The Hamilton Mountain doesn’t get nearly enough love.
The suburban charms of the mountain and the gritty vibes of the lower city often feel like two totally separate worlds, even though the distance between them is a 2-minute car ride up or down the Jolley Cut.
One of the most common misconceptions about these two halves of Hamilton is that all of the best food is located down the escarpment; and while the lower city is certainly packed with incredible and diverse options for local food, the Hamilton Mountain is no slouch when it comes to terrific restaurants.
In fact, we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favourite food spots on the Hamilton Mountain, in hopes of proving that the uptown folks have plenty of deliciousness to be excited about too!
Diner-style comforts with an east coast twist, Stage Diner stands out for its homey Newfoundland-inspired offerings.
This relatively new addition to Concession Street has already become a welcomed mainstay with a loyal customer base that returns to Stage Diner regularly for sandwiches, wraps, salads, burgers, fish & chips, and dishes with a Newfie twist such as the Touton Burger sandwiched between fried bread and topped with bologna.
Must-try dish: Stage Diner’s Newfie Fries bring a taste of The Rock here to The Hammer, loaded with rich gravy and a special house dressing.
This longstanding pizza place remains true to its name by slinging the biggest pies in Hamilton.
Mr. Grande Pizza’s smallest pie is still a whopping 14 inches, which is comparable to a large-sized pie at many other pizzerias. The sizes just get wilder from there, with their standard large pizza coming in at 22 inches and some giant square pizzas with 64 slices that are perfect for parties.
Of course, bigger doesn’t always mean better; but luckily, the quality is there too, making Mr. Grande one of Hamilton’s most reliable pizzerias.
Must-try dish: Mr. Grande has got plenty of fusion-style speciality offerings with pies inspired by dishes like tacos and Big Macs. Instead of picking just one, try the Steel Town Chow, which is a slab pizza made up of equal parts Chicken Shawarma, Beef Taco, Big Mac, and the pepperoni-piled Triple Stax.
One of the Hamilton Mountain’s best bakeries, Crumbuns deals in all things sweet.
Cakes, cupcakes, tarts, cookies, cheesecakes, cream pies, and much more are coming out of this Concession Street bakeshop, which has been a local favourite since owner Joanne Emberson opened its doors in honour of her grandmother back in 2016.
When you take your first bites of one of Crumbuns’ tantalizing treats, it’s not hard to see why they’ve earned such a strong reputation and even taken home numerous Hamilton Spectator Readers’ Choice Awards.
Must-try dish: Though you really can’t go wrong here, Crumbuns has become known for their butter tarts. Try them. Thank us later.
Jonny Blonde is a name very familiar to Hamilton foodies, likely best known for his eponymous food truck that has been a staple at local and regional events for years.
Jonny’s tiny takeaway storefront on Concession Street is now serving up some of Hamilton’s best burgers, using only top quality ingredients like fresh, grass-fed beef as well as condiments and pickles made in-house. That quality is evident in every single bite.
Must-try dish: If you wanna splurge, the Uberger is pure decadence. This $20 double burger is topped with Mont St. Benoit cheese from Quebec, beef demi-glace, caramelized onions, house garlic aioli, and potato crisps on brioche. Don’t even pretend that doesn’t sound amazing.
This classic bistro has been an Upper James mainstay for decades and remains one of Hamilton’s best options for old-school Italian cuisine.
Best known for their fresh pastas tossed in house-made sauces and other fine ingredients, La Spaghett has not lost any of its quality or quaint charm after all of these years. An indulgent late-night dinner within the restaurant’s cozy, ambient intimacy virtually makes you forget you’re sitting in the corner unit of a small Upper James roadside plaza.
Must-try dish: La Spaghett’s pasta dishes are terrific across the board, but who can argue with a classic, comforting Chicken Parmigiana?
This playful spot for Southern comforts barely needs an introduction. The Dirty South’s famous food truck has been a festival staple for years, with success that led to a small brick & mortar location on Barton Street and a newer, larger restaurant uptown on Concession.
In a post-pandemic world, The Dirty South on Concession will be a full-service restaurant with Southern BBQ and a stacked whiskey bar. Until then, they serve up favourites for takeaway like pulled pork mac ‘n cheese, brisket hoagies, burgers, and loaded poutines.
Must-try dish: One of The Dirty South’s most famous offerings is the Dirty Southern Love: a fried chicken sandwich on mini waffles with maple bacon, buttermilk ranch, arugula, and maple syrup. It’s pretty unreal.
In a city with no shortage of excellent sushi options, Sushi on Fennell manages to stand out with its fresh and flavourful Japanese bites.
A robust menu of sushi rolls features all of the fresh, fishy standards along with vegetarian and vegan sushi selections, complemented by others nibbles like spring rolls, gyoza, miso soup, and seaweed salad. This place regularly sells out, which is a testament to its reputation and exceptional quality.
Must-try dish: Sushi on Fennell gets a little wild with some of their special maki rolls, with a standout being the Flamin’ Hot Roll covered in – you guessed it – crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
The legends are true: though just a baby compared to other excellent local pizza places, Cowabunga Pizzeria – with its army of culinary industry heavyweights at the helm – has quickly turned into one of Hamilton’s best.
Specializing in chef-driven pizzas made with the best quality ingredients available, Cowabunga regularly and rapidly sells out of pies; sometimes days in advance. Everything at Cowabunga, down to the chewy, charred crust and excellent house dipping sauces, has got foodies talking in Hamilton and beyond.
Must-try dish: Though there isn’t a bad pie on the list, the 1Up is a noteworthy standout. This elevated take on the white pizza may not look like much, but its harmonious marriage of truffle oil, honey, truffle cream, smoked Maldon salt, fior de latte, and chilli flakes is unforgettable.
Pre-pandemic, Papa Leo’s was known to have lineups out the door on weekends, with groups of eager locals waiting for their taste of this Concession restaurant’s exceptional brunch.
Though this beloved spot is temporarily closed, Papa Leo’s nonetheless holds the title of one of Hamilton’s best places for breakfast and lunch, thanks to its menu of fresh, homestyle dishes made with ingredients that are largely locally sourced. Traditional brunch platters are matched with sourdough French toast, huevos rancheros, sandwiches, and smoothies. We can’t wait for this place to reopen.
Must-try dish: The reasonably-priced ‘Local’ is Papa Leo’s classic breakfast plate, generously portioned and elevated by the quality of local ingredients like fresh eggs, smoked bacon, and breakfast potatoes that we’re pretty sure are seasoned with pure magic.
You didn’t think we’d forget this place, did you? Decades old and still just as popular as it was on day one, Chicago Style Pizza is Hamilton’s best option – and one of its only – for indulgent Chicago deep dish pizza.
Sure, this Upper Sherman staple has lots of other no-nonsense Italian eats on hand like pastas, hand-tossed pizzas, salads, and more; but the inarguable attraction here is that coveted deep dish pie, ridiculously thick and brimming with cheese, zippy tomato sauce, and all of the toppings you could want. One or two slices is enough to induce a blissful food coma.
Must-try dish: D’uh, it’s the deep dish!
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What changes would you make to our list? Let us know in the comments!