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A Coffee Drinker’s Guide To Hamilton, Ontario

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No matter the city you visit, you can tell a lot about it by the coffee culture it has fostered. In a city like Hamilton, Ontario, though, the locals would rather you didn’t judge them entirely on their 80-plus outlets of the ubiquitous Canadian coffee chain, Tim Horton’s. One thing the iconic chain, birthed in the city in 1964, has done for Hamilton was highlight the need for a local and independent shop providing a quality coffee experience.

Since 2011, Hamilton has earned a spot on many people’s radar for its affordable rents and developing neighborhoods. So much so that Canadian media outlet CBC asked if Hamilton was turning into the next Brooklyn. While no one is quite decided on that claim, the rise of rent prices in Toronto found many restaurateurs and cafe owners taking the 45-minute drive westbound to stake their claim in a newly flourishing culinary scene.

Fueled by the arrival of younger residents purchasing homes and starting their own businesses, the city has transformed. From roasters to cafes, the Hamilton specialty coffee scene began to pick up steam with an abundance of opportunities for cafe owners to create successful spaces that rivaled nearby Toronto. Popping up across the city to serve new and old residents alike are cool, hip, and affordable cafes in developing areas that give people a space to taste and participate in the city’s developing coffee revolution. For this guide, we selected five cafes that have been championing the coffee culture in Hamilton.

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Smalls Coffee

In this teeny tiny storefront located downtown, you’ll find Smalls Coffee. The small takeaway counter owned and operated by Ian Walker and Jess Glegg is simply designed: standing room only, with stark white walls and splashes of black. What the cafe doesn’t offer in the way of space, it offers in heart. Because of the…small…nature of the shop, you’ll be hard pressed to find a barista here who doesn’t already know your name or order by heart. Using a La Marzocco Linea Classic and Mazzer Robur, the shop proudly brews coffee from local roaster Detour Coffee Roasters as well as De Mello Palheta Coffee Roasters for espresso and drip coffee.

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The shop is known for its perfectly poured flat whites—which a customer on my visit assures me are the best in town.

Smalls Coffee is located at 8 Cannon Street East. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery

One of the great things about cafes in Hamilton is that unlike Toronto, most of them offer table service and a curated food menu. Case in point, Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery, co-owned by David Barhouma and David “Rocky” Ricottone (formerly of Toronto’s Dark Horse Espresso Bar). The 600-square-foot restaurant/cafe is sleekly designed with finished brick walls, large windows and a large open kitchen for visitors to peer into. Behind the bar, they work exclusively off the La Marzocco GB5 and Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder, and a Marco Jet. Their roaster of choice is Edmonton’s Transcend Coffee, while tea comes from Montreal-based Camellia Sinensis. Customers are also able to order coffee brewed exclusively on the shop’s Alpha Dominche Steampunk machine, one of only three cafes in Ontario offering the unique device.

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In the kitchen, Ricottone has created a roster of seasonal takes on classic dishes that has people talking. The handwritten menu, scrawled across a roll of kraft paper, has rotating daily specials and everyday favorites, like their Drive Thru sandwich, which is a take on a Sausage McMuffin with a hash brown inside. You’ll also find things like burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, and shawarma on the lunch menu.

Saint James Espresso Bar & Eatery is located at 170 James Street North. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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Salty Espresso (formerly The Pinecone Coffee Company)

If you’re visiting Hamilton from Toronto, chances are you’ll be taking the GO Train into the city. If you are, then the first place you should stop into is Salty Espresso, formerly The Pinecone Coffee Company—a quick five-minute walk from the station. The shop came under new ownership in June 2017 by Ray and Dahlia Turner. The two new owners owned their own coffee shop in Australia previously (Ray is an Aussie himself, Dahlia a Canadian) and moved to Hamilton hoping to open their own Australian-style cafe. Wanting to keep much of the same neighbourhood vibe that The Pinecone Coffee Company had, the pair decided to inject a bit of their offbeat Aussie attitude into this relaxed space.
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The cafe is sweet and simple, with honey-colored wood floors, big windows, and local art adorning the walls into what they describe as “coastal ocean” aesthetic. Behind the bar, baristas work with beans from West Coast roasters 49th Parallel Roasters. Pulling shots off their La Marzocco Linea Classic machine, they offer filter coffee brewed fresh by the cup on an AeroPress or batch brewed by FETCO, and use Mahlkönig Guatemala and Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima-Pro grinders. Want to try something different? Try their take on the Spanish Latte (espresso, condensed milk, milk with a dash of cinnamon). One of the biggest things that Ray and Dahlia have now introduced at Salty’s is a full kitchen menu which includes Coastal classics like Smashed avo on sourdough, fresh house-made muesli, a brekkie burger, and Australian favourite, the house-made sausage roll.
Salty Espresso is located at 175 John Street South. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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The Cannon

For many baristas visiting from Toronto, a stop into The Cannon—one of Hamilton’s first Third Wave cafes—is necessary. On any given day, you can find owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout behind the bar taking orders and making recommendations on their menu. To say that they take their coffee seriously would be an understatement: Cumby has placed in the top five during both the Eastern Canada division of the Brewer’s Cup and the Central Regional Barista Competition. From the outside, the neighborhood coffee shop may look fairly unassuming. But once through the doors, you’ll find an incredibly welcoming space featuring a wooden community table with bright yellow chairs, huge windows offering a perfect street view from their corner unit, and a lighting installation by Toronto designer Enoch Khuu.

Behind the bar, shots are pulled off a La Marzocco Linea Classic machine using Hamilton’s own Detour Coffee Roasters. For filter coffee, they batch brew on their BUNN brewers using Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters and Reunion Island Coffee. Visitors can also treat themselves to a fresh filter coffee brewed using a Chemex or a tea by Hamilton’s own Short and Stout.

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If you’re hungry, the cafe prides itself on its waffle sandwiches, including the grilled vegetable or the Black Forest ham sandwich—to name a few. But if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, doughnuts from Donut Monster and house-made scones, muffins, and cookies are also available.

The Cannon is located at 179 Ottawa Street North. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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Detour Café

About a 15-minute drive from the downtown Hamilton core is Dundas, Ontario, the home of Detour Café. Co-owned by Crystal and Kaelin McCowan, the cafe is an offshoot of Detour Coffee Roasters, which started roasting coffee in 2009 from the back door of the same building that houses the cafe. Like many of the other cafes, Detour serves up fresh food using locally sourced ingredients and has earned an official FeastON certification which ensures 25% of the food served is from Ontario. On the menu are classic comforts like mac and cheese to quick and easy avocado toast.

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The decor is cozy with a hint of retro feel with rows of wooden tables, big windows, and an adjacent patio for warmer days. Behind the bar, baristas work on the La Marzocco FB80 and Mahlkönig K30 to pull shots of the latest roasts that Detour Coffee has to offer. Though it’s not in Hamilton proper, Detour fuels so much of the city’s best coffee that it’s always worth a visit to the source.

Detour Café is located at 41 King Street West, Dundas. Visit their official website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Amanda Scriver (@amascriver) is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. Read more Amanda Scriver on Sprudge.

Cafe photos courtesy of Kailee Mandel. Top photo courtesy of Hamilton Tourism Board.

The post A Coffee Drinker’s Guide To Hamilton, Ontario appeared first on Sprudge.

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