Archives: restaurant


These past few weeks and months we’ve seen the Hamilton food scene pick up the pace with a rapid fire succession of new restaurant openings. Places like Born & Raised, Berkley North, Fsh & Chp, Hooly Crab, and Nique all opened their doors (not to mention The French –opening soon!).

I had the great pleasure in early spring to attend a sampling of Nique’s menu. It was delicious, refreshing and definitely unique. Menu items ranged from cauliflower and poblano hummus with fry-bread, fried plantain tostones with spicy guac, crispy Cambodian calamari, beet fritters topped with greens. For dessert beignets with fresh Devonshire cream and preserves.

It goes without saying that someone who is as passionate about food as Chef Harrison Hennick could only ever make good things. The quality, creativity and flavour of his dishes were all on point despite having limited access to a fully stocked kitchen (he worked on only one cooking range and a deep frier for this particular pop-up menu sampling event). I can only dream of what Chef Hennick might cook up in his new restaurant with fully stocked kitchen and staff –really exciting stuff!


My ultimate favourite sushi nachos; sushi grade tuna on a bed of crisp fried wontons, topped with the perfect combo of tangy spicy flavours and textures to please my palette.


I’ve heard their two dollar fried chicken on Tuesday is mouthwatering, crispy, and juicy. Not to mention they’ve got menu items ranging from charcuterie, beef ribs, to burgers, bitter greens and crispy snapper. I will definitely need to try Chef Hennick’s spin on the classic Deep and Delicious chocolate cake.

They’re open for lunch and dinner but they’re also open late. Bring on the cocktails, beers and snacks!

Nique has its official grand opening this Friday (tonight!) on James North. If you haven’t been by yet for their sneak peeks and menu samplings from last week’s soft opening, then you should most certainly add it to the top of your list of places to check out ASAP.

*Nique Restaurant, 123 James Street North, 905.529.8000, Facebook, Twitter, Insta

RIP randy’s

Sometimes very well intended blog posts get lost in a line-up of other banked posts and never make it to the on-line published format. Randy’s (Grass-fed) Hamburger joint was one of them. Unfortunately they’ve been closed for over a month.

Randy’s was one of my favourite classic take-out burger places in the city. No gourmet shenanigans just plain and simple back-to-basics. They did it good. They did it great. And I loved them. They had homemade ketchup, and amazing buttermilk battered onion rings.

So if in the few short years that Randy’s was around and you missed them: you’ll never know what you were missing. But for those that went to Randy’s and loved it: we are sorry for the loss of this fine take-out burger establishment.

Please come back again one day Randy’s!!!

20150827_122035 Randy's Burgers2 Randy's3

day tripping in the hammer

I often get emails from people who want to check out Hamilton for a day. They want to know where to go for coffee, to eat, drink, check out some art, vintage, shops and generally get the scoop of all that is abuzz.

A few years ago a task like that wouldn’t have taken long. I could’ve quickly listed off my favourite spots, both old and new. However, now a job like that would take some serious thought, which don’t get me wrong is a good thing! I’d have to take inventory of all that has recently opened (for which there is a ton of) and is soon to open (something new on the daily).

So when approached me a little while back and asked that I do a write up about the Hammer, I took it as an opportunity to give (all those wanting to get in on Hamilton) a quick and dirty one-day-tour of our city. It is by no means comprehensive and there is much room to expand.

For the purpose of this entry I will keep this trek a walking one with the potential start and end points being the train stations; for which Hamilton now has two of (conveniently located at the Southern and Northern tips of James Street).

So you’ve decided to check out Hamilton

Starting from James South at the Hamilton GO Centre, my first stop would be at Pinecone Coffee (a short jaunt east to John South) for a morning coffee and a little treat to eat. Sit for a bit and get your bearings on the city. Contrary to what you might geographically be inclined to feel, toward the mountain/escarpment is South, and the lake is North.

John South exp1

After your first taste of Hamilton’s growing coffee/cafe scene head north down John Street. Make note, if you’re still in the city for the evening, you might make your way back up this way for buck a shuck oysters, cocktails, and charcuterie (of the meat/cheese or chocolate variety) at Two Black Sheep, tacos and tequila (over 30 kinds listed on their menu) at Mezcal, or pints and pub fare on Augusta Street at local watering holes: The Ship (one of my favourite places for burgers in the city) or The Winking Judge; both of which have extensive lists of craft beer on tap.

