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Hamilton, Ontario ... List of Best Ever Restaurants .....

Some may find this question amusing but over the years which establishments past and present make your list of the best ever in this very challenging culinary environment. Who went beyond the usual mediocrity?

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  1. This has been discussed several times on this board, just do a search for Hamilton...

    If you're looking for French Laundry and Susur-esqe food, keep looking as you won't find it in Hamilton (at least I haven't yet) but there are some good local places to go to.

    This is a list of common recommendations

    Fine Dining - Ancaster Old Mill
    Small Plates/Tapas/Fine Dining - Room 41
    Bistro - The Bar on Locke
    Persian/Mediterranean - Dalina's, La Luna
    Mexican - Papagayo, Mex-I-Can (this is more of a grocery with a takeout option)
    Portuguese - Wild Orchid
    Italian - La Spaghet (this place is TINY and has little ambiance, make reservations), otherwise Capri or La Cantina are good choices
    German/European - Black Forest Inn, Zum Linzer
    Chinese - Le Chinois (the Orange Beef is a must)
    Thai - B&T's (Cannon St.)
    Pizza - Chicago Style Pizza Shack
    Roti - Roti Hut at King and Connaught
    Bagel - The Locke St. Bakery (get there early for best choice)

    Sushi - Matsu Sushi in Dundas

    Otherwise, here is a prior thread:


    4 Replies
    1. re: Mike from Hamilton

      thanks ..... as I said though I'm interested in hearing peoples opinion on PAST AND PRESENT, an all time list including establishments that may still not be in operation.

      1. re: Mike from Hamilton

        Very comprehensive list, Mike. I would also add Rousseau House (Ancaster) to the Small Plates/Tapas/Fine Dining category. It's good to see Papagayo on the list: they had more of a fine dining approach under the former owner and simplified things under the current ownership... I'm not sure which I like more, both were/are very good.

        1. re: Mike from Hamilton

          Unless it's changed, B&T is Vietnamese not Thai.

          1. re: Mike from Hamilton

            i can't think of anything stupid enough to say about this...i was born and raised ih "the hammer" and offhand i can't think of a single place that's better than mediocre...i haven't been to the bar on locke, but i've heard it's ok....but- PLEASE! the capri? black forest????? , my friend, to put it bluntly, you need to get out more....wild orchid is okay, but be prepared to WAIT big time.. dynasty serves okay chinese food- le chinois sucked the one time i was there about 15 years ago..for my money there are only one decent place to eat in all of hamilton- dennigers lunch counter is great!!! ....also, to be fair, i should reccomend the sandwich place on the north side of barton near the old moosehead tavern

          2. Have only lived here for a few months , but I am working my way through some places. Some are mediocre and I have not listed them here.

            Here are the places I would go back to for sure:

            Bistro Parisien
            Wild Orchid
            Pho Doc Ba
            1010 Bistro
            Room 41 (except it's too $$$ for Hamilton)
            Vintage Tea Room
            Vietnamese Family Resto (now closed - used to love the "Pineapple Chicken in it's own Whole"!)

            Here are the places I WILL NEVER set foot in again:
            Bad Dog Cafe on Locke

            1. OK, I have a list of departed Hamilton restaurants ... all I had to do was click on Redshifted ;-)

              Hamilton Area--- Gone, but not Forgotten:
              1. Cifelli's (late 80's to early 90's: excellent food especially pastas; seemed very innovative for the time ... and place; now is Papagayo)
              2. Samfira/Metropolitan Bistro (early to mid 90's: took over when Cifelli's left with some changes but still great. Loved the crostinis and the flourless chocolate cake)
              3. Las Aguas (nice Mediterranean cooking, great in-house desserts, my favourite Hamilton spot over the past 5 years)
              4. Caddie's (mid 80's to early 90's: burgers from ground prime rib; homemade chutneys and fixings served from a cart)
              5. Vienna Restaurant (late 80's to early 90's: in Hess Village: simple but well-prepared pastas, chicken florentine, Steak Dianne ... and some very garlicky burgers at lunch time)
              6. Ron's Big Easy (New Orleans style cooking by Ron Lanois - producer Daniel's brother; story is that Bob Dylan was turned away when he unexpectedly dropped in on a busy Saturday night)

              Collet's Cafe on Brant St. in Burlington also was very memorable.

