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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: http://www.incognitorestaurant.ca/ 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

                          2. As an ex-Hamiltonian, I'm still there a lot. Some restaurants that I still crave and visit when I'm back in the Hammer:

                            - Valentino's - best italian everything. Been there since I was a kid - always a line up but it moves quickly
                            - Bean Bar - great interesting food beside the Westdale theatre
                            - Crystal Dynasty - excellent Chinese food and dim sum
                            - Schwaben Inn - great German in Dundas
                            - Denningers take out counter - how I miss Denningers! Still nothing like it ANYWHERE.

                            For fine dining - there is still Maxwell at Lo Prestis and Shakespeare's for steak.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: MeMeMe

                              Of your list, I've tried Shakespeare's. Maybe it was because we were a large group for a Christmas celebration with fixed menu rather than a la carte, but I must say the meal was not just bad, but downright awful. I've probably never had a worse steak and the accompanying dishes were extremely bland and mediocre. If this is the best that Hamilton has to offer, guess I'll be dining in Burlington. The pricing at Lord Nelson, though a bit higher than Shakespeare is counterbalanced by a much better product. Actually, I even found Sirloin Cellar better for both food and atmosphere.

                              Love Denninger's for Saturday afternoon comfort food. Agree with you there.

                              Schwaben was OK. How would it compare the Black Forest Inn that I've seen many on this board recommend?

                              Never heard of Valentino's. Where is it?


                              1. re: cynalan

                                Valentinos is out on King St. W., just west of the 403, across from the Barn, where King St. splits off to go to Westdale. They make servicable pizza and standard "red sauce" family style Italian. I personally prefer Capri on John St. north for that.

                                Between Schwaben, Zum Linzer and Black Forest Inn, I personally prefer Black Forest Inn...

                                If you're looking for decent Sushi beyond the AYCE that is offered throughout the city, Matsu Sushi in Dundas is a good selection...

                                1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                                  love the black forest, can't beat its prices and consistent good quality food.

                              2. re: MeMeMe

                                We've never really thought Valentino's was anything more than "serviceable" as Mike from Hamilton says, but who am I to argue with nostalgia?

                                1. re: foodiemommy

                                  Valentinos has excellent pizza and the most wonderful salad called the 'Valentino Salad'. Plus they have a great pasta fagioli, great desserts and ices. I've never been there when someone has complained or sent back their food.

                                  Haven't been to Capri in 25 years, but i have memories of their blue lit ceiling, their ravioli and their veal with rice (and excellent minestrone). I should go back soon!

                                  1. re: MeMeMe

                                    I have to say I have an urge for Valentino's seafood calzone I have to satisfy every now and then...yummm..

                                    1. re: MeMeMe

                                      i went back to the capri a few months ago because i liked it as a kid.....sad to say the food was terrible

                                  2. re: MeMeMe

                                    denningers!!!! it's really the only amazing place in hamilton...in Toronto there's reither's on church but it's not as good...there used to be an indian place on james st n that served really hot curries, of course it closed...what a horrible place hamiton is , i feel depressed whenever i'm forced to return...

                                    1. re: chomsky

                                      Denningers Now has Berkshire pork! Yay!

                                      If you're looking for a Denningers replacement in TO you need to hit a few places. For Cheese and Packaged Goods go to the Cheese Boutique and for European Meats its Starsky's in Mississauga

                                  3. Since I live to promote Mex-I-Can, I will again say it's a find and hidden gem

                                    Wild Orchid has terrific seafood dishes -- try the large shrimp appetizer -- sauce is to die for. Its cuisine is quite consistent, but stay away from the chicken. Ventura's has a more formal feel. I think W.O is very consistent and casual

                                    Good place to find said Portuguese chicken across from the General Hospital on Barton.

                                    New August 8 on King William great deal AYCE dim sum (which I love) and sushi (which I normally don't, but it was actually pretty good) Udon dishes are surprisingly good.

