Making a Home in Hamilton: Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes/Hip Hangout Spots

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Well today I’m officially leaving Hamilton, Ontario, Canada – the city I’ve called home for the past 11 years, or the entirety of my adult life! I started University here in 2008, and over the last decade I’ve seen the city change into the vibrant, youthful hub that it is today. As I prepare for my flight to Zurich, Switzerland (where I’ll be living for the next 4 months!), I thought it would be fitting to look back on some of the restaurants, bars, cafes, and hangout spots that define Hamilton for me. I should also point out that as a student, most of my choices are relatively budget-friendly (and in no particular order)! I also think it makes sense that I’m writing about the Hamilton food scene instead of Britt, as she’s been known to eat off the floor…

Restaurants:

  1. The Mule – Tacos, Tacos, Tacos! And a decent craft beer selection. Not your traditional Mexican joint, but this place puts out a decent taco – try a pork belly bahn mi, fish, or halloumi taco for about $5 each.
  2. Charred – Probably the best chicken in Hamilton, and flame-grilled right in front of you. This place has a simple menu (hint: you’re getting the chicken), but I guarantee you’ll leave happy (unless you’re a vegetarian – sorry Britt)!
  3. HAMBRGR – Burger heaven! The menu is a bit eclectic, but with options like vegetarian patties and gluten-free buns, there’s definitely a burger here for you. This place is small, so expect a wait if you’re going on a weekend or a nice summer night.
  4. Burnt Tongue – Come in for some fresh soup on a cold winter day in the city! Soups rotate daily, with usually 4 or 5 options to choose from on any given day.
  5. Himalya – This is an authentic, completely vegetarian Indian Take-Out restaurant located in Hamilton East, and has the honour of catering most of our lab group’s events. No order is complete without picking up at least 10 samosas!
  6. Noodle Me – An unassuming Chinese restaurant serving up the best bowl of ramen in Hamilton! The hand-pulled made-from-scratch noodles are the real show stopper here.
  7. The Vegan Extremist – The Vegan Extremist is a Toronto-based food truck that has recently expanded to Hamilton, and sets up shop opposite McMaster University. Specializing in delicious curries and naan, The Vegan Extremist is a welcome addition for hungry students in the otherwise pretty basic food scene directly around the university.

Bonus. Queen’s Pizza – Just steps from my apartment, this is my go-to pizza joint when I come home to an empty fridge (which happens more than I’d like to admit as a student – sorry Mom!). They do up a solid pie, and you can’t beat the 30 second walk for pick-up!

Bars:

  1. The Ship – Located on trendy Augusta Street, The Ship is one of many bars that attracts an older (mid-twenties and up) less-rowdy crowd. With a great craft beer menu featuring options from many local breweries, and the best menu on Augusta (bank on it!), The Ship is definitely worth a visit.
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    A few friends enjoying a pint after a long day of grad school!
  2. West End Pub – Just minutes from McMaster University, this student-friendly neighbourhood bar was a go to for cheap beer and wings during my undergrad. You won’t find a large craft beer selection here, but sometimes you need a short walk and a cheap pint!
  3. MERIT – One of the new-ish microbreweries to call Hamilton ‘home’, MERIT boasts ~10 seasonal taps in an open-concept environment. Pair an imperial stout, citrusy IPA, or or sour saison with a souped-up sausage from their food menu.
  4. Rust City Brewery – Although Rust City doesn’t brew any of their own beer (yet), they offer the full spectrum of Hamilton Craft Beers, along with a few others from Southern Ontario. The atmosphere is cozy, and is a great place to come and catch up with a few friends over a pint or a latte!
  5. Grain & Grit – This is probably my favourite brewery in Hamilton – and with good reason! Located in the west end, Grain & Grit typically offers 6 – 8 seasonal beers with 3 – 4 now available year-round. Although you won’t find many food options, this is the place to come for a flight with friends!
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    Britt takes pictures of food, and well… I take pictures of Britt taking pictures of food
  6. Fairweather – Located just down the road from Grain & Grit, Fairweather is another new-ish microbrewery to pop up in Hamilton. With bold, adventurous flavours, you’ll be sure to taste something a little different here!

Bonus. The Phoenix Bar & Grill – This list wouldn’t be complete for me without giving a shoutout to the Graduate Student Association-run Phoenix Bar & Grill on McMaster University. The Phoenix houses several important events including the summer softball tournament after party, free pitchers poured in a Hogwarts-esque goblet for recent Master’s and PhD graduates, and a pint at lunch to break up the monotony of grad school! 😉

Cafes & Hip Hangout Joints:

  1. Mulberry Street Coffeehouse – Located on hip James St. N, Mulberry Street is one of the larger cafes in Hamilton, with a great patio to chill at in the summer. Prepare for an expensive yet delicious cuppa and fresh-baked good in a lively environment.
  2. Democracy* – Located on trendy Locke St., Democracy* is a vegan/vegetarian cafe offering a pretty decent selection of food as well (shout out to the vegan pierogi pizza!). One of Britt’s personal favourites, Democracy* is a cozy little place to do some work and enjoy a hot beverage.
  3. Cannon Coffee Co. – Moving all the way east, Cannon Coffee Co. on Ottawa St. is probably the best brunch spot on this list. A trip to The Cannon isn’t complete without a sweet or savory waffle to go along with your weekend coffee.
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  4. Detour – Detour boasts probably the best latte in all of Hamilton! Located in Dundas, it’s a bit of a trek, but well worth it! They also have a pretty decent breakfast menu and a great outdoor patio!
  5. Durand Coffee – This is a neighbourhood favourite! The unassuming Durand Coffee, located in the middle of residential Durand Village is one of those places you just stumble across on your way somewhere else. With a cup of coffee that’ll keep you coming back, Durand is certainly a hidden gem!
  6. Donut Monster – I would be amiss (and also scolded by Britt) if I left Donut Monster off this list. You’re not coming here for the coffee, but after scoffing down a few of their fresh baked donuts, with flavours changing on the daily, you’ll probably want one! Honestly, these donuts should be on every “Top 5 Things to do in Hamilton” list – eat your feelings out!… er, rather, eat your heart out
  7. Chocolat on James – Now I have to be honest, I literally have no clue if Chocolat even sells coffee (a quick glance at their website says that they do)! Window shop through a selection of truffles, fudges, and artisan chocolates at this chocolatier that also sells epic ice cream cones during the summer! The ice cream is the big winner here – dipped in fresh chocolate and coated with goodies, you better eat fast or wear a bib!
Ice cream girlfriend is happy girlfriend

Bonus. JHE Cafe – Major shout out to the closest source of coffee to my office! Located in the Old Engineering Building on McMaster campus, the JHE cafe provided me with countless wake-up calls for undergrad lectures, long meetings, and Monday mornings. P.s. Don’t come here for coffee! Next thing you know, you’re enrolled in grad studies and stuck on campus for an extra 5 years!

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