May 28, 2009

Adventures in YYZ: Drake Hotel

The 10th annual Doors Open Toronto ran this past weekend, but I was only able to go out on Sunday. I missed the TTC-related sites, but was able to visit the Carlu, the Flatiron and the Drake Hotel.

The Drake Hotel

This was a great place to visit for Doors Open because the Drake has a rich history. Back in 1890 the area was close to Sunnyside Beach, which played host to the wealthy during the summer. The hotel was known as Small's Hotel, but exchanged ownership numerous times until Michael Lundy took hold in 1949 and named it The Drake.

It grew quite seedy with the neighbourhood, but more recently independent art galleries have sprouted up all along the corridor of West Queen West. The Drake was bought and renovated by Jeff Stober to reflect the eclectic new feel of the neighbourhood, and today it's a popular venue for anything from poetry readings to intimate concerts in the Underground, Sunday brunch in the Dining Room, a year-round rooftop patio called the Sky Yard (including a fire and roasted marshmellows in the winter), and the best scones in the city at the corner Cafe.

The hotel lobby and sitting area has a random assortment of vintage items from an old photo booth to (strangely) a gymnastics pummel horse.

In the sitting area, look to your right at the engineering contraption. It's actually a functional piece of art that acts as a noise barometer for the main rooms of the hotel. Want a quiet evening? Pick a room with a low reading. Want to find where the party's happening? Go where the needle is bumping and pulsing!

Actually, there is art everywhere you look in the Drake, from murals and photographs to installations on walls, to even the ceiling with the custom-made lights. Every room has design eye candy and conversation starters.

Although the Cafe is known for its scones, we took advantage of the Artist's $10 deal. A drink (Beer, sparkling or other wines, or Drink of the Day) and a choice of the Drake Burger, a Poutine, Spicy Tuna Roll and a couple other options.

Obviously I chose the Poutine, but little did I know how decadent this would be. Smoked brisket (includes a lot of pork belly), old cheddar sauce and fried onions. The fried onions added some crunch (and more grease), but the body and soul of this poutine was from the brisket. I could only eat half before my arteries asked for a break. Tasty!

I think the Drake was my top pick for the places we visited during this year's Doors Open. There was much to see, and we only had a cursory guided tour. I definitely want to return this summer, if only to enjoy the patio on the corner or the rooftop.

The Drake Hotel
1150 Queen Street West, Toronto


SweetThings said...

decadent! How are the arteries now? :-)

Mere Rhetoric said...

They probably still need some unclogging! But smoked brisket poutine is well worth it. ^_~

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