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Apr 30, 2008 10:30 AM

Good restos in Hamilton (updates, please!)

Hey, We moved to The Hammer last year and have been hitting our local pho restaurant, local Japanese, and an AYCE Indian, plus that teahouse on Locke for afternoon tea w/ our kid on weekends. These are all pretty okay meals, but mostly we head to Toronto when we want a really enjoyable meal. But after a year, we want to branch out.

Have checked past postings, but anyone got 2008 suggestions for good places? We love everything--chef tasting menus down to street meat! Am particularly interested in places to find:
- awesome vegetarian roti
-BBQ 5-spice duck like in Toronto's Chinatown
-pupusas & tamales
-regional seasonal cuisine with locally sourced veggies and meat

All price points! What are your faves??? Thanks!

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  1. Past postings on Hamilton are actually pretty good. A recent thread related to Chicago Style Pizza on Upper Sherman. If you have not been, you absolutely must go.

    1. Roti of all types - The Roti Hut at King E. and Connaught, probably the best Trini food in Hamilton, she also makes great phulori, doubles and has a variety of pickles and sweets.

      Mexican street foods - Mex-I-Can on James St. N.

      Polish - Karolina's Barton between Lottridge and Barnesdale

      Deli sandwiches - Reardon's on King William

      Organic food - Bread and Roses cafe on King William in the Sky Dragon Center

      8 Replies
      1. re: Mike from Hamilton

        Thanks to recs on here, we had a fantastic lunch at Mex-I-Can last Saturday. Excellent barbacoa-style beef tacos and chicharron pupusas. This hole-in-the-wall place makes up for in taste what it lacks in decor. Highly recommended for those who are disgruntled with Toronto Mexican food.

        1. re: Food Tourist

          I totally love this place....but....
          I've taken people here several times, and between the stuff that is on the menu, but not available (on a saturday night) and the sometimes crazy wait to get waited on or for food to show makes it a real gamble. (Is the food really good enough to put up with the wait?) Luckily it always is. I feel like I need to phone my order in ahead of time. I like Casa Cantina in St C as well. I would give the quality nod to Mex-I-can and the fun place with good food award to Casa Cantina.

          1. re: Food Tourist

            Has anyone found good BBQ in Hamilton? I drove past a place near Hess village called BBQ joint. I'm spoiled by frequent trips to Dallas, but I did find one pretty good out of the way place in Toronto.

            1. re: thouse

              You mean BBQ joint at Queen and York?

              It really should be the "Grill Joint" as it isn't BBQ in the way that it's done in the south...fried chicken wings, chicken strips, burgers, 1/2 and 1/4 chicken, steak, ribs, hot dogs, pork chops, shrimps, kabobs and kielbasa. Everything mopped in BBQ sauce.

              Nary a brisket, pork shoulder or slow-smoked ribs to be found. No corn bread and coleslaw seems to be an afterthought. Not necessarily bad, but not slow cooked/smoked BBQ in the southern style.

              Sides are rice, fries, baked beans, mac and cheese, beans, poutine. They also sell "BBQ fried rice".

              Looks like if you want southern style BBQ close to Hamilton, the closest thing is still Camp 31 in Paris...

              Still jonesing for Carolina Style BBQ and some Brunswick Stew...guess I'll have to make it myself or take a road trip.

                1. re: thouse

                  Try Rolly Rockets' at King/Locke -- they've put a ton of money into quality equipment and their meat's authentic bbq, not just grilled.

              1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                I haven't tried Roti Hut yet (but I will!) My go to Roti place is Kori's in Oakville. Every time I can make an excuse to get there (except on Monday's when they are closed) I make it a point. Just don't overdo how hot you want it. They are serious!

                1. re: thouse

                  Roti Hut seems to be under new management and seems to be open a little more sporadically (read: less predictably) now...the past few times I've been by, they've been closed.

              2. I am another Hammer newbie (relatively ~1.5 yrs) who frequents TO restos often and always looking for local finds. A couple of places that consistently do well:

                Incognito on John St - new menu in last year or so - bistro food - very good quality meats and veggies, the best value overall for quality, service and price IMHO. Prix fixe for about $30 and also nightly specials. Very good wine list too.....

                Curry Cabana - Guyanese rotis on King & Walnut - excellent, fresh, curries and rotis, yummy doubles. Also really like Roti Hut for Trini rotis as well.

                Bistro Parisien - James St S - decent bistro food that is well-priced with a nice atmosphere and good service.

                One Duke - Duke & James - local fare - Hungarian chef. Comfort food, but everything is made from scratch (don't go in a hurry!) and WAY better than most of the other bar/comfort food in town. Good thin crust pizza too. Folks rave about their ribs, but I don't eat ribs so can't comment!!

