23 of Toronto’s best bars and restaurants for late-night eats
Where you can eat great when it's really, really, really late
Anthony Rose’s latest crowd-pleaser is a Dupont bistro stacked with terrifically simple French staples designed for grazing alongside draft manhattans or bargain bordeaux. Classic steak tartare, popping with tangy capers and bright yolk, is just trashy enough when scooped onto house-made waffle chips. Portuguese salt-cod fritters, golden and dipped in lemony harissa mayo, deserve a second order, while a single serving of the foie gras with buttery toast soldiers is so rich that one plate of the stuff is enough for the whole table. The noisy room, decorated on the cheap with drawings of Rose’s nude lady lover and an ersatz Basquiat, evokes a dated brasserie in an unhip Paris arrondissement—in the best possible way.
A few steps from chef Rob Gentile’s flagship King West osteria is his relaxed and casual Bar Buca. Split the gran fritto misto, a two-tiered snack tray piled with lightly battered and deep-fried baby artichokes, rock shrimp, tiny smelt and twists of pigskin. Each bite is perfectly crisp and flecked with fennel-flavoured salt or chili. For dessert, there’s old-fashioned Italian pastries: ricotta-stuffed cannoli, lace-patterned pizzelle and sugar-dusted apple butter bombolone.
The tables are closely packed, servers crank the volume on Young Americans, and the drinks list is limited to bar rail and microbrews. The food is coyly posh: mineral Malpeque oysters with a Vietnamese-inspired sauce; deep-fried chicken in a thin, spicy batter; and chicken wings coated with a numbing Sichuan pepper that builds until your mouth burns like a five-alarm fire.
Grant van Gameren has replicated the suave yet oh-so-slightly louche quality of the kind of Barcelona tapas bar where you grab an espresso on the way to work, meet friends for five o’clock cocktails, and perch with a paramour late into the night on stools in a corner, grazing from plates of lusciously fatty chorizo and gildas of speared olives, Italian peppers and pickled pearl onions. Mutton-chopped bartenders push a long, on-theme list of sherries and rare vermouths, yet the real treats are artisanal concoctions, like the sweet-tart Dopeness of Amontillado, Seville orange marmalade and, for healthy measure, a dash of bee pollen.
Chef Steve Gonzalez has turned Valdez, his too-loud street-food party on King West, into a polished Latin American restaurant that suits the 40-plus crowd, as well as the neighbourhood’s young, moneyed partiers. The three-storey space is now one of the strip’s most inviting. As for the menu, Gonzalez amped up the raw seafood selection and refined the mains, which are satisfying Latin staples with Italian or Asian flourishes (though dishes dappled with nori and edamame can be skipped). A flight of five ceviches includes a subtle and sweet concoction of shrimp, mayo, ketchup, horseradish, avocado and lime. Ropa nueva, a Cuban classic, is tender braised beef in chili-kicked jus alongside a heroic square of creamy yuca gratin. Tropical-tinged cocktails, like the Baro Sour, made with two kinds of pisco, are a lot of fun—especially with a bowl of house-made chips and guac.
The ramshackle room, narrow as a railway car, remains its endearing self, with tight-packed tables and enough beards to meet Parkdale bylaws. The menu that wouldn’t look out of place on the Left Bank: piping-hot cheese puffs, springy snails, salty rounds of roasted tomatoes bathed in a mushroom and chive broth, and succulent duck wrapped in crêpes with its own gravy. Double-fried frites, dusted with a concoction of salt, sugar, fenugreek and cinnamon, are a city-wide champ.
Snacks on snacks on snacks. LoPan has your snacking needs covered until 2am, including this lil' diddy: Crispy Prawn Skewers served with a garlic sambal sauce. 🔥 . . . #crispy #prawns #daily #feature #sickasianfood #saturday #night #snack #cocktail #LoPan #snackbar #cocktailbar #bar #upstairs #toronto #collegestreet
503 College St., 647-341-8882, dailto.com
Nick Liu’s brasserie DaiLo closes early, but his moody cocktail lounge upstairs is open until last call. He offers a late night take on yum cha, the brunchy ritual of dim sum and tea, but instead of dumplings, he serves mod snacks like KFC popcorn tofu and crispy confit duck wings. Liu’s calling card is the Big Mac bao: beef, pickles, shredded lettuce and special sauce encased in a pillowy steamed bun.