Keep your eyes up around John and King to admire some of the architecture and the restoration of a Hamilton classic: The Royal Connaught Hotel.

If the time is right (past noon and not on a Sunday or Monday, when most shops downtown are closed) then head right from John onto King St. East to pop into any or all of these boutiques: Girl On The Wing, MODify Your Closet, Studio 205, The GiftedTundra Leather, and JH Gordon Books.

By now you may be in need for a little rest and refuelling for which your next stop should be Cafe Oranje.


If you’ve got a hankering for German eats then make a stop at either Denninger’s Foods of the World or The Black Forest Inn (both have been in their locations for over 50 years). It should be noted that at the Black Forest Inn (a total Hamilton institution) your goulash and schnitzel will be delivered to you by servers dressed in traditional German dirndl and lederhosen. But of course, if you’re not into that, then there’s always Staxx’s Waffle House for burgers, fried chicken and waffles or Sparkle (a total hidden gem) for Northern Chinese: cumin lamb skewers and dumplings.

Before leaving King East or what some call the International Village, check off your list Out of the Past and Vintage Soul Geek‘s shops (if vintage is what you’re after).

Go west on King and hang a right going North on John; passing by my favourite building in the city -Treble Hall.

John North exp2

Just before you hit King William check out the latest art exhibit at Nathaniel Hughson Gallery.

Working your way west down King William you’ll find the recently opened HAM BRGR boasting some crazy mouth watering burgers, over the top caesars garnished with a mini-slider, and a good selection of craft beer. There’s also the Mule for gourmet tacos, tequila, bourbon, and weekend brunch, Made for you by Madeleine bakery (they mill their flour on-site), and Homegrown Hamilton Cafe and coffee roasters amidst many other notable restaurants and establishments.

As you approach James North you’ll see another beauty of a building -The Lister Block, which was restored and brought back to life just a few years back. It already seems strange to imagine that when I first moved to Hamilton and laid eyes on Lady Lister, she was all boarded up. There is undoubtedly an architectural renaissance that is starting to take hold in the downtown core.

Tourism Hamilton is on the main floor of the Lister, which is a good stop if looking for additional information on Hamilton. In case you didn’t know, Hamilton is known for its nature: waterfalls (over 100 of them), beautiful escarpment trails, waterfront, and Canada’s largest botanical garden.

James North exp2

Continuing up James Street North there is no shortage of cool shops, cafes and restaurants.

The Design Annex: Satellite branch of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Half design furniture store gift shop half gallery event space.

Hawk and Sparrow: A vintage store favourite of mine. One of the first vintage stores to open on James nearly five years ago.

James North exp3

Pretty Gritt: Mix of vintage and new design housewares and gift shop.

Hand Knit Yarn: For all your knitting needs.

White Elephant: Boutique of beautiful and quality designed women’s clothing, jewelery and accessories.


O’s Clothes: Men and women’s clothing and lifestyle store. Everything from the iconic #HAMont t-shirts to lux Pendleton shawls, Fjalraven bags and jackets, and Chemex coffee paraphernalia.

Chaise Musicale: Great collection of mid century modern furnishings, and the best selection of books, vinyl and art cult movies for rental or purchase.


Mixed Media: For every and any Hamilton visit Mixed Media should be a mandatory stop. They’re an art supply, stationary, gift shop and they just celebrated their 10th year of business.

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Tucked just east of James on Cannon you can pick up a coffee to go at Smalls. It has become my fail safe spot for a guaranteed ah-mazing coffee. Next to Smalls is The Burnt Tongue, soup joint, which is another one of my favourite places for burgers (plain and simple no fuss classic burger). Or if in the mood for something else, across the way is Pho Dao Bo, which delivers on good broth, bun, and my indulgent summer-time favourite a coconut milkshake.

Two art galleries at this corner worth mentioning are:

Hundred Dollar Gallery: Curated selection of works all priced at $100!

Hamilton Artist Inc: Home to some of my favourite art exhibits in recent years.

