Archives: snacks


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

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.

Pinecone Coffee Co 2

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

Pinecone Coffee co 7

Pinecone Coffe Co 13

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.

Pinecone Coffee Co 4

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

Pinecone Coffee co 14

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.

Pinecone Coffee co 6

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

Pinecone Coffee co 15

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.

Pinecone Coffee co 5

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

the burnt tongue

I basically feel as though I’ve missed an entire season here on the blog. That said, this post is long overdue from waaay back in September.

When I was about three weeks deep into being back at work (post maternity leave) I had a horrible cold that lasted for weeks. Being sick made it all the more of a necessity to finally check out Hamilton’s newest soup place -The Burnt Tongue.

I had a random mid-week day off, so Steve and I decided to take advantage of the fact that Omi was in daycare. We headed to the Burnt Tongue for an early lunch date and to get some soup to ail my lingering cold.

The Burnt Tongue opens daily at 11:30am. When we arrived just a few short minutes past the half hour, the place was already filling up with people getting their soup on.

We took up the window seats below some crafty filament lit mason jar lighting and did some front row Cannon Street viewing, while we waited for our food.

Steve ordered a classic 6 oz burger made from locally raised beef topped with cheese, pickles, onions, ketchup, mayo and mustard. It did not disappoint. We split an order of fries (my biggest weakness; in a battle if you busted out a box of fries from The Burnt Tongue I’d crumble to the floor just to eat one or even just a morsel of one of those crunchy-bit leftovers). The fries here are sooooo good and their specialty dippings sauces are A-mazing! During Supercrawl we got some fries to-go with their curry ketchup sauce. For this lunch date we settled on chipotle mayo and a roasted garlic mayo. I think there’s still a couple more flavours to sample yet.

I ordered a large bowl of bacon, cheddar and potato soup. This too was just incredible! The soup was flavourful and super homey. It came with a choice of fresh cut veggies, artisan bun or crisp apple. Everything really hit the spot and I left feeling all warm and happily full.

Since my visit in September I know that they’ve added a lot more to their menu like their loaded fries, which look killer! Chorizo, corn, pablano pepperonata (roasted blend of peppers), cheddar cheese and guacamole all piled high and heavy on an already big mound of their Belgian style fries.

In addition to having a massive variety of the most unique soda pops ever (over 8 kinds of root beer including a pumpkin pie soda) they’ve also got 1 litre craftily designed jars of soup that you can purchase for a gift or to take to a potluck or dinner for $15 -so smart!

With the cold weather quickly approaching and staying for the next, oh, 5 months, it’d be in your best interest to stop by this place and sample some soups to keep you warm.

*The Burnt Tongue, 1o Cannon St. East, 905.536.1146, @Theburnttongue



Back in September before my life got all crazy on me, Kristin Archer of I Heart Hamilton, and I met up at Charred Rottisserie House for another rendezvous.

I love meeting up with Kristin, not only to try out new places that have opened up around the city, but also because I get to hear about all the amazing new things she is up to.  These days with being a parent, going back to work, and generally just juggling life, blogging has taken a bit of backseat. So when chatting with Kristin, I get excited to imagine just what life would be like if I could dedicate more time to blogging and exploring everything Hamilton has to offer.

Kristin these days is doing much more than just blogging. Besides fundraisers, playlists, and promoting various Hamilton events, she’s recently announced that she’ll be starting a weekly radio show on CFMU 93.3fm Friday’s from 2-3pm. She’s also organizing a blog fair with a whole cast of Hamilton bloggers (including me) at the Casbah on November 24th from 2-6pm -please come!

Kristin and I both agree that it is becoming increasingly hard to stay on top of everything new that’s popping up in the city -which really is a good thing! Although at times the change seems slow, the city is really evolving faster than we think. This spring and summer there was a massive wave of new shops and restaurants that opened up on James North, so it was with a bit of luck that Kristin and I had both yet to try out Charred.

Charred is a Portuguese inspired rotisserie house. They roast their chickens, which are basted with their signature piri-piri sauce, over fresh red hot coals right there in their open kitchen.

We arrived at an in-between meal time, so we were the only people there and the coals and rotisseries were not yet stoked or rolling. None the less, Kristin ordered the poutine with piri-piri cheese curds topped with rotisserie chicken, and I ordered the chicken on a bun.

After sampling some of Kristin's poutine I had some serious meal envy.

One thing I love about all the stores along James, as they are turning over and being reno’d, their drop ceilings are being removed exposing whole gorgeously intact original tin ceilings, like the one at Charred. Such a beauty!

I’d like to head back to Charred again one day when the coals are flaming and the chickens are fully rolling on the rotisserie.

To read Kristin’s Crossover post on Charred visit her blog I Heart Hamilton here.

*Charred, 244 James St. North, 289.396.0662, @charredchicken

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