Bartenders hand-crank sugar cane through a mill, the juice used to sweeten coconut- and calamansi-jolted mojitos. The best dish is pancit ginataan, its noodles steamed in banana leaf then, at the table, carefully lowered into a hot pot of coconut broth laced with turmeric and tamarind. There’s also a very tasty tamarind-dressed slaw of ube and green papaya, as well as a deliciously greasy fried rice with slices of chorizo-like longanisa and a terrific version of lumpia Shanghai served with banana ketchup. The salty spiciness of the slow-cooked adobo-marinated deep-fried chicken justifies another pitcher of mojitos.
Touted as Toronto’s only Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, this 25-seat spot serves ooey-gooey pies that are three inches deep. A bank of electric pizza ovens spews heat into the tiny dining room; thank goodness for cold draft beer.
At Grant van Gameren’s Kensington Market Mexican hot spot, the main attraction is mescal—lots and lots of mescal—which comes in folksy clay copipas. Platters of spicy, salty snacks (morita-dusted popcorn, puffy house-made Fritos, a crunchy cricket-peanut mix) help soak up the hooch. The lantern-lit patio facing Kensington Avenue just about doubles the teeny bar’s capacity—and the people-watching is exceptional.
Securing a table can take up to an hour even on weeknights, but once you do, the staff treat you like a good friend. Taco options include Baja fish, arbol chicken and beef shoulder dressed simply with cilantro, onion and lime. Mason jars of key lime pie (graham cracker crumbs, lime curd and a pile of whipped cream) capture the mood—sweet-tart, a little trashy and totally enjoyable.
Leemo Han’s secretive Dundas West izakaya bears the junk-shop look he and brother Leeto established at snack-food spot Oddseoul. As at the best izakayas, the chef maintains a healthy disregard for dieters. Prime example: a sandwich of roasted, super-fatty pork belly, coated in soy remoulade, barely contained by a coco bun. Dyno Wings are stuffed with spicy pork and rice, deep-fried and served in a takeout box. Even more impressive are a tartare of fantastically fresh hamachi and the nasudengaku—Japanese eggplant charred until creamy, the length of it covered in finely shredded deep-fried beets. The drinks list is short but thoughtful: Asahi on tap, quality sake and Asian-inspired cocktails.
Harry’s has the cultivated appearance of a dive bar stuffed inside an all-day breakfast joint. The punk- and rockabilly-heavy soundtrack is too loud for real conversation, the bathrooms are borderline deplorable and it’s so dark that it’s almost impossible to see the food. In other words, it’s a whole lotta fun. Chef Nate Young’s Red Burger—a spicy chorizo patty tucked into a Wonder Bread bun with a ring of grilled pineapple and a slice of oaxaca cheese—deserves city-wide acclaim. Cocktails are sturdy old-school classics, poured with just the right amount of slapdash enthusiasm. Have more than a couple and Harry’s hangover-curing breakfast menu might be of service the next morning.
The Southeast Asian snack bar on Ossington recently expanded to two levels and serves food until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. You can get frozen shots for $5 and seats are readily available on weeknights without lineups or attitudinal servers. Chef Alec Martin is deft at blending garlic, chilies, galangal, turmeric, ginger, lime leaves and coconut onto plates layered with flavours, but they’re still simple, like deep-fried tofu rolled in lip-searing chili salt and a bowl of Singapore noodles with tiger prawns.
Perched above a bustling strip of King West, the HotB is arguably the city’s bearer of unabashedly trashy comfort food. Tangy buffalo cauliflower comes deep-fried until crisp; fall-off-the-bone honey-garlic baby back ribs are sweet and sticky, served with spicy cabbage slaw; and the sesame-laced tuna poke is punched up with crispy jasmine rice and barbecue corn nut crumbs. Low-lit and loud and decked out with bright-orange pleather benches, it’s no place for a romantic date (inattentive service doesn’t help either), but with dishes like fried chicken and sourdough waffles, it’s worth a visit. A hefty bourbon list, craft beers, creative cocktails and boozy slushies complement the rich grub.