                                    Big fan of Reardon's Corned Beef sammies, Papagayo's soups, Mex-I-Can's guac & tacos

                                    Some east-end gems - Bright Spot for brekkie, Leghorn's pizza (you can get garlic on the wings!)

                                    Bronzie's on James St. S. great pizza and gargantuan pasta servings. I vote for the pizza.

                                    La Cantina has terrific bruschette & pizzas.

                                    Cat & Fiddle on John at Augusta has great pub food and even better prices.

                                    Many more... can't think at the moment

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Tapyram

                                      so i went and checked out Mex-I-Can after reading about it several times on the boards. It's a little hidden place on James St. - just north of King St. I say hidden because the outside decor isn't exactly appealing.

                                      anyhow, it's a pretty decent sized menu with lots to choose from, chimichangas, tacos, burritos, pappusas (sp?), quesidillas, etc.. .. all their stuff is homemade (salsa, hot sauce, tortillas, etc.) ... nothing was over 9.99 if i remember correctly....

                                      i ordered the pappusa dish which came with two nicely sized pappusas, hot sauce, a pickled coleslaw, and nachos with refried beans and cheese... i've never had pappusas before, but they were awesome!... plenty filling and the corn floured "dough" was a good texture, just crisp enough on the outside and nice and soft inside with the cheese, pork, and beans.... they also let me try some pickled cactus since i asked... and it was interesting, not sure how to explain it tho

                                      i took a look at their small grocery store and they have lots of spanish/mexican foods... mostly in cans, but quite a few spices...some cheese (looked interesting), and lots of corn tortillas (that they make in store, with the equipment that makes it beside the kitchen and visible!) ... the fresh tortillas go for 1.99 and are much more substantial than the ones u can get at normal grocery stores...gonna try these one day

                                      but i talked to the owner, angel, and found that they've been at this location for 3 years, since moving from windsor ... and they've recently been getting more interest ... from ppl who've read toronto's "view" because of the whole freshness (ingredients from mexico) and authenticity (it's a meld of mexican and el salvadorian foods; he's mexican and his wife is el salvadorian).... he's slowly fixing up the place with new floors, paint, etc.... but yeah, should check this place out... it's good stuff!! ...

                                      1. re: Tapyram

                                        the bright spot???????the mind boggles..sad sad sad

                                      2. If you want to head into Burlington I would suggest trying Blacktree. The menu changes on a monthly basis and is amazing. I lived in Toronto before moving to Burlington and feel this compares to all the upscale restaurants there. Half the fun is finding it...it is located down an alleyway in the Roseland Plaza. Don't let the location fool you...it is well worth the visit!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: morty999

                                          I wholeheartedly agree with morty999 about Blacktree ... I would say that it is the best restaurant in the Hamilton-Burlington area. Chef Matteo is very talented and a master at getting the whole dish to be greater than the sum of its parts. I've never been disappointed here.


                                        2. We went again to the Black Forest Inn on Wednesday for a small birthday dinner. Food as usual was good. My mom could not get enough of just the pea soup starter, nevermind the cordonblue she had for her entree. I had the salad and the Jaeger schinizal (yes I know I can't spell it, but I can sure eat it) with wild mushroom sauce. Dad had the soup too and the standard wiener schnitzel. We all had leftovers for the next day's lunch with the larger portions. The foodl my not be find dining, but it consistantly good, price reasonable (75.00 for three adults, with a 1/2 litre of house wine and a beer), and the staff friendly and attentive. It makes for an enjoyable night, I also hear they have live music on the weekends.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: smr714

                                            i was there about 20 years ago...i can't believe they get away with serving that stuff....really dry worn out shoe leather...denningers is far superior

                                            1. re: chomsky

                                              The Black Forest Inn has therefore changed in 20 years. As the Jaeger schnitzel that they were serving up on December 18th was lightly breaded and perfectly cooked from what I can see. The cutlet (not a patty) was pounded thin and overlapped the plate. The beef rouladen was delicious, tender and offered a generous portion at a decent price...