                Looking forward to hearing your faves too! Where do you eat Japanese? I can't find anything decent closer than Mye in Oakville.......I hate mushy sushi.....

                4 Replies
                1. re: jcanncuk

                  If you're going to Oakville for sushi, you should try a couple of places in Burlington (shorter drive!) a few new places have opened the past couple of years. My favorite place is Ichiban on Fairview-I have sushi a few times a week all over Mississauga and have done Mye/ Oki in Oakville and Ichiban is my favorite by far. Amazing quality and servings are huge!
                  Also, not bad is Sakai on Fairview..

                  1. re: burlgurl

                    Is Sakai the AYCE one? I must confess that I hate AYCE - I don't enjoy eating that much & we usually save $ by ordering a la carte!!! We did do a la carte there once, but thought it was only so-so....

                    1. re: jcanncuk

                      No..I think the only AYCE in Burlington is Maya(?) on Brant..I've tried that too and wasn't impressed....I prefer quality over quantity with sushi!!

                  2. re: jcanncuk

                    I'll agree with Incognito - it has really improved over the past 18-24 months. In addition to the prix fixes there is also $5 Fridays where many of the items (appetizers, salads, desserts, a glass of the Chilean house wine) are only $5. I recently had a complete meal from these choices (the butternut squash ravioli and the spinach salad with blue cheese were excellent).


                    Seven Windows at Dundurn and Aberdeen is quite nice for fine dining. Just watch out for the prices on their special features.

                    I've had tamales at Papagayo (King near Hess) wrapped in a corn husk or a banana leaf. They are not on the regular menu but often offered as specials.

                    La Cantina has an excellent selection of wood oven pizza, pastas, etc. Try the risotto with mushrooms, parmagianno, and tartufo oil, it is amazing!

                  3. here are what i have found to be good in the hammer:

                    La Spaghet - on upper james. crummy location (a little plaza), but the pastas i tried were to die for. small, so reservations are recommended.

                    Shenai - for Indian food. service inconsistent but food is consistently really good.

                    Slainte - upscale pub food. they also have a variety of ciders which i enjoy.

                    Iron Chef - for dim sum. again, weird location in a plaza near limeridge but the best dim sum i've found in hamilton.

                    Amuse Bouche - i LOVE this place. it is on locke. brunch is great...i'm still thinking of the huevos rancheros i had the other weekend, with freshly made corn tortillas (i heard her pounding them in the kitchen) and guacamole.

                    Mex-I-Can - hamilton doesn't realize how lucky it is to have this place. they make corn tortillas on site and i've had the pupusas, tamales...everything is wonderful. toronto should be jealous. don't be deterred by the dinginess, or the wait times for food. everything is made from scratch...reminds me of mexico.

                    Thai Memory - although I do like My Thai, this place seems to be a bit more authentic. i really really enjoyed my meal here.

                    I second Roti Hut, and La Cantina.
                    Has anyone tried Chaz Bistro on King William??

                    Also, I enjoy the Ancaster Old Mill (not brunch though). They follow the slow food movement, and use lots of locally sourced ingredients. I've had really great meals there, and always leave satisfied. It is more of a "special" event kind of restaurant, as prices are high (well for Hamilton anyways).

                    1. Hey Chickster,

                      I agree with foodiemommy . . . Chicago Style is a great Italian joint serving up some really tasty "homemade" foods . . . After you've eaten there you'll feel like your Italian Grandma just made a meal for you . . . It really is quite tasty!!! . . . If you go on a Friday or Saturday be prepared to wait as it can get busy . . . They'll serve you a cocktail while you wait . . . and the wait is worth it!! . . . as well the prices are really reasonable

                      let us know what you think...


                      11 Replies
                      1. re: snackboy

                        James St. North and Rebecca.

                        Chinese. (the HOT stuff).
                        Rouge River Restaurant - more info ยป
                        60 James N, Hamilton, ON L8R 2K1
                        (905) 525-0657

                        Been several times though not recently.

                        They don't speak English. The menu will not help.

                        Just look at what others are eating and try it.

                        Don't be afraid.

                        Order a lot of extra stuff in case you don't like some of it.

                        It's VERY hot.

                        It is GREAT.

                        (and the idea of eating in an upscale restaurant in Hamilton, is, I'm sorry. But it's stoopid. Hamilton is a great town. Lots of good food. But it does not do well when it tries to be Toronto (or Oakville or.....).

                        1. re: DBooth

                          DBooth - I gotta argue with you here. First, what's your definition of "up scale"?? There are a number of nice, but casual eateries in Hamilton that I would not rate as "upscale" but that I am more than glad to frequent and that are better than many places in TO. I consider "upscale" to be the likes of Spendido, Scaramouche, C5, etc. etc.

