Rather than stay downtown or in Yorkville, I have stayed twice in Queen Street West which is a younger, “bohemian” area filled with shops, ethnic restaurants, some trendy boutique hotels and many art galleries.
In 2012, I stayed at the Gladstone Hotel, which is the oldest hotel in the city; built in 1889, it was once a flophouse. Today it is a trendy boutique hotel where local artists have decorated more than 35 of the hotel’s 51 rooms. The staff was great and there was a bar and also a fun café where you could get a really good breakfast. I had a quiet room, with king bed and small bath which was perfect for my stay. There is art on every floor so you feel like you are in a gallery. They also have one of the old manual elevators which adds to the charm and ambiance.
Back again in 2013, I chose the Drake Hotel on Queen St. West, just east of the Gladstone. What a great find. This is a small boutique hotel with a fun café which is great for breakfast or brunch. There is an eclectic lounge off the lobby, a music club on the lower level and a rooftop bar, The Sky Lounge, off the second floor that is a hot spot for locals during the warmer months. My room was somewhat compact, but attractive and well-designed, with a small bath and king sized bed. The staff was most helpful. Just ask for a quiet room away from the rooftop bar. Walk the neighborhood to the north and you will find some charming, older homes. Stop into the Drake General Store, next door, for clothing and home furnishings.
West of the Gladstone are several more blocks of bars, clubs, restaurants, shops and galleries.
East of the Gladstone and Drake you will find many great restaurants as well. A local friend recommended Addis Ababa for Ethiopian food at 1184 Queen St. West. Check out Ursa at 942 Queen St. West. I stopped in at El Almacen at 1078 Queen St. West for a good mate latte.
Nearby, at 1026 Queen St. West, is the Stephen Bulger Gallery, a major gallery known for its photography. It was closed when I was there, but I did see several of their pieces on loan to the museum at the University of Toronto.
Closer in is the Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art) at 158 Sterling Road. Here, I visited two contemporary art exhibits on display. It is worth the visit, but make sure that the galleries are open and not closed for setting up exhibitions, like I experienced on my last trip.
Ossington Avenue is the new satellite area of West Queen with many restaurants and bars. I enjoyed a great meal at Foxley Bistro, at 207 Ossington, which has Vietnamese and Thai influences. There is a nice outdoor seating area in the back.
At Ossington and Dundas West (1149) is the Communist’s Daughter: This a small, locals bar. On Saturday afternoons from 4 to 7 pm, trumpeter and singer Michael Louis Johnson takes over the bar and plays to a packed house (25 people) with a small 4 piece band, the Red Rhythm. He bartends, sings and plays the trumpet with the group that features music from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. It is such fun and if you are in town, stop in before heading down to have dinner at one of the many restaurants on Ossington St.
I also went to Gusto 101 which is a restaurant at 101 Portland, just south of Queen St. West and north of King St. West. I loved the great décor and great outdoor seating.