The hottest spot you’ve never seen

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By Jessie Stones

A lonely man stands on the corner of Gould and Dalhousie Streets asking passerby if they know where 159 Dalhousie St. is. He thinks it’s a place called the It Club, but he’s not sure.

Gould Street is pretty much empty. A couple in gym clothes stand in front of Oakham House — just Wycik kids in their pyjamas picking up Saturday night munchies at Dominion.

But just three seconds south on Dalhousie — at number 159 — across from the parking lot attendant’s booth, there’s nary a pyjama pant nor hooded sweatshirt in sight.

The street in front of Kubo, the resto-bar acclaimed by InStyle magazine and the National Post as a very desirable dining destination, is dark. But behind the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, the spacious restaurant is teeming wit Toronto’s hip, cool, and desperate.

Open for almost two years, this out-of-the-way nightspot is still attracting new customers. There are several taxicabs stopped haphazardly just past the entrance, as if their passengers only recognized their destination once they’d passed it. Young, urban professionals in blue button-ups and loafers tumble out of SUVs and black Lexuses parked casually on the side streets, asking each other if this is the right place.

Inside, a small lounge area between the door and the turntables is packed, and co-owner Leslie Ng hurries from the door to the kitchen, greeting customers and conferring intermittently with his partner-in-crime, the surname-less Byron, who is ensconced with an attractive brunette by the cash register.

The restaurant is steps from Ryerson’s campus, but the only customers who look young enough, or unsalaried enough, to be students are Paul Le and his friends, who leave soon after they circle the dining room.

“It’s my first time here,” says Le, an Internet coordinator. “It’s cool. But it’s too crowded.”

It’s almost impossible to get past the mob at the bar, which is raised above and behind the dining area.

There are no dark corners or hidden areas in this lounge-slash-bar-slash-restaurant.

“It’s not a club,” insists Byron.

The off-white walls, where Sex and the City and foreign films are shown every Tuesday night, curve slightly up to the 30-foot ceilings.

“We chose this building because of the space,” says Byron, gesturing up to the metal beams criss-crossing the warehouse ceiling. “But also because of the location. Once you’re here, it’s not easy to hop from bar to bar. It’s a different atmosphere.”

And the fact it’s not easy to find?

“If you have a reputation, people will spend half-an-hour looking for you. It’s like, if you can’t find it, it must really be cool.”

Other not so subtle statements of cool are the unlabelled bathroom doors.

“Why do what everyone else is doing?” he says, though he’s quick to flag the ladies down before they steer toward the urinals. “On your right!”

The hip factor rises into the condos above where residents such as singer Nelly Furtado have accounts at the restaurant. They also help out when needed.

This Saturday night, the scheduled DJ cancelled last minute, so Byron and Leslie called on “a kid named Ryerson,” who lives upstairs, to spin.

“This kid’s good,” Leslie says.

And while it looks super chic, Byron is quick to point out it’s not really expensive.

Even on an OSAP budget, dining is affordable. A meal, without sampling the deluxe martinis, can be purchased for under $20.

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