Some of your friends are probably pretty fun. Maybe every time you go out, you wind up with a headache. But others are probably a little boring - the sort of people who shop at Bonobos and ask, “Which Met?” when you mention The Met. That’s what Motel Morris is.
If Motel Morris were a person, it would dress itself in khakis, its favorite band would be Fleet Foxes, and you would talk minimal sh*t behind its back. It’s a safe bet - a good utility spot in Chelsea that’s nice without feeling stuffy. You could take your grandmother here, or you could bring a well-dressed date who works out a lot and might have theories about the illuminati. The space looks great, there are plenty of healthy options, and it isn’t insanely expensive (which you’ll appreciate, once you hear your date’s theories about the illuminati).
The food itself is pretty much what you expect from any new American place that worked with an interior designer. They do a whole trout, tuna crudo, roasted chicken, and some vaguely Southern things like collard greens with black eyed peas. It’s a crowd-pleasing lineup. You can get a kale salad, or, if you’d rather be happy, you can eat a burger.
And it won’t be a bad burger. It might not be the best you’ve ever had, but, on the bright side, the dining room looks like a cross between a high-end furniture store and the lobby of a hotel for young business travelers who’ve seen a Wes Anderson film or two. It’s dark blue, the furniture is plausibly Swedish, and the Pepto-Bismol-pink bathrooms bring the whole old-school-motel theme together.
Overall, Motel Morris is a safe choice, and your reaction to it will range from lukewarm to enthusiastic, depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a place to get rowdy with friends, this isn’t it. And if you’re looking for a dish so good you’ll need to order seconds, you probably won’t find it here. But if you want a vibey space where you can have some drinks and a solid meal with friends (maybe even at the bar), this place fits the bill. It’s even sort of cool - like a dad in Jordans or a friend whose idea of “going out” is a glass of wine at a nice little spot where, if you need to relieve yourself, you can do so in an all-pink bathroom.
Mad Morris Burger
Do you like barbecue sauce and onion rings? This burger comes with both, and it tastes like something you’d want to eat in a backyard while you watch a dog run through a sprinkler (as you wonder what it feels like to experience such pure happiness). Get it.
Grilled Brook Trout
This is a whole trout with some potatoes and broccoli rabe, and it’s a pretty complete meal. It could use some salt and olive oil (and the green sauce tastes like a wheatgrass shot), but if you’re trying to be healthy, you probably won’t mind.
A very good steak tartare with little potato chips that you can crush up for texture or fun or both.
Spicy Tuna Crudo
They call this crudo, but it’s really a papaya salad - and if you’ve had a real papaya salad at one of these places, this one’s hard to appreciate. Maybe some fish sauce would help.
Sweet Chili Charred Octopus
There’s a lot going on here - sausage, potatoes, puréed beans, and some kind of citrus. Also, the piece of octopus is about the size and texture of hot dog. Overall, not great, but at least it gave us the idea for octopus hot dogs.
Black Eyed Peas & Vinegary Collards
These have more water than vinegar, and, if you don’t order them, your quality of life will not diminish.