                                              My main complaints with some of Denningers' prepared meat products (schnitzels, burgers, etc.) is that they often taste and feel *really* processed. Their sausages, deli meats and smoked meat products are excellent and their takeout bars are filled with excellent variety at a decent price. As much as I love their cajun burger and their schnitzels, they are made from ground meats and have a "processed" quality to them. Your mileage may vary.

                                          2. I have meetings in Hamilton every few months - today I went to Mex I Can - yes the decor is lacking and area a bit run down but the food was excellent - by far the best tacos I have ever had - great lunch and I intend to make it a regular stop.

                                            1. i'm still trying to think of something good to say about hamilton- okay ...here goes...denningers of course, lots of cool old buildings which are. ,sadly .falling down,.... slainte is an okay pub...ivor wynne is a great place to see a game....dynasty is good as the crappier restos on spadina....there's a couple of good portugeuse sandwich places, cheap housing...frankie venom (R.I.P.)....dive bar capital of canada (a good thing in my books).....some of the people are friendly, ....used to be a great music scene there back in the day...bob morrow is no longer mayor...some good ndp politicains...

                                              1. I can think of lots of great things to say about hamilton! i'm from toronto, moved to hamilton for school, stayed longer because i liked it so much. i've moved back for logistic reasons but i hope to move back to hamilton sometime. i think it's a great place to live..and eat!

                                                anyways onto food.

                                                i tried La Salsa last weekend...not bad...not nearly as good as Mex-I-Can, but a good place to stop in for some tacos and pupusas!

                                                i also tried Bistro Parisien for the first time, we did the prix fixe "Feast in the City", great experience! food was delicious, a nice "special occasion" place, or until i have more money. the french onion soup was decadent, and my SO's steak frites was perfectly cooked.

                                                i also want to try Lissa's Bistro (I think its called that), that just opened on Augusta. anyone tried/going to try?

                                                this weekend i am going to visit the SO and really want to try Hunan House!

                                                1. The Hamilton "where to eat" continues!
                                                  Here are a few of my faves : (no ways to be continued in another post)

                                                  Thai Memory on King William, East of James North-owners Pat and Tun were successful restaurateurs in top Chiang Mai resorts before moving to Hamilton over a year ago. Delicate flavours of pandanus leaf-scented sticky rice with grilled meats, authentic tamarind-flavoured Pad Thai, and a range of toothful vegetarian options. Beats the Laotian-style (My Thai) and Chinese-Viet style (B&T) Thai knock-offs that seem to crown the city's Thai scene. Decor is floral, effusive, restaurant draped in silks and exotic woods. Service professional and attentive, in the Thai style. This is a definite contender for a lovely and well-executed meal. Meal for two is less than $60 (I have not ventured to try the wine here, opting instead for a hot pot of chrysanthemum tea.)

                                                  Hamilton Farmer's market:
                                                  For Empanadas: Julia, who owns the organic fair trade coffee shop downstairs, makes Colombian-style empanadas on Saturdays, with a pico de gallo style salsa dotted with flecks of cilantro and chilies. Am somewhat reluctant to tell you CH about it.....we often don't wake up with enough time to get the last of these! $1.75 a piece.
                                                  For Pupusas-Behind the Indian grocers on the lower level, there is a pupusa stall every Saturday, as well. These are Salvadorian tamales, with pork chorizo, or queso fresco. Each order comes with a small baggie of carrot and cabbage slaw that can be spiced up with the optional hot sauce. As these pupusas are softer, made from finer ground corn flour, than the pupusas at Mex-I-Can, but with a bit less grease, and smaller size, several can easily be enjoyed at one sitting. About $1.50 a piece.

