It’s hard to keep up with Hamilton’s food scene. The list of new local restaurants, bars, and foodie destinations continues to grow at a freakishly fast rate, with enough sheer diversity and quality to make anyone’s head spin. In fact, it’s tough to walk down any main Hamilton street nowadays without passing by at least one hot spot that plays a role in putting Hamilton’s culinary identity on the map.
With a dense onslaught of newly-opened food spots in 2019, here’s our list of the top 10 restaurants that opened in Hamilton this past year.
Beer lovers have a new paradise in the Crown Point community with the recent opening of Osten Beerhall.
The new next-door neighbour of Shorty’s Pizza, Osten Beerhall features an open kitchen that cooks up elevated Euro-style fare for lunch, brunch, and dinner, from smoked fish plates to pierogies to burgers to brisket.
But of course, the main draw here is the beer list, and Osten has a stacked one. On top of a heavyweight line of Ontario craft beer options, Osten has also got a sturdy selection of European imports on draught for that extra touch of authenticity.
We can’t really talk about Osten Beerhall without also mentioning its conjoined sister establishment: 1101 Cafebar.
A decidedly different feel from Osten, 1101 Cafebar is an aptly-named cafe by day and cocktail bar by night, located at 1101 Cannon Street East. A modern & minimalist, sleek Scandinavian aesthetic plays host to freshly brewed espresso and coffee selections complementing cafe-style lunch bites like sandwiches, soups and salads. Then, at night, HiFi music fills your ears as hand-crafted cocktails fill your mouth and happiness fills your heart. Dreamy, right?
While only in its infancy after opening its doors in December, Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor endeavours to be Hamilton’s high-end alternative for Southern-style soul food.
With a sizeable space near the prime corner of King and James, Uncle Ray’s is offering elevated takes on fried chicken, shrimp & grits, collard greens, and succotash to bring Hamiltonians a massive menu of sophisticated Southern comforts. Pair those delicious delights with some inventively twisty cocktails and nostalgic beer options, and Uncle Ray’s is already a heavy hitter for your local soul food fix.
Playful pizzas and other Italian indulgences await at this multi-location Quebec staple and recent Hamilton import.
Recently taking over the massive space previously occupied for years by Tailgate Charlie’s on John Street South, Industria has forcefully added itself to Hamilton’s already-thriving Italian food scene. Shareable pizza pies and plates fill a large menu, with inventive takes on classic Italian dishes like gnocchi poutine, Bic Mac-style pizzas, spinach & goat cheese arancini, and a dizzying array of hearty pasta dishes.
The city’s newest craft brewery and brewpub has already become one of Ancaster Village’s hottest night life spots.
A complete reinvention of classic fine dining staple Rousseau House, Brewers Blackbird has taken a decidedly more modern approach to its inviting and laidback restaurant space. The brewpub serves up a menu featuring sandwiches, salad bowls, and share plates, with something for everyone in your group from vegan to carnivore.
But the real star of the show here are the made-to-order, wood-fired pizzas that are perfect complements for Brewers Blackbird’s starting line-up of house craft beers, which include an easygoing pale ale and lager.
Okay, okay: some of you reading this entry might consider it a cheat. After all, Earth to Table: Bread Bar has long established itself as a Hamilton mainstay, specializing in fresh farm-to-table cuisine on Locke Street for a number of delicious years, and the new James Street North location has many of the same dishes on their menu.
But when a restaurant is this good, who cares? Bread Bar’s newest location near King and James is a classy stunner, serving familiar local favourites ranging from salads to sandwiches and, of course, their famous stone baked pizzas. What really sets Bread Bar on James apart from its Locke Street counterpart is the all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays, where guests can fill up on all kinds of unlimited breakfast fare with two boozy drinks for $35 a head.
While Hamilton has no shortage of true fine dining experiences, many existing local establishments are firmly rooted in old-school traditions and aesthetics. Bon Temps is a decidedly more modern offering, taking up the cozy John South quarters previously occupied by nose-to-tail restaurant Rapscallion Rogue Eatery.
This high-end, intimate bistro puts emphasis on French cuisine in its rotating menu, which includes decadent family-style shareable offerings like charcuterie, oysters, seafood, and premium cuts of meat prepared with seasonal accompaniments. Combine these dishes with a handcrafted cocktail or expertly-curated wine selection, and diners can expect the very definition of ‘good times’ at Bon Temps.
Does Hamilton really need another Italian restaurant? Well, when it’s one as great as Castelli Cucina, the answer is: freaking absolutely.
Taking up tasty residence in the dearly-missed WORK Restaurant space on James North, Castelli’s homey vibes are matched by a menu of Italian fare inspired by deep family tradition; dinner options that thrive on simplicity with zero sacrifice on flavour or quality. Pizzas, pasta dishes, antipasti, salads, and charcuterie boards await to be shared with your favourite friends and family. Just make sure you wear your stretchiest pants.
Electric Diner has 80s nostalgia and elevated diner dishes on its mind.
In a space adorned with a vintage aesthetic of bright pastel pinks and blues and neon, Electric Diner looks and feels like the cast of Miami Vice decided to open a restaurant in Hamilton’s Hess Village.
The menu options, from all-day breakfast to lunch to dinner, pay homage to traditional diner favourites while peppering in some enticing contemporary twists. The eponymous house burger, for instance, is creatively topped with hickory sticks and house-made sauces like chipotle ketchup. This ain’t just your run-of-the-mill diner grub.
Rise Above Pizzeria, an offshoot of a restaurant and cafe in St. Catharines, is pure pizza and wings heaven. The intensely flavourful food options are unfailingly filling, the portions are huge, and the ingredients and toppings are fresh as can be. Did I mention that the entire menu is also 100% vegan? Don’t let that scare you off, though; Rise Above Pizzeria knows what they’re doing. Their fully plant-based pizza and wings options are as flavourful, hearty, and deeply satisfying as the meat-and-dairy real deal.
If you’ve never had wings made of seitan, a broth-boiled wheat gluten product playing the role of chicken, you’re in for a treat; especially when they’re slathered in Rise Above’s house-made sauces like buffalo, maple garlic, or sriracha lime. These cruelty-free renditions of your Friday night favourites are so delicious, you won’t miss meat and cheese one bit. In a city with an increasing number of vegan spots opening their doors, Rise Above Pizzeria stands in a class of its own when it comes to cruelty-free comfort food.
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