Four great Locke Street restaurants in one night, for $60 plus taxes per person – this was Dishcrawl on Locke Street in Hamilton, Ontario. You can’t get that with Winterlicious or Summerlicious in Toronto, or other restaurant prix fixe campaigns that have become increasingly popular in various towns and cities.
We recently wrote about Dishcrawl, which hosted its premiere event in Hamilton this past Tuesday, March 19th on Locke Street.
Frank and I didn’t know what to expect, but we had the sense that we’d be going on a culinary adventure. David Hanley, the Dishcrawl Hamilton ambassador, reached out to me to invite us to participate as media. We jumped on the opportunity and loved every moment of it.
The meeting spot was Courtyard on Locke, with the location being revealed just the day before. In the span of about 15 minutes, the group of participants grew to 44 people. For businesses participating in Dishcrawl, it’s a great way to get exposure to people who are truly interested in checking out new dining venues.
Here’s what we experienced and thoughts on each:
Courtyard on Locke
This is a fine-casual restaurant where you can celebrate an anniversary, promotion or a nice get-together with very good friends over a fine meal and a good glass of wine. The trio sampler, prepared by Chef Kevin Stuermer, was served in small tasting sizes – what stood out was the meaty and flavourful Porcini mushroom, with spinach in a truffled cream. The pork tenderloin with sweet potato and a sweetened quinoa was well done, retaining its moisture. A twist on bacon wrapped scallops had the perfectly done scallop wrapping a piece of bacon with a sweet red pepper puree. The portion sizes were enough to whet your appetite for more.
The owner, Steve Bernstein, is a also pianist and was serenading us with his musical abilities on the grand piano set in the corner. His music reflected the casual upscale feel of the room. A chandelier at the centre of the room draws your eye and creates a warm glow partnered with pot lights. We were informed that the summer is a great time to enjoy the patio and listen to light jazz music. Courtyard on Locke will definitely be getting a repeat visit!
NaRoma Pizza Bar
We’ve found our new favourite pizza place! When not seeking a quick pizza from Panago or others, we will most likely be heading to Locke Street to visit NaRoma. This pizza bar was our second stop of the night. David had us looking for the man breathing fire.
And this is what we found, just outside of NaRoma – a fire breather, doing his thing. A cool element to the night that added a flair of excitement. People driving by were gawking a bit and thankfully, there were no accidents.
While the space was a bit cramped for our large group, what made this experience at NaRoma outstanding was the quality of the food. Mario Spina, owner and chef, has taken his studies and experience in Italy and brought it to Hamilton. The arugula salad was served with a sweetened honey balsamic vinaigrette, shaved parmigiano reggiano in nice large flakes, slightly toasted pine nuts for crunch, and crisped, shredded prosciutto for a meaty, salty flavour. Definitely appetizing.
The second serving was a small bowl of pureed chickpeas, heated up into a soup. Yes. You read me right. Soup. We tasted a touch of truffle oil, partnered with forest mushroom and creamy, tart goat cheese, blending together with the earthy flavours of the chickpea.
The final dish was the pizza itself! It’s a blend between a thick crust and thin crust pizza, loaded with just enough fresh ingredients that you aren’t needing a fork to pick off bits that have slid onto your plate. We tried the Margherita – a simple tomato sauce with bocconcini basil, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes; and the Brie and Prosciutto – my favourite with a creamy, rich brie, prosciutto, fig jam (love this), caramelized onions (yum-yum), arugula and reduced balsamic for a bit of zing on your tastebuds.
NaRoma is perfect for a date night, getting together with girlfriends for a get-together or for anybody who loves authentic Italian flavours.
Frank often mentioned West Town as a regular hotspot for his former Hamilton Spectator colleagues. They would come to this long-time venue on Locke Street to wind down after a long day.
Our group moved across the street from NaRoma to West Town, seating ourselves at formica laminated tables and booths.
I decided to enjoy a cider and it was a good decision. At this venue we were served freshly made, spicy foods including a jerk chicken on a bed of rice with red beans, a homemade crispy vegetable roll and a super hot (at least for my Polish-Canadian tastebuds), sweet and sour Thai sauce and the milder Italian egg drop soup – Stracciatella.
The food is good for this type of venue – a local community “watering hole”. But hole this isn’t. There is care in the decor, which retains the look and feel of the 1950s. Beer brand neon signs, old photos and signage grace the muted walls. The seats are vinyl, reminiscent of the gold old days. It screams vintage and hipsters would feel perfectly at home. The dim lighting in the evening hides any scuffs, but even these are forgiven because you feel like you can get comfortable for a few hours here.
West Town is great for informal get together with friends for a beer and a bite to eat over a friendly chat or for watching a game on their TVs.
Ceylon Tea Bush
I’ve never been a huge fan of tea, because it was always served to me anytime I was sick with the flu – my aversion must be psychological. However, I would visit Ceylon Tea Bush, located right next to West Town, just to enjoy the wonderful scents from the tea and to bite into their delicious macaroons once more.
This was our last stop of the night, finishing off so many savoury meals with a sampling of teas and three desserts – black mango milk chocolate; a gooey, rich Nanaimo bar; and a macaroon – crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Perfection!
We sampled Passion Berry tea – light and berry-licious. My kind of tea that’s more of a herbal than a heavier, full-bodied black tea.
The tea shop includes all you need to make tea, from fancy tea steeping machines to variety of tea blends.Ceylon Tea Bush is perfect for a get-together with a friend, or for some quiet time, reading a book while enjoying the scents and delicious tea.
Dishcrawl Hamilton – Hess Village
The next Dishcrawl is happening on April 23rd, and it’s already sold out! With this kind of response we predict Dishcrawls in Hamilton will be a hit. There are hints of future crawls with eight venues (plan on bringing comfortable walking shoes and definitely pants with a bit of stretch).