Toronto’s best new patios
We’re in the middle of a wet, hot, sweltering summer. The way we see it, you can camp out in front of your air conditioner or—if you’re lacking in the manufactured cool air department—you can make haste to one of the city’s best new patios and sip something cold to subdue the scorch. These are different from the city’s outcrop of seasonal CaféTO patios: the new permanent sky-high spots, private dining bubbles and leafy backyards are here to stay.
A night out at Vela is a bit of an event, with menu items like wedge salads decked out with sunflower chorizo and a $75 caviar sandwich (not to mention an extensive wine list). If you’re in more of a freewheeling mood, their new drop-in, no-reso-needed spritz patio (complete with shipping container kitchen) is built for sipping boozy slushies and snacking on seafood tapas.
The indoor dining space of Kensington’s new spot is a sanctuary for pretty plant-based fare—crunchy papadums with cheesy cashew and cumin, arboreal-glazed parsnips with smoked tomato—but the back patio is an equally earthy oasis to sip refreshments like a turmeric juice and Earl Grey cocktail, served with or without a splash of tequila.
Charles Khabouth’s Yorkville hotspot is now home to an alfresco oasis. Amalfi-style octopus and Abruzzo-esque pastas—plus plenty of technicolour cocktails—will do the trick if you don’t want to risk a Pearson rumble on your way to Rome.
Valerie offers sweeping views of the city from high atop Hotel X. It’s great for the obligatory CN Tower skyline snap, but stick around, get comfy on one of the many couches and take in the lake breeze with a tropical tipple in hand. Food comes courtesy of a Nobu vet, so expect sashimi, nigiri and other Japanese-influenced options.
If you feel like splurging or have a particularly great reason to celebrate (we’ll take anything these days), this Casa Loma steakhouse now offers brilliant bubbles for outdoor private dining. There’s a minimum spend of $1,000, but add in apps (like lobster bisque and Cognac cream or short-rib ravioli), entrées (bone-in strip loin from PEI, heaping Alberta porterhouses, Wagyu filet tastings) and perhaps a caviar service or two, and it’s pretty easy to hit that mark.
The brand new incarnation of the iconic Writer’s Room is perched atop the Park Hyatt, and there’s simply no better view of the city to be found. New it is not, but a recent reno and an updated food-and-drinks program continue to make this the city’s most impressive patio. (In 1988’s Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood had a character “drink manhattans and look over the stone balustrade” of this particular patio. That could be you!)
While many of the city’s new patios are big-budget bastions to alfresco enjoyment, the one at this Bloorcourt bottle shop is a little different. It’s a more serene (and less expensive) place to get a drink. There’s a stellar wine program packed to the brim with bottles under $40, a snack-heavy menu (think local cheeses and personal pizzas), plus they’re open from morning to night. Consider it a destination for “working” remotely, though expect your stay to stretch into the après hours.
Also in the stay-all-day vein is Bar Pompette’s adorable back patio, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy stretch on College. It’s got all the same je ne sais quoi of its older sister: in the earlier hours, order a jambon beurre and a latte made with locally roasted beans; in the afternoon, swap out that coffee for some craft cocktails (including the fluffiest piña colada you’ll ever drink) and a broader spread of cinq-a-sept staples.
Bloorcourt’s favourite wine bar has just swung open the doors of its second baby, a winery-slash-bar on Geary Avenue. The wine’s cold, the indoor dining room is spacious, and of course, it’s got a great patio just a few doors down from Parallel. If Famiglia Baldasarre and Blood Brothers didn’t have the short strip constantly buzzing, this opening rounds out what will surely be a Hot Geary Summer.
Last year, Neon Tiger took over what once was Playa Cabana’s massive back patio. Slip down an alley at Dupont and Avenue to find dozens of pastel-papered benches and bar seats. Snacky items include Canadian pub classics with a pan-Asian twist: wonton nachos dressed with bulgogi beef, lamb char siu sliders, poutine topped with tempura-battered squash, and blinis with Korean fried chicken and fermented chili sauce.
The second location of this longtime Toronto brewery boasts a big bright patio right by the waterfront. There’s beer (obviously) as well as fluffy focaccia deep-dish pizzas bedecked with things like potato slices and wildflower honey or bonito, nori and fried ginger pork.
Tennessee Tavern’s new incarnation—in the same Parkdale space—also offers shabby-chic charm and chill vibes. Instead of Eastern European grub, Tenny’s leans more Texas, with old church pews as seating, Tex-Mex nachos and Nashville hot chicken baos on the menu. Live music plays through the evening for all your boot-stomping needs.
While Bloorcourt’s Now and Later bills itself merely as an espresso bar, a wildly large selection of low-intervention wines and well-curated craft beers begs to differ. Food options stick to crunchy and baked: empanadas, croissants from Noctua and sourdough loaves. But the real reason it’s on this list is the massive back patio nestled under a canopy of trees.
Sneak around to the backyard of King West’s relatively new Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit! and you’ll find a fired-up (literally: the concept is backyard barbecue) bar with a southwest spin. Expect a full cocktail program with a penchant for hi-fi glassware and over-the-top garnishes. Food-wise, we’re looking at pork belly burnt ends, pork jowl al pastor tacos and beef Jamaican patties in taco form.
While sitting down for an immersive multi-course meal at Ration is never a bad idea, the brand-new rooftop snack bar is perfect for more impromptu hangouts. Charcuterie rotates based on what’s stellar in the preservation cellar, and other items include crunchy croquettes filled with local fish and duck wings slathered in ume barbecue glaze and sesame. Drink offerings are equally unique: sangria spiced with lacto-fermented rhubarb, margaritas in rotating flavours and wine from eco-conscious producers.