Photos by Andrew Mrozowski / Arts & Culture Editor

What It Is:

Motel Restaurant (359 Barton St. East) takes your favourite brunch and lunch dishes and immerses you in the sweetly-pink ‘no-tell-motel’. From themed-cocktails to sweet and savoury plates, there is something to satisfy every palate. 

The restaurant is easily noticeable due to its green painted exterior walls, which contrast the brick buildings surrounding the area. Once you step inside, you are instantly transported to the lobby and greeted by Chris Hewlett, the owner and host of Motel. A bright blue neon sign for vibrating beds, pink luggage all around and a long bar extending the length of the space creates an atmosphere that removes you from Barton Street East. On your way downstairs to the washrooms, you will see doors on either side of the hall with room numbers to make you feel as if you are about to check-in for the night. 

A staple of Barton Village, Motel strives to bring a little bit of luxury to your busy week either through their daily drink specials or one of their specialty dishes like their champagne pancakes topped with edible gold-leaf.

 

How to get there from Campus:

For the most direct approach, take the 51 from campus towards Hamilton Go Centre. Walk to the east end of the platform and jump onto the 2. Continue to ride this bus for about 15 minutes and get off at Barton Street East and Emerald Street North. A short stroll to the north-east corner of the intersection will take you to the emerald-coloured building on your left.

For a quicker alternative, you could take the 10 from Main Street West and Emerson Street for an express ride to Main Street West and John Street South. Jump off the bus and head south towards Jackson Street East to wait for the 2 at the bus stop.

 


The Cost:

Entrees range in price from $16 to $19.75 and usually will require you to request a to-go box because the portions are quite large. On more than one occasion, a meal from Motel has lasted me both brunch and dinner. Sides are also available and they range from $3 to $7.50.

No great brunch can be had without a beverage to compliment. Motel offers a variety of hand-crafted espresso beverages and local freshly-squeezed juices from $4 to $6. If you’re looking for something spirituous, Motel offers a variety of “5 O’Clocktails” for $12. You can also upgrade to Motel-sized drinks for $2.50 or a flask to share with your party for $35.

Although the food is tasty and the atmosphere is inviting, I fully understand that this is not in the every-day student budget; however, Motel is great if you are looking to treat yourself after a hard week or need a go-to Hamilton spot to sit down and celebrate with friends.

 

What to get:

Every time I go to the restaurant, I typically have to tell Chris to come back to our table three or four times because I am so overwhelmed by the menu. I have learned that your choice will come down to whether you want something savoury or sweet for your breakfast-lunch combination. An added benefit is that Motel sources local ingredients, when they can, for their dishes. 

If you are looking for a wow-factor or Instagramable moment, try the Champagne pancakes. They come with Devonshire cream, raspberry and pink champagne coulis topped with gold flakes. Fluffy pancakes topped with a light cream, fruity sauce and real gold makes for an incredible breakfast that seems as if it could only exist in a dream. 

Looking for something savoury? Last time I went, Chris recommended the Loaded Breakfast Nacho Fries featuring a three cheese blend, crumbled bacon, tomato jam, jalapeno sour cream and two over-easy eggs served on a bed of crispy french fries. This may very well be my favourite item on the menu due in part to its sheer size but also because it tastes absolutely stunning.

Motel offers vegetarian options (including most of their sweet brunch options) as well as the I’m a Vegan which brings together marinated kale, quinoa, sweet potato, pecans and Brussel sprouts drizzled with a roasted vegetable vinaigrette.

 

Why It’s Great:

No matter what day of the week, you can expect Motel to be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including most holidays. Some days are busier than others, but they will take your information and text you when your table is ready. 

The space is a refreshing change from the typical restaurant environment. It immerses you in a different setting so far removed from Hamilton that you will forget what city you are eating in. The food will make you feel like a superstar (still really cannot get over the fact that you can eat gold on pancakes) and the staff are so inviting that you truly feel like a welcomed guest at staying at their motel.

 

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What is it? 

Despite the countless walks along James Street North this year, I’ve found each stroll to be a little different. Whether it’s a new opening or discovering an old spot for the first time, James Street has become a consistent destination for last-minute dinner plans.

