Torontonians love to sit outside on warm summer nights and will seek out restaurants with good patios at which to meet friends and properly enjoy the season. A good patio with good food and lots of atmosphere is the perfect ingredient for a successful occasion, including first dates. The Distillery Historic District has plenty of culture to share and leaves hints about upcoming events every now and then @DistilleryTO on Twitter. Just read the tweets to glean the excitement contained here in the summertime. The area has a multitude of good patios, and each is attached to a restaurant of some quality. Here’s a handy list with phone numbers and some Twitter handles.
Archeo Trattoria Patio
Just inside the front gate of the Distillery District is one of the best restaurants in Toronto. Archeo restaurant has been detailed on the Distillery District blog here before. The cobblestone patio at Archeo is a small sheltered courtyard accommodating a dozen tables. It lies south of the restaurant and behind the bakery to the west, and the Boiler House restaurant to the east. It’s completely out of the wind and that extends its season considerably; Archeo is usually the first patio open in the springtime, and the last place to close in the fall.
Here’s a fun YouTube video that shows the cozy courtyard during a torrential downpour last summer during the Tenants BBQ on August 15th 2011. We do have fun here.
Balzacs Coffee House Patio
Balzacs coffee in the Distillery District also has a cute little patio with eight Parisian style marble top tables surrounded by a recycled plastic, white picket fence. The sell freshly roasted coffees of all descriptions and bagged coffee beans, whole or ground to any specification. The baristas are very friendly and have great taste in music – they have a good time on Twitter @Balzacs There is a mini art gallery upstairs – every painting on the wall is for sale. There are lots of magazines for easy reading downstairs. The venue draws a great cross section people eager to enjoy the world class coffee experience.
This patio, along with Tappo on the other side, have excellent frontage on the large courtyard which is often filled with unique attractions and activities.
The Boiler House was built for big parties, weddings and television events. This place is a favourite rental for special occasions; you really should call ahead or check in on Twitter @the_BoilerHouse to reference the schedule before planning to meet a whole lot of friends here. And if you do manage to walk in and get seated outside on the patio, your night will probably become a special occasion. That’s because this is arguably one of the best patios in the entire city, this sprawling wood beams on cobblestone utopian garden setting has cushion filled seats in eight comfy booths. These 10x chambers can be curtained off with billowing white fabric blinds and made private. On most nights there are several small parties under white cotton canopies. The chambers are filled with comfortable black and white couches around low tables. These centerpieces have stainless steel troughs that perfectly accommodate ice and bottles. Boiler House is a quintessential desert style patio lounge, and on hot summer nights with soft Miami lights pumping up into the canopies, it’s truly magical in here.
Cafe Uno is one of the best kept secrets in the district; its located half way down Distillery Lane and off the beaten path. You don’t have to make reservations to eat here; in this author’s entire tenure, walking past this establishment six or eight times a day, I’ve never seen the patio at full capacity. And there’s really no explanation for it, except that its off the beaten path. John and Leesa are the colourful personalities behind the counter and they pour their heart and soul into the home cooked entrees and appetizing menu items. On hot summer days, John cooks hamburgers and hotdog sausages perfectly on his big green egg BBQ unit and he does a good job toasting the buns too. Another interesting side note, Café Uno’s unique location almost always has a breeze flowing through it (Distillery Lane is a bit of a wind tunnel actually) and of course that can be just what the doctor ordered on a hot day in downtown Toronto. Licensed by the LCBO, Café Uno stocks a wide selection of domestic and imported beer and wine to accompany deli style cuisine, most of which is on display under glass inside.
Mill St Brew Pub
The Mill St Brew Pub actually has two patios, and on hot summer days there’s usually a waiting list to get a spot on either of them! You must call ahead here, but that won’t help sun worshipers because they don’t take reservations for the patio. Follow the restaurant on Twitter @MillStreetBrew to get a heads-up when they are closed for events or planning something special for the public. This restaurant sells good food and good beer, some of which they brew themselves right on the premises. This is also a wireless hotspot and one of the few places in the Distillery District where you can catch a signal outside on the patio. The strongest wifi is on the north patio I believe, west side.
This hot spot in the Distillery is about to get a whole lot hotter; the 40 story Gooderham condominium bldg behind the restaurant is almost finished and occupants will be moving into the building this fall. When that happens, it will make finding a spot on the Mill St patio almost impossible!
Pure Spirits Seafood Restaurant Patio
This is the biggest and perhaps the best patio in the Distillery District, and its connected to one of the best seafood restaurants in Toronto. If you ever hear of a Hollywood movie star being spotted at the Distillery District, nine times out of ten the pictures will show them dining in Pure Spirits. It has that rep. And this patio has the most capacity – there are over three dozen tables outside under umbrellas. This restaurant is very active on Twitter and you can follow along @SpiritsPure, and follow the chef
Tappo Wine Bar Patio
A very chic restaurant with a fire lit patio, Tappo is located on the western face of building #5, which is the original 1860s limestone distillery bldg. It serves casual rustic Italian and Mediterranean fare. There is a fire pit in the center of the patio, and torches that illuminate the entire dining area. Exceptional service helps perfect the authentic European dining experience they present to guests every night. Follow on Twitter @TappoWineBar
In addition to the best wine list in the Distillery, the restaurant is also gaining attention for its culinary deserts; so it really is the perfect place to meet after a show or an event for a late evening snack and night cap. This patio, like the rest of the Distillery District is really awesome in the summer as there is often live entertainment in the courtyard until 11pm.