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5 Best Jazz Bars in Toronto

Best Jazz Bars in Toronto
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Amidst the cacophony of life, sometimes we need a sanctuary, such as a cosy jazz bar, where the rhythm wraps around you like a comforting embrace. 

So, buckle up for a tour of Toronto’s best jazz bars, where the only thing smoother than the saxophone is the ambiance. Remember, jazz is a symphony of organised chaos, and the only wrong note is not making it to these jazz havens!

How much is the cover charge in Toronto jazz bars?

In Toronto, some may have cover charges and prepaid entertainment fees ranging from $20 to $30, but most welcome patrons without a cover charge or with only a $10 fee.

How We Chose the Best  Jazz Bars in Toronto

Musician Quality: Our selection includes jazz bars with a reputation for hosting high-quality musicians, ensuring a wonderful live music experience.
Performance Diversity: We chose jazz bars that offer a diverse range of jazz performances, from traditional jazz to experimental genres.
Ambiance: We considered the ambiance of each jazz bar, selecting venues with a comfortable and inviting atmosphere that complements the experience.
Drink Selection: We took into account the drink selection at each jazz bar, favouring those with a well-curated menu.
Seating Comfort: Comfortable seating is crucial for an enjoyable evening. We selected jazz bars that provide comfortable and well-placed seating.
Local Support: We explored jazz bars that promote local musicians, contributing to the vibrancy of the Toronto jazz scene.

1. Jazz Bistro

Jazz Bistro
TestInfo
WEBSITEhttps://jazzbistro.ca/
ADDRESS251 Victoria St, Toronto, ON M5B 1T8
SOCIAL MEDIAINSTAGRAM
CONTACT DETAILS(416) 363-5299

OPERATING HOURSTue-Sat: 5 PM–11:30 PM

Jazz Bistro was formerly a jazz spot named Top o’ the Senator that closed in 2005, with former owner Bobby Sniderman sharing concerns about the shrinking jazz market. Yet, Colin Hunter, owner of Sunwing Airlines and a part-time crooner, saw things differently.

He breathed new life into the venue, and his renovations include a glowing “Jazz” sign above the stage, a balcony, and a stunning signature Steinway piano.

Situated on Victoria St., Jazz Bistro offers an ideal pre-theatre stop between Massey Hall and Dundas Square. It also hosts notable local jazz pianists such as Ewen Farncombe and Eric Liang, as well as jazz groups like The Harley Card Quintet and The Kalya Ramu Quartet.

Beyond its musical prowess, the venue is famed for its delectable Jazz Bistro Burger – a yummy treat with a unique charred flavour. We also recommend their juicy steak frites.

For enthusiasts, the weekly newsletter ensures you never miss an event or food special. 

Pros

  • Owned by a musician and entrepreneur
  • Ideal pre-theatre venue
  • Hosts famous local jazz pianists and quartets
  • Known for their delicious bar food

Cons

  • Has a cover charge for some events
  • Reports of slow service
  • Can be hard to find parking

Amazing live music

“Service was spectacular and so was the food.  There’s a $15 cover on Saturday due to the amazing live music, however if you have tickets to Ed Mirvish, this is discounted.

The rigatoni was perfectly al dente and the bf loved his steak and frites. We can’t wait to go back! Recommended dishes: Steak Frites.”

M Persaud, Google Review

The relaxing atmosphere, great jazz, and tasty dinner

“Was an amazing time! Went on a first date here, the atmosphere was really relaxing, great jazz trio playing while having a nice tasty dinner. Had the rigatoni and it was well done. It was hard to find parking nearby so anyone who needs to park I recommend coming a bit early to find parking. I was also able to use OpenTable to book our reservation. Will definitely come back again one night soon. Parking: Very limited parking nearby and a bit costly. There is a green parking garage nearby but it was full when I was there that night. Give yourself extra time for parking if you do go. Food: 4/5  |  Service: 5/5  |  Atmosphere: 5/5.”

Steven Hole, Google Review

2. Poetry Jazz Cafe

Poetry Jazz Cafe
TestInfo
WEBSITEhttps://www.poetryjazzcafe.com/
ADDRESS1078 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1H8
SOCIAL MEDIAINSTAGRAM
CONTACT DETAILS(416) 599-5299

OPERATING HOURSWed-Sat: 6:30 PM–2 AM

Poetry Jazz Cafe, established in 2010, is a culturally rich haven for live jazz and poetry in Toronto. Owner Sean Pascalle envisioned a space that would bring jazz back to its roots, emphasising its profound connection to Black history. 

