Pride Toronto Festival

Toronto Pride: 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.

Toronto Pride 2015: Ultimate Restaurant, Bar & Nightlife Guide

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.

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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Toronto Pride Week 2015: What to Do and Where to Go

Come OUT and PLAY this summer at Toronto Pride! Toronto’s 35th annual Pride Week festival is jam-packed with events that are sure to appeal, whatever it is you’re looking for.

Toronto Pride Week 2015: What to Do and Where to Go

If You’re Looking for Live Music

Toronto Pride Week always boasts an impressive roster of musical artists, and this year is no exception.

  • Catch YouTube and MTV sensation Todrick Hall, famous for his pop music parodies and remixed hits, at this year’s Opening Party (BIA Stage – Church Street between Maitland and Alexander, June 19, 8:00pm).
  • Rock out to queer-core, punk, trash-drag and indie bands at Alterna-Queer, featuring American S&M punk band GASH and legendary alterna-rockers My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult (Alexander Parkette, June 28, 2:00pm to 10:00pm).
  • Join headline-making Russian feminist collective and punk band Pussy Riot and Grammy Award-winning artist Cyndi Lauper as they lead the Pride Parade as International Grand Marshalls (Yonge Street between Bloor and Dundas, June 28, 2:00pm). Afterward, make your way to The Final Play where Pussy Riot will be gracing the Molson Canadian Stage along with Mounties, The Mohrs, Carole Pope and more (Yonge-Dundas Square, 2:00pm to 11:00pm).

If You’re Looking to Party

The parties at Toronto Pride are fun, frenzied and fab.

  • Soak up the sun at Sugar Beach at the Sweetness Pride Beach Party. All the way from Tel Aviv, DJ Aron will be laying the beat down at this hot and happening circuit party (22 Dockside Drive, June 21, 12:00pm to 7:00pm).
  • Relax on a private cabana and enjoy the sunset over Lake Ontario at Cabana Pool Party. Vancouver-based DJ SOLLORS and bikini babe DJ Delicious provide the music, while Out Sport Toronto provides the activity with a rousing game of water polo (Cabana Pool Bar – 11 Polson Street, June 24, 6:00pm to 11:00pm).
  • Immerse yourself in a world of glitter, glitz and glamour at Starry Night. Filled with performances by Ireland’s Panti Bliss, Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 7 queen Trixie Mattel, Montréal DJ Mado Lamotte and more, this FREE soirée is one you won’t want to miss (Barbara Hall Park – 519 Church Street Community Centre, June 25, 6:00pm to midnight).

If You’re Looking for Multicultural Flare

Toronto Pride is all about celebrating diversity.

  • Join International Grand Marshall and Bollywood superstar Celina Jaitly at Bend it Like Bombay, a dance- and music-infused celebration of the South Asian love festival Holi (TD Wellesley Stage, June 26, 7:00pm to 2:00am).
  • Get your samba on at Pan Americano, a gigantic Brazilian Ball complete with gold-painted, bikini-clad beauties and a quente music line-up including Brazilian circuit superstar Ana Paula and DJ Tiago Vibe (TD Wellesley Stage, June 27, 2:00pm to 2:00am).
  • Celebrate Toronto’s black and Caribbean communities at Blockorama, which will feature over 20 performances including headliner Sharaya J and soca sensation Destra Garcia (TD Wellesley Stage, June 28, 12:00pm to 11:00pm).

If You’re Looking for Activism and Dialogue

The Pride movement was born out of a spirit of political activism, and Toronto Pride Week continues that tradition with critical dialogue and events tackling issues that affect the LGBTTIQQ2SA community.

  • Promote inclusion among faith-based communities at the Pride Interfaith Fair (Metropolitan United Church, June 14, 3:00pm).
  • Take part in Pride and Prejudice, a one-day human rights conference that explores the struggles and triumphs of the queer community through case studies, panel discussions and testimonials (15 King’s College Circle – Room 140, June 20, 9:00am to 6:00pm).
  • Commemorate those lives lost and affected by HIV/AIDS at the AIDS Candlelight Vigil (Barbara Hall Park – 519 Church Street Community Centre, June 23, 9:00pm).

