Open Monday to Friday 4 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 2 am.
IDORU 331 Roncesvalles, at Westminster, 416-531-2557 Something of an anomaly on the avenue known for perogies, this chic urban lounge - imagine a slightly downmarket Lobby full of friendly people, and surrounded by delicatessens - fancies itself a wine bar. From a sizable list of consignment wines that are only marked up an average of 10 bucks a bottle, all are available by the glass. Sink into a slip-covered white sofa upfront overlooking the street, or hide out in the magnificent heated-year-round garden out back. Open Monday 6 pm to midnight, Tuesday to Saturday noon to 2 am. Closed Sunday.
LOONS 416 Roncesvalles, at Howard Park, 416-535-8561 This Brit-style pub wouldn't be out of place in a far tonier area - Rosedale, say - but punters swear by its draft selection. Bonus: a heated smoker's tent in the backyard patio. CD jukebox, too. Open Monday and Tuesday 4 pm to 2 am, Wednesday to Sunday 11 am to 2 am.
THE PRESS ROOM 850 Dundas West, 416-364-7183 The former Caffe Brasiliano storefront has morphed into a low-profile jazzy joint that's more geared to local artsy types than to any media interlopers. Think Irish pub minus the blarney and annoying music. Ounce-and-a-half shots for four bucks, 65 brands of bottled beer and 25 wines by the glass. Pretzels and pre-wobbled barstools, too. And, if the muse should strike, there's a typewriter by the front door. Open daily 4 pm to 2 am.
THE BEACONSFIELD 1154 Queen West, at Beaconsfield, 416-516-2550 Access: barrier-free. (See feature, this page.)
THE BLACK BULL 298 Queen West, at Soho, 416-593-2766 Since 1883, the Bull has gone in and out of fashion so many times even Gord Martineau can't remember. As this pseudo-biker bar has grown in popularity, especially its now massive people-watching patio, the interior has changed as well. Large windows look out to the endless streetscape from padded vinyl booths that wouldn't look out of place at some family-style Ponderosa. Pool tables and decent pub grub, too.
THE BOVINE SEX CLUB 542 Queen West, at Bathurst, 416-504-4239 From the outside, the Bovine looks like the aftermath of an accident in an ironworks. Bits of scrap steel, bicycle wheels and wrought iron railings have been welded to form a heavy metal facade that protects the equally heavy-drinking clientele from the real world outside. Inside, where it's dark, dank and down-and-dirty, DJs spin vintage AC/DC, Alice Cooper or whatever's loud and happening. And if you're buying, its a Jägermeister. Open nightly 9 pm to 2 am every night of the year. Access: barrier-free
CADILLAC LOUNGE 1296 Queen West, at Grove, 416-536-7717 You can't miss the Cadillac - there's half of a 1962 Caddy stuck to the storefront. This narrow, dimly lit local is a shrine to all things Elvis and Cadillac: automotive memorabilia and pictures everywhere of a pompadoured King shaking his blue suede shoes. Bulk suds alert: five bottles of Amsterdam's Natural Blond lager go for 15 bucks!
Camera Bar 1028 Queen West, at Brookfield, 416-530-7856 (See feature, page 34.)
THE CAMERON 408 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-703-0811 The sign on the bar sums up the Grand Ole Cameron perfectly: this is paradise. Once a no-go tavern, the Cameron has been the epicentre of Queen West's most creative music and art collision. In fact, this 1880s watering hole is a work of art in itself, a constantly evolving mix of installation art and Salvation Army sofas. The small back room hosts music and theatre events, while tasteful tunes act as backdrop to intellectual repartee in the bordello-like living room up front. Bonus: day prices till 8:30 pm! Open daily 4 pm to 2 am.
DONE RIGHT INN 861 Queen West, at Manning, 416-703-0405 With its wrecked rec-room ambience, if this joint were any more laid-back it'd be horizontal. Checkerboard and fuchsia walls hung with outsider art serve as a backdrop to serious drinking. In the rear, find vintage arcade video games and ratty couches that give way to a secluded backyard patio. Open daily 2 pm to 2 am.
Sweaty Betty's 13 Ossington, at Queen, 416-535-6861 (See feature, page 34.)
THE DRAKE 1150 Queen West, at Beaconsfield, 416-531-5042 The most spectacular bar to hit downtown in years, this multi-staged 220-capacity artsy playground is such a hit that it's packed on a rainy Monday night at 6 pm. Media types pound single malts or knock back Dorothy Parkers (vodka, Chambord, blue curaçao and pineapple juice), schmooze on brown leather couches and check out colourful Parkdale street life through designer chain mail curtains. Others confer by the walk-in fireplace or slurp oysters on the half-shell at the raw bar. On Sunday and Monday industry nights, martinis go for five bucks. Warning: lineups Friday and Saturday nights.
THE GLADSTONE 1214 Queen West, at Dufferin, 416-531-4635 The restoration of this Parkdale landmark - a massive Edwardian hotel-bar complex - continues at a leisurely pace. The once dumpy 'Stone still hosts its notorious and insanely popular karaoke extravaganzas Thursday through Saturday evenings. Bring props.
THE HORSESHOE 368 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-598-4753 Once Stompin' Tom's stompin' grounds, the 'Shoe has undergone several overhauls, but its upfront cocktail bar remains minimally changed since the 50s. Except for the Harley over the pool table, of course. During the day, it's quiet enough for afternoon boozers to overhear sound-checking headliners like Neko Case, Ryan-not-Bryan Adams, El Vez and those damned Rolling Stones doing yet another of their secret gigs. Celebrity bartender: rockin' Teddy Fury.
