What it is
Growing up in Hamilton, summer break has always been synonymous with downtown trips, a waltz through the farmers’ market with my parents and promises of sweet treats after we’re all done.
Ice cream, chocolates, candy and specialty sodas were my first sugar servings of choice, but As I grew older, my go-to treat was bubble tea.
The Taiwanese soy milk tea beverage served with tapioca bubbles, grass jelly or pudding needs no introduction for most urbanites, but it was still a novel treat for a kid who spent his youth mostly confined to the suburbs.
As I explored more, I soon stumbled upon A&J Sugarbowl. While I first was excited to finally find a cup of bubble tea under $5, I soon found a treasure-cove of all my favourite summer sweets.
A&J Sugarbowl is located on 124 MacNab Street North and features a gigantic selection of desserts and snacks, ranging from a wide selection of specialty chocolates, bubble tea, Chapman’s ice cream, flavoured cotton candy, popcorn, egg waffles, crepes and funnel cake.
How to get there from Westdale/Ainslie Wood
Take any bus from campus to Main at MacNab. Walk towards King Street East, through the MacNab bus terminal station.
If you decide to walk down James Street North, proceed until you reach the Cannon Street West intersection.
Walk west along Cannon until you reach MacNab Street North. A&J will be right on the corner.
If the weather is too warm, you can also walk through Jackson Square, through the food court, and into the Hamilton Farmers’ Market.
Exit the market through the glass doors facing York Boulevard and MacNab Street North intersection.
Cross the street and walk down MacNab Street. A&J will be on the corner of the MacNab and Cannon intersection.
$5 to $10 will cover almost all of your sugary cravings at A&J.
Bubble starts at around $3, and goes up to around $6 for large slushie bubble teas.
Three scoops of ice cream is still only priced at $2.96, with sundaes and banana splits still under $6. Even the more decadent desserts are still priced between $8-$10.
I find myself walking through the door most often craving a Coconut or Mango milk bubble tea.
If I’m looking for something more refreshing than sweet, they thankfully allow you to customize the original milk tea recipe with four different types of tea.
If you are bringing a group, I highly recommend splitting some of the more delectable items on the menu, including the dessert ice cream waffles, homemade churros or the funnel cake with ice cream.
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Why it’s great
While there are many nearby James Street North locations to indulge in some seasonal foods, I would argue that and A&J should be one of your primary choices this summer.
Their menu truly has something for everybody. It is centrally located if you are out for a full day of downtown plans, but it has also has a laidback, inviting atmosphere for those in need of a place to stay a while.
It is open late hours with readily available seating. The service is always warm and friendly, and they even provide a couple board games, inviting patrons to stay a while and enjoy their desserts (and their air conditioning).
A&J is more than just a convenient spot to get your sugar fix. To me, it embodies everything that excites me about summer.
Cold drinks, big scoops of ice cream and every one of your favourite name brand confectionaries and sharing those all with your reunited group of hometown friends.