One of the city’s most famous old-school diners has gone cutting-edge high-tech.
Cosmos now exists on the metaverse and owner David Minicucci believes his is the first Montreal restaurant to join this new much-hyped online platform. That’s right: soon you will be able to gaze at the mouth-watering Creation sandwich, one of Cosmos’s trademark dishes, using your virtual-reality headset.
On Jan. 14, the legendary Notre-Dame-de-Grâce greasy spoon bought a small plot of land in Decentraland, a 3D virtual world platform. Real estate is hot on this platform. In late November, the company Metaverse Group bought a plot of digital land on Decentraland for around $2.43 million worth of cryptocurrency, one of the highest prices ever for a piece of virtual real estate. That land was in the heart of the Fashion Street district of Decentraland.
Minicucci didn’t spend anywhere near as much as that. He paid around $15,000 to purchase the virtual land, using mana, the currency of Decentraland.
Minicucci is aware that most will probably be dumbfounded to discover that the most old-fashioned of diners is buying into the most new-school of buzz technologies.
“We were always known as the place that was cash-only, no internet, no Interac machine, no website,” said Minicucci, in an interview at the cramped counter of Cosmos on Tuesday. “I really get a kick out of the fact that we’re going to be the first to be able to do this. It’s so not our vibe.”
His vision is that you can put on your virtual-reality headset, visit Cosmos on Decentraland, no matter where you are in the world, and then you could order from the iconic diner if you’re in, say, Toronto, where Minicucci may by then have set up a ghost kitchen (meaning a delivery-only kitchen without a storefront).
There are a lot of media reports suggesting the metaverse will revolutionize the dining experience, changing the way restaurants market their products but also even becoming a vehicle for delivering food.
“This is totally going to change the way that we meet people, the way we talk to people, interact with people, maintain friendships,” said Minicucci. “The idea is to see if the Cosmos experience translates in the metaverse, whether it’ll still be a gathering point, a place where people can exchange ideas, banter. I don’t know.”
Cosmos is famous for its greasy eggs, fried potatoes and hash browns, but it’s just as renowned for its down-home atmosphere. There are only eight stools at the counter and it’s always been a hangout for everyone from neighbourhood eccentrics to hungover punk rockers to low-life criminals to truck drivers. Everyone talks to everyone, notes longtime chef Angie Meyers, who’s been doing the fry up there for years.
Cosmos was founded in 1967 by Greek immigrant Tony Koulakis and was run by two of his children, Nikos and Niki Koulakis, until they sold it to Minicucci in the summer of 2020. A large portrait of the elder Koulakis still graces the back wall and it’s hard not to wonder what the Cosmos founder would think of his baby making the leap into the metaverse.
“He might be a little puzzled, but to be the first of anything is always a good thing,” said Meyers.
“He was a showman so I think he would love the idea,” said Minicucci. “He’d be super excited. I just think it’s cool that his business is progressing to the next generation.”
And what will the longtime Cosmos customer think of this new-fangled twist to the Cosmos legacy?
“I think they’ll be intrigued and excited,” said Minicucci.
He added, gesturing to the small space that houses the counter and the ever-active grill: “And this is never changing. If we start to mess around with this location, we’re really going to lose people.”
“But it’ll be a really interesting thing for people who’d like to be here but can’t be here,” said Meyer.
Since Minicucci bought Cosmos, he’s had all kinds of offers, with people suggesting he put the famous Cosmos potatoes in Costco, Cosmos coffee in cans at Loblaws or open a franchise at the airport. But these ideas just screamed “sell out” to Minicucci.
“My mind is going towards arts and entertainment and tech and less towards pushing the retail, grocery side of things. I just bought this place from a beautiful family. Nik and Niki, everyone loves them. Tony, everyone loves him. I have great memories of him from when I was growing up. The last thing I want to become is the guy that they say ‘Oh he’s got all the stuff in Costco now, he franchised six locations.’ It just felt so wrong.”
The next step is to create a virtual replica of Cosmos for the metaverse, and he’s working on that project right now.