              There used to be a Papillon in Hess Village (mid 80's) with the same owners as the one in Toronto (now on Church St.). I really used to like it but it soon closed. I tried the one in Toronto a few years ago and even though the menu looked pretty much the same, it didn't really appeal so much to me. Probably my tastes changing over the years more than anything else.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Redshifted


                So glad someone mentioned Ron's Big Easy. That was a family favourite when I was growing up. I know this posting is almost a year late, but hell, I just had to throw in my two cents...

              2. I lived there in the 70s - a decent steak could be had in a place called The Huddle, and you could get whole trout baked in a salt crust at The Acquarium. Other than that, and The Old Mill, I don't remember anything special. No Indian place back then, necessitating a trip to Toronto.

                1. Is The Stockholm still there? This was the late 80s and I think it was on King William. I remember it being good. Also the Black Forest Inn -- very cheesy but very good. Hunan House had great orange beef. I am glad to hear Dalina's is still there. It was very good. Once a fellow student's parents took us all out for a big meal at Shakespeare's -- classic old school steakhouse with a plate of dill pickles and feta cheese as a starter. Out-dated for sure, but not cheap: these were generous parents and we were starving grad students!

                  1. The Stockholm was replaced by La Costa which was replaced by Room 41. La Cantina is located in the spot once occupied by the Huddle. Shakespeare's is still there, not much has changed from your description.

                    As a student, I remember going to the Keg downtown for a special celebration or two. It is now Slainte Irish Pub but was the Keg for many, many years.

                    Justin's on John near Hunter was a nice fine dining Italian restaurant in the late 80's. I fondly remember a magnificently garlicky linguine con vongole and the swordfish steak was always great. It's a small place and has undergone many changes over the years recently opening as Incognito Winebar.

                    There was a good French restaurant on King William called the Gallery (later became a Rude Native, now Thai Tamarind) but the ultimate Hamilton French restaurant was L'Escargot with chef Andre Donnet. Later the restaurant became Las Aguas, now, rather unbelievably, Leghorn's --a wings place.

                    And I thought for sure someone would have mentioned the Chicken Roost by now ... a little before my time, I'm afraid.

                    1. As for wings, try Chaps on Barton in east Hamilton. Incredible wings!

                      1. Childhood Memories;
                        The Huddle
                        The Chicken Roost
                        Woolworths - Strawberry Milkshakes served in the stainless steel mixing cup with burger and fries!

                        Ron's Big Easy had an atmosphere that no other restaurant has ever had in Hamilton but unfortunately began to die a slow and painful death after the first year.

                        The list of undisputable culinary competence in no particular order;
                        -Samfira/Metropolitan Bistro
                        All three had their particular strengths and weaknesses, unfortunately didn't get to Las Aguas but understand that they were of high quality.

                        Can't comment on any present establishments, have found that generally Hamilton is heavy on style but extremely low on substance (can anyoune say La Costa?) but these seem to be the places that have always been the most celebrated. Is the bar so low in this city because the patrons don't ask it to be raised any higher?

                        1. My Mom used to work at the Woolworth's lunch counter when she was in high school :)

                          Oddly enough, I am not a steak afficiando (sp?) but my favorite Hamilton restaurants happen to be steak houses <lol>.

                          I really like Shakespeare's for the old-school ambience and good service, and I also enjoyed a place in Waterdown called the Coach House (I think) for classic steak fixin's (think feta and pickles) and an economically priced wine list.

                          Oh, and the best Hamilton restaurant of all is TALLY HO in Westdale! Nothing is better for a Hamilton ex-pat than a steaming hot Roast Beef Basket :) True soul food.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Olivia

                            OH Olivia. I've found the Tally Ho food is franchise gluck - processed slices of nitrate-filled 'beef'! For a good beef steak sandwich go to the Bean Bar in Westdale. It's a democratic bistro filled with McMaster University students (often servers), profs, shoppers and neighbourhood folk. Lunch time personal pizzas served with a good side salad are also a good choice. Desserts are served ice cold from the refrigerator display case, are probably imported from Toronto and their looks promise far more than they deliver.

