Once known as Steeltown, this city has evolved over the past decade to become a flourishing arts and music hub. Hamilton’s renaissance extends to its dining scene. It is widely believed that during a three-month period in 2018, 77 new eateries opened in the city. With the level of culinary creativity on display, the city’s food culture looks like it could soon rival nearby Toronto.
2 Must-try Restaurants
This cozy downtown spot fills a gap in the city when it comes to sushi. Its omakase (chef’s choice) tasting menu consists of seven to 10 courses blending traditional and contemporary dishes, and is ideal for experiencing the full breadth of the restaurant’s offerings. Things kick off with miso soup, served without a spoon (the traditional way), followed by veggies such as charred asparagus, pan-roasted edamame and roasted Brussels sprouts with miso, and continues with fish specialties, like albacore tuna paired with ponzu, a citrus-based sauce.
The tables are jammed most nights at this compact, bustling spot on James Street South, which speaks volumes about its loyal following. Tacos are stuffed with everything from crispy cauliflower to pork jowls and barbecued beef brisket, while shared plates—think tuna poke nachos and Mexican street corn served with lime and chipotle mayo—make for happy diners. Meals reach a new level of bliss thanks to pitchers of mouth-puckering margaritas, the nearly 100 varieties of tequila on offer, and, for dessert, hot churros plunged into salted caramel.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
On weekends, Caro serves hearty brunch fare with an Italian flair. It’s tough to put a dent in the sizeable stack of Nutella pancakes topped with hazelnuts, but it’s worth a try.
Lunch: Merit Brewing
Merit Brewing is a tasty mashup of craft brewery, eatery and bottle shop. The made-in-house sausages are outstanding. Try the butter chicken version, served on grilled naan.
Odds sports-bar reinvents the concept by offering craft brews and quality pub grub that goes down easy, from nachos (five types) to a Nashville hot chicken sandwich.
3 Beer and Cocktail Stops
While Hamilton has outgrown its reputation as an industrial hub, it’s still proud of its blue-collar roots. Part of the appeal for locals and visitors are its casual and laid-back spots.
Combining craft beer, art and music, this grassroots brewery hosts events, such as the Liquid Art Festival, has a beer garden in the summer, and sports original artwork on its cans by artists from around the world. Drop in anytime to enjoy one of its artisanal suds.
Sure, you can order a cocktail off the menu, but the bartenders here have a talent for creating custom drinks based on your personal preferences.
Grab a board game and sip your way through a rotating list of mostly local beers at this more-gritty- than-pretty bar on James Street North.
Hamilton’s doughnut legacy dates back to 1964, when the first Tim Hortons opened. Today, Donut Monster is a local fave, with yeast-based varieties such as Lavender Lemon and Peanut Butter Overload. Elsewhere in town, Lick the Whisk dishes ice cream and waffles, Cake and Loaf serves up super-moist (thanks to buttermilk) chocolate fudge brownies and Crumbled offers vegans a delicious Snickers cake bowl.
With just six seats, The Heather may be Canada’s tiniest restaurant. A counter-side spot means you can watch Chef Matt Cowan plate as many as 10 courses—think seared beef heart with eggplant-marrow purée and black garlic jus, yogurt mousse and dried scallops, and charred broccoli with oyster cream. With one menu, one seating and one employee (Cowan himself), expect a journey through elevated Canadian cuisine.
[This story appears in the September 2019 edition of WestJet Magazine.]
10 Dishes to Eat in Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton's reinvention is happening at a furious pace and leading the way is a strong food scene. Our top dishes worth the trip to Steeltown include Monte Pollino pizza from Born and Raised, a Canadian brunch plate from Cannon Coffee Co. and sushi nachos fromNique Restaurant.