LOT 16 1136 Queen West, at Beaconsfield, 416-531-6556 Think of Lot 16 as the anti-Drake. Lifting its name from NYC's Lot 61, the minimally appointed, very brown space was once the Elvis Restaurant, the greasiest of spoons. Though the current clientele has moved slightly upmarket - slightly - the no-frills Parkdale attitude remains. Trucker hats optional. Open Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday.
MITZI'S SISTER 1554 Queen West, at Fuller, 416-532-2570 Sibling offshoot of popular Parkdale brunch spot Mitzi's, this rootin'-tootin' saloon - formerly the Tennessee Tavern - attracts more rough-around-the-edges types from the local alt-art and music scene. With heavy tub chairs, lumpy couches and red-covered tables straight out of the Ponderosa (Lorne Greene version), the vibe is relaxed and very laid back. Open Monday to Friday 3 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 2 am.
OLD YORK BAR & GRILL 167 Niagara, at Wellington West, 416-703-9675 Although it's deep in the heart of the Meat Packing District - OK, across the street from an abattoir - this dive-y resto bar caters to local butchers, slumming former dot.commers and various artists. Cheap grub, cheap suds and a warm, cozy vibe, too.
THE PADDOCK 178 Bathurst, at Queen West, 416-504-9997 Queen and Bathurst may be one of the grubbiest corners in town, but the Paddock's remarkably swank. Built circa 1947, the saloon's been faithfully refurbished, restoring its original charm. Padded burgundy booths, dark wooden wainscotting and a leather-tufted wraparound bar with a Bakelite counter make the perfect backdrop for cocktail swilling or sampling single malts. Expect an animated mix of literary and theatre types. Urban legend has it Old Blue Eyes stopped by here back in the Rat Pack years. Open Monday to Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday noon to 2 am.
THE RIVOLI 332 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-596-1908 The washrooms just off the Riv's lounge are pristine pissoires that could get Martha Stewart's seal of approval: gleaming white tile walls, stainless steel fixtures and shelves, and speakers that pipe in live music from the club's rear performance space. Back in the intimate bar, make sure to order the joint's signature cocktail, the Tidy Bowl: blue curaçao and an Alka Seltzer. Plop plop fizz fizz indeed! Access: barrier-free
SQUIRLY'S 807A Queen West, at Manning, 416-703-0574 A shrine to west-side grunge, this laid-back watering hole is all leopard skin, skull Christmas lights and blood-red walls. Regulars knock back killer cocktails like the Zeppelin (vodka, tangerine sour, triple sec and lemon juice) seated at naugahyde-upholstered kitchen furniture from the 50s while grooving to tunes that range from relaxed alterna-folk to rockabilly. Bonus: Mondays after 6 pm, knock back a margarita for only $3.
THE 360 326 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-593-0840 Once home to the Canadian Legion, this alterna watering hole showcases up-and-coming bands at night. During the day - especially $2.50 beer Mondays and $2.50 bar shot Wednesdays - serious drinkers hold court in large, comfortable booths and shoot pool in the back room.
ULTRA 314 Queen West, at Peter, 416-263-0330 When this swanky South Beach-style lounge turns into a disco later in the evening, those who show up for an after-work drink run for the exits. But early tipplers get the best of both sides of Toronto's coolest supper club. Through the gauzy floor-to-ceiling curtain that divides the former Bamboo in two, they watch foodies swoon in the club's highly rated resto. Don't miss the luxe lounge's glowing-pink backroom bar and over-the-top chandelier-hung washrooms. Bottle service, too. Open Monday to Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday 5:30 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday. Access: barrier-free
RAQ 'N' WAQ 739 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-504-9120.
THE BISHOP AND THE BELCHER 361 Queen West, at Spadina, 416-591-2352.
The Brasserie 133 John, at Richmond, 416-595-8201.
FRIAR AND FIRKIN 160 John, at Queen West, 416-340-9459.
Gypsy Co-Op 815 Queen West, at Niagara, 416-703-5069.
HABITAT 735 Queen West, at Tecumseth, 416-860-1551.
THE REX 194 Queen West, at St. Patrick, 416-598-2475.
THE ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION 1032 Queen West, at Ossington, 416-531-1566.
ANDY POOLHALL 489 College, at Markham, 416-923-5300 A Warhol-inspired offshoot of Ciao Edie next door, Andy continues Edie's 60s rumpus room party vibe with the addition of eight pool tables and even uglier period lamps and furniture. Keeping with the low-rent spirit, Affordable Luxury Mondays offer half-price beer, martinis and pool. Open Monday 6 pm to 2 am, Tuesday to Friday 7 pm to 2 am, Saturday 6 pm to 2 am, Sunday 7 pm to 2 am.
BISTRO 422 422 College, at Bathurst, 416-963-9416 The 422 gets the considerable overflow of cheap drunks from Sneaky Dee's across the street. A narrow basement space lined with wooden benches and wainscotting, Bistro furnishes would-be punks with $8.55 pre-tax pitchers and $1.75 Schnapps schnooters. Do watch your step on the way out. Open daily 4 pm to 2 am.
CIAO EDIE 489 College, at Markham, 416-927-7774 Like a pop art acid flashback, this intimate below-street-level space attracts a Church-meets-College crowd. In campy kitsch decor - grotesquely ugly lamps with enormous mosaic-covered bases, repulsive shades and red or green light bulbs - the mixed crowd cut it up on shag carpeting or relax on orange vinyl banquettes. The music policy is equally eclectic. Confirmed bachelors are welcome at Edie's long-running Sunday evening womyn's night - Here Kitty Kitty - as long as they behave themselves. Open Wednesday to Saturday 8 pm to 2 am, Sunday 9 pm to 2 am. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
THE CLOAK AND DAGGER 394 College, at Borden, 416-921-8308 Although it looks like yet another Brit pub, this tiny local attracts the literary set and the usual cast of rounders. Decor: wooden booths, fuzzy burgundy seats, exposed brick. Hard to believe that this cramped, relaxed room was long ago radically chic 52 Inc. But when there are 23 different beers on tap as well as exotica like absinthe to quaff, who gives a fuck about decor? Open daily 5 pm to 2 am.
