Given Hamilton’s burgeoning food scene, it makes sense that Dishcrawl would make its way here. The concept is simple – you visit four different restaurants in one evening, and sample the best from each.
Each Dishcrawl is centred around a specific neighbourhood, making it easy to walk from place to place. To add a little mystery, you are not told which restaurants you are visiting in advance. After purchasing your ticket online for a specific Dishcrawl, you are notified 48 hours before the event where to meet. From there, who knows where you’ll end up!
The first event took place in March on Locke Street and subsequent Crawls have happened on James North, James South, and Hess Village. Dishcrawl Hamilton Ambassador Dave Hanley first contacted me when he began organizing the events and I was really excited to finally make one. I was particularly excited that this location was downtown’s International Village, an area I want to further explore.
My friends Luisa, Steph, and Roslyn joined in and we all met at the first location – Black Forest Inn (255 King Street East). I suspected that the German restaurant would be on the docket, given it’s one of the city’s oldest (about 48 years, they said). It’s almost embarrassing that I had never been before!
As our gregarious leader and host, Dave took charge and welcomed us all. He is very enthusiastic about Hamilton and supporting the local food scene. His energy and positivity is contagious and he got everyone into the spirit. Dave introduced the owner or chef at each spot and they said a few words about their restaurant and described what we were about to eat.
We were also welcomed by Susie Braithwaite, the Executive Director of International Village BIA, who was pleased to have us exploring the area. She plugged a great upcoming event in the Village – Oktoberfest on Labour Day weekend.
I Heart Hamilton’s Dishcrawl Tip #1 – Be hungry!
It stands to reason that you don’t need to eat before attending a Dishcrawl. You sample roughly three different foods at each place, but portions may vary. The servers, dressed in their authentic German garb, came around and placed the plates in front of us. It was filled with Black Forest’s specialties – schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst, potatoes, rindsroulade, and more. I gave the couple who were sitting with us a panicked look and asked if this plate was one of three, or if this was it. That was it. Phew!
I Heart Hamilton’s Dishcrawl Tip #2 – Pace yourself!
Everything at Black Forest was really good and could have been a meal in itself, so I left a bit on my plate in order to save room for the next three. We only had to walk a few steps to Korean restaurant Cho Sun Ok (273 King Street East). We were greeted with lovely music from local harpist Rachel Nolan, who was playing outside.
Cho Sun Ok wasn’t even on my immediate radar, so I was thankful to Dishcrawl for the new discovery. The family-run restaurant has been in the International Village for two years. Korean food was something new for me – we sampled some beef, veggies, rice, kimichi, and my favourite was the sweet chili chicken.
I Heart Hamilton’s Dishcrawl Tip #3 – Wear comfy shoes!
Be prepared for a short jaunt in between stops, rain or shine. Live music guided us to our next stop – Nino’s Ristorante (162 King William Street). A man playing guitar and a female singer lead our parade down the street. I grew up attending plays at Theatre Aquarius and Nino’s is a cute little Italian restaurant right next to it. Nino’s has been in business for four years and is run by owner Robert. It was previously owned by husband and wife Frank and Marta. Marta was our friendly server for the night and we learned their son, Nino, was one year old when the restaurant opened.
Nino’s printed out special menus for us, which was a nice touch. We were presented with Nonna’s Salad (mixed baby greens with Asiago cheese, pears, and honey-glazed pecans), Pasta alle Vodka (linguine pasta in creamy tomato sauce with vodka and Italian ham), and baked salmon (topped with black olive salsa). It was all so delicious!
I Heart Hamilton’s Dishcrawl Tip #4 – Document your experience!
For those who are social media savvy, there is also a fun contest with each event. Attendees are encouraged to document Dishcrawl in the moment. From live tweeting and posting photos, do your best to share the event and promote each local business you visit. Naturally, I was all over it, but it’s part of my gig! Between us girls, we had Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Foursquare covered, and it added to our fun.
Our last stop was an exclusive treat, and we didn’t even have to move from our spots at Nino’s (although I’m not sure we could, if we tried!) Brand new coffee shop Cafe Oranje will be open late this summer at 312 King Street East. I was moseying around Nino’s taking photos when I spotted the familiar faces of co-owners Amy Gringhuis and Christopher Godwaldt up at the counter preparing what I consider the best part of any meal – dessert!
I first sampled Cafe Oranje last year at Supercrawl and I know the endeavour has been a long time in the making for Amy and Chris. I look forward to their official opening in the International Village.
Both Amy and Chris grew up drinking coffee and eating Dutch treats as kids, and wanted to bring that to their menu. They will serve coffee from all five of Hamilton’s local roasters as well as their own blend. I sampled the “Blue Monday” from Speakeasy, having never tried that roaster before. They also use many different methods for brewing coffee, which is sure to delight any coffee connoisseur.
Cafe Oranje serves locally-sourced baked goods and we were treated to Cake & Loaf sweets – a brownie, almond-flavoured butter cake, as well as local strawberries with vanilla bean whipped cream and a little waffle.
It was just the right way to end off the night. We were stuffed to the brim, and it felt like we had experienced so much in just a short span of a few hours. Dishcrawl is a perfect match for I Heart Hamilton because it helps me with working my way through my growing list of local restaurants to try. Thanks, Dave, for a great event!
Check out my video/slideshow of the event below. I will be Dishcrawling again very soon, so stay tuned for more. Even better, grab a ticket to an upcoming Crawl because tickets sell quickly!
Note: I received a media pass to attend Dishcrawl, but all thoughts about the night are my own.