                          Hamilton does have a lot of good, authentic, ethnic cuisine (Trinidadian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Indian, Guyanese to name just a few) thanks to the city's diverse population.

                          It also has a number of very decent bistro / casual eateries that would be good value even in Toronto. These include: Incognito, One Duke, Bistro Paresian, La Spaget, Amuse Bouche, and others.

                          Seven Windows is definitely in the stratospheric price point as far as Hamilton goes, and although the food is decent and the setting lovely, the service is so-so and the wine list seriously lacking. I agree that I would rather drive 45 min east for better food generally at a better price or a really excellent dinner at the same price. That being said, I think Seven Windows does fill a niche in Hamilton and if they did lower their price point a bit and provide a bit more friendly and relaxed service, I might go more often. As it is, it is on the "special occaision & local" list (meaning no time to drive to a better place in TO)....

                          Anyway, just my 2 cents. As for the other good Hamilton places giving us good value for our money and good, fresh food, keep it up!!

                          1. re: jcanncuk

                            So, after reading all this... I think you are agreeing with DBooth... there are no true upscale restaurants in Hamilton. Personally, I have yet to find a fine dining experience that I would repeat.

                            1. re: cynalan

                              I agree with you on this one, but trying to find a fine dining experience in Hamilton that is repeatable is like trying to find decent Mexican in Toronto. You keep hoping for the best but ultimately end up disappointed. If I want a truly upscale experience, I'll head to Toronto or heck, fly to New York out of Buffalo when JetBlue has a special. If I want a good variety of fresh food prepared well in an unpretentious, comfortable, casual environment, I'll go to one of my local favourites.

                              1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                                If you like german food, then the black forest is always cheap and good. It is on King St.

                                1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                                  I would be interested to hear some of your local favourites. My wife and I often go to Theatre Aquarius or Hamilton Place and would appreciate recommendations. We've tried places like La Cantina, Piazza Allegro, Slainte, Bistro on King near Mac (cannot recall its name). They're all OK but nothing special. Anything else in the downtown core you would recommend?

                                  1. re: cynalan

                                    Incognito, Bistro Paresien or One Duke would fit the bill for a pre-theatre dinner. All solid and as prev mentioned, Incognito is my fave on this list for quality of food, freshness, service and price. They have a new website: if you want to check out their menu

                              2. re: jcanncuk

                                Where would you go for MiddleEastern? I am fairly new to the Hammer myself and are always looking for good eats.

                                1. re: smr714

                                  Dalina's on King William St. has great Egyptian/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern fare or La Luna (2 locations: King & Queen or Concession near Henderson hospital) would be my top picks. Some swear by Tarboosh on Upper James but for me it's OK but not as good as the above choices.

                                  1. re: Redshifted

                                    Agree about Dalina's, although this cuisine is a bit more "fusion," with some french touches, adapted to the more upscale clientele. Think about $100 for dinner for two.

                                    La Luna's food is standard but unexciting-and definitely over-priced-think $7.00 for a plate of hummous-the corporate and more upscale surroundings, however, make this the place of choice for some who don't dare venture to new places.

                                    If you are willing to try anything in search for some good middle eastern food, and don't expect much in terms of ambience, there are plenty of new places opening up in the Hammer.

                                    For example, Nabil's on James North at Wilson, makes grilled=to-order chicken and kofta kabobs, to-die-for baklava (see my post above), lentil soup, and a variety of other lovely things. Lunch specials are very reasonably priced ($6.99 for two shwarma sandwiches, on Thursdays, I think).

                                    There is also a newer Iraqi take-out place with some limited seating on Concession, right across from Medina Fine Foods. I've had a lovely plate of rice balls stuffed with mint and beef, and fried potato chaps, with chicken, salad, and pita for about $10.00. They also have an extensive selection of prepared and frozen foods, kind of like a Middle Eastern Zarky's, and vegetarian options, also.

                                    Medina Fine Foods, at 581 Concession Street, is a great place to get medditeranean-style pies. You can call them in the morning and place your order for freshly-made selection of chicken and potato, spinach, spinach and feta, and feta pies. The pastry is supple, and the pies generously stuffed. (905) 318-9366 for made-to-order pies. For middle eastern groceries, this is also your place to go.

                                    Eat-A-Pita, on King and Caroline, and of course Ghazi's on Main W. across from the McMaster Hospital also receive honourable mention, for quickie Lebanese pita-style lunches.

                                    1. re: unturtlesoup

                                      Ghazi's is closed now but I find it funny you mention La Luna as standard and then commend Ghazi's. It is the same owner same family.

                                      La Luna Restaurant
                                      834 Brant St, Burlington, ON L7R2J5, CA