COBALT 426 College, at Bathurst, 416-923-4456 A swanky downbeat cocktail bar with walls painted cobalt blue and a perfect-for-dancing wooden floor, Cobalt shakes up some unusual martinis. Try the Beef Jerky (spicy vodka, beef broth and olive juice)! Most nights there's some kind of music happening, from bossa nova DJs to jazzy combos. Open daily 8 pm to 2 am.
EIN STEIN 229 College, at Beverley, 416-597-8346 Fledgling rocket scientists rock this U of T party space around the clock (a Bill Haley/Blackboard Jungle reference for you younger readers). But it's the drink specials that pack the joint out - 2-ounce martinis every Monday for under five bucks, $2 house shots Tuesdays and $8.50 pitchers on Thursdays. And if that's not enough to drink, there are six microbrews, five imports and a beer-of-the-week always on tap. Free pool Sundays and a designated smoking room, too.
IL GATTO NERO 720 College, at Crawford, 416-536-3132 Now firmly ensconced in its snazzy new digs down the street from its old coffee-house days, the Nero has cast off its low-rent sports drag to become a semi-upscale sports bar with hipper than expected patrons. Decor: yellow walls clash with a purple ceiling hung with a projection TV; invitingly warm bar lined with tall, leather-padded seats. Open 365 days.
LOUNGE 88 14 Clinton, at College, 416-531-5833 The brushed steel bar, animal-print chaises and grand piano centre stage in this jazzy piano bar will come as a shock to those who remember this student hang from its former incarnation as the dive-y Monarch Tavern. And not a pickled egg in sight! Or a cover, for that matter. Open Thursday to Saturday 9 pm to 2 am.
THE MATADOR 466 Dovercourt, at College, 416-533-9311 After the bars close, this west-side honky-tonk's been rockin' till dawn for 35 years, even though the party's officially alcohol-free - nudge, wink. Visiting Hollywood A-list celebs like to go unrecognized and catch combos like Blue Rodeo secretly trying out new material or Pink - yes, her with the pink hair - belting out a drunken Me And Bobbie McGee. Open Friday and Saturday 2 am to 5:30 am. Closed Sunday through Thursday.
MIDTOWN 552 College, at Euclid, 416-920-4533 Don't bother looking for the sign that marks this popular hangout, because there isn't one. Only the blue-and-white striped awning over its sidewalk patio lets you know you've found the Midtown. Although there is a small restaurant area at the front, the Midtown is more of a watering hole for film types and film type wannabes. Three pool tables in the back are the centre of the meet-and-meat action. Open Monday to Thursday 5 pm to 2 am, Friday to Sunday 3 pm to 2 am.
SNEAKY DEE'S 431 College, at Bathurst, 416-603-3090 Known by habitués as Sneaky Disease, this Tex-Mex tornado comes fronted with a psychedelic Fiona Smyth mural. Inside the cluttered space, graffiti-scrawled booths encourage late-night lounging. After the bar closes on Friday and Saturday nights, it still slings hangover helpers like cheesy nachos till 4:30 am. Bonus: $3.50 premium shots and $3.50 domestic beer all the time!
SOUZ DAL 636 College, at Grace, 416-537-1883 Open only after dark, Souz Dal suggests a romantic rendezvous at the casbah. Tented ochre-patterned walls sway as overhead fans churn the sheltering air. Middle Eastern-influenced finger foods - baba ghanouj, tzatziki and grilled pita - encourage the most hard-to-get to become instantly available. The walled-in rear patio resembles a scene straight out of West Side Story. Sunday through Tuesday, Jolly Rancher and Soho cocktails will set you back a sensible $3.95. Open nightly 8 pm to 2 am.
SUTRA TIKI BAR 612 College, at Clinton, 416-537-8755 Although the champagne-swilling, oyster-slurping fabulosi have moved on to the Drake - ah, fickle fashion! - this tiki-tastic bamboo-riddled cocktail lounge still retains its cachet due to its Souz Dal connection (same owners). Open Wednesday to Saturday 8 pm to 2 am in winter.
WILD INDIGO 607 College, at Clinton, 416-536-8797 A chic Indochine vibe - satin settees strewn with silk cushions, beaded curtains, brocade wall coverings - makes this one of the strip's hipper spots and one of the most relaxed. Though you won't find the backwards-baseball-cap brigade in the house, tasteful fashionistas and just plain folks sip smart drinks to a soulful soundtrack that rarely breaks a sweat. Open nightly 8 pm to 2 am. Access: barrier-free
OASIS 294 College, at Spadina, 416-975-0845.
THYMELESS 355 College, at Augusta, 416-928-0556.
AMADEU'S 182 Augusta, at Denison Square, 416-591-1245 Drafty, crowded and noisy. That and extremely cheap pints explain why this down-market Portuguese trat draws a colourful crowd of local boozers, wayward grocery shoppers and afterwork fishmongers. Old-timers stare intently at southern European game shows and fusebol matches on the telly while kids try to sneak into the basement. Bonus: excellent pub grub with an emphasis on seafood from the far posher kitchen next door. We recommend the sardines with Portuguese-style fried potatoes.
GRAFFITI'S 170 Baldwin, at Kensington, 416-506-6699 Chock full of Elvis Presley memorabilia, this cozy room offers live music, mainly roots rock slash acoustic, seven nights a week. When weather permits, the front garage door is opened to the street and the band and fans spill outside. The curbside patio - a stand-up bar, really - faces onto the street so you can get a front-row view of the Market's anarchy. Bonus: an open kitchen in the back churns out credible pizza slices.