In particular, Great Red Peppers, a Chinese restaurant at the corner of James Street North and Rebecca Street, has become a go-to choice for a pick-me-up meal after a long day.

I have found comfort walking into the warm and quiet restaurant, leaving the chaos of the day and the city behind as the door closes.

Great Red Peppers has an impressive menu of Chinese dishes with a diverse selection of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetable, soup, noodle and rice-based meals.

While the extensive menu can be overwhelming, it also means that each visit can be a whole new experience.

True to its name, Great Red Peppers has a spicy selection, like Chongqing spicy chicken and hot and sour soup with shrimp.

I’ve watched on as friends turn red slurping down the last of their Sichuan spicy noodle, blaming the convection heater next to us rather than the real heat for their runny noses.

If you are like myself and prefer to avoid the peppers, there are tons of menu items to choose from.

How to get there from campus: 

Take the 5 or 51 heading downtown from campus to Main at Hughson.

Head west on Main Street East towards James Street, then turn right and walk along James Street for about five minutes before reaching Rebecca Street.

The Great Red Peppers is the grey corner building on your right.

Price range: 

All cold dishes are under $10, this includes dishes like steamed chicken with chili sauce and bean noodles in chili sauce for $7.99.

Meat-based dishes are typically under $14, while vegetable-based and soup-based dishes are under $10.

Seafood tends to be a little bit more expensive in the $12-$16 range.

Over 30 of the noodle and rice dishes are under $10.

What to get: 

I recommend getting a main dish for yourself and taking a chance on trying something new by splitting with a friend. The house special fried rice (labelled J26 on the menu) always makes the order.

If you’re feeling friendly, the $10.99 dish is easy to split with two other people. For my last few visits I’ve tried two noodle dishes, the stir-fried noodle with shrimp (J7) and mixed vegetables (J9) for $8.99.

The noodles are thick and soft while warm and are generously covered in savoury sauce, with a hint of sweetness.

For more protein, we recommend the sliced pork with hot pepper noodle (J3) and Sichuan spicy noodle with pork (J6), which are also $8.99 each.

You can’t go wrong with the braised beef noodle soup (J10) for $8.99, the broth is simple and filling. During my last visit I tried the deep fried sweet potato with candied floss (H22) for the first time.

The famous Chinese dish was an undeniably sweet and fun appetizer to eat. At $11.99, this is a dish you can split with a friend or two.   

Why it's great: 

Great Red Peppers has some of the largest portions I’ve seen, especially for their noodle and rice menu.

I had their stir-fried noodle with shrimp for lunch and went the rest day without even thinking about my next meal.

Rice is almost always left over, packed away in a take-out container, and enjoyed as a late night snack or meal for the next day.

For $8.99, that noodles and rice are also super affordable and give you a little bit more in your budget to try new things.

Great Red Peppers is not too busy, the staff are friendly and the location is convenient. The food is simple, filling and wholesome. What more can a student ask for?

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By: Hess Sahlollbey

Are you a hot sauce fanatic? Addicted to that fiery sensation you feel when you take a bite of your favourite spicy dish? Whether it’s a drop of Tabasco on that cheesy slice of pizza or ghost peppers in your stew, most of us like a little bit of kick in our food, yet very few of us have actually thought to make our own hot sauce. Well, I’m about to let you in on a little secret: it’s not very hard.

I will teach you how to make the perfect hot sauce without any fancy equipment — you don’t even need to have any cooking skills.

What you'll need 

Hot sauce is arguably the most internationally varied and popular condiment in cooking.  So popular that you would be hard pressed to find a diner or restaurant that doesn’t have it in a condiment caddy next to ketchup and salt and pepper.

Brodie Dawson, a Hamilton born and raised entrepreneur, is a global player on the international scene and is carving out a name for himself with his signature line: Dawson's Hot Sauce.

Despite the rabid success of his product among locals and international hot sauce connoisseurs, Dawson had no background in entrepreneurship, or the culinary arts.

