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Hot Tip: Best Meals in Hamilton

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Most things here appear to be about Toronto, but for those folks passing through or living in my home town here are couple of suggestions:

1. Crystal Dynasty. Corner of Cannon and Bay Street. Better than just about anything on Spadina, and the food is always fresh and tasty. The wor-wonton soup may be the best won ton soup I've had anywhere. The service is sometimes, shall we say, "indifferent", but that's the only negative.
http://www.restaurantica.com/on/hamil...

2. Harbour Diner: 486 James Street North. Some folks on this board liked this place quite a bit under previous management. New owners have had it up and running for about 6 weeks. I've been for both brunch and dinner and it is awesome. I would love to see a place like this in Toronto, but I think the rent here would preclude their combination of low prices and awesome food.

The cajun crab eggs benny I had was outstanding, and the meatloaf, while still comfort food, is several cuts above the usual. Also, home made pie! And a full breakfast for $4. And Turkey Wings. Yay, Hamilton!
http://www.harbourdiner.com/menu.html

3. Mac Roni's: 1560 Main Street West. Solid, straight-ahead Italian that is again good value for the money. Frequently packed, my favourite item is the bruschetta on calabrese ring. This place is fresh and flavourful and consistent. It's not innovative, but it will always satisfy. Couldn't find a good web link...

Any other recommendations? Ben Thanh? 1010 Bistro? Tim Horton's?

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  1. IMHO Chicago Style Pizza shack blows Mac Roni's out of the water

    1. Not a big Mac Roni's fan.

      I went to Harbour Diner recently, had a really great breakfast and loved the atmosphere. Can't wait to go back for dinner and try the pulled pork poutine.

      My newest obsession is Hunan House. I don't live in Hamilton currently but I crave this place pretty much every day

      1. After having not been in a couple of years, I went to the Black Forest Inn and had a lovely meal. It hasn't changed one bit over the years. The food is hearty with large portions and being German comfort food, definitely sticks to your ribs on a cool winter's day. The Goulash Soup, Beef Rouladen and Vienna Schnitzel were popular with the group I was with and their spaetzle were tasty without being gluey.

        I've recently had decent meals at Boo's Bistro on James North and at Amuse Bouche on Locke St. as well..

        Chicago Style Pizza is always a favourite with friends and family and nothing beats Karolina's on Barton at Barnesdale for group dinners and pierogis.

        1. We just had dinner at The Harbour Diner and I must say that this place is definitely worth a visit! This place makes everything fresh; so fresh so, that they don't even own a deep fryer!

          Here's what we had:
          Garden Salad with made in house balsamic dressing (crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers - the dressing was delicious, not overbearing with vinegar)
          Pulled Pork Poutine (a healthy portion of baked wedges, topped with creamy cheese curds and pulled pork and a beef demi-glaze - makes my mouth water just writing this...by far my fav. The meat was so tender and sweet and the cheese so creamy)
          Roast Turkey Club (made with real turkey white meat, crisp bacon, lettuce, tomatoe and a black pepper chive mayo on honey oat bread)
          Spaghetti and Meatballs (a bowl of pasta served with 2 HUGE hand rolled meatballs topped with a rich marinara sauce...needless to say after trying to finish the poutine I barley had enough room for dinner, I only ate 1/2 a meatball and some pasta - had to pack up the rest.
          Slice of Pear and Blueberry pie (both pies were served warm; we had the option of ice cream but opted out, due to the lack of room in our bellies. Both pie's were excellent, my fav. was the pear pie, which was recommended by our server - great choice!

          Service was both excellent and friendly Chef Scott Randall definitely has something going on and people should check this place out. This by far is a jewel of James St. North - close proximity to the HMCS Haida, Waterfront trails and Pier 4, which make this place a perfection destination to hit before or after.

          As Adrock75 noted in his post, they recently re-opened (Nov) and have changed the look of the place, by removing a wall and making it feel more open. The feel and mood of the place is cozy and the style is "eclectic retro" with seating for about 28. A great place to sit and enjoy a slice of homemade pie and a $1.00 organic coffee!

          A word to the wise, is to go hungry - the portions are very generous. Also, bring cash, b/c they currently don't have any other form of payments, but we were told that they will be equipped with everything in the next few weeks.

          We will definitely be going back to try the other menu items!

          5 Replies
          1. re: htownca

            Am going back to Harbour Diner next week, can't wait to try it for dinner Nothing makes me happier then home made FRESH food, good portions, and good value.

            1. re: mercurkg

              I took a couple of very picky foodie companions to try the Harbour Diner yesterday and we were blown away by the food and service. first, walking into the tiny resto was like walking into my late grannie's kitchen - a neat, cozy, room full of warmth, love and mismatched furnishings (and i use "mismatched" loosely, as in wooden and formica tables, chairs from the 70's, lovely pieces of china and dinnerware that looked to have been collected over many years - wonderfully reminiscent of grandma's kitchen).

              our gracious host was very accommodating, fitting our threesome into a table for two, based on our own request (being cranky old ladies!) despite the numerous vacant tables. we had the crab chowder, garden salad, lobster macaroni, spag & meatball, and the meatloaf dinner. we could barely finish half of each of our meals! the portions were massive and each dish was served as grandma would've, in huge bowls with lots of tlc. the earlier reviewers were right on about the salad (very fresh, ripe tomatoes in winter!), the spag/meatball & meatloaf were comfort food at its best. the crab chowder had just enough heat/spice to provide a kick start to our meal. i wanted to try some of the earlier mentioned homemade pies but did not have enough room to try their desserts by the end of the night. ....OHHH, and the completely unexpected highlight of the night: our server graciously offered to pack our leftovers to take home; she returned carrying swans made from foil wrap ? - she had wrapped our leftovers in the foil and formed a head and tail with the ends of the foil! we tried to take photos but the glare from the foil and the dim lights meant we didn't have much success. the HD was an experience that truly hit the spot on a cold, winter stormy night, and kept us warm and laughing throughout the 2 hour drive back to toronto after the meal...thank you, HD!!

              my only beef with this place: why can't you be closer to me in toronto!? I haven't had an experience like this since the late Tre Fontaine on bloor/bathurst in toronto (i am still mourning the loss of this place). please please, HD, if things don't work out in Hamilton, please come to toronto.....