GROSSMAN'S 379 Spadina, at Cecil, 416-977-7000 Since the 60s when it was draft dodger central, this extremely low-rent watering hole has appealed to both musicians and artists. If the last time you visited "Gross, man's" was when Carole Pope's Rough Trade gigged here in 1947, the dump's probably not as bad as you remember. You'd expect the naked-lady wallpaper to be gone, but - gasp - the old girl's actually had a make-over. Well, some leftover 90s plywood-and-wrought-iron restaurant furniture has been installed, and the infamous bathrooms are now panelled in galvanized sheet metal. So much easier to hose down. The club's blues/jazz music policy remains unchanged.
PLANET KENSINGTON 1971/2 Baldwin, at Augusta, 416-341-0310 Once the Market's raunchiest dive, a lovable drunk tank known by all as The Greek's, this tiny diner now sports coat of black paint and fancy new faux leopard barstools. The menu offers the expected burgers and all-day breakfasts but improves greatly with surprisingly tasty Black Metal Brunch on Sunday. Monday is $3 pasta and movie night, Tuesday $2 taco 'n' tequila night and Friday from 6 to 9 pm all domestic beer goes for $2.50. Everybody from blues bands and jazz trios to punk bands perform nightly on the postage-stamp-sized stage. Watch your head on your way to the gloriously overhauled downstairs washrooms; the low ceiling has knocked customers unconscious.
SUPERMARKET 268 Augusta, at College, 416-840-0501. (See feature, this page.)
THE EMBASSY 223 Augusta, at Baldwin, 416-591-1132.
THE LAST TEMPTATION 12 Kensington, at Dundas West, 416-599-2551.
THE ANNEX/WEST SIDE
CLINTON'S 693 Bloor West, at Clinton, 416-535-9541 You'd never know it from the outside, but this normal-looking building houses a multilevel boozer straight out of Twin Peaks, logs 'n' all. Bands like the Cowboy Junkies got their start in this log-lined labyrinth. Comedy Monday nights, wing night Tuesdays and Korean karaoke upstairs, too. Open daily 3pm to 2 am.
THE GEM 1159 Davenport, at Ossington, 416-654-1182 Casual, funky and fun - vintage jukebox, eclectic bric-a-brac and lunch counter complete with stools - this west-side watering hole celebrates its 21st birthday this year. Think of the Gem as a diner where, instead of malted milks, regulars chug single malts and microbrews. Open Monday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am, Sunday 10 am to 2 am.
THE GREEN ROOM 296 Brunswick, at Bloor West, 416-929-3253 First-timers have a hard time finding this obscure boozer hidden down the alleyway behind the Poor Alex Theatre. Eventually, they find a two-storey warehouse full of Goodwill furniture and shelves of books that provide distraction when conversation dies amongst the literary set. Cheap all-day breakfasts, too.
LABYRINTH LOUNGE 298 Brunswick, at Bloor West, 416-925-7775 Though little remains of the original goth bar, this cozy, quiet, out-of-the-way spot tucked behind Future Bakery makes a great stage to while away the afternoon over a book or meet someone secretly for late-night snogging. Decor: cracked mosaic bar, boxy pillow-covered banquettes, oddball art on swirly stucco walls. Bonus: $3.50 2-ounce martinis Wednesdays, $2.50 domestic beer and bar shots Thursdays, tax included. At these prices, it doesn't pay to remain sober. Open Monday and Tuesday 3 pm to 2 am, Wednesday to Sunday 11 am to 2 am.
THE MADISON 14 Madison, at Bloor, 416-927-1722 A maze of interconnected rooms spread over three Victorian row houses, this popular boozer has a Brit pub look, all red-velvet banquettes and some 150 brass draught pumps. The second floor holds pool tables, gas fireplaces and a CD jukebox loaded with student staples like Tom Petty and Bob Marley. Twenty beers on tap and four heated winter patios.
THE ROXTON 379 Harbord, at Roxton, 416-535-8181 This out-of-the-way spot - unless you live around the corner, that is - may not get the traffic that some of the bigger gin joints do in nearby nabes, but it's perfect for a quiet drink after a hectic day. Looking like it's been here forever instead of just five months, the intimate space recalls a 40s saloon complete with a painting of a reclining female nude over the bar. Ppen kitchen and intimate naugahyde booths, too. Open Monday to Friday 6 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 2 am.
THE BRUNSWICK HOUSE 481 Bloor West, at Brunswick, 416-964-2242.
PAUPER'S 539 Bloor West, at Bathurst, 416-530-1331.
THE POUR HOUSE 182 Dupont, at St. George, 416-967-7687.
THE TAP 517 Bloor West, at Brunswick, 416-533-5321.
VICTORY CAFÉ 581 Markham, at Lennox, 416-516-5787.
THE AMSTERDAM 600 King West, at Portland, 416-504-1040 This microbrewery situated in a late-19th-century building ferments eight types of beer in its glass-walled facility and sells them on tap in its adjacent pub. Sit at the long wooden bar and sample Amsterdam's ales and lagers, or, weekends and holidays, take one of its guided tours. Upstairs, you'll find a retail outlet that sells, as well as beer, logo-emblazoned T-shirts, baseball caps and shell suits that's open on statutory holidays, too. Access: barrier-free
THE BANKNOTE 663 King West, at Bathurst, 416-947-0404 A former bank - no surprise there - this cheery Brit-pub-style room pulls 12 different pints and pours another dozen vintages by the glass. 70s rock plays on the sound system, and every Tuesday is Mussel Madness - 2 pounds of really quite OK mollusks for $6.95.
