I feel like Torontonians don't give Hamilton enough credit.
It's a city that has so much character and it's only a 40 minute drive (give or take) from Toronto. Although many of the buildings are vacant, they are very visually appealing because of their age. 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 definitely overpower that. I'm so sick of driving through GTA cities and looking at the same RioCan centres at every corner; filled with a Wal-Mart, a Kelsey's, or a Tim Horton's. Why would I ever want to visit a city that looks the same as everywhere else?
The Hammer is one of my favourite places to do a day-trip away from Toronto. Years ago, I learned that it is the waterfall capital of the world. Yes, this is a thing. 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 list of things-to-do every summer. I hope to check out a few each summer until I have seen them all. Once I do that, I'll let you know which one is my favourite. If you're looking for something to do on a nice day in the summer, it's not too late to pick a waterfall or two in Hamilton and head over: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_waterfalls_in_Hamilton,_Ontario. I highly recommend Chedoke Falls. It's a ribbon waterfall surrounded by emerald green and deep orange rocky walls. Park in the Chedoke Golf Course parking lot and follow the trail east toward the Bruce Trail.
Normally, if you were heading out for a waterfall hike, I'd say to pack a lunch and picnic somewhere, but if you're heading out to Hamilton you have to stop by Motel Restaurant. It's a must-visit spot!
Located on Barton Street is this homage to 1950s motels and it is done so well I'm pretty sure I saw the ghost of Elvis Presley sitting at one of the back booths. This gimmicky restaurant is not only insta-worthy, people also go for the food - which is spectacular. When I sat down, I knew right away I wanted a mimosa, for two reasons: 1) I live for Mimosas, and 2) they come in 5 different flavours: Blood Orange, Raspberry Mango Mint, Lychee Cactus Pear, Grapefruit & Honey & Basil Lemonade. My mimosa of choice was blood orange [I highly recommend it]. I felt overwhelmed looking at the Motel Menu because it's just as vibrant and exciting as the décor.
These delicious flavor combinations make your mouth water as you read the menu - it makes it nearly impossible to decide what to order. Luckily, I had the owner, Chris Hewlett, beside me guiding me right through it. This gave me the opportunity to pick his brain. From my experience, people who do different and exciting things usually have a cool story to tell. Chris is creative, stylish, and warm - just like Motel. You can tell he really wants people to enjoy the place and feel comfortable. We showed up way later than expected, past Motel's hours of operation, but he was sure to stay and make sure we got the full experience.
Amandalina: I have to know, what inspired this place?
Chris: Motel came out of a couple things. Number one I love to travel and stay in hotels. When I was younger we would travel with my family. We would often drive and we would stay in different motels and hotels along the way to where we were going. The nostalgia and the fond memories of that were something I really cherished. 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.
Amandalina: How did you come up with such an eclectic menu? Chris: I love classic food and I love when you can take those classics and put a fun and elevated twist on them. Food is supposed to be enjoyable, social, and fun. 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 definitely noticed the difference. In addition to my blood orange mimosa, I ordered the Chicken and Waffles and the Brûlée Grapefruit for dessert. Both were spectacular. The breaded chicken was seasoned so uniquely and had a bit of a bite that was cooled down by the sweetness of the waffles. Syrup? Pshh. Maybe for regular C&W's. At Motel, you get a sweet Thai chili sauce that compliments this dish and ties it together so perfectly. Delish! The Brûlée Grapefruit is such a simple and unique dessert you'll wonder why you never thought of it yourself. The sweetness of the flambéed sugar offsets the bitter flavor of the grapefruit. They merge together so nicely that you aren't overwhelmed by sugar or sourness, just the perfect balance of both.
359 Barton Street, Hamilton, ON
Hours of Operation: 10am-3pm
Distance from Toronto: 1 Hour +/- Suggestions: Chicken & Waffles and a Retro Outfit