Winter in Toronto doesn’t mean hibernation. The city comes alive at night and there is a special twinkle in the air that only happens in the wintertime. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just looking for a cool place to gather on an evening with your friends or loved ones, Toronto’s got a bunch of spots to get you out and about even when the colder weather hits.
The newly opened Bisha Hotel is already a Toronto hot spot. You can lounge at the Lobby Lounge of this swanky boutique hotel, or catch some of the nicest views of the CN Tower and Toronto skyline at KÖST, its beautiful rooftop bar and restaurant on the 44th floor.
If you haven’t seen photos of this cute French bistro all over Instagram, then you might be living under a rock. With interior design by Tiffany Pratt and food by chef/owner Victor Barry, Café Cancan has the best of both worlds. Although open for breakfast and lunch, there are unique offerings that can only be had at dinnertime. There is a wide selection of cocktails, wine, beer, and even rosé on tap. With only 30 seats, you’ll definitely get warm and cozy in this intimate restaurant. Tip: Don’t miss out on Barry’s Burger and a couple of cocktails while you’re there.
Ricarda’s is an all-day restaurant – open for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Occupying the ground floor of the QRC West Building at 134 Peter Street, it has a spacious and beautiful 170-seat dining room, as well as an open-concept kitchen, “grab and go” counter, lounge and bar. The mainly Mediterranean menu is always evolving, so you’ll want to check back often.
The Broadview Hotel
Another new instalment in the Toronto restaurant scene, The Broadview Hotel opened its doors this summer, taking over from strip club, Jilly’s, that used to occupy the space. On the ground level, there is a light and airy café, but the main attraction is the rooftop.
The brainchild of owner/executive chef Patrick Kriss and GM Amanda Bradley, and little sister to the wildly successful Alo restaurant, Aloette is a new, walk-in only French bistro. Get here early or expect a wait. While the food is less fancy than at Alo, it’s anything but casual. You can expect offerings like: charred chorizo with eggplant and halloumi; iceberg wedge topped with chive cream, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and parmesan; potato cheese brioche served with nutritional yeast butter; and of course, their signature fries covered with sausage gravy, cheddar and jus. When you’re here, don’t forget to look up. The modern interior and ceiling design make you feel like you’re in some sort of futuristic train car.
Chill Ice House
This place is literally a “cool place” to hang out. CHILL Ice House is an all-ice bar and lounge open year-round. Everything is made from carved ice here, including the walls, seats, bar, and even the glasses. It’s the only place of its kind in Toronto. So, if you’re up for donning a parka (included with your entry) while drinking a gin & tonic in sub-zero temps, this is the bar for you.
This whimsical Yorkville restaurant is perfect for the comic book lovers out there. Fancy a Stormtrooper stencilled in your cocktail? You can find that at Figures. The house cocktails are all inspired by superheroes and villains, as is the interior décor. There is even a shop with vintage comics and toys at the front of the restaurant. The largely tapas-style menu—featuring dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients—should not be overlooked.
Baro is the latest Latin restaurant by chef/owner Steve Gonzalez (formerly of Valdez), housed in a 4-storey building on King West. The space is more of a multi-level entertainment complex – with the restaurant on the ground level, lounge and raw bar on the second, event space and nightclub on the third, and rooftop patio on the fourth floor. Bring your dancing shoes because after dinner, you can go salsa dancing, or check out the infamous “Pablo Loves You” sign, while dancing the night away at Escobar (but only if you have the secret password to enter).
Ever been to an Italian pescatarian restaurant? Likely not. But whether you’re a seafood lover (I mean, who could resist perfectly grilled octopus?) or not, Ufficio is one of the best restaurants in Toronto. With new executive chef Ivana Raca in the kitchen, the food is spot on, and with the Minister Group doing the cocktails, it’s a knock out.
El Rey Mezcal Bar
Mixologist Owen Walker whips up a mean house cocktail at El Rey. It’s a Grant van Gameren-owned bar that’s as colourful as the neighbourhood it’s in (Kensington Market). You’re really transported to Mexico here, with a food menu filled with ancho chilies, chicharron, cotija, and chorizo. Don’t be surprised to find a few Chapulines (Mexican grasshoppers) in your food and drink either. They’re in several dishes and even the cocktail salt.
Always a fave, Bar Raval is one of 6, going on 7, bars and restaurants in the Grant van Gameren empire in Toronto (which includes Bar Isabel, El Rey, Harry’s, Pretty Ugly, Tennessee Tavern, and Quetzal coming soon). This intimate bar is one of the most popular places to grab a drink and some authentic Spanish tapas in the city. Not the mention the Gaudi-style interior makes you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of Barcelona.
With a dessert on the menu called the “Ziggy Stardust Disco Egg”, you know you’re in for a totally eccentric experience at La Banane. But the individually splatter-painted, Easter egg-looking desserts created by chef Brandon Olsen are not the only reason you should go. There are many other delicious and over-the-top menu items at this French restaurant on Ossington, like the Eurobass-en-croûte. La Banane also has a raw bar filled with sustainable and ethically-sourced fish. Tip: La Banane is now on the DINR app, so you can snag a same-day reservation.
About the Author
Krystle Ng-A-Mann is a local corporate lawyer and lifestyle blogger with a passion for food, fashion and travel. Follow her adventures at Dine & Fash.