In spite of (or maybe because of) our miserably prolonged slushy winters, Toronto in the summer briefly becomes one of the greatest places on earth. There’s no better way to realize that than by sitting on a patio, drink in hand, chatting with friends and flirting with strangers. Our city is blessed with a wide variety of gay-friendly patios, with a hub on Church St that extends farther east and west all the time. Here are some of our favourites.
518 Church St | 416-323-2822 | ogradyschurch.ca
With the Village’s biggest patio, O’Grady’s holds a massive 160 people between its upstairs and back patios, serving up burgers, salads and pub foods. Manager Jayme Swanton recommends a shot of Grand Marnier in a Rickard’s White. O’Grady’s, she says, has been out to replace the former Zelda’s up the street as “the fun one” by encouraging employees to get a bit sillier. “We really push our staff to be creative, and this year, we let them create their own uniforms. Just as long as it had an ‘O’ on it!” Fridays are Bear Nights and, “Seamus is one of our big draws,” she laughs. “He’s a pitbull! But everyone here brings their own quirk and style.”
1192 Queen St W | 416-537-2768
In keeping with ironic hipster style, this backyard space of industrial metal tables and folding chairs for 30 is almost a satire of patios, but once the microbrewery beers and packed-house conversation start flowing, the neighbourhood’s fascinating mix of artists and provocateurs will thrill, as it always does.
The Blake House
449 Jarvis St | 416-975-1867 | theblakehouse.ca
Once a beautiful Victorian home, recent renovations have turned this Jarvis house into a sensual bar/restaurant. About 80 people can sit out under its 100-year-old chestnut and maple trees, enjoying rich roasted meat dishes and seasonal salads. The most popular drinks are Mill St organic beer or the Summer Splash cocktail, hopefully served up by dark-haired, soft-spoken Josh. Just watch out for the occasional falling chestnut — the owners assure they’ll take care of any dry-cleaning.
The Churchmouse and Firkin
475 Church St | 416-927-1735 | firkinpubs.com/pubs/churchmouse-and-firkin
The gay cousin in the Firkin’s ubiquitous family of Ontario pubs, the Churchmouse sits in the heart of the Village, allowing 45 people to watch the comings and goings over a cold pint in the sun. Molson Canadian and Rickard’s White are the favourites to mix with the pub’s classic fare, says assistant manager Cindy Brooks (especially when they’re served up by “that adorable” bartender Kevin) but sangria is also popular with the celebrities who pop in. “Our resident American Idol alum Adam Lambert makes the Churchmouse his Toronto drinking hole,” Brooks says. She jokes about the pub’s relaxed dress code during the Fetish Fair: “Let’s just say that our waffle-weave chairs, while very comfortable, left an interesting…impression!”
The Grand Hive
504 Jarvis St | 647-348-6520 | thegrandhive.com
Move over, Keg Mansion — the Grand Hive is a beautiful old house across the street that, frankly, has a better menu. The spacious outdoor patio holds just shy of 100 people, but regrettably, noise complaints put the kibosh on making it a party hive as well. With surroundings this attractive, however, guests will simply have to order the tequila-chicken pasta or the highly recommended ribs and a glass of wine — and make their own kind of music.
Crews & Tangos
508 Church St | 416-972-1662 | crewsandtangos.com
For all the bar’s top-twink, high-energy drama on weekends, it’s surprising what an oasis the backyard garden patio can be for its 70 guests, sipping pints of Keith’s under the umbrellas. Owner Paras Prashad says the outdoor space is about “relaxation, fun and fashion” and boasts that they have the best barbecue chicken wings on Church St (Fridays from 5 to 9pm and Sat and Sun from 1 to 9pm). While the sight of drag queens making out still haunts him, Prashad is loath to pick his sexiest staffer. “It’s hard to say,” he insists. “Too many!”
884 Queen St E | 416-465-8855
With a remarkable three sections (one cozy, one rooftop, one grand yet comfortable, with sofas and a fire pit) and room for nearly 150 people, Joy has the most handsome patio in Leslieville, if not the city. The bistro boasts a handsome menu stacked with pasta, sandwiches and comfort food with flair, like the lobster and brie quesadilla. But if it’s handsome men you’re after, the monthly Friday Daddy Next Door party, with DJ Dwayne Minard on deck, might just be what earns it the name Joy.
