Whether intimate or sprawling, these eight outdoor dining spots are selling escapism alongside coffee and cocktails.
By Kelsey Adams, NOW Toronto
The breezy rooftop oasis at Stock T.C. is one of many new patios that have opened up across the city
Toronto is rife with sidewalk patios.
Thanks to the lifting of some lockdown restrictions in step one of the province’s reopening plan and the resurgence of CafeTO last weekend, the city felt revived.
Patios from Leslieville to Parkdale were packed, and streets lined with people dining and drinking bustled with energy. With case levels low and vaccination rates on the rise, it also felt a lot more comfortable to be out and about.
Toronto’s always been a city that will wait in line for a good patio session but that sentiment has been tested by rolling lockdowns and the looming threat of the pandemic. Now that restrictions are lessening and socializing outdoors is permitted (to an extent), it feels like summer has truly arrived.
I still believe park picnics will be all the rage, but the return to a full dining experience – with table-side service and a server to banter with – is definitely welcome.
There are some new spots that stand out above the rest, whether because of buzz, novelty or really cool design elements. Some were unveiled for the first time this week, others got an artistic overhaul after putting together makeshift patios during last year’s scramble, and some had time to spruce things up.
Here’s a list of the best new Toronto patios, ready just in time for a sensational season.
This charming spot near St. Lawrence Market has been a mainstay for local craft beer lovers for 32 years. It’s in the cellar of a historic building and never had a patio before last August. COVID made that situation no longer a plausible reality and C’est What kept the patio open well into the chilly nights of October. Throughout the winter the taproom was primarily operating as a bottle shop, but it’s now entering the summer patio season with an entire beer garden tucked on the side of the building. The patio has canopies to protect from rain and offers secure bicycle parking so you can pay full attention to your beer order. The offerings include local breweries Left Field, Collective Arts, Blood Brothers and Muddy York, as well as their own new release, Al’s Cask Ale. Food-wise the menu is heavy on comfort, with tostidos, poutine, burgers, fish and chips, and pulled pork mac and cheese.
67 Front East, cestwhat.com
Hector Vasquez / Courtesy Four Seasons Hotel
Travel is a challenge these days, but the Four Seasons and d|bar are channeling the French Riviera. An enormous mural by local artist Jason Zante evokes the deep blue waters of the Côte d’Azur, as well as the region’s architecture. If you’re looking for a mini-vacation without having to go too far north or south of Bloor, d|azur’s seaside-inspired menu should do the trick: fresh oysters, caviar, ceviche, tuna carpaccio, octopus and more fruits of the sea are all on deck. The focus is on Mediterranean flavours and seasonal veggies. The dessert menu’s pièce de resistance is a tarte Tropézienne, a pastry originally created in St. Tropez, made of cream-filled brioche.
60 Yorkville, fourseasons.com
Daniel Neuhaus / Toronto Life
Grape Witches, the multi-faceted wine project from Krysta Oben and Nicole Campbell has taken on many forms. At the top of 2020, the pair signed a lease to open Grape Glass, meant to be a permanent space where they could host wine tastings and their signature variety of educational events. During the pandemic, they pivoted into a bottle shop and served natural wine on the makeshift patio behind the shop. Now they’re ready to relaunch as a proper patio with a fountain in the centre. With a focus on making natural wine more accessible, expect a relaxed vibe and impressive wine list – all 150 bottles available in-store are orderable on the patio. The floral mural by local artist Laura Dawe, the fountain centrepiece and mix-and-match seating gives the experience a very whimsical feel.
1247 Dundas West, grapewitches.com
Happy Coffee and Wine
A backyard but better is what a visit to the South Parkdale cafe and bar’s revamped patio feels like. With a no-fuss, two-level deck and flowers everywhere it feels immediately comfortable and familiar. The shop opened during the pandemic last year and quickly became a neighbourhood mainstay. The name says it all, so this is the type of patio where you could spend an entire day, starting with a catch-up over espressos that turns into happy hour. The food menu is small but mighty, with their iconic shrimp burgers selling out every single day they’ve been open so far. They’ve got a long list of mostly natural wines from all over the world available in their shop that you can now enjoy on the patio.
