My friend's birthday is coming up and we want to go drinking. But we don't go to bars too often so we need recommendations? Someplace nicer and not a sports bar. But not like too pricey because we're poor students.
And um, she's new to Canada and she was previously from China for practically all her life so if possible, a bar where a lot of Asians go to?
If you do want bars w/ a lot of Asians (Chinese to be specific), then you're looking at the k-lounges and bars in the Chinese plazas of Markham and Richmond Hill.
Certainly not worth the trek if you're all students in the city core.
If you go to the Drake, be prepared to wait in line on the weekends. Also, I guess dress hip? I do see older men trying to hit on early 20's girls in flannel there, kinda gross. There are lots of bars in the area if the line looks daunting (Lot 16, Gladstone, Stone's Place, Wrongbar). You can venture up to Ossington also with Sweaty Bettys, Levack Block, etc........Be aware, that whole area (Queen west west + Ossington) is a shit show at those hours. Plus a lot of these places will have loud music ranging from hiphop to hipster rave, so conversation will be tough.
If you just go a smidge earlier (say 11-something) than you should be fine for the Drake. Aser we hang in the same 'hood! Though I do like those places I wouldn't really call them 'nice' if you're looking for something a little more special for a birthday (although they're quite fun).
Really any 'nice' place you're going to have gross old guys hitting on people...
I'm a Chinese-Canadian and I pretty much live my nights in west side bars and have never felt at all out of place, even though it is more typically a Caucasian crowd here (though with many Asians still). If anything I find Torontonians are more interested in foreigners and are happy to make conversation even with those with imperfect English. I'd encourage you to think about what kind of vibe, theme, music she's interested in and go from there.
Also how old is the crowd? I always felt C Lounge was more of a 'young professionals' 30+ crowd which may or may not be your vibe.
Circa's a huge club that tries to cultivate an 'experience' which can be fun in clubland. I'd personally recommend The Drake's Sky Yard which is a fantastic deck on the west side.
Here's a recent thread on good places to drink in Toronto:
In there you'll find recs that cover a wide range of drinking places. It really depends on what you like to drink, what kind of vibe you like, what you mean by "too pricey" and "nicer"... all relative terms!
As for the "lots of Asians" requirement, well, maybe she'd rather enjoy the multicultural glory that is Toronto, where we don't segregate our drinking holes by race. :)