Direct contact with skin or eyes will cause discomfort and pain, sometimes lasting up to a few days. Never try to use your hands to pick out seeds either — trust me, it won’t end well.

"When I stopped playing in my band, I got really bored and started picking up weird hobbies and trying stuff out like making my own soap and ChapStick instead of watching TV all night," said Dawson.

This eventually extended to making his own condiments that he shared at barbecues, pool-parties and sharing as gifts around the holidays.

The positive reception from friends and family eventually led to Dawson designing a logo and transitioning from hobbyist to entrepreneur.

After slowly developing his business and refining his hot sauce sense, he began formally selling his sauce in November 2013 with a launch party in Club Absinthe. However that first night would take an unfortunate turn — Dawson's office was broken into later that night and all of his generated revenue was stolen.

Despite a discouraging start, Dawson’s business steadily grew. An industrious and staunch businessman, Dawson is no longer learning on the fly. Purchase orders continue to pile in and his business becomes more efficient.

As things continued to flourish, it dawned on Dawson that his hot sauce company was running parallel to the revivification of the downtown core and the demand for higher quality products. Dawson decided to cold-call local businesses and presenting his product.

His business was gaining momentum, and his sales began to snowball, which lead Dawson's father joining the team and the hiring of additional staff members to handle marketing, packaging and cooking.   

While the artisanal and hand-made aspects of the product make for an excellent retail product, the Cannon, an Ottawa Street coffee shop, has incorporated Dawson’s sauces into their menu items. The product has fared well in Ontario, but the largest growth has been in Quebec and in the United States.

Vegan and gluten-free, the sauce is now sold internationally with carriers in three different continents. The inclusion of the sauce on the popular YouTube show “Hot Ones” garnered even more attention. The show features Sean Evans and his celebrity guests eating progressively hotter chicken wings prepared with sauces that get progressively hotter.

"I have been sold out that sauce and consistently backordered since it's been featured on the show. It's really crazy right now especially since it’s been less than a month," said Dawson. The reception of the sauce has been positive amongst hot sauce enthusiasts who actively send feedback and communicate with Dawson.

 

"With Reddit, people buy it and bring it home and talk about it. It’s really fun to see people responding well," said Dawson.

Hot sauce is now Dawson’s full-time job, and he admits that it has been just as life-consuming as any entrepreneurial venture. But with an avid following of online and local heat enthusiasts, he can continue to explore push the envelope with new peppers, new flavours and new levels of heat.

You need a blender, a small pot and a high pain tolerance.

As students, we don’t always have the time or resources to keep a fully stocked fridge. Fortunately, there’s a lot of flexibility as far as ingredients go.

The first thing one needs to consider is how spicy they want their sauce to be. If you’re a newbie, you don’t want to make something overwhelmingly spicy that you can’t handle — this is why choosing the right pepper is important.

As we’re going for the Caribbean taste, I wouldn’t recommend anything less intense than scotch bonnet peppers. The use of these peppers are good for individuals with a moderate tolerance with spice.

What many people don’t know is that the heat bulk of the capsaicin — the chemical responsible for the heat and pain sensation — is located in the seeds, not the cortex. What does this mean for the weak-hearted? Just take out the seeds if you want to want to make your hot sauce even less spicy. Habaneros are a very popular choice, and a personal favourite of mine, as they perfectly combine a sweet taste with bold heat.

Advanced spice eaters with a high tolerance can add ghost peppers. If you want to punish yourself, go for Trinidad Scorpion or Carolina Reaper peppers. To make a cup (250mL) of hot sauce you only need about twelve peppers in total.

This is a good time to make a very important disclaimer, please read carefully. Hot peppers secrete very irritating compounds and should never be handled without gloves. Direct contact with skin or eyes will cause discomfort and pain, sometimes lasting up to a few days. Never try to use your hands to pick out seeds either — trust me, it won’t end well.

Now that you have your chosen your pepper it’s time to actually make your hot sauce.

What you decide to put in it is up to you but there are a few key ingredients you want to have: two tomatoes, six baby carrots, two crushed garlic cloves and a touch of vegetable oil.