996 Queen St E | 416-901-5570 | whatareyoulookingatbar.com
Way out east, near Coxwell, this sleek bar’s patio, serving 25 people at best, is almost laughably small, but it’s bright and friendly. Co-owner Israel Sanchez describes it as “a hub of friendliness, as couples and new friends mingle over martinis and sangria, and often, couples gay and straight are making out.” There’s no real food here (just a paté or cheese plate), but a menu of martinis — ranging from the sassy Bootylicious to the soothing Inner Chakra — should prove as distracting as sexy Irish bartender Paul, who can be found serving up the crowd’s favourite beer, Kronenbourg.
580 Church St
A stylish counterpoint to the pub-crawl vibe of O’Grady’s, the Fuzion patio supports 120 people. Owner Jimmy Georgoulis is proud of how the space can easily morph from an intimate outdoor dining experience to an outdoor party space. “Our patio tends to boast some of the most fashionable people on Church St,” he says. And while diners enjoy the steak and seafood, the party people love FML Mondays and the monthly Pitbull Saturdays. Everyone agrees that Corona is Fuzion’s most popular beer, especially if served up by bartender Mikael, who, the owner says, “works so hard for his customers, he can often be seen sporting his Lululemon sweatband while shaking and stirring.”
506 Church St | 416-705-0006 | boutiquebar.ca
Like the Churchmouse, this patio has one of the best views of Church St, but this vibe is less old-world England, more Ab Fab UK. Cocktails are queen here for the 40 people who can fit on the patio, says Devon Day, who notes that it’s good for people who “like to see and be seen.” On weekends, he says, “we’re the ultimate pre- and post-club location for cocktails, but Tuesday is the airline industry crowd, where you might meet a hot flight attendant!” Thursdays are South Beach night, with Latin music, but nothing’s been wilder than Pride, Day says: “Things got a little frisky!” Let’s just say a paddle was involved. Rocking the patio, says Day, is Wil Zoller, “our superstar. Not only sexy, but what’s even hotter is he’s always got a smile — a genuinely nice person.”
Hair of the Dog
425 Church St | 416-964-2708 | hairofthedogpub.ca
Though tucked away slightly south of the Church/Wellesley action, Hair of the Dog has arguably one of the street’s best patios, a relaxed and cozy space for 70 (plus 30 more upstairs), with an unpretentious vibe, both sun and shade, and a charming fountain. “It’s a neighbourhood crowd,” says co-owner Kier MacRae. “If someone comes once, they keep coming back” for the hearty food specials, the popular Mill St organic beer and Martini Madness Mondays. But if drama’s your thing, MacRae admits that HotD is “a good place for celebrity spotting, and for some reason, we get some wild breakups here.” Maybe it’s the sight of the servers, who, MacRae says, are all “fun and sexy, but maybe Firmo has a slight edge.” Just like the pub itself.
538 Church St | 647-977-4236 | cafecalifornia.ca
After the demise of Zelda’s at Church and Wellesley, people waited to see what glory would replace it, and it’s…Acme Burger. This makes Cafe California’s curbside patio (and liquor licence) all the more welcome. Manager Billy Robb says, “It’s not a party place, but it’s definitely a great place to start or wind down. People come here for the service.” Enjoy one of the street’s best meals with a glass of sangria or pint of Stella in laid-back comfort. Watching people wander back to the Steamworks entrance behind the patio adds an illicit thrill for voyeurs and gossips.
Fire on the East Side
6 Gloucester St | 416-960-3473 fireontheeastside.ca
In addition to enjoying an inventive dinner menu of spicy southern fare in a laid-back atmosphere, the lucky 30 sitting outside can enjoy one of the restaurant’s great nightly drink specials: Sangria Sundays, Martini Mondays, Tequila Tuesdays and (my favourite) Mojito Wednesdays. Sexy head bartender Ben would be just as happy, however, to pour a draft of the ever-popular Rolling Rock. Don’t forget: on weekends, an evening on the patio can effortlessly segue into a hot night inside, at fly nightclub.