We are sharing the inside scoop on Toronto’s secret dining scene. In part one, take a look inside the city’s speakeasies. Each of these spots are more than meets the eye, so don’t be fooled. The entrances are concealed so only those in-the-know will find their way in. Read on to find out how to get past the barber shop, the convenience store, the wall of champagne and more to reveal the speakeasy behind it.
Figures brings a little whimsy to its upscale restaurant concept with a comic book theme and a hidden entrance. The restaurant lobby looks like a comic book store, but step through the curtain-covered door and you’re led back to a polished, 80-seat restaurant. Cartoon-themed artwork and menus with superhero references continue the theme in this sleek space. 137 Avenue Rd.
Mysterious champagne bar
The name may seem to sum up Coffee, Oysters, Champagne’s offerings, but you’re missing out if you write off this King West restaurant as a three-trick pony. After you’ve had your fill of bubbles and oysters in the cheerful pink front space, ask your server to take you back to À Toi. Accessed through a room lined with champagne bottles, À Toi features an expanded food menu and pays homage to Paris in the 1920s with its moody esthetic. 214 King St. W.
Cuts and cocktails
Barbershop Barber & Co provides the functional front to the Ossington bar Gift Shop. Through a door marked with a green light box, you’ll find the entrance to a beautiful cocktail bar. Cocktails range from creative to classics like gin martinis. The space is in one of the oldest buildings on Ossington and previously served as an artist’s studio, giving the bar an appealing industrial feel. 89B Ossington Ave.
The key to it all
A neon-illuminated corner store front conceals the hidden entrance to Mahjong Bar. The not-so-secret restaurant found beyond the convenience store takes inspiration from 1960s Hong Kong for its sophisticated esthetic that includes a bold jungle mural and black and white checkered flooring. A menu of snackable Chinese small plates and cocktails infused with Japanese-influenced ingredients continue the Far East theme. 1276 Dundas St. W.
Losing our religion
Vatican Gift Shop, a seductive east end speakeasy is hidden behind a small shop stocked with religious-themed accessories. Make your way through the corner door, however, and the space opens up into a roomy bar and music venue. The spiritual motifs continue in the bar, which features chain lamps and pews sourced from churches. On the menu, you’ll find a large selection of local brews and excellent hand-tossed pizzas. 1047 Gerrard St. E.
Part cool convenience store, part retro restaurant, Convenience offers a dose of nostalgia day and night. By day, it’s a throwback corner store, selling a curated selection of childhood treats like Popeye Candy Sticks. In the evening, you can head to the restaurant at the back for more ‘80s kitsch along with indulgent eats like peanut butter and bacon sliders that riff off of classic kid favourites. 1184 Queen St. W.