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A Taste of Toronto’s Best Dive Bars – The Venues of CMW

A Taste of Toronto’s Best Dive Bars – The Venues of CMW

Well it’s a bit late and my editor is ticked off, but I’ve crawled out of my post-CMW-mountain-cave and I’m bringing you a look at Toronto’s select CMW venues. In other words, we’re talking about dive bars.

I’ve a long history of love affairs with dive bars in Toronto, I’ve drank and even eaten at some of the best (worst?). Having said that, finding a proper dive bar in 2017 isn’t as easy as it sounds… ok it’s very, very stupid easy, but finding the ones that have consistently awesome tunes? So for your consideration, a slightly outdated list of Toronto’s Dive-tastic CMW venues… weeks later when I woke up in a haze.

What does it take to be a true dive? Well great tunes for one, that’s why CMW is the perfect excu- … backdrop for our binge-  … article. Second to the tunes there should probably be stickers (the owner didn’t put there) and or grunge on the bar / in the washrooms / on my shoes. Third the bartender should be sexy (I don’t care what gender we’re talking here) and kinda pissed off… Alternatively the bartender can also be outrightly fucking terrifying, also totally acceptable. The place should reek of history. You should never really be scared for your life, unless you order whisky shots with the terrifying / sexy bartender.

Adelaide Hall

If a hipster bar and a 00’s mega-club had a tiny baby. Well big for an Ossington baby… it’s a nice place – not pretentious – but certainly NOT a dive bar. Go see a show here. But if you pass out on the floor you will likely be removed.


Bovine Sex Club

If you live in Toronto and you’ve never seen a show at the Bovine. Move.


Mod Club

There is something unsettlingly juvenile about this venue. Don’t get me wrong the sound is great; maybe it just brings up too many memories of being a drunk 19 year old. The space is big and oddly plush. I guess I never got what really makes it Mod… Mopeds?


Danforth Music Hall

Brave the bridge and the arduous trek over the Don Valley. It’s not that far and it’s a great place to see a show, with a big dance floor and old school theatre finishes.


Velvet Underground

The Velvet circa 2017 is different than that of a few years ago. It used to have a bit more personality. Or at least a divey-er one. It’s like seeing that old party friend from years ago but now he works at a bank, and they let him keep his tongue piercing. Sound system has been upgraded.



The Piston reminds me of the TARDIS from Dr. Who a bit because it’s bigger on the inside. It’s an unassuming bar along Bloor west west west. When you walk in the place is cozy and chill and you wonder how they could be on this list at all. Then you see the huge back room and the stage.


The Drake Underground

If hipsters and dive bars didn’t already mix so well, you might need The Drake the mash them together.


Lee’s Palace

Toronto’s coolest venue and a dive bar for sure. Bonus points to Dance Cave for still being a thing. Unlike The Velvet no one at Lee’s has seen the Lysol in weeks.


Horseshoe Tavern

There are so many bars in this city to get nostalgic about. The legendary Horseshoe (with drive through window) is one of them. Lots of shows and even a couple blurry memories…


Dakota Tavern

I think I woke up here when my friends left me passed out at the Horseshoe that one time.


Phoenix Concert Theatre

The Phoenix holds a special place in my heart. This is still one of the better / larger (still dive bar approved) venues around.


Cherry Cola’s

You’ve never had a better time in a old-timey brothel! A great little space with a great little vibe. Did I mention the whole place might as well be made of crushed red velvet?



About The Author

Benjamin Gibson

Benjamin is a Graphic Designer and Creative Director in Toronto, Canada. He has worked on projects for Arkells, Broken Social Scene, and Paul Oakenfold. instagram: @ben_in_toronto

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