New to James North is Hamilton’s latest cafe; Saint James. It has a menu that changes up daily with Italian sandwiches, pasta, and cereal bars that rotate through childhood classic cereal flavours like Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, and Fruit Loops. I recommend The Drive-Thru: a piping hot breakfast sandwich (English muffin with egg, sausage, hash-brown, and a spicy mayo). I could eat one every day!

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Next to Saint James for great fabrics and creative classes is the lovely Needlework.


If you’ve got friends to meet up with or are in need of a place to relax, then hit up Mulberry Coffee shop. In addition to usual cafe spreads, they’ve also have a good selection of vegan and vegetarian menu options. On sunny days you can sit out on their corner patio soaking up the afternoon sun and the goings on of James Street.

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Moving on just a couple doors north is a Hamilton bar I love -The Brain. It has an extensive craft beer selection, great cheeses, hot and cold sandwiches, coffee, pies, and fancy cocktails. It’s a perfect hang-out.

James North exp9a

For further bites to eat at this end of James:

Venturas: Portuguese steak and seafood house. Massive seafood platters like the Mariscada: jumbo shrimp, mussels, jumbo clams, white snow crab legs sauted in a garlic and white wine sauce

Ola Bakery: Super delicious classic portuguese sweets and treats.

Knead Pizza: Gourmet pizzas like The Smoked Brisket, or Mango Tango: crispy pork belly, pickled jalapenos and mango. Eat in, take out, full pies or by the slice. Veggie options also available.

Saltlick Smokehouse: Southern cuisine with a menu organized by meat: hog, bovine, poultry, with sides like mac’n cheese, slaw, beans and croquettes. They’ve recently added weekend brunch: smokehouse style eggs benny.


Lakeroad: Fancy, delicious and gorgeous presentation. They run the gambit of dishes from pizza, pasta, to Moroccan hen, flank steak, ribs and pork belly.

Green Smoothie Bar: A dose of healthy that looks and tastes delicious. Green smoothies, vegan lunch bowls, meal-worthy salads, wraps and desserts.

Jack and Lois: An all day and night kind of place. Breakfast, sandwiches, soups, and burgers and I might add a surprisingly large and amazing back patio for hangover caesars and summer time evening beers. My fav The Peter Rowe Breaded Parm Sandwich: Portobello Cap, Eggplant Cutlet, Roasted Red Pepper Caramalized Onions, Asiago with House Marinara on a Baguette.

Butcher and the Vegan: Their mission – serve delicious, local, sustainable and ethical food for every palate and persuasion. Their menu changes according to season but ranges from beet ravioli to duck pizza. They’ve also got you covered for weekend brunch.

Golden Brown: Located just east of James on Barton is the cutest little Korean sweet and spicy fried chicken take-out and delivery restaurant. Cash only.

Work: Rivals The Brain as my favourite bar hang out. In addition to great hangs, beers, and laid back vibes they also have a really fabulous and unique menu. My favs: banh mi fries and kimchi nachos. They’ve also got their foot in the ramen door too. Did I mention they also have a comedy night?

More shops and Galleries:

Record Stores: The three in the area are Cheapies, Dr. Disc and Hammer City Records (specializing in Punk, Hard Core, and Metal).

The Hamilton Store: For all your Hamilton heart-throb gift and good needs.

NewOlds: Men, women and kids vintage clothing and accessories.

b Contemporary: A must-see gallery for me on art crawls.

HAVN (Hamilton Audio Visual Node): A place to listen, view, and experience. Always an interesting place for live music and visual art.

You Me Gallery: The oldest art gallery on the block. Owner and artist Bryce Kanbara is a long time veteran of Hamilton’s art scene (like since the 70′s).

Workers Arts and Heritage Centre: Hamilton’s old Custom House (one of the oldest remaining ‘federal’ public buildings in Canada) is a museum with curated art exhibitions and programming about the culture and history of the working people.

At this end of James Street North the new West Harbour Go Station is a short two minute walk (west of James). But if you’re still looking for a few more notable destinations not necessarily on James Street (but worth checking out) read on!

Going out at Night:

The Baltimore House: Coffee house and pub by day, live venue for bands or club DJ and dancing by night. They also have Karaoke, trivia, open mic nights.

Homegrown Hamilton: Cafe by day, open mic and live music venue at night.

This Ain’t Hollywood: Some might call it a dive. It’s definitely no frills and it’s my favourite band venue in the city.

