541 Eatery and Exchange 541 Barton Street East

By Kandel Kindred

Located at 541 Barton Street East are two electrifying teal glass doors, and what lies inside is truly remarkable.

As I walked through the doors of 541 Eatery and Exchange I was in awe of the size of the place, it’s huge! From its tall ceiling to the vast spacious area, along with its unique decor including: local artists work, massive picnic style tables, and large chalk board menu. The whole place screamed large coffeehouse. I couldn’t believe how busy it was; the lineup was nearly out the door. As I stood in line I could really feel the warmth that was radiating off the faculty and all through the restaurant.


Eatery and Exchange is run by volunteers on a daily basis. Unfortunately, none of the owners were around to chat so I spoke with one of the regular volunteers. I asked what their main goal is for 541 Eatery and Exchange. She told me they wanted to create a place where the community could come and share ideas and create a safe, nutritious place for those who can’t always afford a healthy meal.

The Eatery side of 541 is astonishing. Being in a red zoned area of Hamilton, it was important to the staff that they make fresh food for an easy price. That being said, the quality of my BLT sandwich was just mind blowing! Fresh produce, soft bread, and extra crispy bacon (my favourite). I honestly couldn’t believe it only costed me four dollars.


Now the Exchange part of the place is really where the magic happens. I noticed when I got up to the counter there was a jar full of buttons. Curious, I asked the cashier what they were for. She told me that when someone comes in and they are short on money and can’t afford a meal or a cup of coffee, they grab a button. A button is worth one dollar, so when someone wants a five dollar meal they grab five buttons. My mouth dropped when she told me this! I was so enlightened by this I had to buy buttons! So I bought five. There were so many buttons in the jar, it was nearly full. This warmed my heart so much to see that people were helping out a worthy cause. Another really cool aspect of the Exchange is you can donate and buy buttons online. Of course once again I bought five more buttons.


Everyone deserves a warm, hearty meal no matter what. 541 Eatery and Exchange is truly sticking to their words and has really created a place where one can come and feel welcome and not feel on the bottom of the food chain. I truly believe the gift of giving is the most important gift of all that’s why I most definitely will be returning for another fantastic meal and to buy more buttons.

Guest contribution to I Heart Hamilton Get in touch: connect@ihearthamilton.ca

One thought on “EAT & EXCHANGE”

  1. I might have to come and check this place out, you make a very convincing argument. Also, it’s great to see people actively trying to make the world a better place

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