On Valentine’s Day this year, Vibez quietly opened up in Hamilton’s east end. There was no grand opening or advertising campaign, but rather the mouth-watering aroma of grilled chicken wafting onto the street that brought in a steady stream of hungry passersby.
A walk through the Caribbean and Southern food spot’s bright red door first signals chimes, then an enthusiastic greeting by Kristan Webber at the register before she runs back into the kitchen to pick up orders and relay others to her mother, Yvette.
On a Friday evening, the small restaurant and café nestled on 971 King Street East is the backdrop of a busy scene. A few tables on one side of the restaurant seat families and couples as they share Jamaican fried chicken and fries, while a woman waits patiently on a leather couch for her curry chicken roti to go.
The mother-daughter duo opted not to promote their new restaurant so that they can handle running it on their own, but Vibez didn’t need promotion. The community’s reaction has been positive and everyone who comes in is willing to be patient. They know the food is worth the wait.
The warm atmosphere the Webbers’ have created is welcoming, but the food is what makes people stay. Curry chick peas, Cajun fries, and chicken and waffles are just a few favourites off the evolving menu.
While it may seem that Vibez appeared out of thin air, the project has been in the works for years. Yvette purchased the property three years ago, long before anyone else in her family saw potential in it.
Even though the street was lined up with vacant shops, Yvette was willing to put all her passion, time and money into the space to fulfill her dream of opening up a restaurant.
“I watched her struggle to reinvent this place. It was such a mess when she got it. When I moved back home, I started helping… I’m a creative so I did what I could. [I made] this whole place [my do it yourself] project,” explained Kristan.
A lot of love and attention to detail went into every aspect of the space. The freshly painted dark grey walls have beautiful floral murals done in chalk. Two portraits of women wearing gold tribal-printed head wraps glistened in the sun, and planters hang next to floor to ceiling glass windows.
Vibez has something to offer for everyone. A comfy couch for a cup of coffee in the morning or Saturday brunch with friends, an intimate two seater for lunch dates, a comfortable space for family dinner, and a few children’s books to keep the little ones occupied.
The warm atmosphere the Webbers’ have created is welcoming, but the food is what makes people stay. Curry chick peas, Cajun fries and chicken and waffles are just a few favourites off the evolving menu. If you come in on a Friday, you can order specialty-fried fish and Saturday mornings are an opportunity to try a real Caribbean breakfast.
The dishes are inspired by authentic Jamaican food with a mix of Southern love. Yvette learned to make traditional “Yardie-Style” meals when she decided to move from Toronto to Jamaica to study cooking.
“We don’t water down the flavours. We bring to you exactly what you would get if you were on the islands. But hey, you don’t always want Caribbean food, sometimes you just want a good burger,” explained Kristan.
The Webbers sure know show to deliver flavour, especially with their hot pepper sauce. One day, Kristan forget to warn a customer about their hot sauce and he was barely able to handle the heat.
“We don’t water down the flavours. We bring to you exactly what you would get if you were on the islands. But hey, you don’t always want Caribbean food, sometimes you just want a good burger.”
“He was running around, I had to quickly get him some water. We thought he was going to pass out, but in the end he walked out singing ‘Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot.’ It was very scary but we couldn’t stop laughing in the end,” explained Kristan.
Yvette also learned to make pastries, which Kristan has been experimenting with too, allowing them to add a selection of freshly baked treats to their café menu. The Webbers also come from a long line of coffee-lovers, so naturally drip coffee and coconut-iced coffee were a must.
After only being open for a few weeks, Vibez was broken into on March 20 and their cash register was stolen. Motivated by the support of the community, the Webbers decided to clean up and still open the shop later that evening.
Visitors dropped by to order a roti and write a kind message on their coffee table. One of their regular customers even came in with flowers his wife had put together. The kind gesture moved Kristan to tears.
Despite the incident, Vibez has been having great experiences. The door is still broken, but delicious meals are still being fixed.