HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Pub for First Date?

Hi there, this is my first post here. I searched the board for the answer to my question, but haven't come up with anything yet.

I'm looking for a cozy pub downtown (T.O.) for a first date. I'm looking for something with a decent beer selection and good first date atmosphere (i.e., not too loud or crowded, good for conversation). Am I asking too much for a pub? We want to keep it casual.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know if this counts as downtown for you, but the Beaconsfield has a pretty good first-date atmosphere (www.thebeaconsfield.com). I also like the Rebel House, Allen's and Dora Keogh (www.allens.to). Also, although the food is pretty sub-par, I like The Artful Dodger on Isabella Street for its central location and fireplaces.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rabbit

      My vote is with Allens too (although its not really "downtown"). I had a "second" date there and it was great!


    2. How about the Victory Cafe on Markham Street? It has excellent beer, pretty good food and good location/atmosphere. Sometimes there is live music so I would check that depending on the night you go.


      1. House on Parliament? It feels cozy to me, but might be too loud for your purposes (I have only been in the summer, so I don't know if it gets as busy during social hibernation season). Food is a notch better than typical pub food though, and it's a small, friendly place.

        House On Parliament
        454 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A3A2, CA

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wahooty

          The Firkins chain might suit your needs. They are very laid back places. The food is hit and miss.

          1. re: pancake

            http://www.thebedfordacademy.com/ great atmosphere around the small bar...nice selection of beers and such...and the food...well..have i said how nice the atmosphere is..the food is fine.

        2. Smokeless Joe's! Great beer selection and the music is never too loud. Knowledgeable staff, too!

          1. I don't know if this is the endorsement you're looking for, but I went to Allen's on a first date and we ended up getting married.

            1. According to you criteria -- I think Rebel House would fit the bill. I don't find Allen's intimate enough and the seating at Dora Keogh isn't too comfortable. Victory Cafe has cozy seating too.

              When you go for your second date -- you can try the Hyatt Rooftop Lounge-- it's a step up. It's where I had a first date once and then a year or so later, got engaged there. ;)

              1. Not quite a pub, but Insomnia might meet your needs - check the place link for reviews, website etc. Great vibe, great cocktails. Another classy establishment is Bar Volo. Very romantic atmospher but still a nice bar vibe.

                563 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1Y6, CA

                587 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4Y, CA

                1. Hemingways in Yorkville- if things don't go well you can ditch her in the melee and find someone else pretty quickly :)

                  1. How about Cafe Volo at Yonge and Wellesley? Great beer selection, interesting food (for a pub, anyway), and a pretty laid-back setting.

                    1. - I second the Smokeless Joe recommendation, though it is very small and can be crowded elbow-to-elbow on Thursday and Friday evenings.

                      - Bar Volo is great for beer selection and has a nice cozy feel, but is not a pub in the traditional sense.

                      - C'est What on Front St. is cozy, and might be a good choice so long as you don't go on a weekend night when they have live music and get can get loud. If you hang a left at the bottom of the stairs that's the quieter part away from the stage area. The place is pretty big with some good nooks and even a fireplace or two. The Canadian microbrew selection there is unbeatable, but the food is only passable.

                      - For a slightly more "upscale" Irish pub P. J. Obrien's near King/Church is a pretty cool place where they know how to pour proper pints. And the food there is excellent. It's the (somewhat) quieter sister pub to the Irish Embassy nearby on Yonge.

                      - Another interesting alternative would be to go sit at the bar at Rodney's Oyster House on King St. West of Spadina. Again, it's not a "pub" per se but has a cool dark vibe, decent beers, and oh yes, wonderful oysters.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Gary

                        Yo I am totally against C'est What. I had the worst service there with the BITCHIEST waitress I have ever met in my entire chowhounding career!!!!!!! It took 55 minutes for them to get my lamb burger out =| Then the waitress said it would be 30 minutes for the apple pie and then she gave me a dirty look.

                        I second Hemingway's.

                        1. re: Muffin__Top

                          I've also had it with C'est What. I used to go there regularly but after dealing with them in the fall, will never return. Good beer isn't enough to make me go back to terrible service and burnt food.

