What some of you might not know is I started this blog when I was unemployed last summer – trust me when I say nothing changes you quite like the loss of a job. I work in the F&B industry and for the life of me – I couldn’t find a job in Hamilton! I was either over qualified or lacking an MBA prerequisite for an Administrative job. So I thought, if I want to work in F&B and if I want to stay in Hamilton, I better start supporting it, so I started eating out in my own backyard – exploring the local food scene.
Thus, my excitement to be apart of Chef Crawl last Monday. It was a gathering of media and restaurateurs all shipped in from the centre of the universe – Toronto, to check out Hamilton and all the benefits of bringing their next venture here and an opportunity to showcase Hamilton’s growing culinary scene. Myself, a bus load of foodies, The Food Network as well as BlogTO to name a few, spent the evening being shuttled from one great Hamilton eatery to the next. Sometimes my life as a food blogger is so hard. </sarcasm>
First stop on our eating extravaganza was The Cheese Shoppe on Locke. We were spoiled with both a cheese & charcuterie platter – all filled will local treats. Chef Tor Krueger from the Cheese Shoppe just recently became certified to make his own cheese so look out for that one. I also found out the other half of The Cheese Shoppe, Catherine, was once an interior designer – hence the impeccable style in the shop – like really, have you seen this joint? For a place that sells cheese, it is so well designed and laid out.
Next up was a quick dash to Na Roma – Blah blah blah – ya’ll know how much I love this place and I’ve reviewed it a few times here & here. I’m always praising Chef Mario on his remarkable flavor pairings and this was no exception. What can I say? This dude makes bomb diggity pizza! My favourite: arugula and prosciutto made an appearance and so did the popular margherita pizza.
After that, Chuck's Burger Bar, where we were completely spoiled. There was a full buffet of burgers, fries, poutine and beer samples laid out when we walked through the door. I got the chance to try the turkey burger for the first time and it was surprisingly very moist – the huge wedge of brie on top also added a fantastic rich creaminess to the burger, such an amazingly unexpected combo! Watch out for Chucks second location downtown, which I’m hoping will have more seating than the current location – ya’ll know what I’m talking about! How many times have you walked into Chucks only to find it at full capacity?! ALL. THE. TIME.
Then, we headed over to James North where we received a hot cup of joe from the folks at Mulberry (pictured above) , soup samples from The Burnt Tongue and a Peruvian smorgasbord from Culantro.
I was definitely giddy with excitement when I saw two of my favourite places on the itinerary. The Burnt Tongue being one of the newest editions to James North and Culantro – a long time favourite of mine. Leo & Daniel have been blowing away us locals with their creative house made soups for the past few months now and the reactions from the out-of-towners was just the same. We were all starting to get full so a few spoonfuls here and there were all we needed - plus you don’t need much to figure out these guys have their %^&* together.
We also made a quick stop into The Design Annex - an offshoot of the AGH - which I am a huge fan of. I wouldn't consider myself an art fanatic or anything but I really enjoy exploring the space - especially during art crawl where it’s buzzing with people. Of course it was a nice break for more beer, and more wine - they definitely kept us hydrated!
A quick trek down the street and around the corner to King William lead us to Juan from Culantro who was as usual – warm and welcoming! I caught a few of the attendees including myself sneak in a second empanada here and there – who can say no to a flakey empanada bursting with hand pulled chicken? Look at it!
Next up was a real treat – and a part of Hamilton that was pretty brand new to me. John Street North apparently has a few underground socials – who knew we were that cool?
We headed to the Moulin Rouge Café and Boutique to discover a French inspired café/burlesque boutique. It was an odd combination but intriguing to say the least. After that, we were lead down a hallway through some red curtains and then up some stairs to some back alley lounge, and then after we lifted our jaws of the ground, we were lead through some more red curtains to a slightly more shady hallway into a ‘no cameras allowed’ speakeasy joint. Not going to lie – this %^& was pretty dope! I felt like such a cool kid.
Anyways, after the ooohs and ahhhs we where whisked away once again to Roux Commissary - you might remember them from my Sunday School cooking class post. They had four of their Food trucks set up inside. The Dirty South, Karma Chamealeon, The Salted Pig, and the debut of Dawson's Hot Sauce, and Nudulz Food Truck- oh, as well as, an oyster station from Kreative Katering - the dudes behind the Dirty South truck.
There was actually a moment where I wished I could grow some sort of external stomach because I was already slowly seeping into a food coma - until I saw the Dirty Southern Love sandwich from Dirty South - I had to have one of these! Okay, and maybe a few egg rolls here and there – these aren’t on their regular menu but they’re one of my favourite things they offer. Check out my previous thoughts on them here. If the lads from Dirty South are reading this - my offer still stands to help you roll these bad boys - I am a spring roll ninja - see post here for proof.
Besides food trucks and restaurants Hamilton has some pretty kick ass locally made products – like Dawson’s Hot sauce. Picture something similar to sambal and not so tangy or acidic as franks. With the recent closure of the sriracha factory we all better start looking for an alternative - just incase. You can pick up their stuff at the Hamilton General Store.
So after all that - we had one more stop to go - Radius Cafe! This was actually my first time in the building - definitely heard some great things but I never get the chance to make it out there. As usual, we were warmly welcomed with a few more glasses of wine, a bountiful dessert tray and a sampling of cheese and candied nuts. It was a light and wonderful way to end the afternoon.
I felt incredibly spoiled all evening and am so fortunate to get the opportunity to share Hamilton with such a group of great people. Thanks to Hamilton EcDev for the invite and Kim Graham PR for organizing the event and Alexandra Feswick from Samuel J. Moore for hosting. Kudos to them for sourcing some of Hamilton's gems - they definitely picked a handful of local favourites, a few off the beaten path spots and even threw in a spots that surprised a local like myself.
I am always preaching about how amazing the culinary scene is here but it was so pleasant to see it through someone else’s eyes - it was great hearing about all the opportunities, tax incentives, and support this city can provide to entrepreneurs. Did you know Hamilton is ranked the #1 investment city in Canada and Ontario? So if you have a little cash lying around - invest in your city peeps!