                                                  Mex-I-Can, 107 James St. N: All I can say is that their food has an enduring place in my repertoire of Hamilton "soul food." Home-made tortillas and nacho chips-each bite is a labour of love. Beef and lamb barbacoa slow-cooked for over an hour (I once was the honoured recipient of a whole pot full of beef barbacoa to take home), with dried and smoked ancho chilles....yum..... I echo all good things mentioned about Mex-I-Can.
                                                  Meal for 2 with hot chocolate and beer: $40.00

                                                  Boo's Bistro: On James Street South, at Duke....
                                                  Chef Boo Aria and Sommelier Thea make a truly awesome team. Boo's cuisine is globally-inspired Bistro cuisine, and, in my opinion, better executed than some of the higher-end restaurants mentioned (Bistro Parisien, Incognito). The ability to creatively execute dishes with classic technique, while imparting a fusion flair is to be respected in this kitchen. Chef Boo is always at the helm, resulting in more consistent delivery...and he can often be found at the Farmer's market cheese counter, or sourcing local seasonal vegetables. On this wine list, local wines shine-amazing rare finds from Beamsville bench are reasonably priced. This is definitely my pre-theatre pick, as well as my secret "lunch special" find....Boo's asian-inspired roots shine at lunch time. A menu featuring a fragrant curried chicken with hand-made roti, and grilled beef and red onion salads flecked with sweet toasted coconut are so reasonably priced ($9.99) and so delicious. Lunch for 2 with wine: $55.00, Dinners $120 for 2 with wine (although there are weekly prix-fixe specials featuring Ontario wine---I think $24-$30.)

                                                  La Spaghett: Was taken here by a dear, dear boyfriend (now husband) who covered my eyes until we got to the place so that I wouldn't think that we were celebrating our then blossoming relationship at the adjacent Adult Video. Truly rich, old school Italian food, with a range of lovely pastas for a great price. No ways: Beats the socks off of Valentino's, which is passable-actually lacklustre-at best, made to look like Italian food but completely flavourless. Dinner for 2 with wine-$60.00

                                                  La Piazza Allegra: Classic Italian cuisine, with some local seasonally-inspired gems shine through at La Piazza (think: house smoked venison pasta with chanterelle cream). Chef Mark Farruggia was named "top chef in Hamilton" for a few years in a row. This place is consistent, formal enough for a good client lunch or meeting, and with the very professional service, makes for an excellent overall dining experience. The owner, Peter Farruggia, is a generous man with tales to tell of living in the palace in Malta-stories poured over gratis shots of Limoncello liquer. Lunch for 2 $50.00, DInner for 2 $100+

                                                  Korea House:
                                                  This gem of a place is really, really an unexpected find. Think: decor attempting to be pleasant while still looking curious, with mama in the kitchen, and old Korean men drinking Soju liquor over heaped plates of beef ribs cooking on sizzling stone grills. This place has excellent, long-cooking Korean soups such as Gamja Tang (pork bone and Potato soup), and Spicy Seafood Tofu Stew. Each meal is accompanied by a potato pancake starter, and 5-6 side dishes such as house-cured kimchi, marinated squid, soy-infused potato, and sesame-flecked spinach follow with the main course. On some days, fresh fish is available, and their spicy salmon rolls are quite good (firm, well seasoned rice, and lots of Korean hot sauce on the salmon). Mains from $6.99-23.99 for stone-cooked beef ribs. Dinner for 2, depending on what you order, can be had for less than $30.00.

                                                  For regional seasonal that is really worth your while, without the excessive manipulation (not a fan of Blacktree micro foams, though some are...), you need to travel a bit to places like Port Dalhousie (Treadwell Farm-to Table Cuisine), or Grimsby (13 Mountain Street)...see reviews on Chow:

                                                  Street Meat: the sausage cart outside of Reardon's meats on King William. Gorgeous house-made sausages, with a bag of chips and pop for about $5.00. Get these babies while the weather is still favourable to outdoor griling!