The Casbah: Bands play here and they’ve got lots of craft beer.

Yuk Yuks: Comedy club. Cause everybody needs a good laugh.

Serve Ping Pong: In addition to crap loads of ping pong they also have a supremely amazing menu and weekend brunch.

Gameopolis: Walls of games for unlimited board game fun. They’ve got you covered for snacks, beer, wine and coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and floats!

James North exp8

Worth Mentioning:

Hamilton Farmer’s Market: Meats, cheeses, local farm produce. Plus, the market has recently upped its game with the opening of Eat Industries Inc‘s tacos, Pokeh Bar (sashimi grade tuna salmon bowls), Henry Brown’s (small batch ice-cream) and Eat Industrie’s latest venture a ramen shop. Open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Art Gallery of Hamilton: A visit to Hamilton should not forgo a trip to the AGH. This gallery and art institution is probably one of the things I’m most proud of in our city.

Collective Art’s Brewery: Hamilton’s first large-scale craft brewery has recently made its debut in the city. Expect larger scale events and concerts to be held here in the future.

Art Crawl: During the second Friday of every month galleries, shops, vendors, food trucks and musicians pop up or stay open late along James North from 7-11pm. A great way to get a snapshot view of the city. It can bring a fabulous energy to the core, but can get very busy in good weather.

Supercrawl: An annual festival that promotes the art and indie music scene. Several street blocks close (to cars) for three days as numerous stages, food trucks, stalls/vendors and attractions line the streets. Named Ontario’s Tourism Event of the Year.

So Bi: Hamilton’s bike share. Great way for getting around the city.

For Further Hamilton Reading:

I Heart Hamilton: Kristin Archer, Hamilton’s sweetheart, has been living her motto of “being a tourist in her own city” for the past four years; blogging about restaurants, shops, music and events. If it’s about Hamilton, she’s blogged about it.

The Hungry Gnome: For all your food related Hamilton blogging. @TheRealChanry gets the scoop on all things new, old and good to eat in the city.

Cut From Steel: BIljana Njegovan’s music blog that covers concerts, reviews bands, promotes and showcases the amazing musical talent that comes out of Hamilton.

Rebuild Hamilton: Thomas Allan is a walking historical architectural encyclopedia about all things related to buildings in Hamilton. Super passionate about the city and everything that comes with it.



dundurn market

I’m giving a little nod to the latest addition to the food scene on Dundurn.

Across the street from Cake and Loaf, and just around the corner from its sister operation Aberdeen Tavern, you’ll find the fresh faced Dundurn Market.

Although not really your typical neighbourhood market, it is a high-end gourmet sandwich coffee shop with pre-made pies, dinners, cookies, sauces, flowers, and a small selection of seasonal produce.

It’s the kind of place that I might imagine someone rushing home from a busy 9-5 work day to pick something up on their way home or to a friend’s: dinner, dessert or a missing vegetable and sauce needed to complete a meal, along with a bouquet of fresh flowers -yes please! A one-stop crowd pleasing gourmet dinner stop.

I popped by the market the other day for a late morning baby date.

My friend and I devoured a super delicious breakfast biscuit with egg, dill, swiss cheese (hot and melty) and ham, in between rocking our babies and dusting renegade savoury biscuit crumbs from their heads. There wasn’t a chance for a photo opp; being a hungry mom and all, it was gone in seconds flat -a true sign of tastiness! It definitely got my stamp of good food approval and left me wanting to come back another day for more.

Dundurn Market 1

In addition to the prepared dine-in or take-out food, you can also pick up anything from bread, jams, spreads, Balzac’s Coffee beans, to a cactus in a tea cup, or a carton of eggs. Combine this place with being able to sell bottles of wine and a case of craft beer you’d pretty much have a shop that’d truly cover all the bases for hosting a hungry guest (the LCBO and Beer Store are after all just down the road).

Dundurn Market 3

Dundurn Market 2

As we were about to leave the sandwich station was being prepped for their 11am lunch start (dinners served after 4pm), and I couldn’t resist getting two sandwiches to go for Steve and I later that afternoon. I opted for the Muffaletta and Reuben both of which came with a choice out of 4 different sides or salads.Dundurn Market Menu Dundurn Market Muffaletta

Muffaletta with side of carrot raisin slaw.