This is Japanese comfort food—and lots of it—in a simple, plywood-filled space, half a flight up in the heart of Koreatown. There’s sushi and sashimi, of course, but also udon, ramen chicken won ton “nachos” and the heart of the restaurant: yakitori. Chicken heart, to be specific, skewered and grilled just like so many of the bird’s often-overlooked other parts. Pork and beef also get the charcoal treatment, along with vegetables, shrimp and (why not?) cheese sausage. Beer is inexpensive and plentiful, while the sake list provides opportunities to splurge.
Everything about this rowdy watering hole is almost identical to its predecessor, Guu, and fans of Guu’s menu can still order some of the staples. Nori-wrapped takowasabi, a spicy raw octopus salad, is an excellent app, and the kakimayo successfully marries mayo and blistered cheese with grilled oysters. Soul-satisfying kimchee udon is a funky, briny carbonara thanks to the mentaiko (spicy cod roe) that coat each springy noodle, and the kinoko bibimbap—a sizzling stone bowl filled with crispy, cheesy rice and mushrooms coated in seafood sauce—is nothing short of brilliant.
Leemo and Leeto Han’s sophomore venture remains a popular late-night spot for sharing plates of boldly flavoured Asian fusion. The snack-focused menu, served until 2 a.m., is packed with munchies that go great with a boozy cocktail (or three). The Loosey, a mini cheeseburger made with ground brisket, processed cheese, kimchee and a kimchee-based hollandaise, tastes like a Korean Big Mac. The tempura prawns, which come deep-fried and drenched in spicy mayo, are unforgettable, and the squash poutine—cubes of deep-fried kabocha topped with mayo, (more) kimchee, curds and gravy—is frighteningly addictive.
Count on this Bloor West mainstay for late hours, cheap beer and excellent pork bone soup. What the broth lacks in traditional cloudiness, it makes up for in garlicky spice and meaty chunks of tender, slow-braised pork neck. The rest of the menu offers everything you’ll need to satisfy a late-night craving: grilled beef bulgogi in a sweet sesame sauce, or crunchy fried dumplings stuffed with a spicy onion, beef and pork filling.
@yuuukimo @ifoundwally @young_rizzoto @peopleseatery . . . Out with work friends! Checked out this spot called "The People's Eatery" Pretty Amazing! I ordered the "General Tso Fu (Vegetarian). Delicious! . . . #vegan #veganeats #tofu #veganfood #veganfoodshare #whatveganseat #plantbasedshawty #plantbased #vegansofig
The owners of 416 Snack Bar at Queen and Bathurst replicated the bourbon-jacked buzz that made their first place so much fun. Dishes here include Chinese-American snacks and Jewish deli staples. The just-fatty-enough tongue sandwich with grainy mustard on a salt-crusted pretzel bun is the best. Deep-fried tofu cubes are a close second—golden-crisp with custardy centres, they’re an excellent version of the pan-Asian cheap eat. You can probably get better Peking duck on Spadina, but it won’t come with fancy cocktails.
With a room decked out in antiques, reclaimed wood and retro lighting, and a playlist of throwbacks, Pinkerton’s feels like a Parkdale transplant. It’s not difficult for two people to eat everything on the short menu here. Best bets are the Laotian-style beef tartare and the tuna tostada, a messy but delicious plate of raw albacore, crispy won tons, avocado crema, chilies and nori. Of the classic cocktails, the smooth and citrusy paper plane is exceptional.
The neon-lit interior looks like an illicit Hanoi jazz club, but it’s really another snack bar from the boys behind Hanmoto. Leemo Han and Joe Kim riff on traditional Vietnamese dishes with no regard for authenticity beyond deliciousness. Yellowfin tuna, scallops and clams in a sharp coconut milk marinade make for a bright, exotic ceviche; and tres leches, a sweetly spicy take on a McCain’s Deep ’n Delicious cake, is served—appropriately—in an aluminum pan with a plastic lid.
The DJ’s electro-indie-pop thrums and the well-crafted cocktails go down far too easily at this quintessential after-work party spot. Creamy buttermilk-fried sweetbreads arrive in a pretty golden ring alongside delicate, buttery biscuit shards, tangy kohlrabi, sweet-tart green apple shavings and dollops of rich sauce gribiche. The chicken liver pâté is a must: velvety quenelles surrounded by a constellation of pickled sour cherries, oddly complementary toasted granola and marbled rye croutons.