Hamilton Eat Fest, Part 1

One Saturday + 2 friends (P. and FoodieChow) willing to give anything a try + the lure of tasty eats = Hamilton Eat Fest.

We concentrated our time on James Street, walking between spots to “walk off the food”.  There are many spots we didn’t get to try,  which means we already have a list for Hamilton Eat Fest, Part 2.

I managed to take a few photos at stop #2, #8 and #9. The rest of the photos are directly from the restaurant/business public Instagram feed, click on the account name to see more or to follow.

Ok, here’s how it went down.

1. Kelly’s Bakery

10:30am: Fueled up for our day with a muffin – gluten-free and vegan and delicious. Not 3 words I usually string together, but the cupcakes and baked goods at Kelly’s are really, really good. They made the list of top 25 cupcake shops in the world to visit before you die! Since we were having breakfast, I chose their pumpkin muffin – moist, light and not to pumpkin-y.   When I am having their cupcakes, my favourites are the mint chocolate, the Mexican chocolate and chocolate coconut.  Yes, I like chocolate.

My friend P. made a specific point of asking whether their soft serve ice cream would be available later in the evening since having ice cream for breakfast seemed a tad indulgent… don’t worry, we’ll be back.

2. Mezcal Tacos n’ Tequila

I had dinner at Mezcal in September last year – the place was rockin’, so much fun!  Being there early on a Saturday was equally as nice, relaxing and mellow.  We ordered tacos: braised lamb; pork belly; sweet potato and chorizo; baja fish and, hands down our unexpected favourite, crispy cauliflower. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it! Everything is fresh, and they don’t skimp on the fillings, you have to strategize how to not make a mess of things.  The pork belly was the biggest slice we’d seen in a taco, thick and not just fatty.  The fish cooked just right, no heavy or oily batter.  P. and I are lactose intolerant,  we very much appreciated that Mezcal offered other toppings for our tacos in place of crema and cotija cheese.  I can’t stand most alcohol,  but P. declared her mulled cider and tequila cocktail unusual and tasty, and after a small sip, I had to agree. An order of churros with chocolate orange dipping sauce was a satisfying end to our first stop.


3. Mixed Media

I love this store, I stop in whenever we get a chance as there’s always stationary, books, art and items to look at. This time I picked up three Jelly brothers prints, maps of the neighbourhoods my husband and I grew up in and well as maps of the places we’ve lived together. Mixed Media’s shelves are full of paper fun, and the owners are passionate and informed about their art, and their community.

Shop is stocked for Art Crawl tonight! We're open to 10 pm.

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4. Green Smoothie Bar

I passed on ordering a smoothie but my friends enjoyed their green smoothies as we strolled down James St.   A few people were seated and eating salads which looked pretty tasty. I’ve heard nothing but great reviews from people who’ve been there, and the kids (and adults) seems to love the colouring book station.

5. Shine Hamilton

I hear they’re moving to a shop on the main stretch, which should bring more traffic past this neat shop featuring local makers. P.  bought this tie and I really wanted some of the sparkly earrings made… and this anime glass art.  Looking for unique local gifts? The shops along James are perfect for shopping local and supporting small business.

Amazing #anime #glassart! #natalijamoss #ghostintheshell #motokokusanagi #purple #hamont

A post shared by Shine (@shinehamilton) on

6. James St General Store

I’d walked past this store a number of times and somehow missed it.  Not this time – and I’m so glad. Cool shop with coffee. The nicest owner!  There’s a great selection of photography and art by local artists featuring the Halton and Niagara region.  Calling my name since I left it there, is a porcelain tea pot, made to look like enamelware, but prettier… and of course, the matching cups…

Also, zombie nutcrackers, this one purchased (and pictured) by FoodieChow. zombienutcracker

7. La Bichette

I’ve been back to La Bichette 2 times since the tour.  Why? Well, it’s a one stop shop for great wardrobe pieces, comfy-sexy underwear, FitGlow natural make up (which I love), Sloane Tea and… and since they now carry Kitten and the Bear jam (raved about here), I’ll be going back this weekend!

While in La Bichette, the owner’s mother suggested we try the Mushroom toast at Saint James Eatery.  She had me at “mushrooms”, and so another stop was added to our tour.

8. Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery

Small place, good eats, great vibe!  My focus: the daily toast, mushroom. Simple concept, made perfect with lots of flavour in every bite.  I split the toast with C.  that was a mistake.  We could have easily eaten two each!  I plan to go back as soon as I can for brunch and hopefully that cinnamon roll croissant I missed out on.  Check their Instagram feed for drool worthy breakfasts and lunches. I hear they also have avocado toast…and killer pancakes.



A post shared by 170 JAMES ST. N, HAMILTON (@stjameseatery) on

9. Pokeh Bar

Poke (po-keh) is one of my favourite things to eat.  It’s a Hawaiian specialty, raw fish served with rice and garnishes.  In Hawaii, I had ahi tuna poke with wasabi clams, sesame edamame and seaweed salad.  I didn’t think I could get it anywhere else, certainly not anywhere good.  Enter The Pokeh Bar – Canada’s first poke bar  features small or large servings of fresh, satisfying and original poke.  I’d been dying to go since they opened in November, and made it a priority during my time off over Christmas.  No regrets.   The bar is on the lower level of the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, owner Salar provides some excellent suggestions “don’t forget the crunch” he says,  offering taro chips and macadamia nuts to balance out my poke bowl.

My first visit: rice, tuna with sesame oil, soy sauce and chili oil, topped with enoki mushrooms, nori, edamame, taro chips and macadamia nuts.  Deeeelicious!


Second visit: salmon, spicy QP Mayo, soy sauce/sesame oil, green/white onions, cucumbers, black/white sesame seeds, spicy sesame seeds, and house pickled jalapenos.   Fresh, light, satisfying. Did I say yum?  Yes, Yum.  I pretty much plot ways to go back to Hamilton just to eat poke.  My schedule is making that more difficult than I would like.


10. Kelly’s Bakery

6:30pm: vegan, soft serve ice cream for dessert… I told you we’d go back.

Whew!  We were sooooooooo stuffed at this point, but very satisfied. Hamilton Eat Fest – Part 1 was so much fun.  We gave our outing bonus points for:

  • the enjoyment of excellent food and great, friendly service every where we went.
  • discovering new small businesses to support.
  • the unexpected find of the day –  landing a new hair stylist while wander James St. South. I’ve been searching for the right stylist since moving to Burlington,  I grabbed a business card from Cameron Hair Studio as we wandered by. Two weeks later, I have a new cut that I absolutely love.  Yay!

One problem: there’s still so much to explore! On the list:   Lake Road, Hambrgr, Radius, Papa Leo’sVentura’s, Brux House, Brown Dog Cafe, Except for Kenneth , a return trip to Until Golden Brown and to Saltlick Smokehouse, and further afield in Dundas, ON, Taylor’s Tea House.

Who’s in for Hamilton Eat Fest – Part 2?  Leave me a comment if you’d like to join the next outing!

Many thanks to these lovely folks on Instagram for sharing their knowledge and eats-pertise (yeah, that’s a word now).



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