Archive for June 25th, 2011

June 25, 2011

Letters from you: Hooray for Buffalo

Canoe sculpture at Albright-Knox Art Gallery

The stunning new canoe sculpture by Nancy Rubins, unveiled earlier this month at Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It features 57 canoes. (Julia Pelish photo)

A lot of people love Buffalo — I learned that this week.

And they’re passionate about it — which I discovered last weekend when I was there. The letters and comments have poured in. Most are on the bottom of the article that got everyone fired up enough to express their love for the city, but some came directly to my inbox or to the Toronto Star’s Travel department or on Twitter. Here are a couple of those as well as some of the ones I liked most from the comment feed.

I like to think the outpouring of affection for the city spurred by the article is a testament to the power of the written word. But those words could have just given voice to a sentiment that was long overdue to be expressed. In any case, the piece seems to have served as a conduit for Buffalo to show its civic pride and, hopefully/possibly, for those readers outside the city to think twice before dismissing it as a travel destination.

See everyone in the Queen City on November 11 (if not before)!

“I’m glad someone bothered to look past the stereotypes, cheap malls, hockey and wings and actually see the city. I’m not from there nor do I have any agenda. I just like to see places ­­— especially the ones people mark as dangerous, boring or ugly. I enjoy Buffalo every time I go and wish people would at least try.”
– Sabina

“I was reading your article on Buffalo and wanted to express my interest in it. I currently live in Mississauga and am going to D’youville College in Buffalo in August for graduate school.

I was there a couple of weeks ago looking for a place to live with a lot of hesitation and worry…being a girl. Again, we’ve all heard how bad certain areas of Buffalo are but a landlord who has lived in Buffalo has told me about areas that are gems like you had stated in your article.

It really is a beautiful place but has had some unfortunate stories and reputation as being a bad area. I am hoping to eventually convince my friends that Buffalo isn’t just good for outlet shopping and Walden Galleria. I really hope that Buffalo continues to strive and become more reputable for being a nice town. It has a lot of heritage and potential but is always masked by the bad things.

read more »

June 25, 2011

Drake’s Dining Roadshow takes you to school

Malcolm Travis and Cumbrae steak from the Drake

Server (and sax player) Malcolm Travis parades Cumbrae steaks around the newly opened Dining Roadshow.

General manager Bill Simpson and the Drake Hotel staff never stop looking for new ways to introduce their sense of retro fun to the city. Case in point, the overhauled dining room, a space that always seemed a little imposing anyhow — was it part of the lounge or not? — is now called the Drake Dining Roadshow and its décor has been completely revamped.

On Wednesday, Simpson, executive chef Anthony Rose and his team introduced the new concept, which will feature a rotating menu, to invited guests and media. The Drake is billing it as a pop-up restaurant, although that’s not quite accurate. Its physical location will remain in the dining room but the restaurant’s theme and cuisine will change every two or three months. Pop-up restaurants got their name because they moved about, often using social media to tell people where and when the next dinner would take place. In the Drake’s scheme, it’s the cuisine and theme that alters.

The first few months, until September 4, the dining room will be themed around “Summer School,” with menus that arrive in red duotangs (never thought you’d see one of those again, eh), juice boxes with spiked lemonade (very Bart Simpson), and bookshelves with sports trophies and black-and-white class photos. After “Summer School” is out, the Roadshow will take a couple of days to transform again into 1940’s California Chinatown, just in time for TIFF.

“The Drake is very much a never-ending story,” Simpson told me a few months back when I interviewed him. “We call it an ecosystem because we carry out so many aspects of hospitality, and the cultural aspects whether it’s art or music or reading or dining, keep evolving.”


As with most things the Drake does, the Dining Roadshow is thick with kitsch. Salt dispensers are shaped like Rubik’s cubes, one cocktail (the $16 Nurse’s Office) is squeezed into your glass through a frightening metallic syringe and a “glee club” (the eight members of Retrocity) appear midway through dinner to sing a cappella tunes from the ’80s.

Such style usually works at the Drake (1150 Queen Street West) in part because the quality of the food and experience is satisfying, so you buy into an aesthetic that somewhere else might make you groan at the campyness. To keep your patrons going along with your vision takes a fine balance, and my impression of the “Summer School” restaurant is that it’s a little hit and miss.

read more »