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Night Moves

Toronto is a city that knows how to have a good time. Come summer, nightlife in the downtown core nears a fever pitch, and the city’s diversity shines through in an eclectic array of night spots. Whether you’re an intrepid clubber or prefer a laidback night on the town, dining and dancing are never more than two steps away.

Trendy supper clubs are one-stop shopping in the nightlife department. Inside the Rosewater Supper Club (19 Toronto St., 416-214-5888), a stately congregation of seasoned lawyers and established financiers linger on leather banquettes and smart armchairs, sipping martinis and single-malt scotch, before moving on to a languid dinner just steps away. The crowd at In the Mood Supper Club & Jazz Lounge (471 Richmond St. W., 647-436-8975) takes it up a notch from Tuesday to Saturday with nightly live sets of smooth jazz, neo-soul and R&B. Dimly lit, with crushed velvet curtains and high-backed chairs, In the Mood is a supper club in the truest sense of the word. At the über-chic Ultra Supper Club (314 Queen St. W., 416-263-0330), satisified diners transition from the au courant dining room to the white-on-white rooftop patio for after-dinner libations. Tasty martinis and a stunning city view are complemented by plush surroundings and friendly service.
he Queen Street West area is a mecca for dine-and-recline hybrids, and they range from simply groovy to downright polished. After dessert at Czehoski (678 Queen St. W., 416-366-6787), head upstairs for mojitos and other fancy-pants cocktails—some served in pint glasses—to be wowed by the detailed design touches of this former Polish deli. Further west, all things (and people) cool converge at The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W., 416-531-5042). A virtual amusement park for culture junkies, The Drake also houses a lounge, rooftop patio, dining room, raw bar and perpetually booming live music/performance venue.

On the flip side of the Don River, the Queen East strip is slowly catching up to its infamous older sibling. Barrio (896 Queen St. E., 416-572-0600) and Over Joy (884 Queen St. E., 416-465-8855) are swank but unpretentious establishments and provide fertile ground for long evenings steeped in wine, tapas and conversation. If market-savvy Asian street food sounds more appealing, check out Kubo Radio (894 Queen St. E., 416-406-5826) for dumplings and sake-tinis. Tucked between the extremes of west and east within the Cabbagetown neighbourhood sits The Laurentian Room (51A Winchester St., 416-925-8680). Located in the former Winchester Hotel, the swish resto/lounge, which is frequented by many of the area’s literary lions, boasts original 1930s decor touches.

High-end Little Italy comes to a head at Li’ly Resto-Lounge (656 College St., 416-532-0419) and Teatro (505 College St., 416-972-1475), where sophisticated weekend crowds get together for dinner and drinks. On weeknights, Li’ly is more restaurant than lounge, serving up gourmet poutine and purple potato gnocchi to local hipsters. (Word of warning: Show up early to get a table at super-busy Teatro.) The “inner child” of popular Indian-fusion eatery Xacutti (sha-koo-tee), Bird (503 College St., 416-323-3957) rests above the restaurant proper and wows scenesters in its own right with soaring ceilings and a sensual vibe. Bar Italia (582 College St., 416-535-3621) is the ultimate neighbourhood boîte, serving up plenty of chilled-out atmosphere. Cosy Kalendar (546 College St., 416-923-4138) provides a suitably dark environ for a romantic evening à deux. On the weekend, the European-inspired resto is hopping, so be prepared to wait for a seat. Coco Lezzone (602 College St., 416-535-1489) is another buzzing hot spot. Evening revelers make time to enjoy the yummy cocktail list and some stick around for a late French/Italian dinner. A College Street landmark since 1968, the Café Diplomatico (594 College St., 416-534-4637) may not be the most chi-chi of places, but what it lacks in style it makes up for in character. The heart of Little Italy, the Dip, as it’s affectionately known, boasts the perfect people-watching sidewalk patio.