Although you can make great tasting hot sauce with these simple ingredients, you may add the following: half an onion (diced), one tablespoon of brown sugar and some herbs (parsley, basil, thyme).

Making the sauce

Once you’ve got your ingredients chosen, put them all together in a blender or food processor. You may add a quarter of a cup of water to facilitate the blending process, but it should be fairly smooth because of the tomatoes.

Last you want to add in some seasoning; I said you don’t need a fully stocked kitchen to make your hot sauce, so an all purpose seasoning mix should do. Alternatively, you may season with salt, onion powder, black pepper, nutmeg and cumin.

Once you’ve got your pepper sauce paste, transfer it to a small pot and let it simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes. Some argue that cooking it will reduce its level of spiciness, while others vehemently contest this notion. That said, cooking it will definitely give it the smooth taste we’re looking for —  just be sure to ventilate the room as some people may have difficulties handling the fumes. If you did want to reduce the heat level, it should be done by diluting the sauce with more tomatoes or removing the seeds.

And there you have it, you made your own hot sauce! Remove the pot from the heat and enjoy your sauce when it comes to a cool — refrigeration may expedite this process. It may take a while to get the proportions just right for your taste, and even longer for you to get used to handling the heat, so have some patience with it.

The key is to embrace the pleasure, and pain, of the process.   

Ingredients

-Your choice

of peppers

-2 Tomatoes

-6 Baby carrots

-2 Crushed garlic cloves

-Vegetable oil

Optional

-Half an onion

-1 tbsp Brown sugar

-Herbs

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. (You may also add a quarter of a cup of water).
  2. Add in some seasoning. You may season with salt, onion powder, black pepper, nutmeg and cumin.
  3. Once you’ve got your pepper sauce paste, transfer it to a small pot and let it simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  4. If you did want to reduce the heat level, it should be done by diluting the sauce with more tomatoes or removing the seeds.
  5. Enjoy the heat!

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What is it?

Many Hamiltonians swear by Lulu’s Shawarma.

As an avid lover of the popular Middle Eastern sandwich, I make a point of trying it in every city I visit. After I heard about Lulu’s I had to give the mom-and-pop restaurant a try.

I visited Lulu’s for the first time on a Friday night. The small restaurant was packed with a line up of hungry people waiting for their chicken shawarmas and falafel pitas. The smell of fresh grilled chicken wafted through the warm shop.

I watched on as Tammy Barnes recited orders to her husband, Rizgar Rada, as he stood over juicy and tender chicken shavings.

They seamlessly worked on dozens of orders together, a technique they’ve perfected the past 10 years.

Few people stayed to eat in the cafeteria-style cluster seating surrounded by lilac walls, which were decorated in View Readers’ Choice award placards.

Most visitors, like myself, grabbed their food to go before retreating back into the busy downtown core or in my case, the Silhouette’s basement office.

I indulged in a loaded chicken shawarma, while my co-worker ate away at the chicken and rice combo.

The food was packed with the familiar flavour of shawarma that I love and we found ourselves surprisingly satiated half-way through our meals.

How to get there from campus:

Take the 1 or 5 bus from Sterling at University to Main at MacNab.

Head east on Main Street towards John Street and turn left onto John Street for a quick five-minute walk.

You’ll find the distinctive orange brick building with a purple Lulu’s Shawarma banner at 32 John Street North, on the corner of King William.

Price range:

A chicken shawarma in a pita sandwich or on a bed of rice with a pita on the side are $7.08.

For $3 you can upsize the chicken and rice to a large, while also getting a salad and extra pita bread.

For $5.31 you can get a falafel pita, or you can go for a bigger meal that includes rice, salad and pita for $9.73.

Chicken shawarma and falafel salads also go for a little over $7.

Lulu’s has eight  side orders that fall under $5, ranging from onion rings, French fries and fattoush salad, a Middle Eastern mixed vegetable salad with fried pieces of pita bread.

What to get:

The chicken shawarma is the showstopper here.

The loaded pita comes with chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, tahini and hot sauce.

It’s both savoury and filling. If you are looking for a dinner-like meal, go for the falafel or chicken shawarma platter with rice, garden salad and pita bread.

