chris atchison/metro toronto
Volo Italian Caffe
587 Yonge St.
Ambience: At first glance, Volo Italian Caffe seems like your average Italian-themed bar/restaurant with a cosy atmosphere and enough beer bottles lining the walls to start a new brewery. But the secret to how Volo separates itself from the pack is in the brew. The beer list is remarkably extensive and is the main reason why so many neighbourhood locals venture here for a bottle of their favourite rare Pilsner or to spread their wings and venture into unknown craft beer territory. The food may not be quite as remarkable, but a side patio that’s rarely empty in summer would lead one to assume that regulars feel Volo’s alcoholic attributes more than compensate for its culinary shortcomings.
Crowd: This early to mid-30s clientele is ready for one thing and that’s beer — the type that almost no other bar sells and is known only by devout enthusiasts eager to share new discoveries with friends.
Dress code: Anything goes, but opt for cool clothing during these hot summer months or be prepared to sit on the patio — the restaurant-bar area relies on fans to keep the room cool.
Should I dance on the bar? A bar dance is not an option at Bar Volo.
Will I get lucky? You’ll have plenty of help with the beer goggles, but there may be a shortage of eligible singles to hit on.
Best accessory: The willingness to cough up in excess of $10 for an import beer.
Cocktail du jour: Beer fans will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. There are literally hundreds of mainly European beers to choose from, with prices varying widely. Aficionados will appreciate the opportunity to please their palettes with new and exciting hops-and-barley combinations, but wine drinkers may be disappointed. While the bottle list is sufficient, the by-the-glass selections are strictly limited to Ontario wines.
Hours: Monday to Wednesday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Thursday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to midnight.
For a great date
Pravda Vodka Bar
36 Wellington St. E.
416-306-2433, No cover
Pull up a chair and have a chat, comrade. This rather kitschy Soviet-themed lounge is very date-friendly and has a selection of vodkas so wide that even if your date tanks, there are plenty of liquid options to occupy your time. Pravda excels at providing an interesting ambience lit dimly enough to allow you to focus attention on your date, rather than the couple at the next table.
On the cutting edge
Habitat’s clientele is a blend of hipsters and after-work warriors out for dinner or a few cocktails before they head home and re-group for the next day’s grind. The Asian-influenced decor is subtle and trendy without being overly precious, while the staff is friendly and efficient. Need to impress someone? Head west on Queen and let Habitat do all the work.