Dundurn Market ReubenReuben sandwich stacked high with smoked meat and a side of creamy macaroni salad.

Right now the idea of dinning out a restaurant with a 3 year old and 2 month old is looking like something that’s probably not going to happen in our near future, so we’ll have to settle for tasty eat-ins at home a la Dundurn Market. Excited to try out their Take Away Dinner options!

*Dundurn Market, 346 Dundurn St. South, 7am-8pm daily, 289.983.5715, @DundurnMarket, Facebook



pinecone coffee co.

A short two weeks ago The Pinecone Coffee Co. opened its doors on John Street South.

There was already the typical #HamOnt social media frenzy and excitement that usually happens when something new and cool is anticipated to open up shop in the city.

On day one of Pinecone Coffee’s opening it was welcomed to Hamilton with loving and open arms; accompanied by a series of beautifully captured cafe photos via local Hamiltonian Instagram feeds.

During one of the multiple visits I’ve recently had to the cafe, I got to chatting with the owner about their newest adventure in coffee.

Despite the coffee/cafe revolution that has recently taken over Hamilton, (which over the past six years has seen more cafes opening than I can count on two hands) Pinecone Coffee has its own unique aesthetic that owner Denise describes as distinctly west coast. It’s airy, light and fresh with honey coloured wood floors, and beautifully repurposed lath boards for their counter; all of which Denise and her business partner/brother Rick collaboratively designed and put together during their four months of renovations.

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Owner Denise and Pinecone barista taking a “coffee break” before the place fills again.

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Sweet treats from local Cake and Loaf and De La Terre Bakeries. These items are changed up regularly. Just the other day I tried a giant strawberry-cream-filled Oreo cookie.

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My first Spanish Latte: espresso, condensed milk, milk, and cinnamon -beautiful and not too crazy sugary sweet!

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In addition to espresso coffees done right on their La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, they also have filter coffee brewed fresh by the cup on an Aeropress using Phil & Sebastian, and 49th Parallel coffee beans.

Aeropress brewers and filters, Porlex grinders, Hario Range servers and fresh beans are kept in store for the purchase of gifts or for your own home coffee consumption. 

Recently added to their menu is a delicious and healthy breakfast of muesli and hot steamed milk to eat in house or to take on the go. The menu will continue to expand over time to include lunches as well -can’t wait!

And before I forget, for all you tea drinkers, Pinecone carries Detour blend teas for your tea sipping pleasure.

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Pinecone Cofffee Co. 1

This photo above was taken on the odd occasion the table was empty. It is frequently filled with kids, families, neighbouring business owners, people walking by and largely by Hamilton coffee enthusiasts.

Strollers and wagons are often parked out front with kids saddling up to the tables sipping warm steamed milk and nibbling a little treat, while we all sit and stop for a little break; watching the city whirl by the large front cafe windows.Pinecone Coffee Co 9

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Pinecone Coffee Co 11After only being open for two weeks and they’ve already extended their hours to accommodate for summer time evening hot or cold coffee demands.

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It was not surprising that the first time we checked out Pinecone (day three of opening) the place was packed with sitting room only out front; coincidently fitting perfectly with the warming days of the oncoming spring.

So happy about this coffee shop. It’s a neighbourhood cafe that fills a much needed missing gap in the Corktown area. Nearly every person that came in declared the same feeling of coffee elation.

John South you’re a coming along very nicely!! Congrats on your opening Pinecone -so happy you’re in the neighbourhood!

*Pinecone Coffee Co. 175 John Street South, @PineconeCoffee


craft beer 101

The other day I was invited to a Tap to Table beer sampling event put on by Muskoka Brewery.

It was hosted at The Ship, which is one of my favourite Hamilton watering holes.

The Ship

Since The Ship’s opening I have seen their selection of beers on tap grow to a beautiful and extensive list of Ontario’s finest micro-brewerys.

Between The Ship and its neighbouring pub The Winking Judge there are well over 40 craft beers tapped on any given night. So much great beer on such a short strip of street!

The Ship also has my favourite burger in the city as well as an assortment of mouth watering gourmet pub fair from fish’n chips to fish tacos and crab cakes. They’ve also recently started doing weekend brunches too!

The Ship burger

 photo taken from

But I digress.