You can save $2 if you want to opt out of the garden salad and bread, just order the extra chicken side and side rice for $4.42 each.

Why it’s great:

Lulu’s Shawarma reminds me of my parents’ take on the shawarma dish since it’s both homey and comforting.

The chicken is fresh and flavourful and the sauces are mild enough as to not take away from the well-seasoned chicken.

The rice is soft and pigmented thanks to the added yellow turmeric, just the way my mother makes it.

Lulu’s Shawarma has a convenient location that’s easy to get to, especially if you are looking to grab a quick, affordable and filling meal. Just make sure to bring cash.

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What is it?

Despite my well-documented love for trying new foods, I have been eating the same lunch for my entire life as a student: a plain, but effective coldcut number with Havarti cheese and lettuce.

Perhaps my rigid relationship with the sandwich has interfered with my curiosity for downtown Hamilton’s dedicated sandwich and soda shop: The Fizz. I instantly regretted that after my first bite of their pulled pork shoulder, apple cider vinaigrette, smoked cheddar, honey and roasted jalapeno sandwich.

The Fizz is a sandwich and soda shop that serves and delivers some of the best lunch and dinner options for students looking for a convenient delivery option, or for an opportunity to explore King Street East.

This is one of the best places to get a delicious sandwich downtown, with a menu featuring flavours and ingredient combinations that are sure to satisfy.

How to get there:

Take the 1 or 5 bus from campus to Main and Walnut.

Once you arrive, walk along Walnut Street South towards the nearby King Street East intersection.

The Fizz’s bright blue exterior will be just shy of the intersection across from King Karaoke.

Price range:

Sandwiches range from $8.00 to $10.00, while most generously portioned “small” sides are $3.00.

Their delicious hand mixed sodas are $2.00 for a small and $2.50 for a large.

It is worth checking their website and Instagram feed for daily specials.

Many of these deals are perfect for group orders that include two sandwiches, including a 50 per cent off your second sandwich deal on Saturdays, and $2.00 sides and large drinks on Tuesdays.

The Fizz is also one of the few restaurants on Skip The Dishes that provides free delivery on any orders over $20.00, making it ideal to order for small groups.

Must-order item:

The aforementioned love-at-first-bite pork shoulder sandwich, “The Pigskin”, is a personal favourite. You really can’t go wrong with anyone of their smoked and BBQ style meat sandwiches, with daily specials that have featured smoked brisket, lamb, and even venison.

When I’m craving something a bit lighter, I go for the Fustercluck: smoked chicken with avocado-lime mayo, charred corn, black beans and jack cheese.

The beauty of this item is in the avocado-lime mayo, which can also be requested as a fantastic dipping option to go alongside my favourite side of their kettle chips.

Additionally, The Fizz offers a vegetarian smoked pepper-based sandwich with zucchini, mushrooms, red pepper mayo, goat cheese and arugula on ciabatta.

While I normally hold off on purchasing soft drinks, you shouldn’t pass up the strawberry basil, blueberry mint or sour cherry soda. These drink pairs perfectly with any one of their sandwich options.

Why it’s great:

The Fizz prides itself on their simple, but expertly crafted sandwiches, and has even inspired some revisions to my usual go to lunch item.

Most of all, in spite of their time and attention they put into crafting some fantastic quality and interesting combinations of ingredients, they still provide a ton of food for an extremely reasonable price.

While new, trendy dine-in experiences naturally spur the most attention, its these convenient, reliable and neighborhood-conscious spots like The Fizz that I love, and will always keep coming back to.

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What it is

Previously known by regulars as the Flavour of Himalaya, the Sagarmatha Curry Palace restaurant boasts an extensive menu of classic Indian and Nepalese dishes that are sure to satisfy every taste bud.

Once you get past an exposed pipe at the bottom of the staircase leading to the underground restaurant, hungry locals and curious wanderers are welcomed by vast open space contained by orange and purple walls, festive lights, Indian music and rustic wooden dining tables.

