Is that Moby in the lobby? The Drake is a cultural hub and ultra-cool hotel for international hipsters. Once a notorious flophouse, this 19th-century building is now a haven for successful creative types who want a casual but stylish place to crash. Rooms are small, Nordic and dorm-like, but brimming with cache. Witness the library ladders. DJs rock in the lounge, the underground bar, the technology archive, and the rooftop patio. There are regular exhibitions and musical performances by local artists that often spill out onto the sidewalk. Hit the General Store for unexpected Canada-themed souvenirs. We don't want to burst your bubble, but the hotel is not owned by the rap star Drake.
Artists, you've found your home away from home. The Drake is part hotel, part incubator, with an artist in residence, installations, murals, video art and a growing private collection. The Wi-Fi is free--a rarity in Toronto.
Called "crash pads" and "dens", the mid century rooms have hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, platform beds, laptop safes, a hand-made doll and a library ladder to access the floating luggage rack. Every inch of the room is pressed into service. The walls are filled with uniquely curated artwork and mid-century style. The windows open and there is nightly turndown service. While room service is limited, you can peruse the Pleasure Menu for condoms, lube and feather ticklers.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There's no getting around it, almost all of the 19 rooms are quite small, measuring between 150 square feet and 385 square feet. Prepare to hear the Canadian expression, "scooch over" as you elbow your way past your companion. For the price, you'd expect a bit more space.
Walk-in shower stalls with modern fixtures are clean and cool, with lots of glass and mirrors. The sink area is compact and well appointed. The body products from Malin + Goetz are a revelation.
YOU SHOULD KNOW If you're on the shy side, the open glass shower may be too revealing. Most rooms do not have a tub.
Hanging near the lobby's 66-year-old terrazzo staircase is a Rorschach ink-blot mural that spans the lounge and dining room. Vintage leather couches, modern ottomans, art curios, and digital art projections grace the lobby.
It's a mobile spa, bringing simple services like massages and nail care to your room.
Drake Cafe is a busy urban eatery for breakfast (not included in the room rate), brunch and lunch--all featuring cups of Reunion Island Coffee and the city's best hangover cure: fried chicken and waffles. For supper, head downstairs for a famous Drake Burger, oysters, sushi and vegan options.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Room service is limited to plates of cheese, fruit and sweets, but you can also order fun things like balloons, wine, flowers and a birthday kit.
Whether you're imbibing at Sky Yard or in the lounge, Drake mixologists will go out of their way to make you a creative cocktail. They conjure their own syrup for signature drinks, like the Brown Maple Butter Old Fashioned. There's a house ale, as well as local labels like Henderson Brewing Co.
Registered hotel guests can pre-book a parking spot in advance for your car at a rate of $25 per day at the Green P public lot located half a block south. Streetcars, buses and subways are nearby, but walking is a reasonable way to get around town.
For classic French bistro grub, go to Union (10-minute walk) and linger over your steak frites. Equally popular is Mamakas (10-minute walk), a Greek "taverna" with a daily menu of seafood and grilled plates, counter seating options, and a casual style.
Bellwood's Brewery (10-minute walk) is a converted mechanics garage turned hot spot with craft beer and cocktails, plus eclectic bar snacks and light bites. Or head to Mahjong Bar (10-minute walk) is a low-key gem, Hong Kong-style, for classic cocktails and energetic mingling.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Fully committed to supporting local and international artists, The Drake is a vibrant player on the cultural scene. We admire their drive. We also like the mid-century room decor, as well as the technology archive, Sky Yard patio and the quirky General Store . The Drake is a "scene" and a place to be seen, so who cares if the rooms are small? There is plenty of hooking up among the young guests, which explains the hotel's extensive Pleasure Menu for intimate encounters. It made us blush, but we salute the Drake for being so sex positive.