It hosts international artists, including those from India, South Africa, South America, and the United States. It also played host to more than 700 groups, showcasing talents such as Shafton Thomas Group, Quincy Bullen, Game.Set.Trap, and many more. 

Beyond its outstanding musical offerings, Poetry is renowned for its unique and jazz-inspired cocktails. Don’t miss the chance to savourr “The Miles,” a quirky concoction of spiced whiskey, dark ale, and lime.

The establishment proudly offers handcrafted merchandise Each piece is designed, handcrafted, and printed locally on durable, cotton-blend materials, ensuring a fine, breathable feel.

Pros

  • Over a decade of experience
  • Hosts international jazz artists
  • Also hosted prestigious local groups
  • Offers jazz-inspired cocktails
  • Carries handcrafted merchandise
  • Has a back patio

Cons

  • A bit cramped
  • Closed on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Sundays
  • Reports of late shows

Different live band every night, inspired cocktails, and a cool ambiance

“Poetry is my favorite place in Toronto; i have been coming here for years and I always recommend it to anyone coming downtown. There’s a different live band every night, amazingly inspired cocktails, a cool ambiance and the people I meet there are awesome. Paul (the bouncer) makes me and my friends feel very welcome. The owner, Sean is always walking around making sure we’re having a great time. One of the best things that happened after this pandemic was honestly finding out that Poetry survived, and the new back patio is just great.”

Oluwaseun Ajala, Google Review

This has to be my favourite jazz bar in Toronto

“This has to be my favourite jazz bar in Toronto. Lovely little place tucked away in one of Toronto’s most eventful streets. They always get good bands to play. The ambience is splendid. Just order a drink and enjoy the great music. Once I had to sit in the patio. Loved their patio furniture, nice place to relax. Also they play this lovely caricature movie – Chico & Rita at the bar.”

3 R, Google Review

3. The Emmet Ray 

The Emmet Ray
TestInfo
WEBSITEhttps://www.theemmetray.com/
ADDRESS924 College St, Toronto, ON M6H 1A4
SOCIAL MEDIAINSTAGRAM
CONTACT DETAILS(416) 792-4497

OPERATING HOURS Mon-Thurs: 5 PM–2 AM

Fri-Sat: 4 PM–2 AM

Sunday: 1:30 PM–2 AM

The Emmet Ray, a whisky jazz bar, is a spirited haven for jazz enthusiasts and whisky connoisseurs alike. 

Owned by brothers Andrew and Derek Kaiser, this establishment is named after the mysterious gypsy jazz guitarist, Emmet Ray. He’s a character shrouded in myth and immortalised in the 1999 film “Sweet and Lowdown.”

It takes pride in fostering the Toronto jazz scene by hosting local talents like the Dennis Kwok Quartet, Atcheleh Aryee, and James Griffith.

Open seven days a week until 2 AM, The Emmet Ray also beckons with its extensive whisky list boasting over 230 bottles from across the globe. 

In terms of bar fare, it offers Southern California-inspired cuisine crafted by Chef Tyler Daniel. Some of its crowd favourites are its delectable corned beef sandwich and fresh french fries.

For the philanthropy-minded, it annually hosts a harvest festival fundraiser, supporting the Native Arts Society and Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction.

Pros

  • Fosters local talent
  • Open seven days a week
  • Open until 2AM
  • Known for its extensive whisky list
  • Offers Southern California-inspired cuisine
  • Hosts fundraisers

Cons

  • Reports of rude wait staff
  • Pricey drinks

Great music and atmosphere!

“Great music and atmosphere! Drinks were great, and food was exactly as expected, definitely a step up from pub food. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing the Julia D’ascanio Sextet and they blew me and everyone else in the room away. Such a great spot for live music. Staff was super friendly and charming!”

Priscilla Wong, Google Review

One of the best hidden gems in Toronto

“One of the best hidden gems in Toronto. Amazing whiskey selection, new kitchen menu is great, and still doing live music after all these years. I’ve been here at least a couple times a year for over a decade (sometimes a lot more frequently) and have some great memories, especially since they are open when most other spots aren’t.”

 Lucas Twyman, Google Review

4. The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar

The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar
TestInfo
WEBSITEhttps://www.therex.ca/
ADDRESS194 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1Z1
SOCIAL MEDIAINSTAGRAM
CONTACT DETAILS(416) 598-2475

OPERATING HOURSMon-Sun: 9:30 AM–11 PM

The Rex Hotel Jazz & Blues Bar has been a cherished haven for jazz enthusiasts since 1951. 

