My search for the best breakfast place in the city began with a long running tradition between me and my girlfriends. The last Sunday of each month we gather for breakfast, and they count on me to choose the place. I often focus on the downtown because that's where I know best, so when I heard about Papa Leo's on the escarpment with it's locally sourced menu, I had to venture out and give it a try. Concession Street is one of those areas in Hamilton I have childhood memories of being a thriving, happening place. After the shuttering of The Movie Palace, I was curious to see the current state of the street. Following the first visit Adam and I made to the restaurant, it quickly became one of our favourite breakfast spots in the city. Owner Leo's reason for choosing the spot was simple, it's in the neighbourhood he calls home. "I wanted to create that local place that I felt was missing from the area," says Leo, "This street has so much potential and I wanted to be part of the challenge of revitalizing the only street on the mountain that still offers small independent business." With a local networking group on Wednesday mornings that meets to discuss local business, Concession Street is undergoing change and the businesses are learning how they can help to move it forward. It helps to have a local BIA that is open to suggestions and supportive of new initiatives. You can't help but be drawn into Leo's enthusiasm for the revitalization of Concession Street. It's entrepreneurs with a vision like him that keep us inspired, and the reason we started this blog in the first place.
"It is extremely important to support, shop and eat local," says Leo, "Sustainability of our communities, business, and persons can only happen if we all work towards this support." Leo describes his restaurant as a brunch bistro, with hints of Portuguese, Costa Rican, and West coast flair. He sees it as a place to engage with his customers, provide fresh cooked meals, and to be the host of social outings. "I do my best to source and purchase local ingredients for our meals," explains Leo, "I am fortunate to have the ability to buy direct every Saturday morning from the Hamilton Mountain Market." Alves Meats, a long running family business in Hamilton is another one of his key suppliers as he provides the fresh made chorizo that Leo uses in many of their dishes. If you love chorizo sausage give Papa’s Eggs a try. It comes with two poached eggs served on fresh avocado with either sweet chorizo sausage, smoked salmon, or bacon, and a fresh cilantro cream sauce. Plus it has fresh cut pan fried potatoes and toast on the side.
Leo's decor is simple, but I love that he livens up the space with photography by local artist Amanda McIntyre. It's especially fitting that the framed works (see below) were taken at the local farmer's market. Check out more of her work at the Loose Ends Art Exhibit she is curating at The Pearl Company July 23rd.
I love the smoothies, my favourite being the Honey Berry made with mixed berries, banana, yogurt, and honey. And it's always nice to start breakfast with a fresh yogurt parfait, with granola, vanilla yogurt and mixed berries. Adam decided to try the blueberry pancakes. Verdict -- fluffy, delicious. I've been on a French Toast kick lately, so I opted for the cinnamon and nutmeg battered french loaf garnished with honey yogurt and fresh fruit. There was simply no way I could try anything else, but Leo recommends the Heuvos Rancheros, which is a fresh corn flour tortilla topped with refried beans, two sunny side eggs, chorizo, avocado, fresh mango salsa and cilantro.
With a successful first year drawing near, Leo has his sights set forward. "It has been a great experience with fantastic feedback from all my customers both postive and negative," says Leo, "We have executed some great catering events offsite, showcased cooking demonstrations at the market as well as in customers homes." Leo's current apprentice Paul Sanchez will be heading off to George Brown to finish his in class training and Leo hopes he will return to assist with the next phase of their business. "His skills and dedication have been an integrual part of the past year," says Leo, "In September we will begin serving a seasonal selection menu in conjunction with the current menu. Additionally our dinner service will begin with Thursday & Friday night service."
Adam knows espresso, so I count on him to give me the rundown on coffee. And I'm happy to say he considers Leo's espesso the best in the city. "Red Hill Coffee has been my greatest compliment as Jason's coffee is roasted fresh for me every Wednesday right here in Hamilton," enthuses Leo.
638 Concession Street
Hamilton, ON L8V 1B5