Jam out at these 15 bars with live music in Toronto

Sip on a glass of wine and snack on small plates as you bask in the atmosphere of sweet sounds at these bars and restaurants with live music in Toronto.

Restaurants and bars with live music in Toronto | Guests at the bar watch a small band playing inside Lapinou

There's no shortage of excellent restaurants in Toronto serving delicious fare, and top-notch bars slinging craft cocktails. From high-end Michelin Guide recommended restaurants to tasty cheap eats, the food in this city knows no bounds. But sometimes a good night out calls for a little more than just high calibre food and drink. Sometimes we want to be serenaded or put our dancing shoes on, and that's when we turn to restaurants and bars with live music in Toronto.

Those awkward, early-on-in-the-relationship dates can be made all the better with a string quartet lightening the mood — and offering a distraction from long pauses and conversation fumbles. Going out with friends is more fun when you can get up out of your seats and bop along to live music at a bar. And of course a sultry singer makes any atmosphere into a romantic restaurant. Whether you're out with dates or mates, bars with live music take things up a notch. Even a cheeky Sunday afternoon drink is all the better at a jazz bar with live music. 

Our list of the best restaurants and bars with live music ranges from rock out party spots to the more mellow jazz bars. From raucous to relaxing, there's a live music bar for everyone on this list. At any of these locales, you're sure to find good drinks, great vibes and the allure of watching live musicians make magic before your eyes (and ears). These are the best live music bars and restaurants in Toronto. 

15 restaurants and bars with live music in Toronto

1. Drake Underground

1150 Queen St. W.

The Drake Hotel’s stance as a cool arts hub and incubator for local talent extends beyond the captivating art pieces in the hotel and restaurant. In the basement, performing arts venue the Drake Underground hosts live music, dance parties, spoken-word poetry shows, comedy acts and more. The live performances vary, but you can always bet on a wicked show starring up-and-coming talent. In the past, the stage has seen the likes of Billie Eilish, Kid Cudi and Leon Bridges.


2. DROM Taberna

458 Queen St. W.

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This hole in the wall on Queen West might not look like much to passersby, especially during the cooler months, but inside is a lively world of sound and flavour. In warmer months, the sprawling wrap-around patio invites guests with twinkling string lights. Every day you can find the sweet sounds of live music here, and the genres vary from rock, jazz and brass bands to traditional Zimbabwean rhythms.

The restaurant itself is a love letter to Eastern Europe, more specifically the lands between the Balkans, the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where the Romani people come from and have travelled. An homage to their nomadic lifestyle, "latcho drom" means “safe journey” in Romani. The menu is brimming with Eastern European specialties like pierogies, borscht and cabbage rolls. The wine, beer and cocktails are also representative of Eastern Europe, with a few local touches thrown in, too. 


3. The Wheatsheaf Tavern

667 King St. W.

In a city where bars come and go as fast as the weather changes, it’s a great accomplishment to be operating for more than a century. Maybe it’s the delicious pub fare, the regular live music or the generally bumpin’ atmosphere that’s kept The Wheatsheaf Tavern in business since 1849 — claiming the title of the oldest bar in the city. Whatever it is, we love it. And we’ll keep coming back for excellent rock music in this lovingly restored space.


4. Lula Lounge

1585 Dundas St. W.

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Lula Lounge promises guests "the best night out" and with a live band and DJ turning out salsa, bachata, reggaeton and top 40 hits on Fridays and Saturdays, we're inclined to agree. The tropical themed bar will transport you to paradise without leaving the city. Arrive between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. if you want to enjoy the prix fixe dinner menu with dishes like shrimp cocktail or avocado and roasted corn salad to start and mains like slow-cooked short ribs or chicken and rajas poblanas. After dinner, the dance lesson starts at 9 p.m. followed by a whole night of dancing the night away and sipping tropical cocktails.


5. Lapinou

642 King St. W.

For the cutest French evening, head to Lapinou bistro on Thursday nights to listen to the live band turn out disco, funk and soul tunes while you sip a glass of wine. Hungry? Snack on French favourites like beef tartare, escargots and seared foie gras in the cozy, brick-lined atmosphere. On Saturdays, a live DJ turns things up with French and Euro house music.


6. The Reservoir Lounge

52 Wellington St. E.

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This legendary spot is the place where music greats like Michael Bublé and Peter O’Toole cut their teeth before they were famous. Popular with a more mature crowd, The Reservoir Lounge promises a different band performing every night of the week in the sultry, speakeasy-esque atmosphere. The music ranges from soul and R&B to jazz and funk. Come just for cocktails (they have a full list of martinis) and the show, snack on shareable tapas or tuck into a full meal of sandwiches and pizzas. 


