Toronto’s best new CaféTO patios

Toronto’s best new CaféTO patios

More Summer Fun

As we start carefully emerging from isolation, seeking fresh air and normalcy—along with a drink or two—the city’s restaurants and bars have got our backs. Thanks to the CaféTO program, a host of new patios have popped up around the city, giving socially distanced drinkers and diners a range of excellent options, from verdant alleyway cocktail lounges and breezy backyard bars to streetside cafes perfect for people-watching. Some of our favourites go above and beyond the pylon perimeter.

Bar Isabel

Was baking cakes part of your quarantine hobbies? No matter the level of success, you’ll be hard-pressed to make one as light and elegant as Bar Isabel’s signature Basque cake. Well, good news: Grant van Gameren’s Spanish spot is back. Stop into the College patio and pile your table high with tapas, from whole grilled octopus to pan con tomate and patatas bravas. Or, slide up to one of the standing tables and sip on Basque cider by the glass. 797 College St., 416-532-2222,

The Wren

Ontario craft beer and all kinds of towering burgers—need the Wren offer anything more? Take a seat under a festive canopy of lights on the Danforth and dig into a rotating menu of comfort food, including Gruyère-loaded burgers, crispy tofu sandwiches, alongside an excellent showing of local brews. 1382 Danforth Ave., 647-748-1382,


All pandemic, this cozy spot has been releasing lavish, three-course dinners inspired by countryside Italian and Spanish fare: Catalonian paellas, generously-sized Tuscan lamb shanks, and DIY gnocchi kits—all for takeaway. They’ll keep releasing said dinners, but August 21 marks the opening of their new patio, where diners can snack on Serrano ham plates and bright seafood pasta. Wash all of it down with affordable bubbles from Pares Balta, an organic vineyard just outside of Barcelona with a cult following. It’s not quite under the Tuscan sun, but it’s as close as you’re gonna get right now. 244 Jane St., 647-346-2267,

Chef 88 Elite

Even roving carts piled high with dim sum have a place in our new outdoor dining world. This Markham dim sum spot has moved their operation outside, with large round tables set up on a grassy space just outside the restaurant. Expect perfectly plump, opaque-skinned har gow and heaping portions of congee with meaty pork and salted eggs. 1661 Denison St., Unit T1 Markham, 905-604-8218,

Beach Hill Smokehouse

True Texas BBQ is best enjoyed under the sun, with sticky fingers and plates heaped high with smoked meat. That’s exactly what you’ll get at this east-end smokehouse. The laid-back, picnic-tabled spot is serving saucy sandwiches and pitmaster Darien List’s Austin-style smoked meats (like rib tips and halal smoked chicken) by the half-pound. Swing by the original Main Street location, or check out the newly opened outpost on the Danforth. Just don’t skip the poblano slaw. 172 South Main St., 416-792-8275; 429 Danforth Ave., 416-546-7633,


Hallmarks of this note-perfect bistro (and one of our top spots of 2020) were dim lighting, flickering candles and (hard-to-get) shoulder-to-shoulder seating. The team has managed to transplant the casual romance of the restaurant into the great outdoors, taking over a small slice of Harbord Street. The menu rotates weekly, but recent highlights include schnitzel with raw and marinated tomatoes from Tamarack Farms and braised artichokes crowned with deep-fried oysters. 96 Harbord St., 416-323-1385,


Gerrard East Market

What was once an old parking lot on Gerrard East is now a beer garden with a beach bar vibe, thanks to a brigade of local restaurants and bars. Poor Romeo, The Dive Shop, Pinkerton’s Snack Bar, Hand-Pulled Noodles, Com Tam Pho and La Cubana have all set up stands, where diners and drinkers can settle into Muskoka chairs with snacks and cocktails. Bonus: Pups are more than welcome. 1018 Gerrard St. E., @gerrardeastmarket


Skippa has produced some of the most gorgeous takeout of the pandemic, like bento boxes artfully arranged with fresh seafood, foraged foods and delicate garnishes. Now, under a string of twinkling lights on a quiet strip of Harbord, chef Ian Robinson is pivoting away from sushi and focusing on donabe-style meals. Each meal is centred around rice cooked in a traditional earthenware pot alongside seasonal Ontario produce and super-fresh seafood sourced from Japanese fish markets. 379 Harbord St., 416-535-8181,


