Hamilton’s a foodie paradise, and everyone knows it.
Every year, the Hammer gets at least a handful of exciting new entries into its vast, varied community of restaurants, bars, cafes, and takeaway spots, further cementing the city’s reputation as a culinary destination.
But for every collection of beloved and inventive newer spots, there’s an old gem that helped define Hamilton’s food scene: the mainstays that paved the way, the decades-old food spots that make people say “If you haven’t had ______, are you even from Hamilton?”
This list is a tribute to the spots still standing that are true icons of Hamilton food. Without further ado, here’s a handful of our favourites.
To say Hamilton loves its Italian food would be a mammoth understatement; the city has dozens of popular purveyors of pasta and pizza, from classic offerings to elevated modern takes.
The family-owned lower city staple Bronzie’s Place falls into the former category: traditional, no-nonsense Italian-American dishes lovingly served to a loyal customer base for over 30 years.
With pasta dishes in comforting homemade sauces, hand-tossed pizzas, and beyond, Bronzie’s Place is also known for their gigantic portions; seriously, a single order of pasta is big enough for three separate meals.
It’s been said that Bronzie’s Place is to Hamilton what Cheers is to Boston. That couldn’t be truer.
Who can guess what these bad boys are? pic.twitter.com/tHSbXMgsoN
— Grandad's Donuts (@GrandadsDonuts) September 6, 2015
When it comes to donuts, the city’s well-loved Grandad’s sticks to the classics, and does it oh-so well.
Sure, the city has some other strong options for more unique, elevated takes on the tasty treat; but Grandad’s Donuts and their scrappy, simple fare have nonetheless managed to remain among Hamilton’s best for over 30 years. People even drive in from out of town for a fix.
Its lived-in, no-frills location at James North and Burlington Street regularly has lineups out the door with eager locals grabbing donuts by the dozen and hoping that some of their favourites, like the Cherry Loop or Walnut Crunch, are still sitting in the case.
One of Grandad’s Donut’s most popular offerings has to be their famous Ghostbuster, which is basically a hybrid of a Boston Cream and an Éclair. It’s as delicious as it sounds.
Is there even a single Hamilton resident who hasn’t been to this place? Hutch’s, with its two locations at Bayfront Park and Van Wagner’s Beach, is a summer staple serving up all kinds of straightforward and satisfying comfort foods (though, let’s be real: the truest fans hit this place up year-round).
Since 1946, Hutch’s has been serving Hamilton diner-style dishes like fish & chips, hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream in a casual, vintage setting.
When the hot weather hits, Hutch’s is typically slammed with locals grabbing lunch or a snack for a day of lounging on the beach. It’s been around for 75 whole years, and shows no sign of slowing: the mark of a true Hamilton staple.
More than 85 years old and still going strong, Easterbrook’s Hot Dog Stand is easily one of Hamilton’s hottest destinations for old fashioned fast food.
The teensy roadside diner across from the Royal Botanical Gardens is seldom devoid of a crowd or lineup of locals looking to get their hands on one of Easterbrook’s famous foot-long hot dogs.
Easterbrook’s menu has no shortage of choices, with almost two dozen different hot dog creations that are built to satisfy pretty much anyone. To top it off, they also have homemade burgers, fries, and ice cream on offer.
The walls of Easterbrook’s are piled with customer’s business cards – some dating back decades – and adorned with autographed photos of celebrities who have passed through for a meal; a testament to this local staple’s enduring reputation.
This pizza has no cheese and a cult-like following.
*Footage captured pre COVID-19 pic.twitter.com/1wleaXeZYk
— VICE Canada (@vicecanada) October 5, 2020
How can you make a list of Hamilton’s most iconic food spots and not mention this place?
Originally established in 1952, Roma Bakery is quintessential Hamilton, serving up fresh baked goods, cheeses, meats, and more out of their Barton Street location.
But what this local icon is truly known for is the famous Roma slab pizza: a simple, reliable bread pizza that has been a staple of work lunches, picnics, and birthday parties for decades.
These reasonably priced, sizeable slab pizzas are made simply with homemade tomato sauce and olive oil on a light and airy bread crust. They’re versatile too, delicious when eaten cold straight out of the box or lightly toasted in an oven.
Most grocery stores in Hamilton have stacks of Roma pizzas on their shelves daily, and there are seldom any slabs left at the end of the day. If you’ve had this pizza before, you’ll know why that’s hardly a surprise.
Are there any iconic Hamilton food spots you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
Lead image courtesy of @hutchsonthebeach1946