                            Hamilton has no outstanding restaurants but with a bit of research you can always enjoy a more than adequate meal. Toronto offers more alluring competition nearby and the city's fluctuating economy doesn't seem to support restaurant start-ups. There are a numerous restaurants started by amateurs with little experience and commitment. With a few exceptions, decent meals are hard to come by in the core. It's a sea of franchises. The hotel food at the Sheraton is just that - over-priced poor hotel food.
                            Go to Mrs. C's at Main East and Tisdale for good diner food. She's been open since the fall. Mrs. C and her staff are friendly, offer good service and good value for your dining dinner. Excellent breakfasts currently for $3.95, homemade soups, steamed vegetables and good selection of entrees for a small storefront restaurant in a tiny strip mall.

                            1. re: Fandango

                              If you live in The Hammer, I would argue that there are a handful of restos providing very good food (both quality and value) at the following places:

                              - Incognito (recenlty updated their menu to very good effect. The prix fixe is a very good deal. Nice wine selection too)
                              - Boo's Bistro (prev. chef of the original Rude Native - just wish they'd change the menu a bit more often or have more specials)
                              - Bistro Parisien (although I wish they'd stop "piling" up the food on the plate - soggy frites - ick! The portions are just too big. They do keep the menu updated and offer good specials. The food is always fresh and decently prepared)
                              - One Duke ( the chef's recent Hungarian menu is awesome - homemade Chicken Paprikash is just the thing on a chilly evening. Finish off with the homemade strudel. Yum. The regular freshly made bar menu is great as well. No pre-prep food here which is amazing)
                              - Vicotorian Tea House (on Locke for yummy tea and homemade soups and sandwiches)

                              Seriously, these are all better than 99% of the restos in Burlington and definitely add some much needed non-chain resto options to the Hamilton market.

                              1. re: jcanncuk

                                Also try Karolina's on Barton Ave between Sherman and Gage for the Polish family dinner (served to groups of 4 or more). $18.99 gets you a multi course feast of home cooked (really the grandmother is in the back peeling potatoes and making perogies) Polish food.

                                The restaurant does not really look like much on the outside (it's on a particularly bleak stretch of Barton) but once you walk inside, it's like entering someone's home.

                                My department went there for our holiday luncheon and had a feast served to us...everything is served family style so you can take what you want of each item. There were 15 of us for lunch so there was a little more choice with the soups (they usually give you a selection of 2)

                                Soups: Potato, Chicken Noodle, Sauerkraut (YUM, served in a ham broth) and borscht.
                                Salads: Pasta, coleslaw (creamy and nicely spiced), green salad (standard mixed greens served with a commercial Italian dressing)
                                Vegetables: Mixed vegetables (green and yellow beans, carrots spiced heavily with garlic salt - as I said, it's like home cooking), roast potatoes (crispy and golden on the outside, fluffy and soft inside)
                                Meats: Breaded chicken cutlets, chicken on a skewer, roast pork, roast beef (um...definitely overdone and grey - just like grandma's, but nothing a little gravy won't help), kielbasa, pork cutlets done "cordon bleu" style (pork, stuffed with ham and swiss cheese? OMG), cabbage rolls
                                Pierogies: Sauerkraut, cheese and potato, cheddar and potato, all served with fried onions and bacon
                                Dessert: Apple strudel, raspberry linzer torte and a raisin pie
                                Coffee or tea

                                Overall it was an insane amount of food and take out containers were provided for the leftovers as we wound down the main course. Soft drinks and juices are extra. But for $18.99, I enjoyed dinner the next night as well...

                          2. I came across this thread doing a little after-the-fact web sniffing. I had a terrific lunch yesterday at Dalina on King William Street. The owner, Nadia, is very gracious, and has a terrific hand in the kitchen. The falafal sandwich platter with couscous and the baklava were both simply superb. I will definitely be back when I'm in The Hammer.

                            I also saw the reference below to Tally Ho: Frosh week flashbacks from 20 years ago at Mac...