Pride Toronto Fesitval

  • Festival June 19 to 28, 2015
  • Parade June 28
  • Dyke March June 27
  • Trans* Pride June 26
  • Official PrideToronto.com

Toronto Pride 2015: Ultimate Restaurant, Bar & Nightlife Guide

Toronto Pride Week means ten days of food, fun, and fab. The heart of the celebration is in Toronto’s gay village but opportunities for entertainment can be found in LGBTQ-friendly bars, restaurants and nightlife spots across the entire city.

All that celebrating can work up an appetite (and a thirst). Check out our ultimate guide for where to eat, drink, and party during Toronto Pride 2015 – wherever your travels may take you.

In the Gay Village

During the final weekend of Pride, Church Street in Toronto’s Gay Village shuts down to become a pedestrian-only party zone.

Where to eat: Grab a bite to eat at any of the numerous street food vendors lining the street. For pub grub, get a seat and a plate of nachos on the patio at O’Grady’s (518 Church Street) or The Churchmouse & Firkin (475 Church Street). More upscale dining can be found at Church Bistro (555 Church Street), Lola’s Kitchen (634 Church Street), or Sambucas on Church (489 Church Street).

Where to drink: There’s no shortage of places to drink in The Village, and even more so during Pride when beverage gardens spring up all along Church Street. Head to The Green Space on Church beside The 519 Community Centre, where the beer tents and outdoor dancefloor always draw a big crowd. Drop in at Crews & Tangos (508 Church Street) to enjoy live drag entertainment, or chill out with a pint on the patio. Across the street, Woody’s (467 Church Street) is a local institution with hot bartenders serving up cold drinks.

Where to party: The parties during Toronto Pride are legendary. At The Green Space on Church, there’s a different party happening every day from June 25th to the 28th, including Lipstick Jungle after the Dyke March and Disco, Disco after the parade. If you feel like a change of scenery, simply walk down Church Street where you can always find live music and DJ’s stirring up fun. And make sure to check out Fly 2.0 nightclub (6 Gloucester Street), whose go-go dancers, strobe lights, and fist-pumping music have earned it a legendary reputation and numerous Best Dance Club in Toronto awards.

Toronto Pride 2015: Ultimate Restaurant, Bar & Nightlife Guide

In the West End

West Queen West (a.k.a Queer West) is the Village’s younger, trendier, hipster cousin.

Where to eat: You won’t have a problem finding good food on restaurant-lined Queen Street West. Grab a table at Terroni (720 Queen Street West) for authentic Italian cuisine including their famous wood-fired pizza. Thai Elephant (813 Queen Street West) has some of the best Thai food in the west end. If you’re feeling classy and have money to burn, head to La Palette (492 Queen Street West) for escargot, duck confit, and a wine list to die for.

Where to drink: The west end’s watering holes attract varied crowds of all ages, genders, and orientations. The Beaver (1192 Queen Street West) is a former gallery turned bar/restaurant with a great patio and an artsy laid-back vibe. Not far away, Henhouse (1532 Dundas Street West) is an unpretentious hangout popular among ladies who like ladies – and anyone who likes good cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, it’s hard to beat BarChef (472 Queen Street West), which boasts over 5,000 housemade bitters and the famous Vanilla & Hickory Smoked Manhattan.

Where to party: If you get tired of the scene in the Village, the scene in Queen West is every bit as bumping. The Drake (1150 Queen Street West) is famous for its raucous themed parties during Pride Week. Continue the fun with live music and DJs at Wrongbar (1279 Queen Street West) or Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen Street West), where you can dance the night away.

In the East End

The east end offers a quieter atmosphere than The Village or Queen West, with plenty of eye candy in The Beach.

Where to eat: Between Leslieville’s cafés, The Danforth’s Greek food, and The Beach’s pubs, the east end is a haven for foodies. Grab a locally sourced meal from Chef Lynn Crawford’s Canadian-themed seasonal menu at Ruby Watchco (730 Queen Street East). Savour the taste of Greece at Messini Authentic Gyros (445 Danforth Avenue) or Pan on the Danforth (516 Danforth Avenue). Or enjoy the famous pulled pork poutine at Hogtown Smoke (1959 Queen Street East) in The Beach.

Where to drink: When the sun is out during Pride (which is usually), many people head east to The Beach, where the patios provide a perfect vantage point for people-watching. Hop on the streetcar and go patio-hopping on Queen Street East. The Stone Lion (1958 Queen Street East) features two patios and a great selection of import beers, while The Salty Dog’s (1980 Queen Street East) west-facing patio ensures plenty of sun in the afternoon. Afterwards, take a walk along the boardwalk to admire the shirtless guys and bikini-clad gals hanging out on Ashbridge’s Bay Beach.

