Valentine’s Day may be overrated, but it can also be delicious and when it comes to good food with good company, well, there’s nothing overrated about that. If you’re strapped for date ideas and can’t fathom ordering Uber Eats for the fourth night in a row, we have some places in mind that don’t require a subscription to a streaming service. Practice your PDA (or don’t, it’s fine) inside cozy, speakeasy-inspired bars or indulge in some of the city’s best cuisine and maybe stay for just one more drink.
74 Ossington Ave
When the fireplace channel just isn’t cutting it, Tanto’s brick interior and crackling wood-burning grill should satisfy all your cozy and hunger needs. From grass-fed steaks dry-aged for 40 days to fresh, house-baked bread, every dish has been obsessed over and perfected at this Argentinian restaurant on Ossington near Queen. Whether celebrating a special occasion or grabbing a school-night bite, Tanto is as reliable and captivating as any good relationship.
Coffee Oysters Champagne
214 King St W
This swanky King West lounge prides itself on doing its three namesake things really well. There’s plenty of room for indulgence with fresh oysters selected daily and enough bubbly – the largest collection in the city – to cover a multitude of sins. But if you do find yourself wanting more, ask your server to see the champagne room. We won’t give any more away, because secrets don’t make friends, but they sure make things more fun.
Pinky’s Ca Phe
53 Clinton St
Vietnamese meets Philadelphian – an unlikely pair that make a great match and a killer pho beef dip. Tucked inside an old, narrow Little Italy house you’ll find this buzzing, ‘70s-inspired snack bar. Sip on Foco Loco cocktails, a dangerous mix of fruit juice, muddled herbs and rum, under glowing strings of red lanterns and pretend you’re on paid-vacation (the dream).
We recommend ordering a bunch of plates to share like the chicken legs cooked over a charcoal grill on the back patio, tiger’s milk ceviche and sticky wings. Emphasis on the word “share,” but, also, live your life.
Cry Baby Gallery
1468 Dundas St W
From the street, Cry Baby Gallery looks like the latest Dundas West art gallery, but, as with art, there’s always more than meets the eye.
Behind the gallery is a moody cocktail bar with better lighting than most Hollywood films and an original, witty drinks menu you’ll want to take home and frame. (Try “It’s Britney Bitch,” a mix of vodka, blood orange amaro and house kombucha.) Elevate your Netflix and chill game with real-life works of art, and we’re not just talking about the mixed drinks.
90 Yorkville Ave
There’s no excuse not to get close in this tiny gem. Walk down a narrow alley off Yorkville Ave. and suddenly you’re in Southern France – only smaller. Square footage aside, flavours are bold in the tartine of braised duck leg and rich in the roasted apple tarte.
Plus, the foyer of windows offers prime, Hallmark-movie-worthy snowfall watching, but only until March when Chabrol moves to a heritage building at 156 Cumberland.
758 Queen St E
Stepping into the Comrade is like sneaking back in time to a 1920s speakeasy. The warm, rustic atmosphere, mixed with the occasional taxidermy, gives this Riverside hideaway a homey feel that’s hard to leave behind. Good thing there’s some of the best snacks and specialty cocktails – the Beck Taxi is an ode to Toronto and one of our faves – in the east end to curl up with.
88 Ossington Ave
One of the latest additions to Ossington’s restaurant row, Bar Koukla offers small sharing plates of Hellenic-inspired dishes like baked feta wrapped in crispy phyllo topped with pomegranates, grilled lamb ribs with creamy tzatziki and fresh buck-a-shuck oysters every day between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
“Koukla” is a Greek term of endearment meaning “doll” and you’ll want to be with whomever you hold dear in this intimate snack bar. Have a glass – or several – from their natural, organic, biodynamic Mediterranean wine list.
642 King St W
Let’s face it, everything sounds better en Français and at Lapinou, a neo-bistro and wine bar highlighting the best of inventive French fare, it tastes pretty darn good too. This V-day, Lapinou is offering a three-course, unbutton-your-pants, prix-fixe menu – plus house bread and butter for the table, which is so tasty it could be a course in itself.
For a little extra you can get wine pairings with each menu item, expertly selected by sommelier Lauren Hall. So you can spend more time sipping and less time swirling wine in your glass and nodding like you know what's happening.