                      2. Tell her you're taking her to a pub then take her to a ballin ass restaurant. As long as you don't have any bad tattoos that should pretty much seal the deal on the night for you.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                          I'd second the Bedford Academy recommendation. Great nachos, nice atmosphere. Or what about Seven West on Charles at Yonge? It's not a pub, but the food is good and ambiance is great for a date. The service is slow, which is kind of perfect for gazing into each others' eyes, losing track of time, etc. The third floor has the most romantic vibe of them all. And it's open 24 hours so you can stay up all night sharing your deepest thoughts and secrets!!

                          1. re: Sarah Cat

                            Have you been to the Bedford Academy recently? We went last summer when it was first taken over by Bar Wellington and the food was absolutely horrid. Such a shame since it was a regular haunt when we lived downtown. It felt like a glorified Firkin. We haven't been back since so I'm not sure if they worked out the kinks or not. The crowd was very much the Madison Pub group when we were there. Very "unromantic". I would choose the Abbot on the Hill, Rebel House or Allen's over this place.

                            1. re: fickle

                              I have to agree. It may depend on timing but anytime I've been there it's been loud, crowded and decidedly unromantic, more like a frat party.

                              1. re: fickle

                                That's interesting. I was considering Bedford Academy. I haven't been there in about 10 years. I used to love it way back when it first opened, but I don't work in Yorkville anymore. Good to know.

                                1. re: fickle

                                  I didn't know that either (haven't been in a while, obviously). Quel dommage.

                              2. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                I say stick with the pub (sometimes less really is more) - and whatever you do, don't use term "ballin ass." I mean, it's hysterical... but it will kill the ladyboner.

                                1. re: Rabbit

                                  Thanks for all the suggestions. I actually considered quite a few of them before posting here, so you're reaffirming my first thoughts. The date is on Wednesday, so I'm still open to more suggestions if anyone has any!

                                  For the record, I'm having a good giggle here. I'm not planning on ditching "her" at Hemingways or killing any "ladyboners"... I'm the "her" and since I asked "him" out, I'm picking the place. Still loved all the suggestions though.

                                  1. re: curiouslurker

                                    Please let us know where you end up and how it went!

                                    1. re: curiouslurker

                                      ah that's hilarious that we all made the assumption you were the dude. goes to show you never can tell. i still stand by Volo, check out their website.

                                      1. re: curiouslurker

                                        I'd recommend the Roof Lounge at Avenue Rd and Bloor. Elegant atmosphere, easy to converse, and very comfortable. And you're just steps away from Yorkville, so if the date goes on to dinner, you have many good choices in the area.

                                        1. re: curiouslurker

                                          Well then you can ditch him and find someone else even easier! Though joking aside poster KevinB has what I think would be the best option for a date place, the rooftop bar at the Hyatt Park Plaza at Avenue and Bloor, opposite the ROM. Pretty civilised and quiet, really nice dim sum type bar menu, I think that would be my number one choice.

                                          1. re: Squeakycheese

                                            first date..don't go to the roof top at the (park plaza) hyatt...i love the place but a first date...wait and see if it is worth the it...

                                            1. re: ribboy

                                              Also, if your guy's a casual pub-type it might put him off - rather swank, though I love it (and I love casual pubs too, just in a different way).

                                            2. re: Squeakycheese

                                              I agree with ribboy and foodiegirl... I love the Hyatt precisely because it's a little stuffy, but it doesn't sound like that's the mood you're going for this time around.

                                              Bedford Academy is another good pick. And I'd forgotten that I keep meaning to check out Smokeless Joe's! Please let us know where you end up.

                                              1. re: Squeakycheese

                                                I like the Hyatt rooftop bar, but it's expensive. The mixed drinks were around $12 when I was there 3 years ago, and some of the cocktails were closer to $20. I'd choose something a little more low-key and modest for a first date. Somewhere like Rebel House, Allen's, Bedford Academy, the Abbot.

                                                After being on a date with a guy who exclaimed "Wow, this place is expensive. $18 for lasagna!", I usually insist that the guy choose the venue, in case we're not on the same page for what constitutes a nice restaurant/bar/pub.