Hamilton does have its own craft beer scene that kinda exploded this year with its first ever (of three summer) beer festivals! So it wasn’t a surprise that Muskoka Brewery’s co-founder Gary McMullen chose Hamilton as its first location to try out a special Tap to Table beer sampling event that paired five of Muskoka Brewery’s craft beers with a delicious sampling of food (courtesy of The Ship).

Gary McMullen is so passionate about beer. He was at The Ship in-person for the exclusive beer sampling event.

In between our sipping, sampling and our running commentary on the different flavours and fragrant smells of the hops and malt, Gary shared with us the story and true craft roots of how he and co-founder Kirk Evans built Muskoka Brewery from the ground up.

muskoka summer weiss

Muskoka Brewery has been around since ’96 when they came out with their tried and true Cream Ale. They have since added to their roster of brews a Summer Weiss, Detour IPA, Mad Tom IPA, Twice as Mad Tom IPA, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Stout, and the Vintage Legendary Oddity, which boasts unique ingredients such as heather tips, juniper berries and sweet orange peel shavings.

As Gary mentioned during our sampling, one of the great and fun things about brewing beer is the variety of ingredients (that they aren’t afraid to use) in creating new flavours and brews.

Like wine certain beers go well with specific flavours and food. Each beer we sampled was paired with a specific dish that would deliberately bring out the various tannins of the beer.

Muskoka Brewery Summer Weiss

Summer Weiss paired above with mini grilled perch sandwich with lemon aioli. Summer Weiss pairs well with bacon & eggs, French toast with berries, guacamole & nachos and lobster. Who says you can’t start your day with brunch and beer!?


Muskoka Brewery Detour & shrimp pogo

Detour IPA paired above with corn breaded shrimp pogos and honey hop mustard. Detour pairs well with something like peach or mango garden salad, Thai mango chicken, or a sesame chicken salad.


Muskoka Brewery Twice as Mad IPA

Twice as Mad IPA paired above with braised bbq ribs in Twice as Mad bbq sauce. Twice as Mad pairs well with sharp cheddar, pulled pork and grilled meats, or hot and spicy chicken curry.


Muskoka Mad Tom IPA

Mad Tom IPA paired above with smores topped with a Mad Tom chocolate ganache. Pairs well with gourmet chicken wings, or smoked salmon or trout.


My hats off to Muskoka Brewery for arranging this sampling and for bringing to my attention that beer can go with more than just burgers, meat and fries.

In my summer Ontario travels I might just have to make a stop at Muskoka Brewery in Bracebridge for a beer tour and some sampling of their limited edition Rum Tum Tom (Mad Tom IPA aged in Jamaican rum barrels)!

*The Ship, 23 Augusta Street, 905.526.0792, @ShipTwits

*Muskoka Brewery, 1964 Muskoka Beach Rd. Bracebridge, ON, 705.646.1266, @MuskokaBrewery


541 eatery & exchange

The chalk board sign at the front counter of 541 Eatery and Exchange reads:

Eat drink and stay a while. Our delicious food is freshly made and affordably priced for all to enjoy. The proceeds from our eatery fund community programs for kids and our neighbourhood. Thanks for helping make Hamilton a better place!

This past June at 541 Barton Street a new cafe, eatery and exchange opened. It was a long time in the making. And I had been excitedly watching the progress of this project from about a year back when I first saw a video by Bottled Media about the inspirational concept and idea of the whole community operation.

541 Eatery and Exchange is a unique type of cafe that is invested in making a positive impact on its community. Located in the heart of Barton Village it is undoubtedly breathing some fresh air back into the neighbourhood.

Barton is often considered a strip of Hamilton where some of the city’s largest pockets of poverty exist. If you took a quick jaunt down Barton you might notice some abandoned buildings fitted in among the spattering of notable Hamilton fixtures such as the Trocadero Restaurant -open for 70 years, Karolina’s Polish Restaurant -just like the way your Polish grandma used to cook, Duartes Portuguese Supermarket and Deli, the Vagueira Bakery and Pastry Cafe, and Starpolskie’s Deli. Now when you’re down on Barton you’ll also see the fresh-faced, hip, and contemporary cafe at 541.

541 Barton interior

It has a glossy polished feel that is open, airy, and welcoming. I loved that they maintained many aspects of the original features of the building like the exposed brick walls, lofty high ceilings and numerous sunny large wooden framed windows.