1304 King West, happycoffeeandwine.com
Il Patio di Eataly
Eataly has turned the space outside of the Manulife Centre into an escape to an Italian piazza. It’s one thing to pick up a ready-made spaghetti carbonara and bring it home, but it’s another thing to be able to relax and have it brought out to you piping hot with a cold glass of white wine. Modelled after the way piazzas incorporate food and drinks from multiple establishments, the restaurant is partnering with Toronto-based retailers, bartenders and gelato-makers to elevate the experience. Every three weeks, they’re welcoming a new bartender from one of Toronto’s top bars and restaurants to serve up specialty cocktails, starting with Nick Kennedy from Civil Liberties.
55 Bloor West, eataly.ca
The Dutch-Indonesian restaurant has been a midtown staple for a while and expanded with a King and Portland location in the thick of pandemic winter. The patio is finally seeing some action. With more space to work with than the Yonge location, there is naturally more seating (i.e. an easier chance at snagging a table), which was difficult to do at Little Sister even pre-COVID. Following the recent trend of escapist patios, the Portland spot is going for an intimate Ubud vibe, with communal booths covered in palm leaf-patterned fabric and a burnt orange wood fence. Grab some shareable bites like nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice), satay ayam (chicken skewers with peanut sauce), udang kari (shrimp in coconut curry) or lumpia (Jakarta-style spiced beef spring rolls) and nosh with a tropical cocktail.
102 Portland, littlesisterto.com
Rendezviews x Collective Arts
The massive outdoor patio at Richmond and John has re-emerged as a Technicolor dream world. Partnering with Hamilton-based brewery Collective Arts, the joint outdoor dining project from the Fifth and the Ballroom that was unveiled last summer has levelled up. Artist duo Clandestinos Art took the 30,000-square-foot space (15,000 for the ground and 15,000 for the mural) and turned it into a “a visual story of triumph, optimism and community growth.” The patio is open but artists Bruno Smoky and Shalak Attack are busy working away finishing the mural in preparation for a June 24 celebration. Eighty picnic tables are painted in vibrant yellow, pink, green and turquoise, giving the space a fun and playful energy. The food is equally casual, with menu items like buffalo chicken poutine, smash burgers and hot chicken sandwiches. They’re serving a mix of cocktails, hard seltzers and beers as well as some new Collective Arts canned drinks like their Dry Gin & Soda with Grapefruit, Lemon & Thyme and Mango & Pineapple Hard Tea.
229 Richmond West, rendezviews.ca
The marriage between Terroni and Cumbrae’s resulted in Stock T.C., a hybrid grocer-cafe-bottle shop that opened last summer. It’s midtown’s answer to Eataly but with a distinctly Toronto feel. They’ve now launched Stock Bar, with a separate selection from Stock T.C.’s takeout offerings. There’s a wrap-around terrace on the ground floor, just outside the main entrance where you can catch a glimpse of the hustle and bustle while sipping an espresso or afternoon cocktail. Upstairs, the rooftop garden patio is a lush oasis with a cozy, beachy feel that will likely become the new midtown go-to spot. The menu is extensive, to say the least. It’s doing a lot but it’s cohesive, bringing the best of Terroni and Cumbrae’s together. There’s the classic Neapolitan pizza that put Terroni on the map, tried-and-true apps like the calamari fritti and about a dozen pasta options. Cumbrae’s influence is all over as well, from the seared steak tartare to the cheeseburger and fried chicken. The wine list is a refined selection from Italy and France and the cocktails are a mix of classics and unexpected pairings. Some are even named after warm weather destinations like Oaxaca, Positano and Palm Springs.
2388 Yonge, stocktc.com