                                                  Shwarmas for the Really Adventurous: Saffin Grill, the King Street location.
                                                  I was made to eat take-out from Saffin twice before my SO and housemate would take me here...there is a theme in my Hamilton culinary adventures about good places being hidden near, or in this case, directly under the awning of, adult-themed entertainment joints. There is a hole in the wall adjacent to the former Foxes' Den that seems to get progressively bigger each time I visit (cheap asses...pssht.) This place serves yummy, quickly made Chicken on rice, topped with the artery clogging and mysterious "white sauce." Decent falafels can be had, also, for the vegetarian set. Partially because it's so dive-ey is this experience one worth having.

                                                  Nabil's Middle Eastern Cuisine:
                                                  Conveniently located near to two of my other faves, Only One Chinese Cuisine and Mex-I-Can at James N. and Wilson, Nabil's is a newer Middle Eastern place with a flair and home-style quality that none of the others really quite match (here, I'm thinking the revered La Luna, and even Monteforte.) Only this one is definitely casual, counter-stuff, but the food is so, so lovely. I'd rather eat twice as much here than pay for mediocrity at a fancier place. Chicken Shish Tawook and Kofta are skewed fresh onto long metal rods and displayed for customers to choose, and grilled to order. A healthful, if not bland selection of lentil soup accompanies most orders, as does a selection of three salads.
                                                  Baklava...here is the part of the meal that hits the spot-lovely, really lovely, dripping with honeyed nuts, and fresh buttered (not oiled) phyllo pastry.

                                                  Chinese Street Food: Only One Chinese Cuisine, at James N. and Wilson, beside August 8 buffet. This is one of the places where one can get authentic, if not a bit dated, Cantonese street food like Wonton Noodle Soup ($4.00, filled with plump shrimp), Fried Rice, and Fried Noodle Dishes. This is sure to be a quicky but goodie that is on par with the Chinese places in Toronto's Chinatown. Meal for two: $20.00.

                                                  I will have to add another post on Chinese cuisine, too, I think! Hope this is useful in echoing oldie but goodies, and perhaps adding a few new ideas to the mix!

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: unturtlesoup

                                                    ok unturtlesoup - really hungry now after your post....must go to Hamilton tomorrow.....!!!

                                                    1. re: unturtlesoup

                                                      yeah what's up with that white sauce? for years I've been trying to find a shawarma with that white sauce at Safin Grill. I ask for it in Toronto and they look at me funny!!!

                                                      1. re: unturtlesoup

                                                        Had a great dinner last night at Boo's and look forward to going back. Although I wasn't sure I felt like tuna tartare, we had to order it, remembering Mike from Hamilton's post on another thread. What I loved about it was that the flavour ended very differently from how it started. Ancho Beef with Frites was a hit.

                                                      2. You should try the KOOKABURRA Restaurant. They fuse Louisiana and Australia together. They do a pretty good job of it. I love their food! They are in West Hamilton. Very small, but cute little place.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: fatbastard

                                                          for some of the old timer McMaster Students, Kookburra's is where Perry's roadhouse used to be on Main Street.

                                                        2. unturtlesoup - great post, thanks for sharing!

                                                          i wholeheartedly agree with some of your choice, like mex--i-can, boo's (i've only had it for lunch but it was delicious and a great price), and thai memory ( could just eat the coconut rice). mmm and la spaghett. grungy location but superb food. reservations recommended!

                                                          i was also wondering where korea house is, and how compares to barambunei (not sure if that is spelled correctly),

                                                          i was able to try Hunan House this weekend and am so happy i did. we did take out and might return to dine-in next weekend. the garlic shrimp are soooo good. we had a good sized portion, and i could definitely eat them like candy. i didn't realize they'd be breaded shrimp coated in a sauce, but i could've eaten 2 orders of these alone. screw eating well!

