Best Atmosphere

Mezcal 150 James Street South

At the young age of five months, Mezcal is already an exciting addition to Hamilton’s restaurant scene. It offers a variety of Mexican-style cuisine as well as an impressive selection of tequila.

Upon arrival, we ordered a variety of house-recommended tacos (pictured on the following pages) as well as the most satisfying of the dishes, a seasonal Huevos tortas (pictured here). The tortas was a delicious layering of a blue corn tortilla with avocado, salsa, seasoned pork, lettuce and house crema sauce. It tasted great and was a reasonable price for a filling and sizeable dish.

The menu and decor are more Mexican-inspired than truly Mexican, but it is still a delicious menu with a tasteful and artistic atmosphere. Definitely worthy of several Instagrams.

Best Menu Variety

Mex-I-Can 34 Hess Street South

Crank up the Paulina Rubio and enjoy one of the many platters offered up by this Hamilton classic. Mex-I-Can has been in the Steel City for 22-years, having formerly been located on James Street North. The owners recently opened the doors to their new space on Hess this summer.

I have had a variety of meals from Mex-I-Can and have never left feeling dissatisfied. They offer both vegetarian and meat tacos served with classic rice and refried beans. They are cheesy and meaty and wonderful, and although their meats can seem a bit greasy, they definitely make for great comfort food.

The service can be hit or miss, and a few dishes are priced a bit high for what they’re worth, but overall it’s a good experience with plates for every palate.

Best Grab-And-Go

Ole Gourmet 82 Locke Street South

Ole Gourmet’s Locke Street location is just one of their three store fronts. The now Hamilton chain also has stores at 174 Highway 8 and 473 King Street West, with the latter being their newest spot with added seating.

Ole sells a variety of tacos at super reasonable prices — think two chicken or steak tacos for $3.99. Their Locke Street location is quite small and is really more of a take-out location than a sit-down restaurant. Their tacos have thick, soft shells and they’re willing to pile on the cilantro if you’re in the mood for a kick of flavour. Their shop on Locke is easy to get to with the HSR and best of all, they also have fresh and fast churros.

Best Hidden Gem

Papagayo 246 King Street West

Papagoya has been located on King for the last 15 years, but can be easily glossed over when riding the bus or running to McDonalds. As a person who takes great pride in keeping up with restaurants in Hamilton, I was pleasantly surprised to discover Papagoya a few weeks ago. The interiors of the restaurant are charming and colourful with a large selection of chili-themed art and tapestries. If you’ve always wanted to see a light fixture made of hundreds of plastic chilis, go here, you will not be disappointed. The service is fast and friendly and they offer delicious soft tacos along with other great dishes like fresh mussels, chimichangas and chili cheesecake.

Best One-Off Menu Item

Thirsty Cactus 2 King Street East

Known for their pool tables and Tex-Mex cuisine, hidden in the Thirsty Cactus’ menu is a great fish taco dish. With blue corn tortillas, tilapia and cilantro, their fish tacos are a great option for those of you who just aren’t in the mood for an oversized portion of pulled pork. It’s their only taco-like option, but the dish is generous with three stuffed tacos at $10. The only downfalls are that it is technically not in Hamilton (read: Dundas), and sometimes they leave their tortillas out too long and they get weird and crumbly.

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