Another brand new spot, that dare we say, might be the most Instagrammable place we've visited yet is MOTEL. This brunch spot is a destination. Prepare to be transported to an old school highway motel stop meets Florida inspired space. With some seriously rich food on the menu we spoke with the owner about the concept and his perspective on Hamilton as the rejuvenating place it has become.
Barton is starting to gentrify. Why this location? Why this part of the city?
If you’ve lived in Toronto for any amount of time I think you have seen this story happen. A neighborhood change and what can happen to a neighborhood if a couple people take a chance on it. These guys, The Heather (restaurant) had just moved in and I liked what they were doing and what they had to say. We had just heard about the space so we drove out. It was the last big snow storm, so it took us about 3 and a half hours to get here.
Where are you from originally?
And where were you living?
Toronto. I was living in the west end. I was in Queen West then moved closer to work near Liberty Village. I was working at School.
What would you relate this neighborhood to in Toronto?
I would say like Parkdale 10 years ago. Except I think it will change faster than Parkdale did. Parkdale had a real struggle. I watched Parkdale struggle with not wanting to become what Queen W became with all the condos. I think they won. Like it stops at Parkdale. There's still a lot of artists and stuff living there. But now it is starting. They fought the good fight. People are getting evicted from their apartments. They held on for a while. You saw Queen W develop quickly and then King W got it even more.
Why did you choose Hamilton?
Honestly it was a Facebook post. I liked what people were saying about it. The rents in Toronto are crazy and it wasn’t a place where I wanted to take a chance right away. Hamilton is kind of fresh and new and you’re seeing all the Toronto transports and all the people coming here. I think it's just the beginning, we were sort of warned away from this street and I just disagreed 100%. If you get to work here, you get to see all different people come here and people in Hamilton are really proud of the city. They want change and they’ve been extremely supportive.
How long have you been here?
I've only lived in Hamilton for 3 weeks. I had no intention of moving. I was going to open the restaurant and commute. The restaurant has been open for a month and a week. I mean in Toronto, I don’t do that much. I mean I go to restaurants and I go out for drinks with friends and I work. Apart from that I go out of the city to wineries and beaches and I’ll go to the island sometimes. But I can still do all that. I was commuting in and every time I was heading into the city. I was getting a little more stressed out by the traffic. I would come back here and be like “ahhhhh I can get here in 5 minutes, I can get there in 2 minutes, I can get to work in 3 minutes.” I don’t want to seem negative but the view you have from what people tell you is so much different than what I experienced, and what I experienced is so much better. I really enjoyed the city and all the people supporting each other and for me it was like I can still go to Toronto whenever I want cause it’s so close.
What was your idea for this space?
I ran School for a really long time. I love a good theme. I grew up travelling a lot with my parents and we would drive everywhere. We would hit a lot of hotels and motels. Some were really good and others were really terrible. I always loved the old motel feeling. I liked everything about it and road trips and travelling. Everytime I’m in Palm Beach or anywhere in Florida I love that feeling, so I wanted to create something fun and an experience that maybe Hamilton wouldn’t have before. Maybe something that people would talk about. Just a fun breezy nice space that takes people to that era. It was funny to watch people talk about it like “Is this wrong? Am I going to a restaurant that is stuck in the 80’s and their going to feed me like a bad shrimp cocktail?”
Do you have shrimp cocktail on the menu?
We don’t. Although I do love a good shrimp cocktail…. We wanted that fresh but vintage style space.
What is your favorite dish on the menu?
I love the fried chicken. It’s just sooooo good. Our bestseller is the Champagne pancakes. Those actually created quite the stir. People were like “You’re not going to sell $20 pancakes in Hamilton?” and I said, “Well that’s what they’re worth, and I’m going to do it anyway” and now they are our bestseller by far.
How has it been going?
Really good. Friday’s are always our quietest day. We’ve been open five Sundays now and the first Sunday we had over an hour line.
Do you notice any difference in people’s day to day?
I definitely do notice their habits are different. So it can be hard to judge when it will be busy. I think the casualness of people coming as a destination to us, when people decide to make that outing, it can be a very different.
What are your favorite places in Hamilton?
I am celiac so there is a taco place that is cute and casual and it’s great. They are insanely friendly; the service is great. The Mezcal sour, I can drink about a hundred of them and it's two minutes from my house. There’s a little wine bar called Toast. I love wine. That’s something that I think Toronto is missing. I would prefer Midfield to Archive. It’s lacking though. That’s something I would like to see happen. I think wine gets overlooked in North America in a casual way. I like to casually drink wine. Let’s make it a little more fun. I think the problem is that the perception of it in Canada is that it has to be snobby and it doesn’t have to be.