At Flow (133 Yorkville Ave., 416-925-2143), the living is easy, and swell locals let their wine breathe on one of the primo sidewalk tables, which ensure a good view of the always colourful parade of people that pass by. The preferred meeting grounds of the city’s well heeled, Avenue (21 Avenue Rd., 416-964-0411) is the place to find a leather-clad hockey player, visiting celeb or burnished PR rep decked out in their finest. Bright, airy and exclusive, Amber (119 Yorkville Ave., 416-926-9037) is the quintessential Yorkville spot (read: hard to get into). Be sure to look sharp when facing the clipboard-carrying doorman. Empire‘s (50 Cumberland St., 416-840-8440) minimalist interior includes white ostrich leather seats and the always necessary street-facing patio. The lower level provides a clubby atmosphere in which to sip and sway.DOWNTOWN
The Courthouse Chamber Lounge (57 Adelaide St., 416-214-9379) is a veteran standby of the city’s suit-and-tie-clad crowd for après-work drinks, as is nearby Jump (18 Wellingston St. W., 416-363-3400). Just down the street from Front Street theatres, the Hummingbird Centre and St. Lawrence Centre, The Sultan’s Tent (49 Front St. E., 416-961-0601) features belly dancing nightly, with three shows on Friday and Saturday evenings, plus a Moroccan menu; adjoining bar Café Moroc serves café fare like Moroc frites in a traditional copper pot. Guy and Michael Rubino’s chic Asian-fusion eatery Rain (19 Mercer St., 416-599-7246) is a swank addition to the city’s social scene. Impeccably presented entrées are matched by a creative drinks list, and the suited and booted clientele displays equally impressive polish. At Lux (720 King St. W., 416-203-2883), the spirit of the tricked-out ’70s bachelor pad (think black leather chairs and den-like central seating area) is conjured. Rest assured, Lux’s select wine and cocktail list, plus a menu that includes must-share finger foods like edamame and sweet potato fries with vanilla aioli, suit modern tastes.

See the cityscape from the 18th floor at the Roof Lounge (4 Avenue Rd., Park Hyatt, 416-925-1234). Don’t forget to dress the part because, at times, the Roof can feel a lot like a photo shoot for a fashion magazine. The only place with a comparable view is Panorama Lounge (55 Bloor St. W., 416-967-0000). The city’s highest outdoor patio sits 51 storeys above Bloor Street, high atop the Manulife Centre. Skylounge (220 Bloor St. W., 416-960-5200) is a newcomer on the hotel lounge scene and its deluxe surroundings make it an inviting cocktail hour locale. Hotel bar traditionalists find welcome relief (polished wood and wing chairs) and spot-on martinis at the King Edward’s classy Consort Bar (37 King St. E., 416-863-3131).

For beer aficionados who are more fussy about the provenance of their suds than the surroundings, the Esplanade Bier Market (58 The Esplanade, 416-862-7575) is sure to please, with more than 100 different beers from around the world. Just up the street, C’est What (67 Front St. E., 416-867-9499) is a another busy local hangout rich with brew offerings. The Irish Embassy Pub & Grill (49 Yonge St., 416-866-8282) is an unfussy and comfortable place for a pint and tasty shepherd’s pie, or take in the “cinq-à-sept” happy hour at Entertainment District haunt The Brasserie (133 John St., 416-595-8201) for half-price appetizers and their signature absinthe cocktail, Van Gogh’s Ear. Good old-fashioned pub grub and imported drafts in amiable surroundings can also be found at P. J. O’Brien’s (39 Colborne St., 416-815-7562) and the Duke of York (39 Prince Arthur Ave., 416-964-2441).

