Casablanca opens Front Street outlet
Casablanca Downtown has opened on Front Street, becoming the third outlet in Hamilton to carry the Casablanca name.
It is predominantly a takeout, although it does have seating for about nine customers.
For its soft opening Casablanca Downtown is doing mostly lunch items. There is a salad bar with hot and cold selections. Pastries, coffees, smoothies, soup broths, noodles, pasta, fresh local seafood, omelettes and crepes have also been introduced, or are on the way, to boost the menu.
Once everything is in place and running smoothly, the restaurant will expand from its soft opening hours to offer a more comprehensive breakfast selection and then extend into later dinner hours.
Amre Elsayed, the owner, opened the first Casablanca in Washington Lane two years ago.
The plan had been to add the Front Street version last year, but this was delayed when the business joined with Arabian Deep Fried Chicken on Court Street to create Casablanca Uptown in February.
Casablanca Downtown is in the premises formerly occupied by the Juice ’n’ Beans café, near to the junction with Burnaby Street. Mr Elsayed sees it as filling a gap on Front Street, and helping to take some pressure off the Washington Lane outlet.
The self-service food bar allows customers to choose their selections and, if desired, hand the ingredients to the chef to make into a noodle or pasta dish, soup, or omelette.
A condiments table with various Asian, Chinese and Middle Eastern spices will allow customers to add the finishing touches to achieve the style and flavour they desire.
There is no waiter service, which means customers can get their food at their own pace.
“One of the things is the speed. Clients do not have to wait in line. The faster you help yourself, the faster you can leave,” said Mr Elsayed.
“The key thing is the cost. It’s going to be quick, rustic. As there is no waiter service, you go straight to the chef to cook for you.”
With pasta steamers, crepes — including lamb or chicken shawarma crepes — soup station, waffles, and meat sandwiches among the offerings, there is plenty of variety. Mr Elsayed believes the fish section will be “a big thing”. He also said having the freshest ingredients was important.
“We hardly use any frozen. We prepare the food everyday so people notice the difference.”
A sound system adds to the ambience, and the decor features interesting designs using broken bricks, driftwood and other recycled pieces that Mr Elsayed has collected and repurposed. The effect is eye-catching.
“I recycle things to create something. I’m not a big business; I had to be resourceful. Tourists from Europe have come in a take photographs,” he said.
There is a gentle sloping entrance at the door that makes the premises easily accessible to wheelchair users.
Casablanca Downtown’s soft opening is for the lunch hours 11am to 5pm. This will eventually be extended to cover breakfast hours and late dinner to 9pm. There is a plan to stay open into the small hours on Fridays and Saturdays to offer a food option for people leaving bars and clubs. The restaurant does not serve alcohol.
Mr Elsayed said the business is taking small steps at the moment to ensure it reaches the desired level of quality service before extending into breakfast and late dinner options.
“Once we feel everything is 100 per cent with service and high-quality food, we will announce on the board the breakfast opening, or the full lunch. We are working diligently to offer this.”
Mr Elsayed said he and his colleagues are learning all the time. “We’re not perfect. I’m always looking how to improve the service and give people more choice.”
He said Casablanca Downtown was result of teamwork. “We decide as a team. My style is to ask people’s opinions. We want the best for the public.”