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Hamilton Food and Drink Fest - early April 2011 - worth it?

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I saw a posting up on Wagjag for discounted tickets ($6.75), wondering if it is worth going. I am about 30 minutes away so wondering if it is a worthwhile foodie destination. I have been disappointed with some of the bigger shows in Toronto but wondering if this one might be better. Are samples over priced? Any interesting food items? If anyone has been before please share your experiences as there are a few days still to buy vouchers/discounted tickets.

Here is the link directly to the deal if anyone is interested:


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  1. The Hamilton Food and Drink show is very good, but if you're looking for a cheap night out, you won't find it there. Vendors are great, but samples are generally very small. Copps gets quite crowded too... although the wagjag ticket is for sunday, where it may be a bit calmer.

    1. I can't believe I am about to tell you not to bother as I am from Hamilton and think it gets a very bad rap. There is so much to do if you just look in the right spots. But...if you are looking for something to do on a Sunday its a nice day out. Be prepared though, Hamilton is notorious for jacking up the parking rates for "special events" and street parking is limited. Unless you spend a fortune on sample tickets be prepared to leave hungry and quite frankly the samples are not all that great. In that case you can go to numerous fabulous restaurants afterwards within walking distance or a short car ride depending on what your in the mood for. Am I going - absolutely not. I can think of several other ways to spend my hard earned money other than paying for a business to entice me to become their customer. Also note that on Sunday the mall (Jackson Square) is pretty much closed. Saturday would be a better day as the farmer's market is open but very busy and you don't have a coupon. In a nutshell, you get nothing for nothing just like the travel show, golf show, home show etc.

      1. Like 02putt I can't believe I'm about to tell you what I'm going to say, and that is, I wouldn't make a special trip for it. If you can bundle it with other activities, then okay, maybe.

        2 Replies
        1. re: foodiemommy

          Thanks for some honest feedback. I might look for other things to do in Hamilton/in that area and see if it is a worth while trip. Maybe plan to go to the Pizza Shack for dinner :)

          Any other feedback is appreciated, to be fair to the "promoters" it sounds like they are moving locations this year to a larger venue so hopefully some of the crowding issues were sorted out.

          1. re: ylsf

            I was able to attend last year and found it fairly decent - not terribly overpriced. I am not a huge fan of standing and eating. It is worth checking out at least once, but I personally would use it as a jump off point to the James North Art Crawl that will be happening on the Friday. Local restaurants on the Gallery Strip fill up and the atmosphere is really fun, especially if the weather cooperates.

        2. Well, I ended up buying a wagjag voucher and I went yesterday, so, here is my mini review for future reference.

          Normal price was like $15 but I paid the discounted price of $6.75 from wagjag. There was also an online discount if you bought in advance but didn't use the wagjag... around $13 I think.

          When I got there, there was a HUGE lineup to buy tickets. At around 12:40pm on Sunday. Since I had teh voucher I proceeded right to the "advanced ticket" area and got my ticket and bought 20$ worth of tickets (25 tickets).

          The highlight of the event was seeing Chuck Hughes's (from Garde Manger in Montreal) demo/talk. He was really funny/entertaining. I had never seen his show before (Chuck's Day off) but I had heard of him and his restaurant before (been wanting to go!). Anyway, it was definitely worth the price of admission to see him.

          Now, on to the rest of the show. It was in Copp's Colisseum this year... basically, on the ice/arena area and off to the side of one area. There seemed to be almost more drink vendors than food vendors. I found the food to not be all that creative (a TON of pulled pork/brisket vendors). The most creative was probably the duck sausage I had which was pretty tasty (from a spot by the lake/Fruitland rd.. I forget the name right now).

          The prices were WAY out of wack though. A few were okay, like, Port Credit brewery was only 1 sample ticket. Others were crazy expensive like 5 tickets for a small slice of pie, 4 tickets for some cheese and crackers (and not even all that fancy cheese). I think restaurants should be using these shows to highlight what they have to offer in hopes you will become a regular at their restaurant instead of trying to gouge people by over charging for tiny samples.

