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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#HamOnt #RestaurantScene


               Everyone talks about how Hamilton’s food scene is finally up and coming.  Sure, the restaurant scene in this city is certainly evolving, but let’s not forget about the owners who have endeavoured in this city to provide its residents with delicious fare over the years. Read on to discover the past, present and future state of food in Hamilton as it looks right now.
The culinary trends in this city right now are interesting and new and should be talked about and celebrated as much as they are but let’s pay homage to those who have been around through thick and thin.  Though the list is largely composed of ethnic restaurants, they have certainly kept our mouths happy for many years.  I am sure that if you were born in Hamilton then you have certainly frequented some of our old classics: Lo Presti’s (high-end classic continental), Bronzies (casual Italian), Ventura’s (Portuguese), Black Forest Inn (casual German), Wild Orchid (Portuguese), Gate of India (you guessed it, Indian), Shakespeare’s (high-end steakhouse) and many others.  These establishments are just that: established.  Many of them have been a part of our restaurant scene for over twenty years and show no signs of decline despite the fact that it has the same feel when you walk in that it would have when it opened years ago as many have maintained most of their design and (often times) original staff.
Also on this list of notable long time eateries are those who constantly update their menus and their d├ęcor to keep up with the ever-changing needs of their patrons.  This list includes but is not limited to the following: La Cantina (Italian), La Piazza (Italian), The Old Mill (Classic Fine Dining), and The Rousseau House (Classic Fine Dining).  The latter two I mention despite the fact that they are in Ancaster because they have always been great places for Hamiltonians to go to for special occasions like Mother’s Day, Anniversaries, any sort of church celebration and any other time we feel like treating ourselves.  If you haven’t been to these restaurants in the last couple of years then you should as they have done a good job of updating their dining rooms as well as their food.
This, of course, brings us to the new additions to the city in the recent past.  I don’t have the word count to talk about all of them but I will mention those that have been noteworthy to me.  Here they are in (what I recall to be) the order that they opened: Jack and Lois (sandwiches), Bread Bar (casual farm to table), Chuck’s Burger Bar (tasty burger joint), The Ship (seafood Influenced pub food), Rapscallion (nose to tail), Culantro (Peruvian), Sarcoa (classic fine dining), McCartney and Son (salads and sandwiches), Burnt Tongue (soup), Two Black Sheep (oyster and charcuterie cocktail bar) and Aberdeen Tavern (neighbourhood restaurant).  All of these recent additions to Hamilton standout in their own way and are well worth adding to your list of places you have been to.
This leaves me with yet another list; the list of the up and coming. Most people have heard heard of the Gorilla Cheese food truck.  Well, owner Graeme Smith is now opening a brick and mortar grilled cheese restaurant at 1216 King St. E. near Gage Park.  That is expected in July.  Chris Preston, the creator of Chuck’s Burger Bar will be bringing you two new places to bring your mouth happiness.  The first will be the second edition of his popular burger joint on King William in the new Empire Times building (which is bloody gorgeous by the way); the second project is a cheese based restaurant on King St. near Hess village that will focus on grilled cheese and mac & cheese.  Both of these locations will open this summer.  I have to mention the elusive Lister Chophouse that has been “opening soon” for almost a year.  I would kill for a good steakhouse downtown but I have heard rumors that it may never open; that place seems cursed so far.  There is also talk of the Rapscallion/Two Black Sheep team opening a taco place on James North this year (my fingers are crossed not only because of my direct vested interest in the project but also because I really love tacos).
So what does one talk about after one has discussed what is soon to open in this city?  Well this girl tells you about the things that are buzzing among restaurant owners and what they want to think about maybe opening.  The “it” thing that is being thrown around right now within the industry is the brew pub concept.  Seriously.  I have heard about four or five restaurant and bar owners tell me that they hope to open a brew pub.  Will it happen?  Who knows?  I don’t predict the future; I just report the gossip on the metaphoric street.  Watch out for anyone recruiting brew masters is all I will say.
Overall, I would like to say how happy I am to watch this city evolve on every front.  My hope is that our food scene will continue to grow until it reaches a superior status amongst foodies like that of Montreal or Chicago.  We have everything they have with the added benefit of affordable leases (for now) and a population that is just waiting to be impressed.