CHARLOTTE ROOM 19 Charlotte, at Adelaide, 416-598-2882 Named one of the top 10 pool rooms in North America by Billiards Digest, the Room resembles an olde English gentleman's club. With nine tournament-quality tables and an upscale pub-grub menu, this inviting, carpeted space is a favourite with the media gang. Note: after a brief recent fling as a leather bar, Charlotte's gone back to the suits. Open Monday to Wednesday 4 pm to 1 am, Thursday to Saturday 4 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday and holidays.
CRUSH 455 King West, at Spadina, 416-977-1234 A pretty if pricey New York loft-style French bistro in a warehouse conversion with sandblasted limestone brick and bare hardwood floors, Crush also contains an attractive wine bar up front that features a rotating roster of regional plonk. Serious oenophiles can sign up for courses and tastings organized by the Centre for Vine Affairs located on its lower level. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to midnight, Saturday 5 pm to midnight. Closed Sunday and holidays.
MONSOON 100 Simcoe, at King, 416-979-7172 Winner of the prestigious James Beard Award for best bar/restaurant design in North America, this Yabu Pushelberg creation evokes gasps. The tiki shtick's so thick, one almost expects Dorothy Lamour to jump into an erupting volcano. Even if you don't have to go, the washrooms alone make a visit to Monsoon worthwhile. They're bigger than most apartments. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 11:30 pm. Closed Sunday and holidays.
SMOKELESS JOE'S 125 John, at Richmond, 416-591-2221 This cozy subterranean rock-lined room has a constantly changing roster of more than 275 beers from around the world. Global guzzlers will want to check out the joint's encyclopedia of brews. FYI: the joint's name comes from back in the 20th century when it was one of Toronto's few weedless saloons. Open daily 4 pm to 2 am.
2 CATS 569 King West, at Portland, 416-204-6261 Feeling feline? Though we're still not sure just who these two cats might be, we do know a good-looking club when we see one. A cozy, lounge-like front room leads to a rear stand-up bar lined with mirrors and a few stray couches. Weekdays, expect after-work media types, and weekends, swankier-than-most club kids late into the night. Warning: the music gets louder as the evening wears on. Open Tuesday to Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday 8 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday and Monday .
WAYNE GRETZKY'S 99 Blue Jay Way, at Mercer, 416-348-0099 Despite its fancy Broadway decor, this shrine to hockey's Great One is as Canadian as a Tim Hortons donut. Plasma TVs above an underlit stand-up bar play Wayne's greatest moments on the ice while the loyal check out the souvenir shop selling Gretzky gear. Sticks, suds and some of the best pub grub chicken wings in town, even if, as the menu cautions, "Wayne doesn't do sauce."
THE WHEAT SHEAF 667 King West, at Bathurst, 416-504-9912 Opened in 1849, the Wheat Sheaf is Toronto's oldest bar. Hell, it's almost the oldest anything! Somewhat tarted up, it remains a classic watering hole - a jar of pickled eggs on the bar, a number of draft brews on tap, and pool tables. Off to the side, there's a semi-private room reserved for regulars arguing over last night's game. Urban legend has it there's a secret underground tunnel to nearby Fort York.
WIDE OPEN 139 Spadina, at Richmond, 416-727-5411 Vaguely reminiscent of the old Spadina Hotel's Cabana Room for anyone who can still remember back that far, this low-key watering hole features a politically correct Ladies Night. Every Thursday, those of any gender can splash out on a martini for only three bucks. No lineup or cover, either, but then, there's never a lineup or cover. On Sundays bottled beer and mixed drinks go for $2.50, Mondays everything's two-for-one, on Wednesdays pints cry out to be swilled for $4.50, and Thursdays are $3 martini nights. Fridays? Fegeddaboudit! Cool alterna-tunes on the CD player, the game on the tiny TV over the bar and a couple of pleather Brick couches at the back. Is this heaven or what? Open daily 4 pm to 2 am. Access: barrier-free
BRASSAII 461 King West, at Spadina, 416-598-4730.
FEZ BATIK 129 Peter, at Richmond, 416-204-9660 .
UNDERGROUND GARAGE 365 King West, at Peter, 416-340-0365.
ELEPHANT AND CASTLE 212 King West, at Simcoe, 416-598-4455.
BETTY'S 240 King East, at Princess, 416-368-1300 When this east-side watering hole opened several years ago, it was amusingly called the Betty Ford Clinic, after the famous celebrity rehab facility. Betty Ford's lawyers failed to see the humour and slapped a cease-and-desist order on the bar - you can see an enlargement of the paperwork hanging in the stairwell that leads to second floor, where the pool tables and fusebol are located. A favourite of nearby George Brown students and members of the tabloid press, we're told.
BYMARK 66 Wellington West, at York, 416-777-1144 Enter this power broker hot spot from the Wellington side of the TD Centre and find a gorgeous modern lounge separate from the restaurant below: warm slatted wood on the walls, slate on the floor, chunks of hewn logs as sculpture, with the towers rocketing high all around through floor-to-floor tinted glass. TD architect Mies van der Rohe would approve of the Yabu Pushelberg design. Open Monday to Saturday noon to 2 pm. Closed Sunday.
CANOE 66 Wellington West, at York, 416-364-0054 In daylight from the 54th floor of the TD Tower, the most spectacular view is southward over the islands and the lake. After dark, face west for a glittering vista of Etobicoke and beyond. Unlike the CN Tower, the impressive scenery up here goes for the price of a sidecar or a measure of single malt. Open Monday to Friday noon to midnight. Bar closed Saturday and Sunday. Access: barrier-free
C'EST WHAT 67 Front East, at Church, 416-867-9499 Home of hemp beer and coffee porter, this cozy Old York basement with walls of exposed foundation stone houses a friendly neighbourhood pub in the heart of the downtown core. Under a very low ceiling, the bar side serves better-than-average pub grub alongside microbrews, single malts and Irish whiskeys.
