To outsiders, Hamilton is often known as an arid steel town lacking in new bars to go to after work or exciting places to eat out with friends. In the past decade, however, the city has been revitalized with a food and culture landscape that is dynamic, vibrant and flavourful.
In an exciting turn of events, Hamilton has become an incubator for culinary talent and ambitious restauranteurs. One duo in particular who has been making waves on the culinary scene are Brandon Jackson and Matthew Pigeon, co-founders of Eat Industries.
Since its inception a little over a year ago, Eat Industries has expanded from two successful Hamilton Farmers’ Market stalls to a new restaurant on James St. N named Bar Izakaya, an eclectic spin on a traditional Japanese izakaya that boasts an array of tapas infused with Canadian influences.
At the same time, they’ve also rebranded their original Farmers’ Market taco stall into a gourmet sandwich spot called Street Eats.
“It’s… something we can play a little more with,” Jackson said, explaining the new Street Eats concept. “Right now we’re doing gourmet sandwiches… the idea is that with this new concept we have three sandwiches and one will rotate every week, so there will always be something different. It will always be fresh… and exciting.”
Jackson went on to describe one of the stall’s current sandwiches, a play on a peanut butter and jam sandwich.
“The sandwich has peanut butter marinated chicken with a Niagara grape jelly and arugula [to top it all off]. Street Eats also allows us to play with a street food from somewhere around the world that we really like… it gives us a lot of diversity, which is fun,” Jackson explained.
“We really rebranded for a breath of fresh air… we want to change things up to keep things evermore interesting and attractive for our customers,” added Pigeon.
Prior to Eat Industries, Jackson and Pigeon worked at celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s restaurant, Bymark, in Toronto. Jackson accredits the partners’ background experience for how they run their business today, using high-quality products and providing great service in order to ensure the best possible experience for their customers.
It is this vision that has allowed the duo to accomplish the impressive feat of starting three projects of varying culinary styles in merely a year’s time.
“We just like food, you know…Canada is incredibly multicultural so our influences come from everywhere,” said Jackson.
“So the Mexican thing that was the taco stand [which we’ve replaced with Street Eats] was more Baja California…[for the ramen stall], we found a really good supplier for Japanese products who’s been amazing for us, kind of like a guru. We consulted a couple chefs from Japan, did a lot of research and improved every time we made a batch of broth…Then [Bar Izakaya] was just a natural next step. It just found us and we fell in love with it.”
IZAKAYA FOR ALL
Bar Izakaya features sophisticated dishes of varying sizes that are influenced by both Japanese and Canadian cuisine. Each dish is a harmonious marriage of flavours, from their smoked Canadian bacon gyoza to a delectable maple miso salmon to an array of savoury pickled salads.
“With the menu here, lunch time is simple with individual portions of bento boxes and ramen. From six to ten it’s more dining style than izakaya style, with [an array of small and medium plates as well as tapas boards,]” explained Jackson.
“After ten o’clock we turn into more of a bar atmosphere. We’re going to start getting DJ’s on weekends, and just do a small plate menu and drinks at nighttime; it would be very traditional izakaya at that point. We want to… morph into different areas as the day goes on,”
Currently, Bar Izakaya is the only izakaya in Hamilton. The restaurant itself is warm and welcoming, with natural wood tones and modern white walls, along with a fully-stocked bar that boasts everything from sake to whiskey.
“It’s a great space…for us the ultimate reward is when people come and leave happy,” said Pigeon.
“Tuesday nights we feature a stein of Sapporo and a bowl of Ramen for $20, so you can come enjoy the space and not break the bank. But we’re also here as a cool date night spot on Fridays; you can also bring the family in at five on a Wednesday because we start serving dinner by then.”
Pigeon emphasized the approachability and flexibility is a key component of the Eat Ind. experience.
“We cater to the student crowd, the date crowd, the adult crowd, the family crowd, the single guy crowd… we try to make it for everyone. We’re looking to be the approachable, go-to spot where you want a [nice, comfortable space] and you can get good food, good drinks, good company for a diverse and high quality restaurant experience.”
When asked what makes them stand out from such a flourishing culinary scene in Hamilton, Pigeon states that the objective of Eat Industries isn’t to stand out – rather, it is to stand with all the other culinary talents in town.
“It’s funny because we’re not really big on standing out. We’re on par with every other regular Hamiltonian that’s got [their] restaurant going. They’re there seven days a week and we’re here seven days a week… I just want to be in with them. We just all want to be on the same boat of awesomeness that everyone just wants a ride on… we’re a little bit diverse in [the novelty of our] concept but other than that we’re just a couple guys that live in town, trying to get up there with everyone else and have a blast.”
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