I am sure there are a ton of hidden bars in Toronto, but I’d like to share with you the top three of the hidden bars in Toronto that I find intriguing. Let’s start from the bottoms up.
3. Big Trouble Bar
Third on the chart to me would be the Big Trouble Bar. This little bar is located in China Town on 460 Dundas St W, between a wholesale/ retail type, Chinese dollar store, and a grocery store. When you find yourself surrounded by such environment, just look up, it’s on the second floor, I am sure you can spot the red curtains.
As you walk through a dark stairwell to the second floor, you will be greeted with gorgeous Asian lanterns of different size and shapes, hung down from the industrial ceiling. The entire space is decorated with Asian elements, from the herbal chest-drawers bar, arched seated booths and wooden bars stools.
I went there for their Thirsty Thursday, $5 on selected cocktails. Since it was their opening week, I was only able to order their fried wings and I absolutely loved it. It was simple, but super crispy and flavourful. When I go back next time, I’d love to try their Bang Bang Shrimp and Pidan Tofu, I heard from my friends that it is awesome.
2. Mahjong Bar
The Mahjong Bar is located on 1276 Dundas St West behind a convenient store front. As far as I understand, this store front also belongs to the Majong Bar. Here you can buy a few Asian snacks, including chips and Rabbit candies. You have to go through this area to get to the back, where you can order drinks at the bar, or eat at the tables by the beautiful mural.
When I went with my friend Yayoi, we were told by the bartender that the owners do not like people taking pictures with bright lights, so we had to respect that. You’ll find my pictures for this bar very dim, but nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the mood that was captured here.
That night we enjoyed a drink called Hard Feelings. It has Soju, Beefeater Gin, Cynar, Sichuan, Chili Cordial and Orange. I loved this drink as I am really a sucker for spicy cocktails these days.
For food, we ordered the eggplant, which came with crispy pork, preserved veggies on a very soft mantou bun (Chinese steamed bun). We also ordered cold sesame noodles as that was a crazy hot day in the Six. We really enjoyed the noodles, it was a simple dish with veggies, pickled daikon and sprinkled peanuts. So yummy, it hit the spot.
1. Cold Tea
I’d have to say that the most hidden bar I’ve ever been to is Cold Tea. You literally have to navigate yourself through the Kensington Mall, passed the knick-knack vendors, through a heavy black door positioned just before the overhead, fire-drill type of red light. It’s quite an experience just finding this place.
Back in the days when I was in University, my friends and I would hit up Chinese restaurants after clubbing to fill our hungry bellies. We would order beer with our food, and the beer would come in a tea pot because the restaurant was not licensed to serve alcohol. Hence everyone would order “cold tea” from these places lol. Perhaps, this is how the owners got the name Cold Tea from.
Cold Tea has a sleek interior, with an art installation display, a tiny bar and a couple of tables only with high bar stools. It serves up cocktails and Asian South American fusion shared plates.
I really enjoyed the Rainhard here, it was a Sweet Back’s milk stout. It’s made of coffee, chocolate and creamy roasted malts, it smelled like dessert too! So good. The next on my list here was the Tamago Diablo, it’s really an irresistible devilled egg. With chicken chicharron and black tobiko on top, these devilled eggs were packed with contrasting textures and burst of flavours that delight your palate. Next up is the Leche de Tigre Ceviche. Avocado, surf clam, tuna, tiger shrimp and black tobiko pearls… you can sweep everything up into your mouth with the taro chips. Good God, this Ceviche almost tasted better than the ones I’ve had in Peru!
So there, I’ve listed my top three favourite hidden bars in Toronto, feel free to share yours with me in the comments below. Cheers!
Big Trouble Bar
460 Dundas St W. 2nd Floor,
1276 Dundas St W.
Cold Tea Bar
60 Kensington Ave