IMPERIAL PuB 54 Dundas East, at Victoria Lane, 416-977-4667 A popular after-class hangout for students of the nearby Ryerson Polytechnic and on-the-job construction workers, the Library - a bar with its own built-in excuse: "But darling, I really was at the library!" - features one of Toronto's best jukeboxes. A centre-stage circular bar lined with glowing glass blocks and a number of tropical fish tanks gives the last of the great Yonge Street bars a 50s film noir vibe. Pool tables and fusebol, too.
Jack Astor's 144 Front West, at University, 416-585-2121.
LAIDE 138 Adelaide East, at Jarvis, 416-850-2726 This touchie-feelie sex-themed lounge provides a space where clandestine lovers can canoodle on low-slung sofas while sipping a Deep Throat (Frangelico, vanilla vodka and cream). The after-work crowd bangs back a pint of Stella at the horseshoe-shaped bar while grainy girl-on-girl porn gets projected on a wall overhead. Sexy tapas from chef Sam Gassira. Open Tuesday to Friday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday 7 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday and Monday.
LIBRARY BAR 100 Front West, at Bay, 416-368-2511 ext 2444 Just off the grande dame's lobby, the Library in the Royal York is the perfect spot to grab a stiff drink before hitting the GO Train or the VIA Rail to Montreal. Wingback chairs to sink into and plush carpeting underfoot give the bar the feel of a private club. Open Monday to Friday noon to 1 am, Saturday 5 pm to 1 am. Closed Sunday. Access: barrier-free
PRAVDA 36 Wellington East, at Leader Lane, 416-306-2433 See feature, page 38.)
TURF LOUNGE 330 Bay, at Adelaide, 416-367-2111 Fancy a bet on the ponies while belting back a cosmojito? This swanky Bay Street off-track betting boîte has some of the best visuals in town - vaulting ceilings hung with ornate chandeliers, and walls plastered with plasma TVs turned to the 3:30 out of Santa Anita. Respectable Mediterranean menu, too. Open Monday to Friday 11:30 am to midnight, Saturday noon to 8 pm. Closed Sunday. Access: barrier-free
McVEIGH'S 124 Church, at Richmond, 416-364-9698 A popular spot with downtown office drudges, McVeigh's is a working-class pub proud of its Irish heritage. It's a small carpeted room with a stage in one corner - Celtic combos play nightly - and dart boards in the opposite corner. Just don't expect green beer come St. Paddy's day. "We're green enough already," pipes proprietor Jimmy McVeigh.
PJ O'BRIEN's 39 Colbourne, at Church, 416-815-7562 Hidden behind the King Eddie, this upscale Irish pub avoids the pitfalls of others of its ilk. Instead, find a room full of wood set with Windsor chairs, a snug and a bar loaded with more than a dozen whiskeys. Closed Sunday.
FIONN MacCOOL'S 70 the Esplanade, at Church, 416-362-2495.
UPFRONT 106 Front East, at Church, 416-364-6054.
ABBOT ON THE HILL 1276 Yonge, at Woodlawn, 416-920-9074 Sibling of the Abbot further up Yonge, this recently launched local leaves Summerhill snootiness at the door. A two-level pub decked out in moulded plywood, it attracts a less genteel cross-section of the Rosedale set who scoff Scotch eggs, fish 'n' chips and shepherd's pie while getting the next round of pints in.
THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER 649 Yonge, at Charles, 416-961-9704 Though the Duke might look like a prefab pub - leaded glass, mahogany panelling and red-velvet-lined booths - it has an atmosphere all its own. At one end of this second-storey space hidden away over an Indian restaurant, sports fans gather every Saturday afternoon for UK footie matches piped in by satellite TV. Framed team scarves proudly displayed: Arsenal, West Ham and, er, Pebbles RC. And dig that NSM Galaxy jukebox stocked with CDs by Oasis, the Specials and the Sex Pistols.
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 Rosedale, the other south to the downtown core and islands beyond - are lined with patio furniture and a sure-grip rubber carpet. Fear not - no one's ever been blown away. Open Sunday to Wednesday 5 pm to midnight, Thursday to Saturday 5 pm to 2 am. Access: barrier-free
THE PILOT 22 Cumberland, at Bay, 416-923-5716 Established in 1944, this Yorkville watering hole is one of Toronto's longest-running bars. The Pilot's deserved reputation comes from its days as a 1950s version of the Cameron. And though artists and beatniks have given way to decidedly non-scene literary types and jazz heads since it moved around the corner in 1972, its heritage continues. A long, silver-trimmed stand-up bar overlooks a performance area and a wall of clocks all telling the wrong time. When one of them accurately hits 3:30 on Saturday afternoons, it's time jor a jazz matinee. And if you're famished as well as thirsty, don't miss the joint's acclaimed Pilot Burger. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 am to 2 am, Sunday noon to 10 pm.
THE REBEL HOUSE 1068 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-927-0704 This old House couldn't be less uptight if it tried - worn plank flooring, craggy wooden counters and coarse stucco walls. Customers who know their suds fill both the cramped downstairs and upstairs rooms as well as a parachute-covered year-round patio out back. With only Ontario microbrews on tap, an all-Canadian lineup of bottled beers and ales as well as a Canuck-themed pub grub menu - buffalo burgers! meat loaf! - this Rebel yells around the clock.
