What is Tex Mex
Chef / Owner
Damon Limeback Bartender
Christopher Palik + Emily Wilson / Dylan King Kitchen Crew
What is Tex Mex?
Tex Mex food is best described as the Americanization of Mexican food
What is HOTMESS?
Hotmess is an homa32ge to the Tex Mex joints that dot the Southwest border between Texas and Mexico
This is the story of Hotmess
You're from Texas right?
I get asked that at least a couple times a week. Well i'm actually from Saskatchewan but I did eat at Taco Time a lot in High School, does that count?
The year was 2001, I had been cooking professionally for about 6 years, mostly concentrating on classical French and Asian fusion when I discovered Tex Mex. I was stuck overnight unexpectedly in between flights in Houston Texas. What’s a young cook to do with a night off in a new city? Eat of course! I asked the ticket attendant where I should go and with the options presented I settled on Tex Mex as the good BBQ seemed too far out of the city and being from Vancouver at the time I didn't need anymore seafood in my life. I was sent to El Patio, a restaurant that was a Houston institution, and I was about to get schooled in the ways of Tex Mex.
The whole idea of “Southern hospitality” was on display that night. Obviously a call had been placed ahead of my arrival and they were expecting me with a Margarita in hand. They then spent the next 3 hours either dropping off another plate of food or walking by showing me dishes destined for other tables. By the end of the night I had drank all the drinks and either eaten or seen the entirety of the menu. I felt like I had picked up and dropped into a totally different time and place. It was a complete departure from the flavor and stuffy environments I had been cooking in up till then and I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2016 and I was feeling that it was time. I was growing restless cooking in the corporate world but was I crazy to think that Hotmess could be a reality? All chefs dream of owning their own place, mine was no different. It wasn't like I needed to find a concept so I could open my own place, more like the concept found me....
years ago in Houston.
Things were starting to align, the taco trend had hit Toronto and showed no signs of slowing down. By eating tacos people were becoming versed in the ingredients that also formed the bones of Tex Mex. If I could combine people's new found taste for tacos and everyone's secret love of Taco Bell, Hotmess might just work.
It wasn't gonna be just about the food though, I also needed Hotmess to have the ambiance to reflect a time and place. I needed people to enter another world like Del Rio Texas, circa 1985 with wood paneling, chicken wire, fluorescent lights, vintage country music, frozen margaritas and ice cold beers.
We found a building that was formerly an after hours/coke den that fit the bill. The fact that it was in the heart of Little Italy also made sense. Where better to put a border town tavern then in a neighbourhood reinventing itself? Over the span of 5 months we breathed new life into a turn of the century store front that when completed turned out to be as loud, fun and tacky as I had imagined.
And so here we are, serving what I feel is Toronto's only true Tex Mex. It's not authentic or traditional, how can it be? We are about 2300 km from Texas and I'm from Saskatchewan but it's my version of what I feel Tex Mex needs to be for Toronto. It's honest, filling, accessible, a good time and made by us. We are the epitome of a small business, run by friends, family and former coworkers. We love our place and the culture we are building around it. We'd love to make you feel like I felt 16 years ago, transported to another place and time.