Service can be confusing (it’s not clear whether or not you seat yourself, or if you wait for a server) and the place is usually packed by 7 p.m., so expect a wait if you’re heading out for a late dinner. However, the warm atmosphere and taste and quality of the food makes up for the restaurant’s downfalls.

You can expect a wide range of soups, curries, South Asian dumplings, clay oven baked naan breads and biryani, just to name a few. Their chicken, lamb and seafood dishes are prepared in tikkas, kebabs and tandoori styles.

How to get there from campus

Take the 5 bus from campus heading towards downtown for about 15 minutes until you reach Main at Hughson.

Walk on Hughson Street South towards King Street East for about four minutes, then turn right onto King William Street. The restaurant’s entrance with be on your left, between The Mule and Hambrgr. Make your way down the stairs to the basement and the restaurant will be on your right.

How much

All appetizers are under $5, a basket of naan tandoori is under $3 and the main dishes range between $9 and $12. A small selection of platters and combos can get a little pricey with a range of $14 to $18.

You can expect a wide range of soups, curries, South Asian dumplings, clay oven baked naan breads and biryani, just to name a few.

What to get 

The boneless tandoori chicken served with lentil dal and rice is a must try item. As a tandoori chicken enthusiast, I was blown away by the freshness and quality of the meat.

The dal was equal amounts spicy, savoury and sweet, which is great for anyone with limited spice tolerance. Not a fan of sauces? Try the biryani, which can be ordered either vegetarian, with chicken or with lamb. This is one is definitely spicy.

The vegetable pakoras, which are deep fried fritters of vegetables and papri chat, a dish of crunchy wafers topped with chickpeas, yogurt and tamarind chutney make great appetizers or a quick snack.

No matter what you get, always make room for the naan.

Why it's great

Sagarmatha Curry Palace is officially my favourite place to get Indian cuisine in Hamilton.

The affordability of the food does not take away from the portions you’re getting. Even if you come with a large appetite, I guarantee you’ll have trouble finishing. Money and portions aside, it’s straight up delicious.

The menu also has a variety of vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan items. Overall, I love the flavour and aroma that the foods attain from being patiently cooked in a clay oven. I recommend dining in for the full experience, there’s something about hearing food sizzle past you as its carried off by the hustling waiters.

If you’re short on time, you can also get take-out or get delivery.

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By: Hafsa Sakhi

What is it? 

I’m always looking for new places to eat, and Daniel, our Arts & Culture Editor, recently suggested Mesa, a Mexican restaurant tucked near the end of James Street North.

Upon entering, I was awed by the beauty of the interior. Jewel toned light fixtures hung near the entrance, and a traditional mosaic pattern decorated both the walls and ceiling.

A large cactus decorated with fairy lights sat next to our table, and Latin pop played in the background.

The menu offered popular dishes like quesadillas, burritos and nachos plus some Mexican gems like tamales, chimichangas and cactus salad.

The menu is sure to cater to those who are new to Mexican cuisine or those who already have their favourites. It also features a range of options for vegetarian diners.

How to get there:

Take the 1, 5 or 51 and stop at Main at MacNab. Head east on Main Street West toward MacNab Street South.

Turn left onto James Street North, and walk straight until you see your destination, which will be a block past James and Robert Street.

Price range:

Appetizers range from $10-$14, but the sizes are larger than your typical starter size. The entrees are around the same price, between $11-$16.

Choose from desserts like tiramisu, flan and cheesecake all for $5. Alcoholic drinks average at around $8, soft drinks at $2.25 and hot beverages at $2.75.

Must-order item:

Since the sizes are large, I recommend going with a friend or group. I went with my small family of girls, and comfortably ate by splitting several plates.

The menu is sure to cater to those who are new to Mexican cuisine or those who already have their favourites.

We ordered a large burrito, quesadilla plate and nachos, and still had enough to take home.

The nachos were my favourite, with deliciously spiced steak meat, hot cheese and topped with fresh salad and tangy sour cream. The nachos added that crunch, and the dish was served with salsa and pico de gallo.

Why it’s great:

You get your money’s worth at Mesa. The appetizers look like entrees, and the beautiful decor is comfortable and inviting.