THE ROOF 4 Avenue Road, at Bloor, 416-924-5471 The rooftop bar at the Park Plaza - or whatever they're calling the hotel these days - has been a literary landmark for more than 50 years. Writers such as Mordecai Richler, Graeme Gibson and Margaret Atwood, whose novel Cat's Eye has a scene that takes place in the bar, used to come here to knock back a few, exchange witty banter and engage each other in ironic arm-wrestling contests. Gourmet magazine has called it one of North America's 10 best saloons, and who are we to argue? Check out the great skyline view looking south over U of T. Access: barrier-free
WISH 3 Charles East, at Yonge, 416-935-0240 Divided into two diminutive halves - one an upscale cantina, the other a haute lounge - Wish has a high wow factor. Whitewashed walls, ceiling and floors provide a neutral backdrop for low-slung overstuffed sofas piled with pillows and pashminas. How very 1998! Trendy fashion mags hang on racks, while media types gather at the walnut bar over a martooni or three. Out front, there's a year-round heated terrace to take the night air.
YAMMY THE CAT 1108 Yonge, at Roxborough, 416-515-1729 A freak on the fringes of Rosedale, this Cat is a minuscule blink-and-you'll-miss-it bar with all-day brekkies, funky 50s couches and appropriately programmed tunes on the CD player. House martini: the Furball - gin or vodka, Lemoncello and Chartreuse. The name? You'll know why the next day. Watch for occasional poetry readings, too.
GROUNDHOG PUB 401 Bloor East, at Sherbourne, 416-975-1867.
HEMINGWAY'S 142 Cumberland, at Avenue Road, 416-968-2828.
FOXES DEN 1075 Bay, at Charles, 416-961-1975.
GRANITE BREWERY 245 Eglinton East, at Mt Pleasant, 416-322-0723.
GROUNDHOG PUB 401 Bloor East, at Sherbourne, 416-975-1867.
HEMINGWAY'S 142 Cumberland, at Avenue Rd, 416-968-2828.
McSORLEY'S 1544 Bayview, at Millwood, 416-932-0655.
ST. LOUIS 2050 Yonge, at Lola, 416-480-0202.
BABYLON 553 Church, at Gloucester, 416-923-2626 In this three-tiered space with as many personalities, the first floor is a comfortable room serving Mediterranean snacks and dinners. Up a flight is a martini lounge where bartenders mix up over 200 different cocktail concoctions for the swizzle-stick set. DJs take over the third floor on weekends. Open daily from 4 pm.
BAR 501 501 Church, at Wellesley, 416-944-3272 The 501's long-running Sunday-evening drag shows literally stop traffic - tour buses from out of town have been known to make a detour and park out front. Held at 6:30 pm in the club's large front window that opens to the street, the action attracts crowds that spill off the sidewalk and often block the neighbourhood's main drag. Inside is a saloon equipped with pinball machines, pool tables and regulation tavern stench.
THE BLACK EAGLE 457 Church, at Maitland, 416-413-1219 Even in the middle of the day, this leather bar is dark as fuck. As tough guys gaze blankly at the hard-core porn videos broadcast on several TVs on the first floor, muscle-bound daddies stand and pose upstairs under camouflage netting. Don't miss the dungeon fixtures and cages installed by Master R. One can only imagine what gets shaved on the barber chair set up in the back room. Open daily 2 pm to 2 am.
BYZANTIUM 499 Church, at Wellesley, 416-922-3859 The upscale lounge and dining room has been brought into the 21st century complete with sleek beige banquettes, bare blond tables and mirrored accents everywhere that allow for cultured cruising. Big glass doors that open to the street mean you can just grab someone you fancy as they're strolling past. Still known for serving some of the best food in the nabe (faint praise), and the lengthy martini lineup remains timeless. Open daily 5:30 pm to 2 am.
LUB 487 Church, at Wellesley, 416-323-1489 Lub's owners merely rearranged the letters on the large sign out front to come up with the former Blu's new wink-nudge name. Church Street's most stylish space attracts Prada preeners who sip martinis and tap their Guccis to house muzak played at a discreet volume. Six bucks for a 'tini Monday and Tuesday, too. Upstairs, a rooftop patio overlooks the somewhat tawdrier street scene below. Open Monday to Saturday 4 pm to 2 am, Sunday noon to 2 am. Access: barrier-free
SNEAKERS 502A Yonge, at Alexander, 416-961-5808 The specialty of the house at this darkly lit emerald-green saloon is chicken - and we aren't talking about the Colonel or Buffalo wings. The main thing attracting the middle-aged clientele is the supposedly teenaged hustlers from the nearby Breadalbane and Grosvenor track who hang out here - despite a burly bouncer and a sign on the door saying that anyone under 19 will not be admitted. CD Jukebox selections: Michael Jackson, Queen and the Backstreet Boys.
WOODY'S 467 Church, at Maitland, 416-972-0887 If you watch Queer As Folk you know what Woody's looks like from the street. Its exterior is used as the facade of the fictional Pittsburgh bar. Unfortunately - or fortunately - the real thing is nothing like the TV version. Instead, this rambling room has several stand-up bars, areas for reposing, pool tables and stuffed faux rhinoceros heads. And, no, when in Toronto, NOW cover hunk Woody Harrelson cannot be found here propping up the bar. Open Monday to Friday 2 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday noon to 2 am.
GEORGE'S PLAY 5 04 Church, at Alexander, 416-963-8251.
LOCAL 4 4 Dundonald, at Yonge, 416-915-0113 .
THE MASK 566 Church, at Wellesley, 416-963-9299.
SLACK ALICE 562 Church, at Wellesley, 416-969-8742.
SPIRITS 642 Church, at Hayden, 416-967-0001.
THE LAURENTIAN ROOM 51A Winchester, at Parliament, 416-925-8680 Up the back stairs behind the Winchester Tavern you'll find a picture-postcard-perfect replica of a 1930s speakeasy cum supperclub. With its art deco decor, tables complete with lamps à la Mildred Pierce - the Joan Crawford movie, not the west-side resto - and 35-foot bar, is there a better setting for sipping a mojito while wearing a white dinner jacket and jauntily angled fez? Open Tuesday to Saturday 5:30 pm to 2 am. Closed Sunday and Monday.