          Overall it was a fun afternoon but I won't be back in future years unless they control what the vendors charge (2 or 3 tickets max per item), reduce the normal ticket price ($15 is crazy), or have a really good guest again (great choice in Chuck).

          There wasn't that much an issue with crowding this time around but the venue isn't all that great (very plain, but, they tried to improve it with curtains/sheets,etc).

          Oh, and one last thing, I found free parking on the street. I saw some places off of York charging $5 but not sure if you came from the other side if they were charging more.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ylsf

            Glad to here you enjoyed Chuck Hughes so you didn't feel totally ripped off. Did you make it to the Pizza Shack for dinner or go elsewhere? Like I said I hate dissing my city because Hamilton is actually really nice. Anyone I have met that moved here with reserved reservations is always pleasantly surprised by not only what Hamilton has to offer but that the people are extremely friendly. If you coming back this way be sure to check in for recommendations. I have heard about the James St Art crawl but not have gone yet. That is something for me to do list!

            The Pizza Shack
            184 Marina Blvd, Peterborough, ON K9H6M9, CA

            1. re: 02putt

              I was still hugry to I stopped by Rolly's (sp?) the BBQ place on King Street I think it is for a pulled pork sandwich and fries. I ate it in the park next door. This is the 2nd time I have been to Rollys. The other time I had ribs. Good food for good value.

              I went to the "Supercrawl" in September/October one year. I good event. It was the final art crawl of the year, some great bands there. Definitely will keep it in mind for the future.

              I wanted to get out to Memphis Fire this time around but I couldn't find the right spot on my GPS (it sent me to the wrong spot close to the 403 instead of down by the lake).

              1. re: ylsf

                Actually the Art Crawl runs all year round - the second Friday of each month. In fact some of the better crawls are in the winter as they tend to be less crowded and you can actually get to talk to the artists/curators...

                Places to check on James St. N. when attending the art crawl include The Mulberry St. Coffee House (coffee, organic, vegetarian and gluten free snacks), The Brain (interesting local micro brews and a great cheese platter made with whatever is good in stock), Mex-I-Can (traditional Mexican foods, music and beer), plus there are the little Italian and Portuguese cafes and restaurants (Ventura Seafood, Acclamation) and a number of decent Asian choices.

                Or if you want to walk further north (towards the lake in Hamilton), there is the Harbour Diner, they're usually jammed before the Art Crawl these days.

                The Supercrawl in September is a different event on James St. N. and this year will apparently have Broken Social Scene as the headliner. There is also Open Streets Hamilton which is more of a community festival on James North. These events are usually packed (Supercrawl had 20,000 last year) and gives a good sampling of what this growing area of downtown Hamilton has to offer.

                Harbour Diner
                488 James St N, Hamilton, ON L8L1J1, CA

                1. re: ylsf

                  And it is Rolly Rockets at King West and Locke St. N. Good barbecue indeed, although I still prefer Camp 31 in Paris. Further down Locke St. S. are some good dining options including Earth to Table Bread Bar (run by the owners of The Ancaster Old Mill and Spencers on the Waterfront, pizza, salads and baked goods - they have a good fried chicken dinner on Monday Nights) Chuck's Burger Bar (run by the owners of the Harbour Diner) and the Cheese Shoppe on Locke who make wonderful sandwiches from their artisanal cheeses and meats!

                  Harbour Diner
                  488 James St N, Hamilton, ON L8L1J1, CA

                  Chuck's Burger Bar
                  194 Locke St S, Hamilton, ON , CA

                  1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                    I love Earth to Table. I actually bought their cookbook. I was however, quite disappointed that I got it for a much better price on Amazon. I would much rather have supported them directly. Since you are willing to drive to Paris the Twisted Lemon in Cayuga is fantastic. Ask for the table by the open kitchen and you can watch your food as it is prepared while having casual conversation with Chef Dan. His restaurant was on the the Food Network show The Opener. He also offers cooking classes. I have signed up for two and the third was sold out so I will have to wait to fall.