Torontonians don’t give Hamilton enough credit. It’s a city that has so much character and is only a one hour drive (give or take) from Toronto. Although many of the buildings are vacant, they are visually appealing because of their age and architecture. Some of them were constructed over 100 years ago, giving the city a colourful and unique vibe. You have your typical mainstream grocery stores here and there, but the diverse old buildings overpower that.
The Hammer is one of my favourite places to take a day-trip away from Toronto. Years ago, I learned that it is the “waterfall capital of the world.” The city has over 100 waterfalls and cascades alongside trails that intertwine inside it – more so than any other place in the world. I have put it on my to-do every summer to take a break from the city and hike a waterfall trail. It also has a booming food scene. A lot of cool and tasty restaurants can be found just a 40 minute drive away. This summer, I suggest you pick a restaurant to test out, and afterwards hike a waterfall trail to burn off all of that delicious food. The restaurant you must try is Motel.
Located on Barton Street, it is an homage to 1950’s motels and, is done so well I’m pretty sure I saw the ghost of Elvis Presley sitting in one of the back booths. This gimmicky restaurant is not just insta-worthy, people also flock for the food. When I sit down, I immediately want a mimosa, because they come in 5 unique flavours: Blood Orange, Raspberry Mango Mint, Lychee Cactus Pear, Grapefruit & Honey and Basil Lemonade (flavours change seasonally).
The Motel Menu is as vibrant and exciting as the décor. Dishes have eccentric flavor combinations. Luckily, the owner, Chris Hewlett, is here to guide me. He is creative, stylish, and warm – just like Motel. He endeavors to make all his guests enjoy their visit and feel comfortable. We show up later than expected, past Motel’s hours of operation, but he makes sure we get the full experience.
Inspired by his love of travel with his family, Hewlett would often drive and stay in different motels and hotels. “The nostalgia and the fond memories of that were something I really cherished.” He tells me. “I wanted to be able to bring a fun, themed restaurant mixed with some nostalgia to Hamilton. I thought if we could pair that with great food, a fun atmosphere and great service, we might have something people might be able to identify with. So far the feedback has been so positive and I am so happy people are identifying with it or simply enjoying it.”
The menu is eclectic. Classics elevated with some fun twists. “Food is supposed to be enjoyable, social, and fun.” Hewlett shares. “I believe in making food from scratch, using local ingredients, free range antibiotic free meats, free run eggs and organic produce when possible. I refuse to make concessions on these ideals. I think people really do notice the difference.”
I notice the difference. In addition to my blood orange mimosa, I order the Chicken and Waffles, and the Brûlée Grapefruit for dessert. The breaded chicken has unique seasoning with a bite, complimented by the sweetness of the waffles. Syrup? Psh. Maybe for regular chicken and waffles. At Motel, we drizzle sweet Thai chili sauce. The Brûlée Grapefruit marries the sweetness of the brûléed sugar with the bitter notes of the grapefruit. Classic dishes with an elevated twist!
Motel Restaurant, 359 Barton Street, Hamilton, ON
Hours of Operation: 10am-3pm
Distance from Toronto: 1 Hour +/-
Suggestions: Chicken & Waffles and a Retro Outfit