                                              2. re: curiouslurker

                                                for what it's worth, i went to smokeless joe's on a first date, and the guy was a total dud but the pub was great. quite small, but we went on a tuesday shortly after work and were easily able to get a seat at the bar. great beer list, and they brought us some soda bread and butter alongside, which i thought was a really nice little thing to do.

                                                house on parliament is in my old neighbourhood, and is one of my favourite places on the planet, but it's far more crowded in the winter than the summer b/c most folks don't want to brave the patio. i also find that the tables are really close together, so when it's packed it's almost impossible not to eavesdrop, and be eavesdropped upon, which might not be so stellar for a first date. all that said...i have had some great nights there when it's not too busy (and if you go later in the evening on wednesday, you might be ok) - i love the food, and it always sounds like somebody snuck into my apartment and stole my cd collection. :)

                                                volo happens to be the place where my current SO and i had our first date...and that was 7 years ago, so clearly something worked out well. the beer list there is also fantastic, and they make a point of carrying some local microbrews on a rotating basis. i really like their pizzas...not classic pizzeria-libretto-style, but there are some neat flavour combinations and they have a nice, thick, crust. i went with a group in the summertime and we did a 'tasting' of every pizza on the menu...my recollection was that the big hit was one that had eggplant, and another that had sausage and carmelized onions.

                                                i like allen's for beer, but i find the food consistently under-seasoned, the vibe way too busy and the waits for tables and food way too long.

                                                the bedford academy is an interesting suggestion...it has a very comfortable parents-recroom kinda vibe about it. food is average (although i do like their brunch), and the beer selection certainly isn't as varied as some others you're considering, but it's a very non-threatening, student-pub-like place. the staff is also really great - fast service, friendly, and more than willing to try to figure out what that great song was that you just heard on the satellite radio. also, this is a place where it's easy to linger...there is some really ugly and very comfortable furniture in the back near the pool tables that can be a perfect little spot for close conversation.

                                                rebel house has yummy food, but i always think of it as more restaurant-ish than pub-ish. relaxed atomsphere, knowledgeable staff.

                                                personally, i find hemmingway's too busy and crazy for my taste.

                                                good luck! i hope that your choice (of pub, and of guy) works out for you! :)

                                          2. Stop the presses! I have a suggestion : Local 4. A few doors E of Bar Volo, this is in a little house, totally lacking in pretention but cozy and nice. Above par food, microbrews on tap and attentive, friendly staff, this would be my vote!

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Britmeg

                                              You, Britmeg, seem to be a person who knows and loves his pubs. I wouldn't describe the fare I viewed online as pub grub, but the dishes without attitude menu still reads well. Are there any dishes in particular that really stand out? You just made my day btw. My gf's and I were looking for a pub in that stretch.

                                              1. re: Googs

                                                I do know my way around a good # of the city's pubs, must admit. I know it's not a traditional pub, but it's in a similar vibe to Volo (which I would argue straddles the line of pub and restaurant) though more laid back.

                                                As for menu stand outs, the falafel is always a top choice, the pulled pork sandwich is lovely and the pizzas are my favourite, including a different one every day as part of a (usually) stellar lineup of specials. Hope that you and you gf's like it!

                                              2. re: Britmeg

                                                I like the food here. Was invited out with some volunteers for a thank you lunch by our coordinator. It truly raised my respect for food along Yonge Street. Lots of delicious choices and it's got a great vibe unless your date is into stuffy and pretentious (which this place is not).

                                              3. Well, I ended up at the Beaconsfield. Great atmosphere, although every once in a while the music got ridiculously loud then would drop down to a normal level again. Yummy fries. Only downside would have to be that our server had a bit of a "hipper-than-thou" attitude, I think, because I came straight after work in my corporate duds. Could be wrong, but she didn't seem to condescend to the kids in the skinny jeans. I would definitely give it another shot though (the Beaconsfield, I mean)! The guy... not so much.

                                                Thanks for all the suggestions.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: curiouslurker

                                                  Thanks, I looked at the menu there, looks pretty good