                                                          i also second the Kookaburra. i loved Perry's when it was still open but not so much for the food. although i miss Perry's, the food here has got it going on. the crab dip, ribs, non-creamy coleslaw, and hush puppies were YUM.

                                                          i didn't know about some of those secrets in the farmer's market. i used to frequent during my lunch breaks, but that was during the week, i didn't know there were such great finds on saturdays,

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: mercurkg

                                                            Thanks for the kudos, mercurkg and juliewong.
                                                            Kookabarra's? Might I say-oh no! Perry's....gone! I haven't ventured to the "student West side" for some years now, but it saddens me that the home of $9.00 steak and $1.00 rubbery escargot topped with processed cheese and industrial garlic bread is now gone! Sniff.

                                                            Korea House is on the NorthWest corner of Victoria Ave N and Cannon St. E, at 281 Cannon Street. Phone (905) 526-1492. Now that I have a menu in front of me, it's obvious that the menu really ranges from simple soups and stews to more elaborate traditional dishes ($6.95 for Gamja Tang-spicy pork bone soup with potatoes and vegetables-to $10.99 for the Galbi Dubap-Marinated and grilled beef short ribs on rice-to $24.95 for Yuk Hwae-minced rare beef with garlic and asian pear.)

                                                            hope this entices some of you to eat adventurously!

                                                          2. Beasley's Bistro on Locke is kind -of upscale
                                                            Chicago Style for home-cooking

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: philly cheeze

                                                              The Harbour Diner on James( http://www.harbourdiner.com/ ) has amazing specials ..it looks like a 60's style kitchen with a sailing theme but the portions are huge and the specials are delicious and very inventive ..the owner is a chef and really knows his food!! Breakfast on the weekend is great but make sure to get there early or ther is a line. My Thai is one of my other favorites ..the green currie is just delicious!! And there's Derringers amazing jelly filled donuts plus the farmers market with is wonderful indian food !! Anyone that doesn't like the food in Hamilton should try living in Brantford or St. Catharines ...:)

                                                              1. re: ellie2009

                                                                Whilr not really a "chowhound" style of choice, I just had a tasty lunch at the limeridge mall food court (no kidding). forget the name but it's the shwarna place. Great food and friendly staff

                                                                1. re: NorfolkGuy

                                                                  New to the site...I've learned two things already.

                                                                  1. Chomsky hates Hamilton
                                                                  2. There are a ton of local places I need to check out.

                                                                  I've heard good things about Black Forest, La Spaghett and Shakespeare's and those 3 are on the "immediate list" of places to go. I immigrated to Hamilton from the US a couple years ago and I don't get out to eat to often. When I do, it's usually the Keg. The atmosphere isn't great but I've never had a bad steak at the one on Upper James. There's also a little pub on James St. North that I go to occasionally called Fisher's (Pier 4). Friendly staff, especially Danielle! The owner is also very nice and the food is good IMO. Just your average pub fare I suppose, but, I've never had a bad meal there either. Maybe most people think it's crap cause I didn't see it mentioned lol, but, I always enjoy it. :)

                                                                  I always get my deli meat from Denningers on King St...great selection and always tasty. I've had their schnitzel a couple times as take-out and never cared for it too much. Always seems to be dry and not much flavor. Nowhere near as good as my girlfriend's Oma's. :-)

                                                            2. A new August 8 location has recently opened as well in Burlington, on Brant St south of Fairview (in the old la luna building, right behind Discovery Ford)
                                                              I haven't been yet, but I assume it's the same ayce dim sun and sushi as the York Blvd. one.