THE GRASSHOPPER 460 Parliament, at Carlton, 416-323-1210.
THE WINCHESTER TAVERN 537 Parliament, at Winchester, 416-929-1875.
ALLEN'S 143 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-463-3086 Looking like a saloon straight out of New York City, complete with a Wurlitzer jukebox programmed with golden oldies, Allen's features an amazing cross-section of microbrews and more than 200 single malt whiskies. Early in the evening, the few booths up front and the many linen-topped tables are filled by serious beverage samplers who also partake of the booze-soaked upscale pub grub menu.
THE AULD SPOT 347 Danforth, at Hampton, 416-406-4688 On a street known for its Greek joints, the Auld Spot is as Celtic as they come. Guinness flows from the taps as regulars fill the small room with animated banter. Despite the pub's decor, the grub's surprisingly pan-global. Expect Van the Man on the CD player. Open Monday to Thursday 4 pm to 2 am, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 2 pm to 2 am.
DORA KEOGH 141 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-778-1804 Next door to Allen's is its less formal cousin the Dora, a no-frills Irish pub with a Celtic vibe. Sit in the semi-private snug or reserve the kitchen for a private dinner party featuring feasts of simple Irish stew and soda bread. First-timers are made to feel like long-lost relatives. Live Oirish musicians Saturday at 5 pm and Thursday at 9 pm. Open Monday to Thursday 5 pm to 2 am, Saturday and Sunday 4 pm to 2 am. Access: barrier-free
ETON TAVERN 710 Danforth, at Pape, 416-466-6161 The marquee describes this spotless Danforth tavern as "3,200 km to Newfoundland, five steps to Newfoundland on the Danforth." An unchanged men's taproom from the 50s, the Eton sports cafeteria furniture, shiny terrazzo floors and wood panelling everywhere. Belt screech while catching the club's 4 pm Saturday Newfie country matinee.
THE ONLY CAFÉ 972 Danforth, at Donlands, 416-463-7843 A crowded neighbourhood diner just beyond the borders of 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, more than 120 international brands of beer by the bottle and massive all-day breakfasts guarantee that every seat at the lunch counter and small tables for two is taken on weekends.
SARAH'S CAFÉ 1426 Danforth, at Monarch Park, 416-406-3121 East-siders unwind at this neighbourhood spot that's part Allen's Celtic pub and part Greek taverna. The beer selection impresses - 20 Belgian marques, 18 Canadian, eight German, two Dutch and more than a dozen UK names as well as "others" like Jamaican Red Stripe and Kenyan Tusker. Also on tap: 13 Euro brews. Round the back, a separate room finds a lone pool table and a portal that leads to the convenience store next door.
THE BLACK SWAN 154 Danforth, at Broadview, 416-469-0537 .
THE HARGREAVE 1106 Danforth, at Linsmore, 416-465-4500.
ICE LOUNGE 785 Carlaw, at Danforth, 416-469-6749.
BARRIO 896 Queen East, at Logan, 416-572-0600 Once a low-life saloon, the room has been remarkably transformed into a hip 'n' happening spot. Brought to this rapidly gentrifying strip by popular Verveine doyen Kim Saunders, it's now goodbye, beer-soaked carpet and hello, throw pillows tossed on corduroy banquettes, pierced tin trapezoidal light fixtures and dark wooden floors. While some slump at granite-topped tables over fusion-style tapas and comfort food chocolate cake, others keep tabs on things perched on barstools round a large square bar in the corner next to a vintage beer fridge. Prix fixe Sunday suppers, too. Open Monday to Saturday 4:30 pm to midnight, Sunday 5 to 10 pm.
Degrassi House Bar 780 Queen East, at Saulter, 416-469-5423.
DUKE OF YORK 1225 Queen East, at Leslie, 416-463-5302 With a tribute to John Wayne painted out front, the Duke is one of the last hardcore taverns in town and a zoo come cheque day. Hipsters and wrestling fans show up for Saturday afternoon's 3:30 pm country karaoke with iconic Canuck wrestler slash crooner Sweet Daddy Siki.
FEATHER'S 962 Kingston Road, at Scarborough, 416-694-0443 Pressed tin ceiling, tufted red velvet settees, Axminister carpets and football on the tube make this north Beach Brit-style pub look like Coronation Street's Rovers Return, but Feather's distinguishes itself with Toronto's largest selection of single malts - over 435 at last count. Darts tournaments and monthly whiskey tastings, too. Access: barrier-free
KUBO RADIO 894 Queen East, at Logan, 416-406-5826 The peripatetic cocktail crew responsible for the now defunct Kubo, Kubo Colony and Kubo DX bring their downtown party vibe to the land of Value Village. It's ditched its formerly fashionable modern minimalist decor for a faux Paris-goes-Saigon brasserie vibe, but the house Asian-accented drink list remains - a signature Kubo lager on tap as well as several Japanese, Singaporean, Vietnamese and Thai brews, lychee martinis, sake flights and el cheapo wine by the box. Also returning, Kubo's disappointingly subpar and overpriced prefab dumpling 'n' noodle noshes. They could lead one to drink.
RIVERSIDE 730 Queen East, at Broadview, 416-406-2943 Talk about musselling into a territory. Once an unprepossessing south Riverdale resto, the Riverside has become famous for its frite-free takes on Belgian-style moules. Besides 30 truly pan-global versions of the bivalve, this darkly casual lounge also offers over 100 martinis and 70 imported beers in a funky 50s saloon setting. Open Tuesday and Wednesday 5 to 9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 5 to 11 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
MURPHY'S LAW 1702 Queen East, at Kingston Road, 416-690-5516.
WATERHOUSE 2282 Queen East, at Silver Birch, 416-694-0888.