Where to party: The party scene in the east end is not as well established as the one in the west end, but in recent years this has begun to change. Newcomer Wayla Bar (996 Queen Street East) has a funky vibe inspired by the nightlife in France and underground clubs in New York City. During Pride, it plays host to many special LGBTQ-themed events. Also check out The Duke (1225 Queen Street East) for live music and karaoke, and The Roy (894 Queen Street East) for Irish-style drinking and dancing.

By the Harbourfront

Picturesque views of the lake make the Harbourfront the perfect place to wander during Pride, with the allure of the Toronto Islands only a short ferry ride away.

Where to eat: Toronto’s harbourfront restaurants combine great food with beautiful views of Lake Ontario. Munch on baked stone flatbreads, maple chipotle baked wings, and pulled pork on Against the Grain’s killer lakeside patio (245 Queens Quay West). Chow down on pizza, pasta, wine, and cocktails at Bar Milano (207 Queens Quay West). Or enjoy authentic Szechuan and Cantonese dishes at Pearl Harbourfront Chinese Cuisine (207 Queens Quay West). Wherever you dine, you’re guaranteed a spectacular view.

Where to drink: Craft beer aficionados will love Amsterdam Brewhouse (245 Queens Quay West), which boasts a 14,000 square-foot space, an extensive selection of regular and seasonal craft beers, and a fully functioning brewery. Other good spots to grab a brew include The Miller Tavern (31 Bay Street) and Firkin on Harbour (10 Yonge Street), while The Wine Bar (9 Church Street) has a list of vintages to please the most discriminating of sommeliers.

Where to party: The first weekend of Pride overlaps with the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival. Mix and Mingle on Sugar Beach while listening to live music and sampling some of the world’s finest wine and spirits. If that sounds too tame for you, take the ferry over to the Toronto Islands where there is always at least one wild party during Pride Week. While there, be sure to head to Hanlan’s Point, a clothing optional beach that is a popular hangout for gay men.

See our comprehensive LGBTQ restaurant guide and LGBTQ bars and clubs guide for more inspiration on where to go during Toronto Pride 2015.

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Top 10 Pride Events

Your quick guide to Pride! From Queer West to the Dyke March to the Village Streetfair, here are 10 can’t miss Pride events across the city that will make your festival unforgettable.

Top 10 Pride Events

  1. The Village Streetfair

    Church Street is the epicenter of Toronto’s Gay Village and the main place to be during Pride Week. Every year, the street is shut down for an entire weekend of fun and festivity. Connect with local LGBTQ organizations, drop in at one of the many beverage gardens and bars, enjoy live performances and music, and sample a diverse selection of food.

  2. Pride in Queer West

    Pride in Queer West: Toronto Pride Week isn’t limited to the Village. Over in the aptly named Queer West neighbourhood, you can have a gay ole time at a number of queer-themed events and activities. Dance until the wee hours of the morning at Bovine Sex Club or The Beaver.

  3. DJ Central

    While winding your way through the Village Streetfair, drop by the central stage at Church Street and Maitland for three full days of divas, DJs, and dancers. Previously featured big names include MC Flipside and Sydney Blu.

  4. Trans* Pride March

    Whether you identify as trans* or are a cisgender ally, the Trans* Pride March offers a safe environment for all. Help raise awareness of trans-related topics and foster an atmosphere of inclusion and positivity by lending your voice to Trans* Pride.

  5. Dyke March

    Founded in 1996 to raise awareness regarding lesbian and trans* visibility in the queer community, the Dyke March has become a tradition not only in Toronto, but in cities across North America. March with your head held high to show that all members of the LGBTQ community are valued and accepted.

  6. Family Pride

    Pride is about embracing people from every walk of life, including moms and dads. Celebrate Pride with your little ones at the kid-friendly zone organized by the Family Pride Committee. Crafts and games, face-painting, live entertainment – it’s fun for the whole family!

  7. Clean, Sober & Proud

    If drinking and partying isn’t your scene, you may feel at home at the Clean, Sober & Proud space at Paul Kane Parkette, a substance-free zone that features live performances, holistic services, and confidential recovery meetings. The space is a great place to relax away from the non-stop (and sometimes overwhelming) energy of Church Street.

