It’s pretty straightforward to think of how simple the concept of a Toronto establishment – be it restaurant, bar, lounge, café, or private club – recreating the ‘home experience’ is.
What’s really amazing though is the variety of ways they are able to do it, from décor and ambience to centuries-old heritage to straight up gimmicks that attract wide attention. And guess what? All of them deliver in their own special ways.
Here are our choices for Toronto hot spots that deliberately (and differently) capture the essence of home.
You remember the Addisons Residence. It was the focus of one of our very first posts, where we interviewed its interior designer Lisa Ho. Here is the spot that doesn’t just feel like home, but takes that sentiment to the next level. Divided into a kitchen area, living room, rec room, and outdoor play space, the gimmick here isn’t that the Addisons Residence is trying to resemble a retro home in Beverly Hills, but that it actually is one.
They don’t even break character on their website, where they continue to play up the lark that the space is a manor owned by the eternally elsewhere Addison family: “Few people know who they are, and even fewer have ever made their acquaintance. They collect fine art and always have a stocked bar. They have amazing food on hand, and their friends are all so charming. And their house – my God. Have you seen their house? They really do have it all. It’s just too bad they’re never around to enjoy it.”
Following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Addisons Residence, Apt. 200 is Toronto’s latest instalment in the genre of residence-inspired lounges. Our opinion though is that it also happens to be the premier one. Even on a Monday night, this locale is packed—sometimes with A-list stars like The Weeknd, the Toronto Raptors, or Selena Gomez. Modelled after an upscale-yet-vintage-chic house party, it’s got comfy couches, greenery everywhere, TVs playing whatever the sport of the day is, book shelves, and a pool table. The bar mixes some of the best drinks in town too. Our attention however is typically preoccupied with the addictive selection of classic ’90s arcade games.
Designed by the renowned architects Knox & Elliot and built in 1891, The Blake House is one of the last standing heritage structures in Toronto mixing late 19th century Victorian and Second Empire architecture. Its first owner was the Honourable Edward Blake, who was the second premier of Ontario and leader of the federal liberal party between 1878-1887. Today, Jarvis Street has undergone gentrification. Old homes have been restored to their past glory while new high rise developments have added a contemporary edge. In the same vein, The Blake House has undergone an extensive renovation and invites you to take in the history while sitting on their sunny patio having a local pint or inside by the original wood burning fireplace sipping some wine.
The furnishing in the Queen and Beaver Public House speaks as much to the ‘house’ element of its formal name as it does the ‘pub’ one. Think ceramic-edged fireplaces, deep wood, plush carpets, gilt china filling a sideboard, and reproduction portraits of Queens Elizabeth I and II. As has been said on record before: “The only thing missing here is your favourite book and some slippers.”
What we love about Snakes & Lattes is that it pulls off feeling like home without anything about its design or concept meant to do so. Instead, it’s all in the impression it inspires. Snakes & Lattes opened in Toronto in autumn of 2010 (and has since opened to multiple locations) as the first board game café in North America. Renovated from a former coffee shop, and with an original capacity of about fifty people, the aim was to create a space for tabletop culture: a venue where guests could revisit rainy-day classics from their youth, all while snacking on delicious food and drink. If that doesn’t make you feel like home, we don’t know what does.
The highly buzzed about global members’ club finds its Toronto home in the historic Bishop’s Block. The bar features booths, as well vintage bar stools and sofas for all-day eating and drinking, but it is the lodge-like library that gives us the feels. The charming space is ideal for meeting, working, and playing. (It also occasionally gets transformed into quite the high-octane dance party when TIFF rolls into town.)
Okay, maybe Track & Field better captures the essence of the backyard of a home than home itself, but it’s our list and we’re sticking with it. The focus here is on outdoor lawn sports, from bocce ball played on Astroturf-covered courts to shuffleboard. You could invite us over for that any time. And the place actually pulls off the whole cozy interior thing too, with dim lights that warm up the space, dark walls, and handmade wooden tables.