Hugh's Room, located in Roncesvalles Village a few blocks south of Dundas West station, is one of Canada's best folk, blues, and world music venues.
It's named for Hugh Carson, brother of venue owner Richard Carson. Prior to opening, both brothers had long talked about owning a folk venue. Hugh, diagnosed with cancer in 1999, was described as "somewhat of a scholar of 60's folk-music."
You first notice the marquee listing upcoming acts over the entrance. Inside, everything is well laid out and visibly lit. A door person checks pre-sold tickets (Hugh's takes reservations via their website), and artist merch is off to one side with lots of space for albums, t-shirts, and the like.
Just inside on the right, the bar has a limited number of stools. Photos of Stephen Fearing , Jory Nash , Ian Tyson , and many club alumni circle the bar area and to the washrooms downstairs, giving you an idea of the all the recognizable names to appear on the stage.
The rest of Hugh's opens up into the 200 person dinner-performance room. A few steps lead to the first seating, all tables covered in burgundy tablecloths, most seating four. The room is levelled off into sections, with priority seating closest to the stage. Otherwise plain white walls are half-filled with etchings of horses by artist Pawel Zablocki .
Everything gives off the quintessential dinner-show dining experience.
Doors at Hugh's open at 6pm, with dinner at 7pm and music at 8:30pm. Meals are served a la carte, and there's a late menu option and concert special dinner selection as well.
Debbie Thibert, head chef fro 13 years, is responsible for Hugh's menu, with everything prepared in-house.
Trying a range of dinner entrees, the Hugh's Caesar ($10) is served with the entire head or romaine boat-style topped with shaved parmesan. Their Caesar dressing is also house prepared (my mom used to make her own, and it's almost as good).
The New York steak, aged 28 days ($29), is cooked to medium rare with juices still running. The Ontario grilled pork chop ($24) with barbeque sauce comes with a baked potato twice-baked and extra-fluffy.
Though I didn't try it this time around, Hugh's also serves a sushi-grade Atlantic salmon ($24), plus pastas and chicken dishes. The fare is definitely elevated above most music bars.
For drinks, six drafts are on tap - a pint runs $8. Six ounce glasses of wine start at $7.
I dropped by Hugh's on a (snowy) April evening for Jeffery Straker 's NorthStar Falling album release. Close to capacity, fans are seated for dinner reservations and ready to enjoy the music. It's mostly an older crowd, with younger faces appearing in the audience here and there.
Lights are lowered, and as is customary at Hugh's, an emcee introduces the artist and requests all cell phones off. Someone in the audience yells "I love you" before Straker starts into two sets of piano driven folk-pop tunes.
While the bar is essential for local and touring folk and blues acts, Hugh's is known for their tribute nights too - Gordon Lightfoot is often an unadvertised special guest at the Lightfoot night.
Floor staff make very few crossing through tables during the music. From the stage to the bar at the entrance, fans have clear sight-lines everywhere.
Like every concert I've made it out to at Hugh's, the sound was excellent. The room acoustics are clean, with no feedback and nothing muddy. You can tell its a room for listening.
Writing by Ryan Ayukawa