  8. Cawthra Square Park

    Cawthra Square Park, located right beside the 519 Community Centre, is a large, tree-lined space that is host to some of Pride Week’s most anticipated events. Drop by Lipstick Jungle before heading to the Dyke March, and close off the week at the Disco, Disco dance party. Events at Cawthra Square Park are free to enter, and all proceeds from beverage sales go directly to support the efforts of the 519 Community Centre.

  9. Annual Pride and Remembrance Run

    Held every year on the Saturday morning before the big Parade, the Pride and Remembrance Run has raised more than $900,000 for over a dozen LGBTQ Charities to date. Help give back by participating in the run, or stand by the sidelines to cheer the runners on.

  10. Pride Parade

    This is the big one. If you see nothing else during Pride Week, be sure to make your way down to Yonge Street for the annual Pride Parade. Complete with colourful floats, elaborate costumes, infectious music, and a healthy dose of bare skin, the Parade is a spectacle not to be missed.

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Who I Am: Kay’s Story

When Kay first came out, she felt she had to look and dress a certain way based on other peoples’ expectations. But with the help of significant role models in her life, she learned to be unapologetic about who she is.

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Timeline: Gay Rights in Toronto

1969

The Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village spawn the modern gay rights movement. Canada decriminalizes homosexual acts for consenting adults over 21.

1971

Toronto’s first Gay Day Picnic is held at Hanlan’s Point. “We Demand,” Canada’s first gay public protest, occurs in Ottawa.

Timeline of Gay Rights in Toronto

1972

Coming Out, Canada’s first television series about LGBT issues, is aired by Maclean-Hunter’s cable community channel in Toronto.

1973

The American Psychiatric Association declares that homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder.

1976

The Lesbian Organization of Toronto is formed.

1978

Canada lifts an immigration ban on homosexual men.

1979

The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends in its annual report that “sexual orientation” be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act. Buddies in Bad Times, Canada’s oldest surviving queer theatre company, is founded in Toronto.

1981

Four bathhouses are raided by the Toronto Police Service in Operation Soap, spawning protests that are now recognized as the first Toronto Pride event. George Hislop becomes the first openly gay person to run for Toronto City Council.

1982

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the “right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination” but does not explicitly protect sexual orientation.

1984

Pink Triangle Press launches the local LGBT newspaper Xtra! in Toronto.

1986

Toronto’s first Pride Committee is formed. Sexual orientation is included in Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

1988

The United Church of Canada becomes the first church in the country to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians.

1991

The City of Toronto officially proclaims Pride Day for the first time. Kyle Rae is elected the first openly gay member of the Toronto City Council.

1992

Canada lifts a ban on homosexuals in the Canadian Forces.

1995

Egan v. Canada rules that freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation be a protected human right.

1996

The Toronto District School Board launches the Triangle Program, Canada’s first alternative high school program for at-risk LGBT youth. Bill C33 receives Royal Assent, formally adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act as a prohibited grounds of discrimination.

1999

George Smitherman becomes Ontario’s first openly gay MPP.

2001

PrideVision (now OUTtv) is launched by Headline Media, becoming the first LGBT-specific television channel in Canada and the second in the world.

2003

Ontario begins marrying same-sex couples.

2005

The Civil Marriage Act is passed, making Canada the fourth country in the world to officially sanction gay marriage at the national level. On the 25th anniversary of Toronto’s first Pride event, Bill Blair becomes the first chief of police in the city’s history to participate in the parade.

2007

103.9 Proud FM, Canada’s first-ever LGBT radio station and the first in the world operated by a commercial broadcaster, is launched in Toronto.

2013

Premier Kathleen Wynne becomes Canada’s first openly-gay first minister.

2014

Toronto hosts WorldPride.

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Restaurants & Dining

Most restaurants in the city are LGBTQ-friendly – many proudly so. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a list of 15 of the most popular queer-owned and queer-friendly restaurants that will have you coming back for more.

Restaurants & Dining

Byzantium

Right in the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village, Byzantium has a chic, stylish décor and relaxed atmosphere. Its extensive martini list and diverse menu (including such unique dishes as kangaroo and ostrich) make it a great place for either a romantic date or a casual meal. Byzantium has received numerous awards from Now Magazine and Xtra Magazine, including Toronto’s Best Martini and Best Romantic Restaurant.