                                                              5 Replies
                                                              1. re: club mataba

                                                                August 8; sigh. The appeal of cheap AYCE aside, the amalgam of both cantonese dim-sum, and sushi menu items leaves me, well, full of msg and a bit empty inside despite the gut-busting appeal of the "bottomless" menu format. August 8 does neither dim sum nor sushi well, although the overall "experience" and service is perhaps a bit more palatable to those looking for a more casual but trendy experience (hip young asian servers, clean, modern decor) than some of the more tired, but considerably superior "single-estate" (read: single-country cuisine, not this mess of pan-asian) restos in downtown Hamilton.
                                                                At August 8, the sushi consists of improperly cut, low-grade fish on barely seasoned sushi rice. And the dim sum items, replete with msg, feature fatty cuts of meat, and soggy, starch laden items.
                                                                For good nigiri sushi, meaning fresh fish atop well seasoned rice with a hint of vinegar and sweetness, try Kampai, on King street at Catherine. They also excel at the more Cali style rolls (maki), including favorites like the crazy salmon roll (crunchy spicy salmon, made properly with tempura bits, green onion, spicy japanese mayonaise) topped with slices of salmon and fresh avocado.
                                                                And for dim sum, I repeat my choice of Harvest Moon. This past weekend, we had dim sum brunch with a vegetarian/pescatarian dim-sum virgin, and two friends from Taiwan. The spread, including the vegetarian sweet and sour soup, seafood congee with rice-paper wrapped "fried doughnut" rolls, shrimp spring rolls, har gow, spicy deep fried tofu, and steamed custard dessert buns pleased the entire party. As GTA expats living in Hamilton for the last decade, it's the only passable dim sum cuisine in town, although it lags light years behind the inventive fare turning up in GTA North restaurants like Casa Imperial, Spring Villa Chinese cuisine, Yang's, and Crown Prince.

                                                                Casa Imperial
                                                                4125 Steeles Ave E, Scarborough, ON M1W 3T4, CA

                                                                1. re: unturtlesoup

                                                                  agree! Nice review there of Harvest Moon, although if after every review of a good local restaurant you're going to list the better ones in Toronto I'll just get depressed.

                                                                  There are a few other Asian places I've noticed but never tried - a hot pot place on King, and another on Walnut I believe, and a pair of Korean restaurants - one on King the other on Queen at York. Anyone been?

                                                                  1. re: andy andersen

                                                                    Hey andy, can you narrow it down at all? I have been looking for good korean since I moved back from Canada.

                                                                    for my money in hamilton I like the sushi place in dundas (non ayce) or sopporo for ayce. Il fiasco on locke. the burrito place in Westdale. My dog joe in westdale for coffee based things and cheese muffins. Le chinois for chinese. Saigon asian for vietnemese.

                                                                    1. re: k8supergrover

                                                                      narrow it down? I haven't been to any of these, I'm just checking if anyone else has so I don't have to be the guinea pig! Hey, if you're into coffee you need to go to Detour on King st in Dundas. It's a little shack behind a salon, and it's incredible. Just coffee.

                                                                      1. re: k8supergrover

                                                                        K8supergrover, if you look in the above thread, I've posted about a few of the other asian places. If Le Chinois is your standard, you've definitely got to get out there and try some others!
                                                                        Although it is no longer hot pot weather, I will add my two cents, since I've tried the restos mentioned by andy andersen:
                                                                        Hot Pot place on King: I think you may mean Sparkle asian cuisine. They excel at Hot-Pot, and also make handmade dumplings, handmade "bao" (buns), and a really savory Mongolian-inspired cumin char-grilled lamb kabob. I think there is a combo in which you can get all of the above items with a Hot Pot meal; I just need a large enough group to tackle this spread!
                                                                        Liu Liu Hot Pot, on Walnut, S. of King-this place boasts reasonably priced, ACYE hot-pot. The most memorable part of this meal, however, was the appetizer-portion cold noodle, or "liang mien," complimentary with the hot pot meal, featuring a soy and aged dark vinegar-based sauce topped with chillis, peanuts, and cilantro.
                                                                        Korean restos on King, East of James:
                                                                        Hoya-more Korean-Japanese fusion, this place turns out solid, consistent Korean and Japanese dishes with a bit more finesse than you might find at other restos. Its popularity and meticulous cuisine is reflected in the pricing, which can be a bit higher than other places.
                                                                        Dae Bak- this place specializes in home-style Korean soups, stews, and sizzling stone pot dishes like dolsot bibimbap, pork bone soup, beef bulgogi, stewed whole ginseng chicken, etc.. Along with the ample selection of free kimchee appetizers, there is the option of ordering house-made fried or soup dumplings, or potato-seafood pancakes. They also have a limited selection of sushi bar items. I haven't been back in a while, and hope they are still doing well.
                                                                        Le Chinois--has a French-sounding title. "Nuff said.
                                                                        The first (and last) time I mistakenly wandered in and ordered Chow Mein. Now, "Chow mein" is a direct translation from Cantonese, meaning "fried noodles." There were no such noodles, but in their stead, a sludge of starchy, msg-laden meat atop a pile of canned bean sprouts, which apparently is standard for the depression-era chinese canadian food that so often passes for Chinese food. Even the waitress apologized.

