A visit to Kensington Market might conjure the image of a sunny day and a patio (during the summer, at least), but that laid back vibe also defines the neighbourhood’s nightlife. You can have a great night out here with little effort or funds, which is an ideal combination for anyone looking to skip the downtown club scene.
Here are my picks for places to hit during a night out in Kensington Market.
Cold Tea is a hidden bar that was recently revamped to include a glossy interior and South American-Japanese fusion menu. You’ll find it down a corridor of an easily-missed mall on Kensington Ave. The front door is unmarked, but the regular lineup and bouncer are giveaways.
Kensington Brewing Company is a new spot, opened in August 2017. The brewery offers craft beer ranging from wheat beer brewed with watermelon, to dark chocolate stout. Since I’m not a beer expert, I order their flights: a tasting palette of four half-pints for only 9 bucks.
The staff here actually want to talk to you, the drink deals are amazing, and you might even see a dog or two running around (don’t worry, they belong to the owner). Eden Hall is the club Apt. 200 should be — like your friend’s house party, but with better music.
Supermarket transitions from a resto-bar during the week to a club on the weekend. If you’ve got a guitar and the chords to Wonderwall, hit this place up on a Sunday night: it’s home to one of Toronto’s busiest open mics. Keep an eye on its calendar for a range of other events.
El Rey offers nine different Mezcal options, and a selection of cocktails that you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere, such as, the Scotch/Mezcal-based “Scottish Hula Dancer.” This is the kind of place you want to Instagram, if not for the drinks than the terracotta decor.
A night in Ronnie’s reminds me of one spent in a suburban basement: wood-panelled walls, mismatched decor, a crowd ranging in ages, and string lights to set the mood. Ronnie’s is warm, homey, and cheap, which is good if you’re looking to sit down and catch up with friends.
Trinity Common is one of the largest bars in the area, with warehouse-style ceilings, a 100-seat dining area, plus dance floor and DJ stage. The drink menu consists mostly of craft beer, but this is the place to be if your group exceeds 10 people, and those people feel like dancing.
If you’re comfortable sitting shoulder to shoulder with the other patrons of this genuinely grungy bar, do it. Punk rock memorabilia adorns the walls, and the menu boasts an ever-expanding selection of craft beer ranging from $ 5.00 to $ 8.50 a pint.
This is surely Kensington’s classiest club. The space is cozy, and the cocktail-based menu is full of homages to jazz greats like Miles Davis. Be ready to admire a live act, sip wine you’re not sure how to pronounce, and pay a minimum $ 10 cover. Poetry is a spot for refined tastes.
To Eat (After Drinking)
Few things satisfy late night hunger pangs better than an enormous burger, which is exactly what you’ll find at this spot on Nassau St. If burgers aren’t your thing, there’s also steak sandwiches. Everything is halal here, too.
Mare Pizzeria is usually bumping past 11 p.m. Its official hours are 10 a.m. until 12 a.m., but they tend to stay open as long as there’s business (sometimes until 6 a.m. on weekends night. With $ 3.50 slices on offer, Mare is the most logical end-of-night destination.
If Mare is closed, however, I head to Fresca at College and Spadina, just outside of Kensington. It’s open until 2 a.m. on the weekend. With its own $ 3.50 slices, Fresca is everything a drunk food stop needs to be: hot, fresh, and close by.
Open Thursdays until 3 a.m., Fridays and Saturdays until 6 a.m., and always bustling with students, Pho Xe Lua is a Vietnamese spot where Kensington meets Chinatown on Spadina Ave. One goi cuon plate (self-rolled Vietnamese spring rolls) can feed four people for $ 12, easily.
This all-day dim sum spot at Spadina and Baldwin is open until 2 a.m. If you’re able to stay seated in a restaurant after you’ve had a few, Rol San is worth a visit. Its dumpling dishes range from $ 2-$ 4 each. If drunk dumplings are not already a thing, they should be.
Open 24 hours all week, Pho Pasteur is another go-to Vietnamese spot for those have incurred an appetite at nearby bars. With generous portions and boisterous crowds after last call on weekends, it’s an ideal late night eat destination.