Daldongnae is bringing gloriously grilled Korean barbecue en plein air, with tabletop grilling on pop-up patios at all four locations. It’s the same DIY grilling and the same extensive menu of cuts and larger dishes, including the signature rosy-red pork belly and cold kimchi noodles. Various locations,


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Civil Liberties

With any hope of a real beach vacation down the toilet, craft cocktail spot Civil Liberties has turned its backyard into an oasis, filled with lush greenery and tropical cocktails (including many conjured up in a slushie machine). The nearby Vit Beo is behind the bar’s hot dog–based menu. 878 Bloor St. W.,


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Cry Baby Gallery

Slip down an alley off Dundas West to find Cry Baby Gallery’s cozy back patio, decked out with a wall of jungle plants and custom graffiti from the art-gallery-slash-cocktail-bar’s favourite artists. The potent piña colada and rotating selection of spiked slushies are easy sells. 1468 Dundas St. W.,


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Le Phenix

This French pop-up from the Chantecler team has had some of the best takeout during the pandemic, and it continues to pivot, opening up a colourful back patio with plenty of bench seating and oysters by the dozen. Come for the fresh air, stay for tuna crudo, roast duck and creative cocktails. 1263 Queen St. W.,


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Chotto Matte

This massive resto-bar in the Financial District has surrounded its new streetside patio with ferns and greenery, transporting diners to a tropical oasis in the shadow of the CN Tower. The full Nikkei menu is available, including skewers fresh off the Robata grill, bright ceviches and plates of torched sushi. The patio can accommodate a whopping 135 people (at a distance, of course). 161 Bay St.,


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This Junction trattoria has transformed their stretch of Dundas West into a serene sidewalk terrace. Expect standard Italian favourites, like fresh pasta made with imported ingredients. Pair your meal with a glass (or bottle) from the extensive list of Tuscan wines. 2840 Dundas St. W.,


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Venice Beach Bar

This parking lot patio from the Bar Mordecai and Unboxed Market teams doubles down on the California vibes. The space feels refreshingly like a surf shack, where diners wash down fish tacos and street corn with slushie daiquiris and crispy beers as Beach Boys tunes float through the speakers. Bonus fun: cocktails served in petite pool floaties. Find it on the south side of Dundas West, just east of Dovercourt, behind the blue gates.


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Gio Rana’s

Leslieville’s beloved old-school Italian restaurant has brought their intimate atmosphere outdoors, complete with candlelit tables, fairy lights and projected Italian films flickering on a brick wall. It’s dinner and a movie! 1220 Queen St. E., @thenosegios


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The Painted Lady

This long-standing rock-and-roll refuge is bringing burlesque dancing, tropical cocktails and vacation vibes to the Ossington strip. Fresh juices and smoothies are the signatures at the Lady’s Juice Joint, but the team is happy to spike them with something stronger if you’re so inclined. 218 Ossington Ave.,


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Clockwork Terrace

Thanks to a recent renovation, the Fairmont Royal York now boasts a handful of stellar cocktail spots. Clockwork has taken it to the streets with a terrace on Front, where frozen cocktails reign. Peckish? A full food menu with a focus on fresh seafood—including Maritime lobster rolls, oysters, and Fogo Island fish and chips—is on offer. 100 Front St. W.,


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Midsummer at Alo

Trust the city’s top restaurant to transform a street space on Wellington into a truly spectacular fine-dining experience. The Alo team has managed to completely move the restaurant en plein air, with upscale seating and white-glove service. Dine on chef Patrick Kriss’s 10-course tasting menu under a canopy. 485 Wellington St. W.,


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Il Patio di Eataly

The upscale Italian superstore has filled their stretch of Bay Street with tall hedges and tables under umbrellas. Aperol is the name of the game here, so expect sunny spritzes, along with a new craft-beer menu from Birroteca. 55 Bloor St. W.,


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The people behind the Ballroom and Fifth Social Club have commandeered a massive parking lot in the centre of downtown and filled it to the brim with physically distanced picnic tables. To limit contact, Rendezviews runs on a token system—$10.50 will get you a drink from the Martini, Bacardi or Tito’s bar. Beers and ready-to-drink cocktails are also available, as well as a rotating range of substantial snacks, like barbecued burgers, wraps and wings. 229 Richmond St. W.,

Know of any other excellent #CafeTO patios? Let us know by emailing [email protected]