The restaurant caters to a variety of dietary restrictions, with gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and halal options. You also get to choose the filling  from several meat and veggie options with your dish, and in this way, you pick and choose your favourite tastes.

With the warm ambience and the fun Spanish pop playing in the background, my family and I decided we must come back.

Before we left, I asked our waiter the meaning of Mesa. He smiled and explained it meant “table”. So grab a mesa and enjoy the taste and experience of Mexico.

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What it is

On the Hess Street Village side of King Street West lie a number of take-out-oriented restaurants for residents in need of a quick bite and for the late-night crowds on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The strongest recommendation out of all these locations easily goes to Islands, one of my favourite Caribbean restaurants in the city.

Islands serves up great jerk chicken, oxtail, roti and curry goat.

Their delicious range of Caribbean staples are sure to keep you coming back for more. Islands is easily one of the best take-out restaurants in a downtown core that is seeing a less new options for student budgets.

How to get there from Westdale/Ainslie Wood

Hop on the 1, 5 or 51 bus from campus to Main and Caroline.

From there, walk north to King Street West.

Islands will be on the other side of the street, just across the neighbouring convenience store and Vida La Pita restaurant plaza.

Price Range

On average, prices range from $6 to up to $12. Rotis average at around $7, and many of the vegetarian roti options and rice dishes are only around $6. Large dinner-sized portions of rice dishes like jerk chicken, oxtail, goat curry and stewed chicken are between $10 to $12.

It’s also worth noting that there is no additional delivery charge for orders over $20 through Skip the Dishes. Islands also now available to order through UberEats.

Must-order item

While the menu isn’t necessarily made for sharing, I would recommend ordering a combination of a small roti and small rice dish to get a good taste for the menu (and still get a substantial amount of food for under $15).

For main rice dishes containing meat, you can’t go wrong with jerk chicken and oxtail on rice and peas. While I personally go for stew chicken roti or curry goat, the vegetarian channa roti and pumpkin roti are also fantastic options. If you’re not one for deliberating over menu combos, a large-sized portion of any of the rice dishes are more than enough to keep you happy and full.

Why it’s great

Some days you just want to skip the fast food in favour of some combination of rice, veggies and protein, and Islands provides a comforting replacement for a home-cooked meal.

While their small location still has plenty of tables for small groups to stop by and enjoy, I’ve always appreciated Islands’ commitment to keeping up with the most convenient online delivery services.

I’ve been going to Islands since I was in high school, often when I find myself stuck in downtown closer to dinner than I anticipated.

After my first try, I quickly found that myself coming up with more and more excuses to treat myself to their food before meeting with friends, or before a commute back home.

Islands has consistently provided many options that are as good as a home-cooked meal, something that has become more valuable as I spend fewer evenings at home.

One of the most consistently satisfying food experiences for me in this city is coming to Islands after a long, busy afternoon, smelling the familiar combination of spices and stew and getting that first whiff of your freshly cut roti.

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What it is

Now that you have gotten through the first month of a school, you have probably found more than a fair share of delicious breakfast/brunch places on James Street North and Locke Street South.

If you’re in the city during reading week, it may be time to expand your breakfast horizons.

What better way to do that then with some damn good waffles? The Cannon is the only place in the city that excels in both waffles and specialty coffee.

Sweet waffles drenched in your choice of chocolate, fruit and whipped cream are served alongside savoury brunch combos of poached eggs, bacon, avocado, grilled veggies and more on top of a waffle the size of your plate.

How to get there from Westdale/Ainslie Wood

Hop on the 1 bus route heading towards downtown.

You will be heading straight down Main Street for a while until your stop on Main and Ottawa.

After getting off, walk north down Ottawa Street until you reach Cannon Street East. The Cannon Coffee will be right on the corner.

How much

A classic, no-nonsense waffle with maple syrup costs $4.50, while the more substantial menu items average at around $7 to $12.

What to get

Good brunch friends don’t let each other choose between sweet or savoury. Sharing is caring here so I would recommend splitting an order.