When we walked in a family was sitting having some treats and playing one of the many board games housed on the shelves at 541. I spotted a small children’s play area at the front of the cafe and thought that it’d would be a great walking destination where I could feasibly bring Omi to stop in for a treat, and to escape from the summer heat. A place with a family friendly vibe is definitely something I pay attention to when on the hunt for new hangouts these days especially now that I have an active little toddler to contend with.

541 Barton drink menu

Besides good coffee, great food, and breezy atmosphere, one of the best things about 541 is how accessible it is to everyone (especially in their pricing). We ordered a lemonade, latte, coffee, banana bread and a scone all for under $10!

With those kind of prices I didn’t have a problem buying a handful of buttons from the button bank, which is just about the simplest and smartest charitable idea I’ve seen. The way it works is you can buy a button at a dollar a piece, which then in turn can be used to help out customers that may need a little extra coinage to buy a hearty and healthy meal or small bite to eat. 1 button=$1 and can be used as cash at 541. The button jar that customers could take from to pay for food was nearly full to the brim, which means everyone has the ability to afford and enjoy 541! So even if a $3 latte seems out of reach, you can use a button or two to get a coffee and a healthy home-cooked lunch or dinner.

541 Barton button bank 541 Barton cafe 541 Barton vision 541 Barton tables 541 barton

It makes me feel happy to see that you can have a place that is beautiful, stylish, and whole heartily committed to giving back and empowering its community. It is a place that believes that everyone deserves a nice place to hang out and good food to eat.

Congrats to 541 for breaking down many of the barriers that can come with elite cafes and coffee shops -so great to have a place like this in Hamilton!

*541 Eatery & Exchange, 541 Barton St. East, @541Barton, M-Sat 7-7, Sun 3-7


Admittedly I am no expert when it comes to fried chicken and waffles. However, I have tried the fried chicken and triple decker buttermilk waffle sandwich from the Dirty South food truck -oh my goodness! And I’ve now officially gone to Staxx Chicken & Waffle House twice to sample how they do their waffles and chicken.

When we moved to Hamilton, I remember having gone to a Korean restaurant that was where Staxx is now. The food was meh and it was dark and forgettable. Well, the interior of Staxx isn’t much to write home about but it’s clean, near my house and the first of its kind (as far as I knew) in Hamilton.

The first time I went to Staxx was just a few weeks after they’d opened. The tables were full, which is always a good sign, and the fried chicken that was coming out of the kitchen was looking crispy and mouth watering.

I went with a friend, and we knew that although they also serve burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and other edibles, we came for the chicken and waffles. So that is what we ordered.

I’m not sure about you, but I’ve always grown up thinking that waffles should be crispy on the outside yet still fluffy on the inside. This may strangely be based on my experience with the classic Eggo Waffle but I know that I’ve also had Belgian waffles that have been crisp too. So when the order came up and we noticed that the waffles were kinda floppy and still gooey on the inside, we sent back and a new order was promptly brought out (with unfortunately not much improvement). The fried chicken was great but we were a little disappointed with our realization that perhaps waffles aren’t always crispy?

I wasn’t willing to give up on the place on just the one visit, so with some other friends I decided to give it another try. With an order of chocolate milk all around to start we prepped ourselves for the fried chicken and waffles; this go was supreme! Waffles -crispy(er), and fried chicken delicious. I also learned (from observation of a pro) the perfect eating combo of a piece of fried chicken carefully accompanied by waffle, dipped in maple syrup and with a touch of hot sauce for a most deliciously perfect ratio of savoury, sweet and spicy. Our only complaint this time around was that the meals were served on round baking tins with high curved edges that make for difficult cutting and eating of perfect previously said combo of savoury, sweet and spicy morsels of chicken and waffle. We did make plans to come back again to try some of the other things on their menu like their hamburger with fried egg or deep fried onions, or their philly cheese steak and waffles.

Staxx chicken and waffles

chicken and waffles staxx

Before I can legitimately say that Staxx has the best (bricks and mortar) fried chicken in Hamilton, I’ve got to try Tavern on George’s take on it, which I recently read about on Chanry Thach‘s food blog The Hungry Gnome. A hidden gem that I’m dying to try! Check out Chanry‘s post about it here.

