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The Best College Street Bars Toronto

January 10, 2019

The neighbourhood known as Little Italy is one of Toronto’s most exciting areas. Sure, its rooted in the strong association with the motherland. Waves of Italian immigrants converged on the area bisected by College and Clinton streets in the 1920s.

But today, it’s a global community. Japanese ramen noodle joints stand next to old-style Italian cafes. There are vintage bookstores and hipster vinyl record shops. There’s a vegan butcher shop, right across the street from a decidedly non-vegan butcher shop.

Little Italy has always been known as a place to go for social dining — Italian-style, of course — but today it’s thriving as a new wave of outstanding bars and restaurants have transformed the neighbourhood.

Bar Raval - College Street Bars

Our tours of Little Italy visit a wide range of inventive, eclectic and just downright fun spots to stop for a bite and a drink. 

Here are some of the best College Street bars and restaurants in Little Italy Toronto.

It’s been voted one of the top (if not the top) bar in Canada by enRoute and Canada’s 100 Best. Bar Raval is one of many creations of restaurant and bar genius Grant van Gameren. On tour, we often frequent his other wonderful joints, Pretty Ugly, his bar in Parkdale, and Rosalinda, which brought vegan Mexican cuisine (who knew?) to downtown Toronto. Open early in the afternoon until late, Bar Raval shifts from a cafe offering lattes and pastries to a casual lounge serving tapas and creative cocktails.

Another great spot by the legendary Grant van Gameren. Quetzal offers a tasty menu inspired by the many cultures found in Mexico, both ancient and modern. The venue offers an open-flame cooker which runs the length of the restaurant. An extensive list of unique cocktails, wines and more complement the Mexican menu.

Bierra Volo - College Street Bars

Bierra Volo is an outstanding beer and natural wine bar. Featuring lovely Spanish-style pintxos bar snacks and a deejay most nights.

This College Street location is run by the Morana family who also ran Bar Volo on Yonge Street for decades. Yes, they were pioneers in beer! Bar Volo closed around the same time the Morana’s opened Bierra on College.

However with the new year comes an exciting new endeavour: The family will be reviving Bar Volo in a cool new downtown location, with on-premises brewing.

This will be one of the biggest launches of the year!

A fun and cozy bar with great cocktails and good bar eats. Enjoy cool music and live bands at this funky venue inspired by Sylvia Robinson, CEO and co-founder of Sugar Hill Records. There’s often live music, usually a wicked soul band. On our Drink Toronto tours, we often visit sister venue, The Good Son on Queen Street West. Connor Forrest runs the cocktail program at both spots and is a master when it comes to creating unique and intriguing libations. Ask, and he’ll tell you about them!

Pray Tell is a funky little snack/cocktail/wine bar located at College and Ossington. This space features a bright and pretty atmosphere that’s great for a casual catch-up with friends or a lunchtime business meeting. The menu is inspired by the owners’ travels, heritage and more and offers a variety of affordable and enjoyable snacks. The bar menu features beautiful cocktails, a small but impressive selection of beers and a great list of $11 by-the-glass wines.

This amazing brewpub serves up Belgian-inspired beers and an excellent local-focused food menu. The brewers at Folly Bar produce fun and complex beers that often feature local and seasonal ingredients. During the week, this brewpub serves light snacks, while offering the full food menu on Fridays and Saturdays. The food menu changes on a weekly basis and pairs nicely with the in-house brewed beers.

Dailo

Dailo offers two unique spaces, with the main restaurant downstairs and a great lounge-meets-bar called Lopan upstairs.

Lopan’s bar menu includes chef-owner Nick Liu’s amazing Big Mac bao. It really is a perfect Chinese version of a Big Mac taste experience!

You’ll find a great and well-thought-out list of cocktails and stellar wines curated by sommelier-owner Anton Potvin.

His choices of wines to match Liu’s global flavours are superb!

Dailo - College Street Bars

This legendary Louisiana-style southern restaurant offers a bit of a voodoo vibe and hosts lots of funky happenings. It’s the spot in Toronto to grab a tarot reading to go with your Old Fashioned. For decades, Southern Accent was located on Markham Street but moved to College Street a couple years ago. Featuring a Cajun and Creole-inspired menu, this joint serves up dishes such as Bourbon Street Chicken and Dauphine Street Cracker Catfish. The bar offers a great list of bourbon and rye as well as classic Southern cocktails.

Little Italy really does have something for everyone, and you can wander for hours along College Street stopping along the way at the shops and cafes, or just pick a spot on a park bench and watch the world go by.

With so many great College Street bars and restaurants, you’re never far from an invigorating cocktail, beer or glass of wine — so no need to panic. Whatever you may need, Little Italy can provide.

Book a tour with us and let us be your guides around Little Italy! We'll show you the best restaurants and College Street bars. Our tours are for thirsty adventurers who crave something original, unconventional ... and maybe even a bit exotic.