From places that excel in serving their booze straight up to spots that also throw in dancing or fantastic bar eats, these are some of Toronto's best dive bars.
The Urban Dictionary defines the classic dive bar as a "well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele." Whether it applies to a neighborhood gathering spot or a famous, down-and-out watering hole, we've gathered the more comfortable spots for good pours, cheap drink specials, and cheerful ambiance in Toronto. Read on for our picks, and bottoms up.
On the west end of the city, you'll find a spate of locals favorites that cater to just about every demographic. In the Bloorcourt area, there's The Three Speed, where there's a small cocktail list, beers on tap, and exposed brick and wooden beams lining one of the interior walls. Open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., the crowd is described by some as "Bohemian bourgeois." A short jaunt away, the Done Right Inn, near Trinity Bellwoods, finds lawyers and engineers sitting next to actors and students. Known for its mixed drinks, the bar has a back patio open in good weather and accepts Canadian Tire money. One loyal patron says she likes going there because, "it's got what a dive bar should: eclectic decor, cheap drinks, one bartender, and dim lights." The laid back vibe doesn't hurt, either.
In Kensington Market, you've got the HandleBar, owned by the same folks as The Three Speed, which has an event or theme going on most every night (think Nintendo tournaments and Singles Mixer nights with the vinyl loving folks from Sonic Boom spinning their fave singles starting at 10 p.m.). In family-friendly Roncesvalles, The Local Pub's mood is cold beer and "intimate roots music," where live bands play everything from bluegrass and Cuban Son to acoustic blues. Like your rock n' roll, punk, and funk with a side of live burlesque? The Painted Lady is your destination.
The Last Temptation, named after a book by Kazantzakis, is a Kensington Market haunt. It's got an outdoor patio and an interior that's cozy enough to attract a loyal winter clientele. Fans hunker down with an order of hummus or the traditional linguine to go with their drafts. A university institution is Sneaky Dee's. All sorts head there for the pitchers and stick around for a heaping plate of Nachos smothered with melted cheese. They've even got a veggie nacho platter that comes with a 60 ounce pitcher should you be so inclined.
Mary Luz Mejia covers Toronto for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter.