So, what is there to do in Hamilton, Ontario?
In my short 2 day journey there I had quite a bit of fun. While I was there for only 2 days, a lot of time was spent in an office, so I’m focusing on the night we arrived.
Canada… Land of maple and hockey, at least that’s the impression I got growing up. My first time out of the United States, was to our northern neighbors. While Canada may be the most non-foreign country to visit for someone from the USA, it was still a different. It was also a sudden shock having to change how you look at the speedometer; Canada uses the metric system, which probably isn’t surprising for the rest of the world. Also, if you plan on travelling to Canada from the US and you have Verizon or AT&T, don’t count on it working unless you get an international plan setup. Yes, this is probably obvious, but I thought “Meh, it’s Canada, not even that far IN to Canada, my phone should be fine!” NOPE! Big mistake!
“Hey folks!” came a voice suddenly from behind us. “That place is closed; we’re open over here though!”
We arrived in the Hess Village neighborhood of Hamilton looking for a place to grab dinner. We had rented a car and driven up about 6 hours from Cleveland on a business trip. We were looking to go to Sizzle Steak House and Lounge, however, the place was dark and that’s when we were surprised by somebody from behind informing us that his place next door was open. We turned around and followed him to Koi, an upscale looking place that had an empty, yet lively feel to it. As we entered there was a bar to the left with a couple guys sitting there which assumed were probably the cooks or dishwashers. The place was completely empty, we figured this was because it was a Wednesday night, little did we know this would benefit us greatly after our meal. Our waiter seated us near a fireplace and informed us that Koi was owned by the same guy who owned Sizzle, and that their menu was basically the same. We got a couple appetizers to start, Fried Calamari which wasn’t too rubbery or tender, possibly the best calamari I’ve ever had, it came with spicy red curry sauce on the side which added a nice zest. Vegetable Spring Rolls was my pick, and while they were great, didn’t quite compare to the calamari. Coconut Shrimp with a sweet Thai style sauce was the last I tried and while it was pretty good, one was enough for me, could be that I’m not a big fan of coconut. Everyone did agree though that the Fried Calamari took the prize.
The entrees came just as we finished the appetizers, perfect timing!
I know what you’re thinking…. Yes, I once again started eating before I took a picture! I’ll learn!
I got the Grilled Filet Mignon; it was served with vegetables, yams, and a peppercorn sauce. I honestly couldn’t figure out if I like it better with or without the sauce, it was great both ways. In addition to coconut, I’m also not a big fan of yams, but these were pretty amazing! The grilled veggies commented the filet very well.
After we finished our meals we went to pay, then, things took a positive turn. My one travel mate asked what was upstairs; this quickly led to an offer of a full tour of the nightclub upstairs by the manager!
“This place spreads across the entire block of restaurants below, up here we have 10 bars and 5 DJ booths spread throughout.” There were 2 main ballroom-like areas, several hallways, stair cases lit in red, the DJ booths glowed shades of green, the bars varied from being very extravagant with a wide variety of drinks, to small 5 stool bars hidden in random corners. It was obviously closed during the week, so we unfortunately did not get to see this place in full action, or in full lighting, all the pictures I took didn’t really turn out well.
After thanking the manager for both a great meal and an amazing tour we left and headed back out to continue discovering what else this eccentric neighborhood had tucked away.
After ogling the area, we made continued our way down the street heading east until we saw a lit Guinness sign, we quickly decided this was our next stop. What was it called? “the Doors pub”. The entrance was a seedy red door half under street level. There was a very loud boisterous sound coming from the higher level which was apparently a local band. We were pretty thirsty, so that didn’t stop us. A slight downfall occurred when we learned that the Guinness sign was a lie, but they did have some local brews which served as a nice alternative. We found a seat and enjoyed our beverages and tried to figure out what we were listening to. Eventually 2 of us decided to go upstairs and check out the band…. No one else was up there except the roadies. They were asking for an entry fee, but after admitting we were visiting and just curious about the music, they let us in for free, so long as we didn’t stay more than a song. Well, after less than a minute we went back down to the bar, can’t say the band was any of our tastes, so we moved our small party outside to mingle with the locals.
“Where you folks from?” A bartender out cleaning the patio tables started up.
A rather collective reply came from us, “Ohio”.
“Oh really? I’m from the states myself, Savannah to be exact. Hamilton isn’t the best city, most Americans head to Toronto.”
“Well, we’re here for a field office visit and the office we’re visiting is in Ancaster.”
“Oh, cool, cool, it makes sense to stay here then. Hess Village is pretty cool area, during the summer months they close the street off and have block parties. The streets fill up, the bars and roof tops just go nuts, everyone has a good time. You all staying the weekend?”
“No, just till Friday afternoon” this admittance was slightly saddening, as we could tell the area was made for parties.
I ended up making a quick visit inside for a 3rd helping of the local brews along with a much needed restroom trip. I talked to the bartender inside, but the conversation didn’t last long as I couldn’t really hear much, the band upstairs was still performing. Upon returning outside, I found my travel companions to be in mid-conversation with a man who appeared homeless, slightly loopy, walking a dog. The alcohol was having its effect on me, but I recall that most of the discussion was about the man’s dog, it was a rather friendly dog, the man also claimed that it brought him attention from women; which he actually proved as a couple early-to-mid twenty something ladies stopped to pet his dog while we were all talking.
We finished our drinks after that and headed to our hotels. I say hotels, because I booked mine a bit later, which landed me a better stay! The Homewood Suites by Hilton:
While the rest of the trip was pretty fun, the first night was the most enjoyable. I ended up visiting a mall that wasn’t too far which had a nice international food market. I also got some Canadian currency to start a collection of foreign money and also a gift for someone I know.
If I have the chance to go back to Canada, I will certainly take it; Toronto and Edmonton are 2 cities I would love to visit.
I certainly recommend spending at least one night in Hamilton to experience Hess Village. While I couldn’t get any great pictures, I assure you there’s a lot to do there in one night!