The Drake Commissary is a culinary hub for food and drink enthusiasts, in a post-industrial area of the Junction Triangle just down the road from the Nestle chocolate factory.
Located in an 8,000 sq. ft. former condiment factory on Sterling Road with Henderson Brewing, House of Anansi Press and the Tower Automotive Building/MOCA as neighbours, this bakery, bar and larder also houses the Drake Hotel's catering division.
It boasts a 5,000 sq. ft. production kitchen, which supplies baked goods and prepared foods to all the Drake locations and its wholesale partners.
Turning out everything from fresh bread and pastries to charcuterie and pasta, this place is a gastronomic wonderland.
Designed by long-time Drake collaborator John Tong of +tongtong and outfitted with eye-catching artwork curated by Mia Nielsen, the varied spaces here flow seamlessly into one another:
A takeout counter and "living room" at the front; a coffee/cocktail bar next to it; a house-packaged food retail area behind that; and seated dining for 140 (plus a 40-person patio outside), including a semi-private spot in the back that looks into the charcuterie fridge and kitchen.
Open from morning 'til late, seven days a week, this joint, like the other Drake locations, can serve as an all-day hangout, starting with coffee and ending with cocktails.
As a nod to its surrounds, the bar program features the Commissary's own house wine blend (made in the Niagara region) called the Rail Path, along with Drake Art House beer, a blonde ale by Henderson Brewing that comes in four tall can designs with different artists' artwork on each.
Signature cocktails include the frothy and light Queen Street Sour ($15), with Gooderham & Worts Canadian Whisky, carrot, apple, turmeric, lemon and vegan foam.
This vegan play on a whisky sour is perfect for day drinking, and would actually be healthy, if I could resist withholding the alcohol.
Havana Club 7-year-old rum, Falernum, almond, pineapple, ginger beer and an Angostura float make up the Maharaja ($15), a tasty take on a tiki drink.
Ted Corrado, the Drake's corporate executive chef, and Jonas Grupiljonas, the Commissary's chef, have come up with an eclectic menu of food offerings.
Danish smorrebrod ($7 each), a.k.a. open-faced sandwiches, come on fresh rye bread, combining toppings like pickled herring, beets and sweet onions with cultured cream cheese.
Duck confit on a house-made milk bun ($16) with arugula, sour cherry, mustard and caramelized and crispy onions makes for a small but satisfying lunch.
Naturally raised, house-smoked spicy brisket ($15) is accompanied by house-fermented beer mustard (using Henderson's Best, of course), and also comes in sandwich form ($14).
Miso cauliflower ($9, $5 as a side) with house-fermented black garlic, creme fraiche, cashews, lime and cilantro is a delicious flavour bomb of umami from both the miso and black garlic, the latter of which also gives it an addictive and pleasing hint of sweetness. I'll be back for more of this.
And for dessert (all also made in house, obviously), there's a lemon chamomile tart ($8) – essentially a light, not-too-sweet slice of lemon meringue pie infused with chamomile tea.
There is also a beautifully made rhubarb & strawberry frangipane ($8), which would likely pair well with one of the Drake's house-churned flavours of ice cream.
The Commissary aims to be a casual, albeit stylish, gathering place in this quickly emerging, artistically inclined neighbourhood, and clearly, as the Drake has in all its other locations, it's going to succeed.