From the ashes of Alleycatz, the famous Yonge and Eglinton jazz club that closed in 2020, a revival of sorts is sweeping across the city, paying homage to live music venues of earlier eras. A slew of piano bars have popped up in Toronto hot spots, quickly rising to become some of the most popular nightlife attractions in the city.
Here are five piano bars in Toronto to check out.
Jean Darlene Piano Bar is a new speakeasy spot that melds the chicness of a piano bar and camaraderie of an open mic. You can swing by for drinks and stay for the regularly scheduled live performances that range from pianists, drag shows, live samba and themed singalongs. The spot offer surprisingly affordable drinks and an intimate setting that promotes conversation. If you have a flair for the dramatic, there’s tons of opportunity to hop on stage and show off your own singing and performing chops, too. And who knows, maybe the owners will like you enough to invite you downstairs, where they have a full-fledged recording studio.
The idea of a piano bar has caught such fire that even Toronto staples have transformed to accommodate one. Take The Senator, one of the city’s oldest restaurants, as an example. While always known for its musical prowess–hello, pandemic patio concert series–the restaurant, which has been in constant operation since 1929, underwent renovations to include a swanky piano bar on the second floor, located directly above the main dining room. The new space also includes a bottle shop, which will offer rare and hard-to-find liquors from across the country and the globe. The Senator, which was famously visited by Elton John, was closed for 884 days before surging back to life with the inclusion of the piano bar.
Wedlocks is a new restaurant and piano lounge located in The Beaches in Toronto’s east end. Owner Michelle Slota jazzed up the historical space that once belong to brunch staple, Whitlocks by opening the lounge last August, which also doubles as a dining venue. Slota believes The Beach has a legacy of great jazz thanks to The Beaches Jazz Festival which has been in operations since 1989 and hopes the spacious 2,300-square-foot spot will have a lasting impact on Toronto’s jazz community.
Annex mainstay Paupers Pub is a cheery, popular bar with a second floor lounge that includes a sing-along piano lounge, and when the warmer weather hits, one of the area’s best rooftop patios with views of the Toronto’s skyline. Converted from a centuries-old bank, the three-floor pub and live music establishment features a weekly open mic, a baby grand piano as well as large-screen TVs and and a robust cocktail menu.
Calling itself Toronto’s original speakeasy, Reservoir Lounge is a legendary jazz and blues bar that includes a beautiful piano on a raised stage, that plays hosts to the city’s best bands from legends to young unknowns (Michael Bublé is said to have first honed his chops on this stage). Inside the historic space, there’s a regular menu of tapas-style plates made with ethical ingredients, including Reservoir sliders alongside a selection of pizzas and salads, among others. The dimly-lit, 1920’s style vibe of the space, which is decorated with black and white photos of the jazz greats that have played the Reservoir Lounge, and a centrally-located bar surrounded by round, tablecloth-adorned tables that go back to the original, now famous speakeasies of the Prohibition era.