Toronto’s best new CaféTO patios
If you’ve left your house or checked your Instagram feed in the last two weeks, it’s clear the city is out in full force. Patios are swarmed with drinkers and diners eager to soak up the al fresco ambiance. While we hold fast for the return of indoor dining, these “streeteries” will serve as places to socialize, celebrate and do all those other IRL things we’ve forgotten how to do. Grab a mask, book a reservation, and head to one of the city’s best CafeTO patios.
Chef Sash Simpson’s eponymous spot goes in on the glitz (though that’s not surprising, considering its Rosedale address). Fresh floral canopies, gold carpeting and white tablecloth service, all nestled on a Yonge Street sidewalk. Equally as photogenic is Simpson’s parade of thoughtful plates, including soft shell crab, drunken lobster, foie gras parfait and Dover sole. This is some swish street food.
Though it’s relatively new to the Ossington strip, this cafe-slash-restaurant has quickly become a meeting point for west-enders. Likely because of its stay-all-day appeal; pastries are baked in the morning and small plates start leaving the kitchen as the afternoon hits. Glasses of wine and cups of espressos are served throughout the day.
This east-end darling has pivoted non-stop during the pandemic, offering some of the best take-home experiences around (complete with playlist and sometimes even a scented candle or aromatic oils). Now they’ve gone and set up an adorable no-reservations street-side patio, decking out their stretch of Gerrard East with antique furniture, twinkle lights and greenery to go along with snacks like supernaturally gold turmeric hummus.
Chef-owner Jeff Kang of Apres Wine Bar and Canis (one of the more felt restaurant losses of the last year) is reviving Apres’ patio as Ikune. The Queen West patio zeroes in on Japanese cuisine: crispy katsu sandwiches and hyper-fresh chirashi bowls paired with a rotating selection of natural wine, all served to cozy little street booths.
With a little help from Stella Artois, this stalwart Yorkville socialite spot (along with Coco Espresso Bar, the Gelato Shop, Vaticano and Yamato) has commandeered a whole chunk of Bellair to set up a sprawling, buzzing street-side sitch. It’s leaning full Italia with a loaded menu of pasta, pizzas, Birra Morettis and all the Aperol Spritzes your heart could desire. A reservation may be useful if, say, Drake descends again (though regardless, it’s a prime place for people watching).
Back in the early days of the pandemic, chef Joachim Hayward joined forces with sommelier Myles Harrison (both Brothers alum) to host one of our favourite pop-ups of the last year. The duo now host full dinner services out of their permanent home in the west end. Stay for a dinner of seasonal dishes and a glass (or bottle) of small-producer wine, and watch the electric ebbing and flowing of Ossington coming back to life.
The untimely closing of Brothers gave Jonathan Nicolaou and Chris White the chance to scheme up a restaurant of their dreams. Such a restaurant has been brought to life in patio form (for now) on a serene strip of the rarely quiet downtown core. Dishes are hyper seasonal, wines are thoughtfully curated, and ambience feels like a much-needed dose of before-times normalcy.
New to the east end, this Italian trattoria’s second location (the O.G. is in the Junction Triangle) has outfitted a stretch of Gerrard East with a patio fenced in by colourfully painted wood pallets. Go for the chance to dine on a patio, stay for some of the city’s best pizza.
Aside from the pandemic-exclusive novelty of eating Korean BBQ on a grassy lawn, this spot by Finch Station specializes in the Korean delicacy of fresh, sweet, soy-marinated raw blue crab. A canopy of covered tents protects you from threatening downpours, and sizzling plates of bibimbap will keep you warm even if the temp starts to drop.
Many of us sorely miss the rush of carts that circle tables during dim sum lunches. Chef 88 has translated that experience en plein air, bringing out your favourite rotation of staples (Stir-fried lobster with Maggi! Siu Mai! Peking duck carved tableside!) to a bumping Markham patio.
This Queen West spot is the newest addition to a city ripe with wine bars, taking up a long stretch of the Fashion District outside the Beverly Hotel. Natural wine is by the glass and best washed down with Ration burgers, fried chicken sandwiches from Chick Magnet, and snacks from Beverly Pasta Co, all served in a verdant street-side setup.
This just-opened cantina is giving a yellow-umbrella-clad strip of King West a Tex-Mex drawl. The menu is divided into two camps: tacos and not tacos, with demarcations for gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan and vegetarian options (all which are plentiful). Drinks veer towards tequila on tap, beer and micheladas.
After an outdoor residency at the Gerrard East Market, this east end bar is back in its full glory, feeding hungry patio-goers with above-par burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. Despite the spot’s low-brow air to the place, cocktails are of the craft variety, so expect excellent classics, quirky house options, and boozy slushies. Plus draught beer—a much-missed post-pandemic luxury.
Fire up the group chat to plan a long-awaited reunion, then take up a picnic table at Kanto’s backyard patio in the Junction. Food here is highly designed for sharing—from platters of bao buns stuffed with pork belly, nigiri tofu and beef brisket to full Kamayan-style feasts.
This summer, the Shangri-La has decided to paint the town orange—Veuve Clicquot orange, that is. The iconic Champagne brand has decked out the space in front of the hotel with cascading orange flower canopies, retro bikes, French bistro tables, and of course, a bevy of bubbly. The food menu trots through crudos, shrimp rolls and oysters on the half shell all paired with—you’d guessed it—varying cuvées of Veuve.
In a delightful turn of pandemic events, El Mo is back! Well, in patio and live stream form until the virus deems us safe to rock out IRL. The legendary music venue has created an “under the neon palm” patio, complete with a drink menu that nods to the more famed faces who have graced the venue; think Mick Jagger martinis and Bono mojitos. Fresh coconuts are chopped open to order via “Cha Cha the Chappa” coconut man.