Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Its coffee time! But where should I go...

The part of Hamilton that we're calling home for the time-being (while we explore different neighbourhoods and consider our home-buying options) is not too far from the First Tim Horton's Ever.

Wow, exciting, right? This Canadian institution started just around the corner from where we live!

Needless to say, we've paid this landmark a visit. While this is kind of cool, I feel that it points to an alarming trend in The Hammer - many, many, many Tim Hortons and not too much else for the coffee lover. (I've even seen a gas station with a Tim's in it, next to a real Tim's...I mean, come on!)

Don't get me wrong - I love Timmies (doughnuts, sandwiches, coffee) but 1) as an avid coffee consumer and 2) a freelance writer who sometimes needs a break from the home office, I place great importance on both the taste of the coffee and the atmosphere of the coffee house. Lets face it - you can't work in Tims for hours like you can in some other coffee places (I think many of them have a 20-30 minute limit) and (as far as I know) they don't have wifi!

Since our arrival in Hamilton, something we noticed pretty much right off the bat was the lack of comfortable coffee spots(at least in the part of the city we live in). No nice coffee pubs to walk to - Tim Hortons and McD's being the only caffeine options nearby. Being sans-car most of the week, I've been pretty keen to find any nearby options that are available.

Putting the "walking distance" factor aside for a moment, my very first "real" non-Tim's coffee find in The Hammer was the welcome (but predictable) Starbucks on Locke Street - great atmosphere, has the wifi I need, but its the only Starbucks for miles. And its always full - which leads me to conclude that Hamilton is crying out for more Starbucks or similar!

On Family Day, we were in exploring-mode, so we decided to take a trip out to the Hamilton waterfront. I'll save my thoughts on the waterfront for another post (mainly because I want to compare what we saw in the winter to how it looks in the summertime!)

What I will talk about now, is the Williams Fresh Cafe. The place was humming (probably because it was Family Day). What stood out for me, however, was the atmosphere. Comfy, fireplace, wifi, decent view - the kind of place you could linger, write, catch up with friends, etc.. The only problem is, yep, you guessed it - its far away from where most people live (including me)- its really a haven for those with car access.

I also attended a really nice get-together with a group of Hamilton tweeters at Coffee Culture in Ancaster - this place was great (can't comment on the coffee too much, I had decaf!) but too far from me for regular visits.

Keep in mind - these are just my observations so far as a new Hamiltonian (I'm sure there are a few gems I have yet to find!) For example, I've heard from several people on Twitter that there are other great coffee options on Locke Street - namely the Locke Street Bakery. Can't wait to try it out. Also, Red Hill Coffee, Mulberry House on James St. and Free Trade in Westdale. I'm also purposely not mentioning anything on the mountain because a) we haven't tried any new places there (except Tim's) and b) its far from our place.

I'm going to put it out there right now - the East End of Hamilton needs more coffee houses (or at least one!) Either that, or we're going to have to move :) (or perhaps get another car? I'm trying to avoid that option.)

What are your suggestions around Hamilton for great coffee & atmosphere?


  1. A friend of a friend of a friend is hoping to open a coffee house on Ottawa Street. I'm sure it will do well there. But I don't have any east-end suggestions for you. :(

  2. Ottawa Street would be right up my alley! Hope the friend of your friend opens one there soon :)

  3. PAMS in Jackson Square [King & James] has coffee and wifi - not sure about their 2nd Jackson Sq location in the food court but it may access the Library wifi

  4. I've heard about PAM's, will have to give it a try - thanks for the info llpo!

  5. I had my first cup of Red Hill Coffee at the Hamilton Market today - I think it's the best coffee in Jackson Square!

  6. Wonderful! I've really got to get back to the market and give the Red Hill coffee a try!

  7. It's not East-East, but further East than the ones you mentioned is the Heart of the Hammer, on King, east of Sherman.
    Great coffee and food!

  8. You mentioned it, but I'll mention it again: the Mulberry St. Coffeehouse is everything you could want in a café in *any* city, and this is speaking as a hip, stuck-up, nerdy, artsy, black specs-wearing, fluffy-haired, coffee-aficionado, Queen West Torontonian. While visiting, my date and I were heard to utter: "I would move to downtown Hamilton to be close to Mulberry St.," and we weren't kidding.

  9. Rae: that place looks awesome! Thanks for the link.

    Nick: We visited Mulberry St. last weekend - it is VERY Queen West-ish (a great find in The Hammer, I have to say.)