+Tongtong Transforms a Former Pickle Factory Into Trendy Toronto Eatery Drake Commissary

Once upon a time, pickles were produced in this 1908 Toronto building. Now, housing the Drake Commissary, it’s producing an entire range of gastronomic offerings. The kitchen is creating bites to be served right here as well as at three sister establishments in the expanding Drake Hotel Properties portfolio, which currently includes the city’s original Drake Hotel, a country inn, a restaurant, and four “general stores”—several being projects by +Tongtong. “This is a place for making,John Tong says of the factory turned commissary. It combines the commercial kitchen, visible through tall windows, with a café, two lounges, a bar, a takeout counter, and a strong contemporary art program, a unique recipe.

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A vintage-style photo booth, recalling a trademark touch from the Drake Hotel, stands at the Drake Commissary’s entry, signaling the eclectic informal atmosphere ahead. The 8,000-square-foot ground level is as layered as a cake. And art is a crucial ingredient.

Drake Hotel Properties has a staff curator, Mia Nielsen, who programs a combination of permanent and revolving installations through the various properties. “For the Drake Commissary, my idea was that it could be a kind of workshop,” Nielsen says. “There’s a lot of craft that happens there.”

Vintage furniture fills the lounge. Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Tong, meanwhile, mixed the existing raw brick with lustrous marble, then added found objects including a miscellany of furniture and lighting that seem plucked partly from a 1960’s living room and partly from a decommissioned factory. “It’s almost impossible to tell what was there and what is new, since the interventions are linked to the history of the place,” he says. Starting with the entry doors, accent paint is a deep green that recalls 1940’s factories. The same color is found on the powder-coated aluminum shades of pendant fixtures that hang above the café’s artist-painted tabletops. The fixtures’ shades look a bit like flying saucers or, more pertinently, the work of Jean Prouvé—whose mid- century designs explored new means of factory production. 

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Project Team: Judd Jones Architect: Architect of Record. Field Design Office: Graphics Consultant. Paula Hicks Food Service Design: Kitchen Consultant. Blackwell Structural Engineers: Structural Engineer. BK Consulting: MEP. BL Woodworking & Design: Woodwork. B.L.T. Construction Services: General Contractor.

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