                                                                        And my listing of GTA restos is simply to give context, not to depress you (although my eyes water a bit, sometimes, to be honest, at the thought of a perfect Peking duck....)

                                                                        Hoya Korean & Japanese Cuisine
                                                                        161 King St E, Hamilton, ON L8N1B1, CA

                                                                        Liu Liu Hot Pot
                                                                        11 Walnut St S, Hamilton, ON L8N, CA

                                                                2. I was craving a juicy, handmade burger to chase away the "is it STILL winter" blues.
                                                                  I found the equivalent of the burger shacks' answer to a warm blanket on a freezing cold day---O'Neills on Upper Wellington (tag line-"Home of the 1 lb. Pugger Burger). Nothing on the outside is exceptional; except for the opening hours being listed as "feeding times," I would have passed this place by.
                                                                  Inside, I found a gem of a burger shack, old fashioned, with milkshakes (made with real ice cream), hand-battered fish and chips, and burgers, ranging from the 1/4 lb.-1 lb. burger patty. I didn't want to get the smallest and cheapest burger, but alas, the 1/2 lb. burger looked daunting, and I had a supper to go to. O'Neils' on Upper Wellington exceeded expectations; a juicy, handmade patty, with ground beef, well-done as requested, with a side of onion rings, and a drink: $4.50. Topped generously with whole slices of smoked bacon and cheese, $1.00 more. The order came out in a neat little basket, and was perfectly cooked, crisp edged, while still juicy. The affable owner, Tom, who has run this place since the late 1990s, regaled us with banter. He told us that the burger patties are hand-made by his mother, who also keeps the place spic and span, and ornamented with plants. O'Neill's also delivers for a modest fee, and is open to the wee hours of the morning. Which means I might *just* have a hankering one of these nights...
                                                                  Truly, a family-run homestyle burger place that should emerge as a "go to" spot amongst local Chers, delivering great quality for modest prices. Well, now you know.
                                                                  Give 'er a go for St. Paddy's...

                                                                  O'neills 84
                                                                  601 Upper Wellington St, Hamilton, ON L9A3P8, CA

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: unturtlesoup

                                                                    The original location is on Barton East of Kenilworth. Same dumpy type of place. Awesome burgers. I get the Dublin (1/2 pound) and I can barely finish that. Must get "lose you friend sauce" (their garlic sauce) On a side note back when Mulroney brought in the GST they sold a GST platter. They would ring everything in separate so you didn't have to pay the GST. The record holder for a pugger, large onion rings, and a milkshake was some guy from Ottawa. 2.5 minutes! He ate for free. (Just a little bit of history) When we were in our early 20's we use to place an order when the bars were closing and drive down there and sit on the curb and eat. If I ate one at 2:00 am today I would be up all night and gain 20 pounds. Oh to be young! You talked me into it I'm going for a burger tonight. lol