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Best Pubs in Downtown Toronto

March 21, 2019

Toronto’s cosmopolitan composition is reflected in a serious appreciation of “the pub.” We’re got pubs of all style: British, Irish, Italian or just plain “worldly.” We’ve got dives (because who doesn’t love a dive?) — and high-end places too. Each of the spots on our list of favourites is well loved for its unique atmosphere, outstanding drinks and convivial sociability.

Here are ten of the best pubs in downtown Toronto — this is the perfect list to get your pub tour started right:

Belfast King Street West

1. Belfast

King Street West

If the work week has left you feeling mightily banjaxed, a spot of tea (or something stronger) at Belfast will surely do the trick. Belfast Love honours its heritage with an astounding selection of drinks on tap, and it's evident their self-proclaimed reputation is accurate: Belfast is “Serious. About. Beer.”

The festive and friendly vibe at this Irish pub is a given. Sister pubs Walrus and Death & Taxes make for great nights out, too, with tasty menus all round. The thin crust pizzas are just what you need between your cocktails!

Belfast is busy, especially in March, with DJs from 9 pm on Thursday, leisurely brunch specials on Saturday and a scrumptious roast on Sunday.

2. Birreria Volo

College Street

A first-class beer and wine bar specializing in natural wines and rare ales. Volo is a must-visit destination in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood. Birreria Volo is all about brewing innovation, and they really know their beer. Laid-back DJ nights and fantastic Spanish pintxos bar snacks add to the animated hand gestures and charisma on tap.

Owners the Morana family are pioneers in beer, famous for their now-defunct decades-old Bar Volo on Yonge Street, which is set to be reborn in a new location soon. Birreria follows in this tradition, down to the Sicilian olives, and the carefully-sourced alcoholic drinks are a source of pride above all else.

Full of events like Zwanze Day (an international collaboration) and Barncat tap, Birreria Volo offers patrons more than just a place to unwind. It is pure class, with a European flair, and a yearning for the finer things in life.

3. PJ O’Briens

Colborne Street

A household name with pub-goers for its versatility, PJ O’Briens is an established Irish powerhouse in downtown Toronto. There’s space for intimate conversations, serious business, and a lighter milieu in the main bar and restaurant area.

Bands, football, quiet conversations, and business deals rolled into one—every day sees regulars and newbies enjoying mouth-watering curries, a hefty Ploughman’s lunch, or a plate of mini sausages which are wickedly delicious (ask for them with mustard on the side). Professionals come for business and stay as friends alongside happy-go-lucky regulars. Five minutes inside will give any visitor a view of true Irish hospitality. Stay a while.

4. Beerocracy

College Street

Rebranded and revamped from its Pour Boy past, Beerocracy promises a great new addition to the College-street pub mix in Little Italy. A twin to its successful predecessor, Beerocracy Ottawa, the new and improved craft beer pub is poised for great things: 15 craft beers on tap and a much larger offering of beer, cider, and craft brands, such as Ottawa’s Small Pony will be coming to College Street.

With 50 “real food” dishes and over 45 craft beer brands, Beerocracy aims for a “friendly local pub” kind of vibe, complete with side-splitting comedy and trivia nights.

5. Peacock Public House

College Street

A fresh outlook on an old-style public house, Peacock Public House serves classic British pub fare and well-kept beers. Sharing owners with The Oxley, which we visit on our tours of Yorkville, it’s a relaxed and popular College street joint.

There is an awesome event space upstairs to boot, appropriate even for intimate wedding receptions. Live music, sports screenings, and private parties fill the social calendar, and the Peacock thrives on the diverse clientele who call it their home base.

Beerocracy College Street

6. Bar Wellington

Wellington Street

Set on perfection, the “Welly” has its heart set on raising the bar. Their motto is to “resist the ordinary,” and it shows, not only in their draught selection but in their blissful cuisine focused on showcasing unique local ingredients. A renovated Victorian house, this classic pub exudes respect for time-honoured traditions, with a tip of the hat to contemporary flair.

It is also an excellent choice for intimate private gatherings in a warm and inviting environment.

7. Bar Buca

Portland Street

This Italian-inspired joint puts a friendly arm around its guests and welcomes them into an inner circle of fresh ingredients and easy conversation. More Italian bistro than a pub in the conventional sense, the open kitchen gives a great view of Chef Rob Gentile’s skills (when he’s there… he also has to run three other Bucas!).

Bar Buca is open all day, which is why our tours often drop in here. The atmosphere is casual but refined, serving inspiring cocktails, rounded beers, and classic wines late into the night.

The Caledonian College Street

8. The Caledonian

College Street

A festive Scottish pub with a whiskey selection to knock your woollen socks off, The Caledonian offers authentic Scottish cuisine (including haggis) and more than 350 single malts. Monthly tasting events are a huge hit with their Ardbeg obsession fuelling annual celebrations and the regular hosting of Ardbeg distillers and ambassadors at the pub.

9. The Local

Roncesvalles Avenue

Irish siblings thought it would be great to match culture, food, and music into one exciting pub location, and they were right. A solid menu of home-cooked goodness accompanies quality music and a classy drinking hole. The Local is a chilled place where good friends are made, and classic Celtic hospitality underpins all. 

10. The Done Right Inn

Queen Street West

One of Toronto’s most famous dive bars. All are welcome at The Done Right Inn especially if you like football and a classic pub experience. Quiet, friendly, and focused on what matters— connection and comfort are coated in good value for your money. The patio is a firm favourite with regulars and people-watching is a national sport here.

Now that we've shared our favourites, we'd love to hear yours. What's the best pub in downtown Toronto?

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