  • Location: 499 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Hours: 5:30pm to 11:00pm (Monday to Sunday)
  • Cuisine: International
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Trendy
  • Price range: $31 – $60
  • Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Fabarnak

One part restaurant and one part social enterprise initiative, Fabarnak offers a range of culinary dishes prepared and served by members of the LGBTQ community who face barriers to employment. More than 60% of the food is locally grown and produced, so you can feel good about what you’re eating while also feeling good about helping at-risk community members. Fabarnak is owned and operated by the 519 Community Centre.

  • Location: 519 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: International
  • Alcohol: No
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Café California

A popular watering hole in the Church-Wellesley Village, Café California has been a fixture of the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years. See and be seen while sipping martinis and sampling delicious Mediterranean dishes in either the stylish dining room or sunny patio.

  • Location: 538 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Sambucas on Church

Sambucas on Church is renowned for having some of the best Italian food around, made from the finest and freshest ingredients. Fresh pasta, sumptuous seafood, authentic Italian pizza – pair any dish with a bottle of wine for a truly magical meal.

  • Location: 489 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Guu Izakaya

In the mood for Japanese? Check out Guu Izakaya in the Village for tapas-style Japanese food with a modern take. The loud, energetic staff and unique pairings of dishes make this an eating experience like no other. Guu Izakaya is an ideal choice for couples looking for a unique night out.

  • Location: 398 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: Japanese, Tapas
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual, Trendy
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Lola’s Kitchen

A commitment to local and independent suppliers, as well as an abundance of vegetarian and vegan dishes, make Lola’s Kitchen a favourite amongst environment- and health-conscious individuals. Meatless options include the kale Caesar salad and vegan tacos, while the more carnivorously inclined might enjoy the pulled pork sandwich or lamb burger.

  • Location: 634 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: International, vegetarian/Vegan options
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual, Trendy
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible:No

Hair of the Dog

Hair of the Dog is an upscale but unpretentious neighbourhood pub that boasts one of the best patios in the city. Drop by for brunch on the weekends or for a hearty dinner before hitting the clubs on Church Street for a night of dancing.

  • Location: 425 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: American/Pub Food
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No

Church Street Diner

A mainstay in the Village, the Church Street Diner attracts crowds throughout the day for its home-style meals and friendly service. On weekend mornings, you’ll often spot people attempting to recover from the previous night’s festivities by chowing down on bacon & eggs and coffee.

  • Location: 504 Church Street (Church-Wellesley Village)
  • Cuisine: American
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No

The Wine Bar

Looking for a romantic night out with your significant other? You may want to try The Wine Bar a few blocks south of the Church-Wellesley Village. The Wine Bar prepares local and naturally-raised food served tapas-style, making it perfect for sharing with someone special.

  • Location: 9 Church Street (St. Lawrence Market)
  • Cuisine: European, Tapas
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Romantic, Upscale
  • Price Range: $31 – $60
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No

Supermarket

With dishes like Asian fish & chips and lemongrass braised beef shank topped with Thai basil, Supermarket‘s menu is a fusion of East-meets-West. Located right near two of Toronto’s most famous ethnic enclaves – Chinatown and Kensington Market – the restaurant attracts a diverse crowd of both queer and queer-friendly young professionals. Supermarket features plenty of vegetarian and tapas-style menu options and is a great place to bring a group of friends.

  • Location: 268 Augusta Avenue (Kensington Market)
  • Cuisine: Asian Fusion
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No

Bar Italia

For the best Italian food in the city, make your way to Little Italy where Bar Italia is always a happening spot. A popular hangout for gay men, the combination bar/restaurant features a delicious menu of traditional Italian favourites like Fetuccine Bolognese and Pollo Parmigiana, and a wine list worth bragging about.

  • Location: 582 College Street (Little Italy)
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Sneaky Dee’s

Sneaky Dee’s is practically a Toronto institution. Part concert hall, part clothing store, and part Mexican-style restaurant – with a graffiti-grunge décor – it has to be experienced to be believed. The kitchen is located on the lower level and boasts some of the best nachos in the city.

  • Location: 750 College Street (Little Italy)
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No

Southern Accent

In the mood for something hot? Add a little spice to your life at Southern Accent. The Cajun/Creole inspired restaurant is located in a Victorian townhouse in Toronto’s Mirvish Village, and features Southern favourites like jambalaya and Bourbon Street Chicken. The sights, sounds, and tastes of New Orleans await in this flamboyant, inclusive environment.

  • Location: 595 Markham Street (Mirvish Village)
  • Cuisine: Cajun/Creole
  • Alcohol: Yes
  • Atmosphere: Casual, Intimate
  • Price Range: $11 – $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No
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