*Staxx Burger Chicken Waffle House, 236 King St. E, 289.396.4162, @staxxhamilton


the aberdeen tavern

This year for Mother’s Day we decided to try out brunch at the Aberdeen Tavern. I’d been to the tavern the week before to sample some evening snacks with friends and to check out the new place post its former incarnation as Seven Windows.

I’d never been to Seven Windows, but the atmosphere of the Aberdeen Tavern was just right: cozy, and warm meets contemporary-fresh yet rustic tavern.

We sampled some delicious wild mussels with crostini, fresh hot frites, and Maryland crab cakes, with mango and jalapeño relish -yum! Not to mention their menu sounded mouth watering; like their pan-fried organic halibut, risotto, with brown butter, or their giant meatballs charred & braised in tomato sauce with Quebec cheese curd, or their duck confit spring rolls with caramelized onions! I knew that it definitely wouldn’t be long until I’d have to make a return trip to sample a little more.

Well, I didn’t make it back for dinner (yet) but instead I was able to just barely squeeze in a reservation for Mother’s Day brunch.

We made it to the restaurant for the tail end of the brunch rush and enjoyed a slow, steady and relaxing meal with mimosas to start, coffee and an assorted pastry platter to follow, which consisted of banana bread, walnut scones, and a side of house made preserves and apple butter.

Aberdeen Tavern dine full

We kept eyeing the brunches coming out of the kitchen and had a tough time deciding just which delicious thing to order for our main course. I ordered the tostadas rancheros; poached egg, guacamole, sour cream, aged cheddar, salsa fresca, black bean, with home fries.

Aberdeen Tavern tostada rancheros

My sister and mom both ordered the short rib hash; braised short rib, poached egg, charred corn, pico de gallo, home fries, and aged cheddar. It comes in a mini-individual little cast iron skillet!

Aberdeen Tavern short rib hash

Aberdeen Tavern bar

I like how the tavern is so versatile. Weekend brunch, snacks and drinks, dinner or lunch, or just drinks. Did I mention they do fancy mixologist worthy cocktails like the Russian pony; triple citrus vodka, ginger beer, lime, and mint or the derby; bourbon, peach liqueur, lemonade, earl grey tea, and mint!?

Aberdeen Tavern dine Aberdeen Tavern bench

I can think of many a special occasions that I’d like to celebrate here, and many more Sunday brunches!

I highly recommend you make a reservation before going to avoid the disappointment of not getting a table.

*Aberdeen Tavern, 432 Aberdeen Ave., 905.523.7707, @AberdeenTavern

owl of minerva

One of my favourite kinds of food is Korean. I love the combo of its savoury, sweet, spicy, garlic, and sesame flavours.

When I first moved to Hamilton we’d found this secret little Korean restaurant  (just tucked behind the International Village by the Ti-cat building) that I loved. It had sunken-in individual bbq tables, great Korean pancakes and hundreds of tiny polaroids of its customers pasted on the walls. I guess it may have been a little too secret, in that maybe not enough people went? To my dismay it closed down a few years ago.

Not too long after Cho Sun Ok moved from its Queen North location down on King East and it sufficed in satisfying my Korean food cravings.

However, it was an even nicer surprise to wake up one day to find that Owl of Minerva had opened up a location here in Hamilton just at Main and Wentworth! I’d been to their Toronto location on Bloor in Korea town, so I knew that I would not be disappointed. Good Korean in Hamilton, finally!

I went with only one other friend (coincidently before heading to Kim’s Convenience -a play about a Korean shop owner), so we didn’t order a huge elaborate meal. Instead we ordered bibimbap. A good standard fare for any Korean restaurant and anyone new to trying Korean food. The stone bowl stayed crazy hot for the duration of the meal, and the Korean sides were great!

I really want to come back with a larger group of people so that we can have a proper Korean feast of some kalbi short ribs, bulgolgi and samgyeopsal. A little heavy on the meat -I know. I guess I could throw in a spicy and hot tofu kimchi chigae. Chigae’s are my cure all for chills and colds. Warms you right up!

Truly a perfect winter time place. I hope that in the summer they’ll have cold Korean noodles!

*The Famous Owl of Minerva, 309 Main St. E, 905.528.7275



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