After a particularly long, cold, frigid, and very snowy winter, the patios are starting to appear even before the flowers. People are rushing the season; they may still be wearing winter jackets but will sit at any sidewalk table if the sun is out. It was that kind of winter.
However that is all hopefully in the past as the urban-dwellers look forward to a summer of patio wining and dining throughout the city. Here are a sampling of some of Toronto’s best-loved outdoor patios.
This popular restaurant, right next to its Irish-themed sister pub Dora Keough, is always packed yet doubles in size when the summer patio opens its doors. This is a huge, gorgeous backyard you crave for your home. Huge trees, barnyard fences – and excellent wait staff serve from a legendary beer list created by John Maxwell, one of the city’s best-know restauranteurs.
143 Danforth Avenue. TEL (416) 463-3086.
Since the day it opened as The Betty Ford Clinic (a legal notice forced a name change) Betty’s has been one of the busiest bars in town. Every night. And business only grows when the backyard patio opens with the arrival of spring. The place is packed and raucous and always fun. This year they are joined by their (almost) next door cousin The Pacific Junction Hotel which boats a smaller, quieter private patio.
240 King Street East. TEL (416) 368-1300.
Yet another enterprise by Toronto’s ubiquitous Nightclub King Charles Kabbouth, this 2,500 person space (850-seat plus prviate lounge area) is located at the site of the former Docks party palace. You can lie on one of the many chaise lounges on the sand beach, overlooking the Toronto Islands and CN Tower across the water, or order special 'lounge service’ in private cabanas. Come to party hearty. Closed Mondays.
11 Polson Street. TEL (416) 479-7645.
Drinks at Cabana Pool Bar (credit: Cabana Pool Bar)
Where else to find a great beer patio then a great brewery? This is one of the city’s newest brewpubs where you can sip and sample or sit and soak in the sun from the large patio. It is located in the thriving midtown area of Yonge and Eglinton with its trendy shops, upscale residences and a multitude of condo dwellers which keep the patio hopping.
245 Eglinton Avenue East TEL (416) 322-0723
The Mill Street Brewery has been so successful they needed to open another 600-seat Beer Hall just around the corner. Half these seats are outside so patrons can enjoy the brewery’s award-winning beer. (If you like dark beer, try the Coffee Porter, made from real coffee beans from nearby Balzac’s Café. As one wag has suggested – the coffee will keep you awake so you can drink more!)
21 Tank Hour Lane TEL (416) 681-0338
This little ramshackle and quirky cottage of a pub boasts one of the most packed frontyard patios in the city’s East End. You can count on a lineup every warm summer night. This is a fun crowd of beer drinkers and wine-sippers who enjoy the parade of people strolling along this Leslieville neighbourhood.
1301 Queen Street East TEL (416) 406-1301
One of the best outdoor venues in the city is also one of the least known. A pity. Yes, it is more difficult to locate – just south of the Lakeshore along Cherry Street. This is both a huge pub and patio – wooden picnic tables with umbrellas overlooking the greenery and waters of the Keating Channel. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a countryside environment just feet from a major highway.
2 Villiers Street. TEL (416) 572-0030.
Waterfront patio at Keating Channel (credit: Keating Channel)
Located in the historic Gooderham Mansion, this 200-seat outdoor patio provides a welcome relief for the locals in the downtown core. This is a very cool spot in a setting of stone grandeur. The food is lovely Italian and the wine list has been chosen with care.
504 Jarvis Street. TEL (604) 348-6520.
One of the legendary rooftop lounges in the city featuring an unlimited skyline view of the city from Bloor Street right down to the harbourfront. The Park Hyatt is one of the most romantic outdoor venues in the city with upper scale, white glove service. Not the spot for a “boys night out” but the perfect place to ‘pop the question’. Morton’s Steakhouse is on the ground floor.
4 Avenue Road. TEL (416) 925-1234.
Still unknown except to “Islanders” (there are about 275 homes on the Island) and summer visitors, this little restaurant is a find for the day-trippers wandering or biking through the Toronto Islands. It’s a beautiful outdoor backyard, like someone’s country garden, serving some fine food and beverages.
Take the 10-minute ferry from the main Ferry Dock to Ward’s Island. After that, just follow the maps.
102 Lakeshore Avenue. TEL (416) 203-2152.