Sometimes you just want a place to grab a drink without running into everyone you know.
Sometimes that time is the holidays.
And while there’s something to be said about the Cheer’s experience, when you’re looking for a more under the radar bar to hit up – where everyone definitely won’t already know your name – try one of these hidden spots.
Hipsters have been obsessed with Cold Tea for a while now, but for the uninitiated, you have to walk inside Kensington Mall and look for the door with the single red light above it to find this bar. Once you’ve arrived, the bartenders will make you anything you want.
Literally a hole-in-the-wall on Spadina south of Queen, Wide Open’s door is that of a garage that is lifted so the entire bar is wide open to the street. It’s tiny, and the booze deals are too good to be true – $2.75 drinks on Thursdays, among others – so get there early if you want a seat.
You’ll have to look for the neon sign advertising tarot card and palm readings in order to find The Libertine. With an odd mix of the speakeasy and carnival vibe, the food is memorable and they certainly don’t make the drinks weak. Which can lead, however, to other memorable issues.
Dundas West’s most beloved underground bar is easy to miss as its entrance is hidden below street level. Once you make it inside, the retro vibe will make for a memorable evening of arcade games and delicious drinks.
Junction City Music Hall
This Dundas West music venue has a basement stairway entry that’s easy to miss, but worth finding for the budding community of music lovers and local talent the neighbourhood has recently given birth to.
Located just above Dailo at College and Palmerston, LoPan is on the second floor of the restaurant – you wouldn’t find it unless you already know about it. Their specialty Eastern cocktails are on the pricey side, but worth the trip if you’re in the mood for something you won’t find anywhere else.
You have to go through the kitchen and behind the freezer door at Valdez – a King West Latin restaurant – in order to find this well hidden gem. There’s no menu, it’s named after a Columbian drug lord, and the décor is designed to highlight the Prohibition years. Aka: if you haven’t been to Escobar yet, you’ve been missing out.
Hole In The Wall
The name refers to the fact that this Junction music venue and craft beer bar is literally a hole-in-the-wall. Finding the door means heading down a narrow walkway beside the doorway to the upstairs residence. Once you get a taste of their craft brew, you’ll be happy you took the time to find it.
Cover image from: Libertine