This post was also written for the McMaster Alumni Blog.
I was happy to join my fellow McMaster Alumni on another Mac10 activity for another guest blog feature. My mission this time? Dishcrawl! It was a tough gig, but someone’s got to do it.
Dishcrawl Hamilton’s organizer Dave Hanley put together a special Dishcrawl for us Marauders. Having already hosted Dishcrawls along both James North and James South, this one was the best of both.
The first Dishcrawl I attended was in the International Village, and Alumni Officer Erin O’Neil participated in that Dishcrawl as well. Even though we were both familiar with how the events are run, we were still met with many surprises at this one, since every Dishcrawl is so different.
We all met at our first stop – La Piazza Allegra (180 James Street South). It’s another one of those classic Hamilton restaurants that I had been wanting to try. The restaurant opened in 1997 by award-winning Chef Mark Farrugia and his father. A fun piece of trivia – Mark’s wife Lisa was my English and Drama teacher in high school, which then led me to study English and Theatre & Film at Mac. Full circle!
Mark came up with something special for us that isn’t normally on the menu. He joked that he was pleased to have the chance to test out some new foods on us, since we don’t get a choice what to order! He described our plate as having a contrast in temperature, with one sample being warm, another cold.
After the waiters came around and picked up each of our napkins and placed it onto our laps (fancy!), we were presented with grilled fig, saffron lobster risotto, fennel slaw, and seared duck breast. It was only our first stop and I was already sampling something completely new to me. All was delicious! We were off to great start.
It was a bit of a walk to our next stop, but it didn’t seem like it, as we were entertained by two hilarious musicians. With one playing guitar, one playing the washboard tie (yes, a tie!) we followed them, Pied Piper-style, down the street until we reached King William. The reactions of passersby were varied, from perplexed looks to cheering us on.
I was expecting us to keep walking down James North, but I was pleasantly surprised when rounded the corner to King William and right into our second stop – Homegrown Hamilton (27 King William Street). In a twist of fate, I thought it was funny that I had just booked a show at Homegrown for the following night!
As we settled into Homegrown’s casual and artsy atmosphere, Dave asked us how we found the walk and joked that our next stop was in Dundas. The musicians who led us took the stage to continue playing with some impressive homemade instruments.
I’m a big fan of Homegrown but, apart from their coffee, beer, and occasional baked good, I had yet to sample their menu, so I was glad to have this opportunity. We were treated to their burger and veggie burger, with broccoli salad. I had heard great things about their veggie burger – now I know why. It was even better than the beef burger, for me. As they said, they want their menu to serve everyone.
The Homegrown team are so passionate about what they do and the community. They work with independent and local businesses – they’re all about local flavour and talent. Co-owner Mike Pattison came out to welcome us and said he has “never been more proud of this city” and it’s the people of Hamilton who are making this revitalization happen.
It was then time to move on to the next stop. Dave told us to exit Homegrown, turn left, and we would know where to go. I was at the front of the pack, still unsure where I was leading everyone, but as we walked I heard the sweet sound of a familiar voice. The talented Sara London was outside Caribbean fusion restaurant It’s A Food Thing (49 King William Street), belting out an Amy Winehouse song.
This was another spot I had heard so much about but hadn’t visited. Opened about a year ago by Joyce Swaby, the space is small but so warm and inviting. Our alumni group took up the whole space. Menus were printed up on each table and everything sounded so good before we even got our plates – Plantain Deluxe, Carib Falafel, ‘Fish’ Frittas, and Jerk Chicken Salad.
When we were given our rectangular platters, the food looked just so gorgeous that I think it was the most photos I’ve ever taken of something before eating it! I didn’t know where to start. Everything was bursting with flavour and so tasty. Some of it was too spicy for my palate but they had bottled water on standby, thankfully. I didn’t think I was usually a fan of fruit in salad, but I loved the mix of grapes and blueberries in with the greens.
It’s A Food Thing even had a photographer to document the night. Check out their photos by Katherine Fleitas of Peace Photo. The restaurant also now hosts live entertainment – check out their page for info on live music, karaoke, DJ nights, and more.
We were met with more musicians outside to guide us to our last stop. I recognized the duo right away from my last Dishcrawl. A jazz singer and a guitar player led us down King William and back onto James Street. Once again, lots of looks as we paraded by. I must say, being led down the street by live musicians is a really good way to travel. It makes you feel like you’re marching to your own theme song.
I knew we were en route to dessert, but had no clue where. Some people in the group had a few guesses – Mulberry? Ola? Those options were nixed as we passed them and continued North. Then we got to Colbourne and hung a left – a-ha! We were ending the night at cozy Artword Artbar (15 Colbourne Street).
Run by Ron Weihs and Judith Sandiford, Artbar is so supportive of the artistic community in Hamilton. The cafe and bar hosts all kinds of local talent, from live music of all genres, visual art, poetry, spoken word, and more. Human Stories recently profiled Ron and Judith in one of their episodes – be sure to watch their story.
I’ve been to Artbar before, but not nearly as much as I should. It’s such a lovely atmosphere. The singer and guitar player joined the rest of their band onstage and treated us to some more jazzy tunes as we all relaxed with dessert by Cake & Loaf. I’m always excited to see goodies from that bakery. As Dave put it, they are artists.
As I continue to eat my way across Hamilton, I’m thankful that Dishcrawl came along to compliment my explorations of my hometown. Check out my video blog about the night below.
Thank you again to Dishcrawl Hamilton for a fabulous night out, and to Erin for organization another fun Mac10 activity and for the opportunity to write another guest blog.
Note: I received a pass to attend Dishcrawl as a guest of Mac10, but all thoughts about the night are my own.