As a pedestrian only neighbourhood in Toronto, the Distillery District was made for patio season.
It’s one of the hottest spots in the city to dine al fresco when the sun is out and the weather is warm. Bistro tables and large umbrellas take over the cobblestone streets and you’ll feel like you’ve travelled the world (remember those days?) with the industrial Victorian architecture and the assortment of cuisines on offer. You could easily spend a day patio hopping through the Distillery District, so bring your appetite and dive into any of the top patios below.
The largest tequila and mezcal selection in Canada—need I say more? This Distillery District favourite serves up authentic traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. El Catrin's sprawling, year-round patio is decorated with large chandeliers, privacy screens, and a massive central fire pit. While this means they can serve a large number of guests at one time, they still manage to maintain a cozy and intimate dining experience. Their tapas-style menu is perfect for sharing, giving you the chance to order a little bit of everything, something I particularly appreciate since I always have a hard time choosing! Start off with a pitcher of their house made margarita or sangria to share with the table, then dive into some of their popular dishes including the guacamole, ceviche de atún, the pollo adobo or baja tacos, and always the crowd pleaser carne asada. 18 Tank House Lane
Madrina Bar Y Tapas
Bringing a little taste of Spain to Toronto is Madrina Bar Y Tapas. Serving classic and contemporary tapas, Madrina Bar Y Tapas has been a hit ever since opening in the Distillery District in 2018. Their interior space is gorgeously decorated, but for now diners will have to enjoy their patio space. They’ve done an excellent job at making it feel sophisticated and cozy, especially given their close proximity to the main thoroughfare of the Distillery District. The food is the real showstopper here and will have you talking about it weeks later. Incredible care and attention to detail is put into every dish, presented like works of art when delivered to your table. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but a few of my personal favourites include the truffled egg yolk, steak tartare on a roasted marrow bone and the grilled octopus. 2 Trinity Street
Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie
Regularly voted the best French restaurant in Toronto, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie is the place to be when you’re craving some Parisian fare (especially these days when we’ve been missing travel more than ever!). While the interior space is gorgeous, and looks straight out of an interior design magazine (save this for your post-pandemic plans), dining on their patio adds to the European experience just as well. Large green vines wrap up overhead creating a secluded, garden-like space. With thousands of twinkly lights, interwoven with the vines, the atmosphere turns quite romantic in the evenings too, perfect for date night. Tables are nicely spaced out and heaters are at the ready during the cooler seasons. The menu is inspired by France’s modern food movement and includes shareable dishes and large plates. Some of my favourites include the black angus beef tartare, French onion soup, the Madam Duck and their Steak Frites with either the 8oz flat iron steak or 7oz tenderloin. 35 Tank House Lane
Mill Street Beer Hall
Laid back, casual and excellent beer offerings—that’s what you’ll find at the Mill Street Beer Hall. Opened in 2013 to compliment the growing popularity of the Mill Street Brew Pub next door, the Beer Hall takes inspiration from the beer gardens you’ll find in Germany—a place to gather with friends, recount the good ‘ole days (remember those pre-pandemic?), while enjoying pints of beer. The patio itself is large in scale and has even expanded into the adjoining courtyard these days. You’ll find a combination of high-top tables and standard patio furniture all dotted with their signature red and black Mill St. Brewery umbrellas. The beer is the main draw here, exclusively serving Mill St. Brewery options including many seasonal and specialty brews you’ll only find on tap here. 21 Tank House Lane
Pure Spirits Oyster House
You had me at oysters. For some of the best seafood in the city, head to Pure Spirits Oyster House. Their spacious patio runs the length of the building, with lots of seating and shade from the sun. I always get some serious Mediterranean vibes when dining on their patio. Maybe it’s the classic white umbrellas and bursting flower baskets. Maybe it’s the oysters with a chilled glass of white wine. Either way, Pure Spirits Oyster House makes for a great afternoon pick-me-up or late-evening date. They source their oysters and fish from all over North America, receiving fresh deliveries daily. I like to start off with half-a-dozen fresh shucked oysters followed by either the yellowfin tuna poke bowl or the lobster pappardelle. And with ‘spirits’ in the name, you can’t miss trying one of their cocktails like the Betty White or one of my summertime favs, a Moscow mule. 17 Tank House Lane
Just looking for drinks?
Looking for a java fix? Maybe an afternoon libation or night cap? There are patios for those too in the Distillery District! For your caffeine pick-me-up, head to Balzac’s Coffee Roasters. Inspired by the Grand Cafés of Paris, they roast all their own beans and are Canada’s first coffee company to become certified with LEAF, recognizing their sustainability and environmental practices. Grab a latte or cappuccino to-go, and enjoy it on their cute Parisian-themed patio. For afternoon cocktails, grab a seat on the patio at Spirit of York Distillery. Distilling gin, vodka and whiskey on-site, they offer an assortment of cocktails from your classics to even hot cocktails made with their spirits. And for those looking for something truly unique, head to Izumi Brewery, home to the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company. Using spring water from Muskoka, Ontario, they brew a number of sake varieties on-site which you can enjoy as a flight on their patio.
Reservations go quickly for most of the patios in the Distillery District, so if you find yourself in the area and there isn’t a table available, try the contactless patios the Distillery District has set up along Trinity Street. How it works: Take a seat at one of the patio tables with a “Distillery District Patio” sticker on it. Use your smartphone to scan the QR code and order from the five participating restaurants—Madrina Bar Y Tapas, Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, Pure Spirits Oyster House, El Catrin, and District Pizza. Food will be delivered to your table, and the best part is that you can order from all the restaurants at the same time. A great problem solver if your group can’t decide on a particular restaurant!