Over the years, North By Northeast has hosted monumental shows featuring Iggy & The Stooges, Descendents, and Raekwon & Ghostface Killah, but as most know, Toronto’s a city that doesn’t sleep when you extend last call. Every village and neighbourhood is plastered with affordable brunch getaways and local watering holes, and they revolve around the drive to present a diverse sense of culture (Mr. Jerk, Caplansky’s, Get Melted). As we bar hop from time to time, we decided to create a mini-guide that profiles restos and the like that will tease every one of your senses while instituting a cordial atmosphere. Munchies are a big deal so make some notes, tag Google Maps, and party on.
Scroll below to dig up our favourite spots and tune in to @NXNE for everything music, comedy, and poutine.
AMSTERDAM BREWHOUSE (245 QUEENS QUAY W.)
The folks at Amsterdam Brewery know what they’re doing when it comes to uplifting craft beer and the BrewHouse is Exhibit A, B, and C. The Harbourfront spot rocks a massive patio next to a Notebook-esque lake view and indulges in a love for artisan fare, serving up everything from fresh Brisket Cheese Burgers to Butternut Squash Ravioli with collard greens. But you can’t ignore their beer menu – Raspberry Wheat and Oranje Weisse are fruity must-haves.
BELLWOODS BREWERY (124 OSSINGTON AVE)
The brewpub just recently turned two but they take pride in the brewery side of their establishment and stepping outside of the box to create aged IPA blends, porter hybrids, and cognac barreled stouts. There’s also pub fare for friends of all tastes (Chickpea Salad, Meat Boards) and their Doublenaut-designed bottles are ingenious relics.
THE BURGER’s PRIEST (463 QUEEN ST. W)
Many have dared to challenge The Burger’s Priest but only a few have matched their quality. The Queen West-er is steps away from The Horseshoe Tavern and Tattoo Rock Parlour which makes it a go-to if you need a “burg” before a night of shirtless alt/punk or A$AP Ferg. Just try to see if you can take on “The Priest”. We double dare you.
DARK HORSE ESPRESSO BAR (215 SPADINA AVE)
Dark Horse has four locations in the city – including 684 Queen West, 682 Queen East, and the new 125 John St. shop in the Entertainment District – but their Spadina locale has become an essential hub for the indie blogosphere. They keep things simple with a variety of baked goods (scones, muffins, brownies) and a rich selection of coffee, and the architecture of the space does wonders in terms of trading the whirr of downtown for a bit of comfort.
THE DRAKE HOTEL (1150 QUEEN ST. W)
Since 2004, The Drake has lived up to the aspirations of being “a hotbed for culture”. No matter the season, they’ve hosted everything from art exhibits to industry lunches to private dinner parties and nothing beats their pairing of the Underground with the Sky Yard. The former is set to host the likes of Joywave and Sylvan Esso during NXNE while the rooftop patio will keep you fully entertained with their eclectic booze menu. FYI: their Paloma kicks hard.
FUSARO’s (294 RICHMOND ST. E)
Fusaro’s Italian Kitchen is known for ruling Spadina but they do have a second location nestled right on Richmond E so make plans to stop by if you’re headed to The Opera House or Sennheiser’s takeover of Massey Hall. The quaint stop for Italian hospitality dabbles in mixed greens and gourmet pizzas but their paninis are pressed to perfection. Best bets include the Chicken Parm and the Sei which packs in arugula, prosciutto, tomatoes, and basil pesto.
THE GOOD PRESS (87 YORKVILLE AVE)
If all you really want in life is a juice bar, then The Good Press is bound to be your best friend. They’re the new kid on the block but at Bay & Bloor, they’re a quick stop for pure juices, smoothies, and acai bowls. Some of their top cold-pressed bevs include the Ruby Tuesday (beet, carrot, apple, ginger, lemon), Pear Me The Details (pear, pineapple, ginger, spinach), and the Cashew Crave, which is made with activated cashews, dates, and B-grade maple syrup.
HOME OF THE BRAVE (589 KING ST. W)
This classic American fusion/hybrid of a bar isn’t any ordinary bar. It’s a bar for men and women that can handle their Sam Adams with a Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich and tater tots that instigate swear words. Their drink menu can also destroy you in a flexing competition as staples such as Sure Thing, Dave and Bourbon And Beer arm wrestle with a rotating selection of Guest Book cocktails that pack a mean punch and will make you fear the moustache.
MONTAUK (765 DUNDAS ST. W)
Feel like cooling off with something authentic? Go to Montauk. The Dundas West bar has become a frequent spot for cocktail geeks and though it’s small in size, it’s a cozy establishment that won’t bombard you with ordinary yet overpriced drinks. Need proof? They’re known for concoctions such as the Tame Impala and It’s Not Her Fault.
ODD SEOUL (90 OSSINGTON AVE)
The late-night eatery on Ossington is co-owned by Leeto and Leemo Han and it pays tribute to the bros’ upbringing in Philadelphia, PA. There’s a lot to drool over as along with stews and platters, Odd Seoul pushes Tempura Chicken, Bulgogi Cheesesteaks, and The Loosey – a short rib and ground brisket breakfast slider that will haunt your dreams.
POUTINI’s (1112 QUEEN ST. W)
Poutine is just poutine but not at Poutini’s. Fred and Nick Laliberte’s House Of Poutine do things in-house to make sure every dripping, hot piece of gravy-smothered goodness is fresh to the touch. Their potatoes are hand cut and fried twice and it adds another dimension to their traditional, vegan, and pulled pork varieties. Take our word for it and go for a black cherry soda and The Works which rocks out with cheese curds, sour cream, bacon, and chives.
SNEAKY DEE’s (431 COLLEGE ST.)
Sneaks really doesn’t need an intro and it’s not because they’re hip and they serve nachos that are literally mouth orgasms (sorry Mom). The Mexicana-influenced bar/resto/venue has become a retreat for camaraderie and making memories that define friendships. It does also help that Dee’s promotes all day brunch and fajita nights, and you can ask anyone in the 416 – it’s pretty difficult to pass up a Kings Crown and a pitcher during North By Northeast.