7. Black Pearl

184 Pearl St.

Hidden down Pearl Street, the newly opened bar and restaurant Black Pearl is an edgy space lined with exposed brick and concrete. Rugs and couches create an industrial living room vibe. It's a pool hall, live music venue, a street art gallery and everything in between. Performances range from rock bands and live DJs to burlesque shows and special performances. Their crispy, New York style pizzas are large and in charge, and perfect for sharing with friends. Add on cocktails by the glass or by the bottle and you're set for a great night. 


8. The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar

194 Queen St. W.

Billed as Toronto’s longest-running jazz club, The Rex promises two shows a day, running from early evening (or sometimes afternoon) late into the night. Expect jazz trios, quartets and the occasional quintet to take the stage while you dig into homemade burgers and other pub fare.


9. Praise 

828 Bloor St. W.

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This quaint little wine bar and bottle shop at Bloor and Ossington features live jazz music every Friday and Saturday starting at 5:30 p.m. Sip on wine from their diverse collection and snack on small plates, charcuterie or pizza in the unpretentious atmosphere while you listen to smooth and soulful melodies. They also host trivia nights on Thursdays and offer half-priced bottles of sit-in wine on Wednesdays. Plus, if you love the glass you tried in the wine bar, you can buy it from the bottle shop to take home. 


10. The Painted Lady

218 Ossington Ave.

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Decked out like a tiki bar outside, and full of twinkling Christmas lights draping exposed brick inside, The Painted Lady is an eclectic hole in the wall on the Ossington strip. The performances here are as diverse as they come, ranging from rock 'n' roll, soul, funk, alternative folk and Americana to live DJs, burlesque performances and drag shows. If you've ever wanted to join in on the live music, they host open mic nights every Monday. 


11. Communist's Daughter

1149 Dundas St. W.

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One of our favourite dive bars in the city, Communist's Daughter is a tiny, lowkey spot that barely seats a dozen people. The sign out front is still leftover from the previous Nazaré Snack Bar, because who needs a sign when you're this cool? Don't expect fancy cocktails or fast service — legendary bartender Michael Louis Johnson may very well be tooting on his trumpet and telling tales while serving drinks. Order a Campari soda or something in a can, snag a seat at one of the Formica tables (or in the back alleyway in summer months) and listen to live jazz as Saturday afternoon turns to evening. 


12. The Emmet Ray

924 College St.

If you can’t name a more iconic duo than whisky and jazz, boy, do we have the place for you. Pull up to The Emmet Ray on College near Dovercourt on any day of the week for live music paired with an exceptional whisky list. They have classic cocktails, beer and wine, too.


13. Bovine Sex Club

542 Queen St. W.

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Whatever you do, don't look at the ceiling in this grungy watering hole at Queen and Bathurst — or do, and follow the Christmas lights on a wild ride as they wind their way through an eclectic jumbling of found objects from dolls' heads to disco balls. The walls are also covered in a mishmash of stickers, posters and graffiti. Live music skews heavier here with lots of rock, pop punk and metal, plus some hip hop nights and DJ sets thrown in for good measure. If you need a break from it all, Tiki Bar is their rooftop, heated patio that slings tiki drinks in warmer months. 


14. Bar Cathedral

54 The Esplanade

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The Amsterdam Bicycle Club bar had been a casual spot for late-night brews and solo or small band performances for nearly a decade when it succumbed to COVID restrictions in 2020. Committed to keeping the tunes flowing in the cozy space attached to the Old Spaghetti Factory, former Live Nation employee Graham Hnatiw created Bar Cathedral. It’s a massively upgraded performance venue that now hosts everything from comedy shows to raucous rock shows. New TV screens allow for optimal viewing no matter where you sit, correcting a major pain point of the Bicycle Club’s previous setup.

Bar Cathedral leans all-in on creating an immersive experience, from a haunting arched entrance to the still-intact stained glass windows its predecessor was famous for. Beyond the upgraded sound system, lights and performance tech, Cathedral’s most notable change is behind the bar. Offerings now skew towards elevated, colourful and delicious cocktails — a far cry from the $5 beers of yesteryear, and we’re here for it.


15. The Redwood Theatre

1300 Gerrard St. E.

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More than just a theatre, The Redwood is a community arts hub that hosts everything from live music and theatre performances to circus and dance shows and even maker's markets. Sip on local craft beer in the lounge area of this 1914 vaudeville theatre in Leslieville and enjoy the fantastic lineup of old-school bands playing groovy music like funk, jazz, blues, reggae and ska.