If You’re Looking to March (or Spectate)

Toronto Pride Week features three major parades and marches that celebrate gender and sexual diversity in all its forms.

  • The Trans Pride March will begin at the corner of Church Street and Isabella Street on June 26 at 7:00pm. Finish the march at Yonge-Dundas Square, where Chaz Bono and S. Bear Bergman will be hosting Transforming Pride alongside performances by Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Buck Angel, Crackpuppy and The Cliks (Molson Canadian Stage, 7:00pm to 11:00pm).
  • This year’s Dyke March focuses on the ongoing issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, while creating a welcome space for all self-identified dykes (Church Street at Bloor Street, June 27, 2:00pm). After the march, celebrate with The L Word’s Kate Moennig and Uh Huh Her’s Camila Grey at #DYKEVERSITY (Bud Light South Stage, 2:00pm to 2:00am).
  • Close off Pride Week at the one and only Toronto Pride Parade, featuring over 150 participating groups. Let loose and have fun amidst the elaborate floats, colourful costumes and rousing music (Yonge Street between Bloor and Dundas, June 28, 2:00pm).

If You’re Looking for Artistic Inspiration

The arts are essential vehicles for the exploration of queer identity.

  • Listen to film icon John Waters as he shares his experiences from his famed lecture series “This Filthy World” at An Evening with John Waters (Ryerson Theatre – 43 Gerrard Street, June 22, 7:00pm).
  • Witness incredible movement and dance routines by Body Waves at Cipher Cabaret, presented by the world’s largest and longest-running queer theatre, Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander Street, June 24, 8:00pm).
  • Admire original and thought-provoking works of art at the OCAD University Pride Street Fair Lounge & Art Installation (OCAD University – 100 McCaul Street: June 26, 7:00pm to 1:00am; June 27, 12:00pm to 1:00am; June 28, 12:00pm to 11:00pm).

If You’re Looking for Divine Drag Divas

From the stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to homegrown talent from Toronto and Montréal, the drag entertainment at Toronto Pride can’t be beat.

  • Renowned Montréal drag queen, cabaret performer and queen of kitsch Mado la bitch will entertain crowds with her provocative and outrageous sense of humour at Mado Frenches Toronto (Théâtre de l’Alliance Française – 24 Spadina Road, June 24, 7:00pm).
  • Fan favourite from Season 7 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Katya is headlining a one-of-a-kind show called From Russia with Love at Fly 2.0 nightclub, also featuring DJ Grind and an opening set by Geoff Kelleway (6 Gloucester Street, June 26, 10:30pm).
  • Toronto Pride celebrates its 35th anniversary with 35 drag performers at Drag On! Hosted by Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner Bianca del Rio, with music by Kitty Glitter and another performance by Katya, this event will be as fierce and flamboyant as they come (Molson Canadian Stage – Yonge-Dundas Square, June 27, 2:00pm to 11:00pm).
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Toronto Pride in Pictures

Church and Wellesley is the heart of Toronto’s Gay Village and the place to be during Toronto Pride Week.

Keep an eye out for elaborate costumes during the parade – there are always plenty of them!

People from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds come together to celebrate Pride in Toronto.

Even the Toronto Police Service takes part in the Pride Parade.

Water guns are a staple at Toronto Pride. If you aren’t getting wet, you aren’t having fun.

The floats get more and more creative every year.

Look up! With packed streets, people pile onto streetside rooftops to get a better view of the parade.

Pride is all about having fun, which you can see in the faces of the crowd.

Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square becomes a mass of people during Pride Week.

After dark, the celebration continues with live music and events all across the city. Keep the party going until late!


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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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $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 to $30
  • Wheelchair Accessible: No
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