Top Ten Food and Drink Spots in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

by Mark McMaster

Radio Free Universe’s new album Love is out now at all digital platforms and streaming services with a physical CD release on May 22 on Jetpack Records.

Pre-order the CD here:

The band’s new video for their song “Love Right Now” premiering now:

LOVE was written and produced by musical partners Mark McMaster and George Panagopoulos at Sanctuary Recording Studio in Hamilton

“We usually get together to work in the studio in the evening. Sometimes that means starting at 7 and going until 2 or 3 in the morning, but usually it means calling it a night at 11 or 12 and going out in Hamilton for a drink or a meal and maybe some live music. Here are our favorite places to go after working in the studio” McMaster explains.
10. Ancaster is the sort of small town that can host The Canadian Open and everything about the place (from the big box mall to the earnestly quaint downtown, from the homogeneous subdivisions to the other big box mall) oozes the same comfy, bland suburbia — except The Coach and Lantern. The Coach is a stone oasis in that quaint downtown. It is setback from the street by a small courtyard, but that short walk transports you to another world. Here neighbours can gather in a cozy dining room for food, drinks, and live music and forget about their mortgages and lawns for a few hours. The food is exactly the sort of fare you’d expect from a British pub, but the pleasant surprise every time is how well they do it here. If you have to be in Ancaster, do yourself a favor and check out this place.

9. Vida La Pita is a late-night shawarma joint right on King Street near Hess Village. If we stay out in the village until closing time and feel like a bite at 2 am on a Saturday, this is the place to go. They offer shawarmas, salads, gyros, and full meals. They get “shawarmed” after the bars close, but they’re always staffed up and manage to move hordes of partiers through the line in record time with machine-like precision. The food is really good and always feels like a smart choice compared to the burger joints that are also open late.

8. The Lazy Flamingo (to its credit) hasn’t changed much in the 25+ years I’ve been going there. While the bars and restaurants all around them in Hess Village underwent intensive renovations and changed their formats trying to lure young partiers with insipid dance music and velvet ropes, The Flam has continued to offer a cool and welcoming atmosphere, as much live music as possible (RFU band members Adam and Vincent frequently play there), and a great patio in the heart of Hess. We love to hit this place when The Commandos or The General Lee band is playing and wind down after a session with a couple drinks on the patio.

7. This Ain’t Hollywood is a bar and concert venue on James Street North — a lively neighborhood with a mix of the old Portuguese restaurants and clubs and the new trendy bars, restaurants, and galleries that began, then piled on to Hamilton’s downtown renewal. This Ain’t was on the bleeding edge of that renewal and has been providing a professional stage for locals and international touring artists for over ten years now. This is a great place to see a live show or just hang out over drinks on the patio in summer. A little RFU trivia: this is where George and I met in August of 2014.

6. Bronzies is like no other place that I know of. It bills itself as an “Authentic Italian Restaurant”, but it feels more like a neighborhood watering hole with a cast of regulars perched at the bar whenever it’s open. The pints are the most ordinary Canadian brands, but they’re always served cold in a frosty mug. The pizza and pasta dishes are straightforward affairs that are always delicious and come in the most generous servings. The semi-basement James Street South location has been open for over thirty years and will likely stay open for another thirty given the reasonably priced menu and the loyalty of their regulars.

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