In the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (9 Church St., 416-362-1957) is the quintessential upscale tapas bar, and Kennedy’s incredible wine pairings combine with a sophisticated yet laidback dining room that attracts local foodies in droves. Pravda Vodka Bar (36 Wellington St. E., 416-214-0693) is the only place in Toronto that offers 70+ types of vodka, and DJs spin nightly, flanked by chic Soviet-era memorabilia. On a gadabout in Yorkville, spend a mellow evening on the patio at Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar (158 Cumberland St., 416-962-5158), set back from the busy downtown bustle, where the tasty tapas marry well with a carefully chosen wine list. Oenophiles are drawn to Crush‘s (455 King St. W., 416-977-1234) expansive wine selection, elegant surroundings and pleasing French bistro fare. Located in the heart of the financial district, Reds (100 King St. W., 416-862-7337) is another must wine-and-dine destination. Downstairs, find the bar/café; upstairs, enjoy menu offerings inspired by wine regions around the world.CASUAL AND SPORTS BARS
Perpetually brimming with casually attired A-listers of all ages, Hemingways (142 Cumberland St., 416-968-2828) pride is their double-decker patio in the heart of Yorkville. A smart dinner inevitably turns into a night of tippling at the Paddock (178 Bathurst St., 416-504-9997), a favourite watering hole among the city’s film crowd. Loud, bright and full of distraction, Hard Rock Café (279 Yonge St., 416-362-3636; Rogers Centre, 416-341-2388) serves up rock-themed drinks—purple haze, anyone?—and American-style diner fare, from chili and burgers to wings and onion rings amid such one-of-a-kind rock ‘n’ roll artifacts as Alex Lifeson’s (Rush) guitar. Reliable good-time chain Crocodile Rock (240 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-9751) satisfies down-home cravings for deep-fried delights, and covers all of the pub food bases with pizza, spring rolls and wings.

For those in the mood for a night fuelled by heady beats and high-profile clubbing, Lobby (192 Bloor St., 416-929-7169) is the place to be. The club boasts an impressive list of past celebrity guests, so to get beyond the velvet ropes, put on your best duds and sharpest attitude. Feel the Brazilian heat at Ba Ba Lu’U (136 Yorkville Ave., 416-515-0587). This subterranean abode casts a sexy Latin aura on an international fiesta of beautiful people shaking their stuff on the dance floor where it’s all salsa all the time. Free hour-long dance lessons are offered from Tuesday to Sunday (except Saturday). Nearby Club V (88 Yorkville Ave., 416-975-4397) is the latest Yorkville hot spot to woo patrons with glamorous surroundings, bottle-service booths overlooking the dance floor and VIP treatment. The Crystal Room (567 Queen St., 416-504-1626) is a “boutique club” compared to the monsters in the Entertainment District, but there is plenty of room to cozy up with a date on one of the VIP beds. C Lounge (456 Wellington St., 416-260-9393) is poolside. Literally. Outdoors, breezy cabana-style enclaves frame a clear-blue wading pool where beautiful people mingle, pressed into serenity amidst the spa-inspired atmosphere. Inside, men and women enjoy complimentary salon touch-ups. The Century Room (580 King St. W., 416-203-2226) manages to maintain intimacy despite its size. Call ahead to reserve a VIP booth so there will be a place to call home while the action swells around you. After a recent facelift, The Fifth (225 Richmond St. W., 416-979-3000) keeps pace with the city’s demanding clientele, incorporating an upscale dance club, lounge and scrappy dance-on-the-countertops bar in one large space to please a diverse crowd, from professionals cutting loose post-work and twentysomethings looking for a (long) night out. This is London‘s (364 Richmond St. W., 416-351-1100) high-end amenities, like spa service in the ladies’ loo, complimentary coat check and bottle service, are enjoyed by stylish patrons. Shmooze (page 54) acknowledges the necessity of socializing while getting your groove on with a tidy dance floor and plush, lounge-worthy sofas.GUIDED TOUR
These neighbourhoods each offer a distinct after-hours vibe. Here’s where to go and what you’ll find when you get there.

YORKVILLE: As beguiling as it is bewitching, the area is known for its posh lounges and oft-sighted visiting celebrities.

LITTLE ITALY: Favourite stomping ground of students and well-heeled young professionals.

ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT: The clubs are hopping here, where dancing reigns supreme.

QUEEN STREET WEST: Still the destination of choice for trendy urbanites.

ST. LAWRENCE MARKET NEIGHBOURHOOD: Part of the old city; a popular nighttime haunt for dining and more.

KING WEST DISTRICT: Proximity to the financial district makes it a convenient location for the city’s money managers.
—Susan Traxel

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