              1. re: berbere

                Glad to see I'm not alone in the love for the Harbour Diner.

                A question: Where is the Chicago Style Pizza? I've never noticed it, and I've spent a good chunk of each of the last 30+ years in Hamilton.

                The Hunan House is extra-old school. We used to go there before Le Chinois opened, which was 10 years before Crystal Dynasty opened. IIRC, the Ants Climbing Up a Tree and the Garlic Shrimp are stand-outs.

                For coffee, although it's a chain, the Williams down by the water has an absolutely outstanding setting. Their espresso is perfectly fine. Once it's no longer excruciatingly miserable out, it's worth a walk...

                Yay, Hamilton!

                I have fond memories of Bronzie's for chicken wings--I was there in 1991 when i heard Magic Johnson had contracted HIV--a less fond memory than the chicken wings.

                1. re: Adrock75

                  Chicago Pizza is on Upper Sherman, one block North of Fennel.

            2. re: htownca

              i would like to make a correction to the above information. the chef at the harbour diner is chris preston.

            3. Bronzie's at 201 James Street South was a favourite when my Dad was ill in St.Joseph's Hospital. Bit of a hole in the wall (or actually hole in the basement) but a good spot for honest Italian home cooking - big portions and very reasonably priced. Returned there for carbo loading before the 30km Around the Bay Race - perfect meal.

              1. Have to second the recommendation for Bronzie's. The portions are unbelievable - that meal destroyed me, but I was happy in my defeat. I usually get a pasta with their red sauce and meatballs, although the chicken + veal parm are also winners.

                Chicago-Style Pizza Shack is also excellent (it doesn't have the bright yellow cornmeal crust, but it is still delicious). Get the "No Self Respect" meatstravaganza or the mushroom + garlic.

                For excellent wings (big, juicy, Anchor-bar style) and ribs, go to West End Pub near Mac on Emerson, which is mostly a student/construction worker joint. Go on Mondays or Thursdays for the wings and wings/ribs special.

                For ridiculous breakfasts: Two Cougars and a Cafe on Burlington St East (near the steel factories). Great service, food (get the Breakfast Skillet if you're famished), and the prices are reasonable.

                1. Couldn't agree more about the Harbour Diner. Read the review in the View Paper and it was bang on. This place has character and the food is true comfort food and damn good food. Took the family there for dinner and came back the next day for lunch. Ingredients are fresh, portions are large and prices are very reasonable. Go support this place, Hamilton needs more places like the Harbour Diner that serve both quality and quantity at very fair prices. No liquor license yet, would be great if they had corkage and could bring your own bottle but I'll take food like this without a glass of wine anyday if it meant I could only have one.

                  BTW: B&T across from the Crystal Dynasty on Bay and Cannon is another great spot. Vietnamese/Thai food that we go to often and are never disappointed. Always had a good meal at Chicago Style and a place we went to for the first time a couple of months ago was Zum Linzer 537 Main St. E. Austrian/German food that is oh so good, I'll take it over the Black Forest but make a reservation. Why people go to Kelseys, Boston Pizza etc when we have these great places that are locally owned, actually serve food not processed is beyond me.

                  1. This Torontonian is willing to go to Hamilton just to eat at the Black Forest. La Luna's isn't bad either, Lebanese food taken to a more serious level than most places here in Toronto. Another favourite is Acclamation on James North (my personal favourite nighbourhood) is fantastic also. One thing I would like to see improve in Hamilton is the coffee served in restaurants and pubs, would be nice not to have the server look at me like I have ten heads when I ask for an espresso after my meal. Another critic would be a good place to get a veal sandwich would be nice. Come on, Hamilton, you have an Italian Consulate in your city! All and all, Hamilton, we love you, you're your own city with your own vibe, you have a beautiful natural setting, some very good restaurants and you are the gateway to the Niagara Peninsula. I wish Denninger's would open up a place in Toronto, they would make a mint!
                    If I could just make a suggestion to Big Brother, Ontario is a big place, Toronto deserves it's own section of Chowhound and I'm sure the good people of Hamilton, Windsor, Kingston and other cities are tired of digging through a very Toronto centric Ontario board. Just a thought.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: chef_vegabond

                      Agree with you about the coffee, and since this thread seems to be a Harbour Diner love-in - they have really good coffee!

                      1. re: foodiemommy

                        I shall check it out next time I'm in town!

                        1. re: foodiemommy

                          I will agree with that foodiemommy. I took my parents there last weekend and they were both shocked that I drank the coffee. It is really good! And for OJ drinkers, while it isn't fresh squeezed it is Tropicana Pure Premium...

                        2. re: chef_vegabond

                          If you goto the Acclamation, go early on a friday, they serve free food for happy hour before your dinner in the bar area.

                          Rather than a veal sandwich, goto Duarte's on Barton, for there hoagie.

                        3. The most exhaustive thread on Hamilton's dining scene can be found at:
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/514581
                          It'd be nice to generate some more discussion as things change in the scene....to hear from a wide base of CHers...