With a lobby done up as a vintage toy shop/comic book store, Figures lets you know you’re stepping into the realm of fantasy. The polished, 80-seat Yorkville restaurant is revealed once you pass through a curtain-covered door, where you’re greeted by custom, comic-themed art with undeniably upscale twists (like Wonder Woman sporting a Gucci bag). Tapas and shareable plates like Baja fish tacos and poke bites share menu space with nostalgic offerings like hot and cold popcorn and pogoes with ballpark mustard. Cocktails like the Web-Slinging Spider Hombre, Donkey Kong and Johnny Friendship will appease super fans, and plush banquettes and dark wood panelling contribute to the secretive speakeasy vibe.
Step through a champagne-walled room and into Paris in the 1920s at À Toi. This elegant Entertainment District locale, tucked in behind the appropriately named Coffee, Oysters, Champagne lounge on King West, is more than just a lavish display of bubbly – it’s a perfectly executed example of the city’s secret scene. The flawlessly executed décor and inspired menu by executive chef Chris Wilkinson (formerly of the Broadview Hotel) create a sumptuous vibe perfect for mixing and mingling. Paired with the city’s most extensive champagne list, it’s a perfect ten.
Lovers of all things retro will feel right at home at Convenience, a corner store by day and bar by night on Queen West. Pac-Man and vintage party-line telephones provide a dose of nostalgia along with an amazing retro candy selection. (Popeye cigarettes, where have you been?) Attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the carefully curated space, from the giant, hand-stitched, videogame-inspired wall tapestries to the TVs leading down to the bathrooms (it’s worth lingering for a moment or two to watch the video footage of failed robberies playing on a loop). The menu is comfort-focused, with classics like mac ’n’ cheese, peanut butter and bacon sliders and root beer floats, but you’ll find many creative twists as well. Try the sushi burger with a panko fried rice bun or the veggie bennie for brunch.
Slip up the stairs that lead to this dim sum snack and cocktail bar on College Street. Located above parent restarant Dailo, Lopan is a benchmark for the late-night shared plates that have come to dominate Toronto’s food scene. Options like the KFC popcorn tofu and Big Mac bao put a playful spin on fast food while classics like blistered shishito peppers, shrimp cocktail and crispy confit duck wings are also on offer. The inspired drinks menu incorporates exotic flavours like Szechuan peppercorn infused mezcal and yuzu sake in its modern upgrades on classic cocktails. Design elements like paint-dripped lucky cats and neon Chinese characters underscore the popular locale’s lighthearted character.
These hidden bars and restaurants may not be Toronto’s best-kept secret, but they are full of surprises!