When it comes to good food, may the odds be ever in your favour. And in this case, the nachos at ODDS Bar are a safe bet to make. It’s branded as a sports bar, but ODDS is a place for everyone; whether you’re there to catch the game or catch up with friends. It’s a place you can feel comfortable sitting down for a meal or stopping in for a quick pint and free popcorn — and that’s important to the owners. ODDS was opened as a collaboration between Erin Dunham and Matt Kershaw of The Other Bird restaurant group as well as Nick Dika and Max Kerman of Hamilton-based rock band Arkells. The vision was to create a neighbourhood hangout spot, and James Street South became the home to carry out their concept.
Quality and taste are not always top of the list when you’re looking for a place to watch a game. You go for the TVs, maybe even the pay-per-view, the beer, the camaraderie, but definitely not the cuisine. ODDS came to change that. Co-owner and Executive Chef Matt Kershaw has 30+ years in the food industry and knows the value of creating a menu that will bring people back. And that menu started with nachos. “Nachos for me are a personal vendetta,” says Matt. “Often you order them and there’s a few good pieces on top and then nothing underneath.”
To make sure this was never the case at ODDS, Matt surveyed people to ask them what makes great nachos and then took their advice. The result? Nachos baked twice, once with a layer of cheese, then again with another layer of chips, cheese, and toppings. “We take it seriously – more seriously than we should,” admits Matt. As guests, there’s a variety of nachos to choose from, including the Frank Thomas nachos which are so big the restaurant will cover the cost if you can finish them solo (for the record, three people have).
Typical pub fare also includes sandwiches, and ODDS worked hard to create “fun twists on sandwiches people love.” One of Matt’s favourites is the pork schnitzel; a sandwich served with the bone in (“so you can gnaw on it after, if you want”) and on a Martin’s potato bun, which ODDS has exclusive rights to in Hamilton. There’s also choices for those looking for vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free options to enjoy. As co-owner Erin Dunham is celiac, they developed a gluten-free breading for wings to ensure those with the disease or sensitivity could still eat bar food at the restaurant. And even though it is a bar, there’s healthier items on the menu as well, like their bowls filled with ingredients like kale, spiced chickpeas, and grains.
Something else they do differently at this sports bar? Brunch. Chef Mike has 20 years’ background as a breakfast chef, and his experience allowed him to develop a unique brunch menu, including their one-of-a-kind breakfast nachos and the Hungry Human bowl. “We’ve got great hangover options,” says general manager John.
ODDS aims to be a comfortable, cozy place. “It’s real chefs, making real food,” explains Matt. The people working there are ones that are going to get to know your name. “All our servers are career servers; this is what they do. They’re approachable, personable, professional people.” The staff care about what they do and are proud to do it, and you feel it in the service you receive as a guest. And if you want to talk sports, they’re highly informed and ready to discuss.
ODDS has a familiar feeling, and for those who love a bit of nostalgia, there’s a classic popcorn machine serving up free kernels à la Jumbo Video of the past. “We’re a fun place to be, even if you don’t like sports,” says John. “We want everyone to feel welcome, just like you’re going to your friend’s house to hang out.” Head to the section of the menu entitled “The Concession Stand” to find more ballpark favourites like pretzels, hot dogs, and ice cream sandwiches.
Part of what makes ODDS special is its interest in bringing new experiences to the bar. In the past they’ve hosted viewing parties for the Juno Awards, the Oscars (complete with red carpet, velvet rope, and dress up), and RuPaul’s Drag Race in collaboration with local event planners Adam & Steve. John encourages suggestions, saying “we’re always open to new ideas for events at ODDS, from reggae brunches to themed playlists.” But first things first, ODDS is a sports bar. So if there’s something you want to watch, just ask.
With an equal focus on both the food and alcohol offerings, ODDS created a thoughtful bar program with cocktails and a beer selection featuring craft brews and old standbys. There’s a feature cocktail menu every Friday to Sunday after 9pm, conceived around a new theme that changes every week. “We take typical sports bar drinks and elevate them for our menu,” says John. For craft beer, ODDS carries brands like Burdock (a Toronto brand that works with wine in their beer) and Halo (also from Toronto). “We try to bring in breweries you don’t see often in Hamilton. This allows us to carry interesting flavours and diversify from other places.” Recently they were able to bring in Founders, based in Michigan, allowing ODDS to have one of only four kegs distributed in Ontario. The bar also carries Collective Arts, Left Field, as well as a variety of others. “If they’re not on tap, we always have new flavours in the fridge. People know to ask, as what we carry changes on a regular basis.” And if you’re a fan of the classics, you can always order a Bud Light or Old Style Pilsner.
“When guests leave, we want them feeling like they had a good time,” says John.
Whether you’re into college basketball or couldn’t care less, ODDS wants you to feel like you’re at a friend’s place. With unlimited popcorn.