Initially hosting rockabilly and alt-country bands, its transformative moment occurred when renowned Canadian saxophonist DT Thompson serenaded the venue with “When The Saints Go Marching In” in 1985. This moment solidified its status as a jazz bar.

Boasting over 60 live performances each month, The Rex showcases the best of Canadian talent and international touring groups. With two live music shows daily, patrons are treated to a diverse array of jazz experiences. 

They’ve earned numerous accolades such as the Now Best of Toronto Reader’s Choice 2014 Winner and Downbeat’s Great Jazz Venue for 2011, 2015, and 2018.

Beyond its musical prowess, they offer great-tasting pub-fare at The Rextaurant, including their famed B-REX burger with Swiss cheese and mushrooms. 

To further enhance the experience, visitors can explore the bar’s merchandise, featuring drinkware, sweatshirts, hats, and t-shirts.

Pros

  • Over 70 years of experience
  • Has 60 live performances each month
  • Earned several awards
  • Offers delectable pub fare
  • Has exclusive bar merchandise

Cons

  • Has a cover charge
  • No smoking

Great music and good greasy pub fare food

“Great music and good greasy pub fare food to eat. Service generally attentive and the live music music is usually and surprisingly good. It’s worth checking out. Ummm the place is like a 80s dive bar, so not a girly man Instagram venue.”

 Peter M, Google Review

Jazz music was very enjoyable

“Stayed for one short night while in Toronto with my partner. We were a little unsure given that this place is above a Jazz Bar, however, we had a fantastic time. Our room was directly above the stage but we found the jazz music below not at all disruptive and very enjoyable! The room was a little older and not shiny and perfect like you’d expect at a brand name hotel, but it was clean and we were very comfortable. The space was small but perfect for a place to simply sleep and shower. Our bathroom was pretty tiny but clean and seemed to be recently updated. Our window overlooked Queen Street and we had a great time people watching and admiring a beautiful view of the CN Tower. Highly recommend this hotel if you want a fun experience in a great location for a great price! Thanks for a lovely stay!”

 Danielle Paulsen, Google Review

5. Grossman’s Tavern

Grossman's Tavern
TestInfo
WEBSITEhttps://www.grossmanstavern.com/
ADDRESS377 Spadina Ave., Toronto, ON M5T 2G3
SOCIAL MEDIAINSTAGRAM
CONTACT DETAILS(416) 977-7000

OPERATING HOURSMon-Sun: 11 AM–2 AM

Grossman’s Tavern, a Toronto institution since 1943. Self-proclaimed as the “Home of the Blues,” Grossman’s rich history began as a cafeteria in 1948, transforming into a hub for weekly jazz shows that attracted a diverse crowd of hippies and artists.

While it focuses mainly on blues, this iconic spot also hosts a variety of genres, including rock, folk, roots, and jazz. What sets Grossman apart is its commitment to live music without a cover charge.

Beyond the music, it offers an affordable and delicious menu, featuring their famous Grossman Burger Deluxe. Priced at just $10, it’s a standout in a city where other jazz bars might charge upwards of $18 for a similar dish.

Furthermore, Grossman’s actively contributes to the local music community through initiatives like The Amy Louie Grossman Music Scholarship. This is an annual fundraiser providing financial support to musicians in the GTA for career development. 

Pros

  • 80 years of experience
  • Occasionally hosts other genres
  • No cover charge
  • Affordable and tasty bar fare
  • Has an annual musical scholarship

Cons

  • Unfriendly bartender
  • Venue is a bit tiny

Best New Orleans jazz in town!

“Best New Orleans jazz in town! I’m from Chicago and I go there every time I visit Toronto, I go to the famous Andy’s jazz time all the time, and I still find this band to be the best I’ve ever seen!”

Wahid Muhtaseb, Google Review

The music and atmosphere is second to none

“Absolutely love this place! The music and atmosphere on weekend evenings is second to none in this city. You feel like you’re with a whole bunch of friends when you go to Grossman’s. The bands are lively, engaging and fun, the music is amazing, the people are fantastic, warm, and friendly. Bar service is hit or miss depending on who you have, and I would recommend hitting up somewhere else for dinner before or after. But again, you come here for the music and the atmosphere. It’s a rare gem.”

Madyson Victoria, Google Review