With house hunters flocking to Hamilton to take advantage of its reasonable real estate prices, the town has also become a dining destination and new restaurants are opening up weekly. With options including internationally influenced fine dining to pizza that gives a punch above pepperoni, here’s some of our favorites to try in Hamilton.
Mattson and Co. isrepresentative of urban renewal, set in an old office building on the corner of trendy Locke and Chatham Streets. It is home to a fully accessible lower level jazz bar and the menu is internationally inspired. Charcuterie, pork belly poutine, and comforting mac and meatloaf are balanced by thoughtful vegetarian dishes on the menu. There’s also an entire ‘gluten wise’ menu for those watching their gluten intake, proof again that no matter the diet, no one is an after-thought here.
Pizzaiolos spin dough in the air while vinyl spins on a turntable. All the classics can be foundhere at Knead, where you can buy by the pie or slice. But it’s Knead’s solid foundation of soft, chewy crust that will leave the hungry loyal. The Mango Tango with crispy pork belly, pickled jalapeños and mango, or The Mushroom with wine-soaked fungi, goat cheese and basil are just two examples turning this late-night staple into gourmet fare. Served with house-made dipping sauces, Knead Pizza will have you repeating its mantra of ‘in crust we trust’ in no time.
Edison light bulbs, a shiny pressed tin ceiling, and staff decked out in Blunt Roll aprons, everything about Lake Road is hip and stylish. But the eye-catching attraction here is the food. Chef Dan Megna, the mastermind behind Cayuga’s Twisted Lemon, which made a small southern Ontario town a culinary hot spot, maintains his dedication to regional, seasonal dishes that know no bounds when it comes to creativity or presentation. The show-stealer is the 96-inch platter filled with whatever a table desires. Washed down with a bespoke cocktail, a meal will leave diners wishing elastic-waist pants were the height of fashion.
Salt Lick Smokehouse, owned by Shane McCartney, is a southern-style barbecue that has become his and Chef Mike Hutchinson’s raison d’être, with brisket as theirspecialty dish. Chalkboard menus and family-style dinners meant to be shared, even with strangers, make Salt Lick the ultimate in casual community dining and building. No vegetarian will be left behind, either as this staple barbecue joint takes a vegetarian spin on the much-loved Vietnamese banh mi with buttermilk-fried portobellos or eggplant and quick-pickled veggies piled high on a buttermilk biscuit.
What’s old is new again at this enduring James Street Italian restaurant that has been serving steaming plates of pasta and classic pie with red sauce to lawyers and steel workers since 1963. Inspired by the Blue Grotto cave on the Island of Capri, the upstairs of the restaurant recently reopened after it was mothballed in the 1970s and occasionally served as a movie shoot backdrop. Today, it’stailoredto feeding large groups of hungry people. With blue lighting and a Flintstones feel, it’s a nod to a bygone era when going out for a meal was a special occasion. There’s a stage for lounge acts and new taps pouring the latest in-demand beers, making the Blue Grotto the perfect balance of vintage and schmalz, and the place where everyone will want to book their next party.
Chef Ken LeFebour named his Nellie James Tooafter his maternal grandmother who instilled in him his love for cooking. Expect a menu that changes often, one that may not be set until just a few hours before opening the doorsthat day. LeFebour is gutsy enough to be truly guided by whatever produce comes his wayon a given day, but expect to see the likes of venison tenderloin with fried carrot and Muffato cheese or Berkshire pork terrine with pickled daikon and candied garlic. Best enjoyed with a cocktail expertly paired with every plate.
It may sound like an impossible marriage, but this eclectic venue, characterized by rustic dining with a casual feel, considers every diner’s appetite and makes it work beautifully. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or an omnivore you’ll find something on the menu at Butcher and the Veganthat strikes your fancy, and all of which are local and sustainable. All vegan options on the menu have a ‘butcher’ add-on, but the menu excels in showcasing the immense flavors and versatility of the plant world. All beer is Ontario craft, and the wine list includes only vintages from local vineyards.