First order one of the brunch plates. My go-to is the California Brunch plate with two poached eggs, avocado salsa, bacon and goat cheese on a jalapeño Havarti waffle. Alongside your savoury waffle plate, go ahead and deck out your sweet waffles with all the syrup, chocolate and fruit that you want (if you are extra hungry maybe order two).

Splitting food will keep both of your cravings satisfied, while also providing a lot of food for just under $10 a head.

I always recommend getting coffee while you wait for your food. The espresso bar is always busy on a weekend morning, but the awesome baristas on staff make it worth it.

Why it's great

While I was learning about all the popular coffee shops in the city, the Cannon was one of the most recommended places by other café owners. The Cannon has gotten the specialty café formula down pat: good coffee and a focused menu that pairs perfectly with it. Their  savoury waffle options are unlike anything else in the city, while still executing a classic waffle really well.  Beyond breakfast, the place provides comfortable, bright atmosphere to just relax in.

The Cannon could have easily won over many with that alone, but they really take time to make sure that their coffee is worth the trip too. I don’t think the combination of good brunch and good company ever needs more justification but if you were waiting for the perfect spot to pull you away from campus, you need to make time to go to Ottawa Street this reading week.

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What is it?

As we settle into fall and brace ourselves for (shudder) winter, the search for a cozy meal that doesn’t break the bank becomes ever more important.

Hamilton has no shortage of stick-to-your ribs options, from Bul Gogi’s stone bowls to the Burnt Tongue’s soup to the Hearty Hooligan’s vegan pizza buns. But recently these restaurants gained a new companion in the fast, filling and delicious category.

Located next to August 8, Noodle Me is a new restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, noodles. The small restaurant makes their noodles in-house, and they offer a range of widths, from angel-hair fine to first-year-chemistry-textbook thick. And with a range of soups, stir fry-like dishes and cold noodles, their menu is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Hot to get there from Westdale/Ainslie Wood

Take the 1, 5 or 51 bus from campus to Main and MacNab. Cut through the bus terminal to King Street and walk east a block to the King and James intersection. Walk north on James for about five minutes, until you hit Wilson Street.

Noodle Me is located in the small strip plaza on the north-east corner of the intersection.

Price range

Appetizers start at as low as $2, with the average appetizer coming in at about $5. Their main courses are also reasonably priced (and the portions are generous). Their broth soups cost around $9 typically and their stir-fried noodles, called “friars” are in the $10-$11 range. You can also add extra meat, veggies, egg or noodles for a small fee.

Must-order item

First, I recommend going with at least one other person so you can try multiple dishes. Either that or be ready to eat two entrees.

That said, the space is small and it is unlikely they can accommodate groups of much larger than five.

Their “original noodle” soup is a must-try; its flavour is a wonderful mix of ramen, pho and the kinds of soups my mom and grandma make at home and it’s loaded with meat, veggies and of course your choice of noodle.

The chicken friar is also delicious; Noodle Me’s sauces are great, and the noodles are that perfect balance between soft and chewy.

Why it's great

The location of Noodle Me, tucked in the middle of a small plaza, is at best a bit hard to find and the atmosphere of the restaurant is fairly sparse; it’s a restaurant that is purely about the food. And honestly that in and of itself is refreshing. I’m the first one to admit I’m a sucker for thoughtful restaurant design and eye-catching details, but I also appreciate that the people behind Noodle Me are there to accomplish two tasks: make noodles and ensure you eat a lot of them.

Everything I have tried from their menu has been delicious, and the staff are always willing to explain the different types of noodles and dishes. And the service is fast.

Noodle Me is a great option for those nights when you leave campus and can feel your stomach clawing for food you’re so hungry because you will leave feeling full for a long while afterwards.

Its proximity to King and James also means that it’s an option for long days on campus when you need a break from looking at the Burke Science Building between your last daytime class and your night class.

For reference, Noodle Me is closer to the buses back to campus than the Canon Street Burnt Tongue location.

This school year be sure to try out this great addition to the downtown core’s easy dinner options.

Personally, I cannot wait until my next visit, so I can walk through the door, smell the delicious dishes cooking and say: “Noodle me.”

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