Lou Dawg’s Hamilton

Last week my significant other and I had the pleasure of trying out Hamilton’s newest addition to the Southern BBQ scene, Lou Dawg’s! Nestled away in Hess Village, Lou Dawg’s is a Southern BBQ and Blues restaurant that originated in Toronto and quickly became famous for their slow smoked BBQ, bourbon and blues. Now, branching out into Hamilton, owners Erika Puckering and Chef Jamie Ewing have taken on Hess Village and packed delicious, smoked and savoury flavours into their dishes.

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I’m in love with the décor inside this place. The weathered wood and brick accents paired with adorable bulb string lights and vintage rugs give Lou’s a perfectly southern country vibe. The location is warm and inviting and the smells from the kitchen will certainly get your mouth watering. FullSizeRender (33)

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We started our BBQ adventure with Lou Dawg’s signature Smoked Lemon Southern Tea. The key to this addictive and refreshing drink is the in house smoked lemons, but lets not forget the two shots of Jack Daniel’s honey whiskey! We couldn’t get over how delicious this drink was and kept reminding ourselves to come back when the patio is open to enjoy this bad boy in the sunshine. This will be a must have this summer!

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For our main BBQ dishes we ordered the 2 meats (beef brisket & pulled pork) and 2 sides (meaty BBQ beans & fries) option for $14.95 – value city! We also couldn’t pass on the Angry Loutine or the Jalapeño Cornbread Muffin since I’ve heard so many good things about it!

I’m going to start off with discussing this mountain of fried potato, meaty goodness because this was the best thing that entered my mouth that night. Yeah, yeah – [enter sexual innuendo here] Get your mind out of the gutter! Seriously though, this ain’t your typical loaded poutine, oh no, my friend. This right here will be the reason I return to Lou’s. The Angry Loutine is the Mighty Loutine (cheese curds and chicken gravy) topped with jalapeños, pulled pork, BBQ mayo and crispy onions. Lou’s poutine game is strong. Crispy, creamy, spicy and salty in one bite. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back this weekend to get this again. If you love a good poutine, you’ll seriously appreciate this. FYI – this was a SMALL.

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Everything together on the table provided to be quite the spread and was a tad intimidating at first! We questioned whether we would live to see another day after eating all this food and how long it would take to crawl to our cars after such an epic meal. Even a bread roll is included to soak up all the delicious house made sauce which is generously provided to you at the table.

So, accepting our fate, we dug in. I was pleasantly surprised at how tender and juicy the meat was, especially the brisket. Although I do believe the portion size was a bit on the small side,  it was a great cut of meat and was cooked perfectly. The pulled pork was outstanding on its own or stuffed in the bread roll. Squirt on some extra sauce and you’re in BBQ heaven. I’m normally not a huge fan of beans (texture-a-phobe) but I really enjoyed the meaty beans. The beans were cooked well and smothered in delicious sauce. They were also super tasty re-heated the next day.

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FullSizeRender (30)FullSizeRender (29)When I asked my foodie friends what they liked at Lou’s, the Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread was a hot topic. I was not let down in the least. It came out moist (important) and warm with awesomely crispy edges and definitely spicy, as expected. At the center of the corn muffin was a delicious chunk of cheddar cheese. I tried the cheese on its own and found it had a sweet flavour while not completely melted, which I thought was great. For an extra $2.95 I’d say the corn muffin is well worth the try.

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Overall I’d say Lou Dawg’s is a strong contender in Hamilton’s southern smoked BBQ scene. Their sauces and quality of meat are on point, they have a great list of signature cocktails and will be hosting a series of live music and community nights. I also really appreciated the friendly atmosphere and relaxed vibe at Lou’s. The staff are amazing and definitely take good care of you.

Not to mention they are open for Southern brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11-4PM with $5 Mimosas and Caesars! Brunch includes items like breakfast poutines, burritos and benny’s.

Combine great BBQ, live music and exceptional service and I think you’ve got yourself a good time! With their outdoor patio NOW OPEN, summer in Hamilton just got a little more exciting.
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Check out their Twitter: @LouDawgsHamOnt to stay updated on future events and menu updates.

If you’re wandering around Hess village in a haze, Lou’s won’t be hard to find with their kick ass BBQ sign out front.

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Lou Dawg’s is located at 116 George Street in Hamilton.

Amen to summer and BBQ/patio season!

-Rach

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Staxx Burger Chicken and Waffle House

Sometimes you just get an insatiable craving for fried chicken. I’d heard about Staxx multiple times from many Hamiltonians, some who hadn’t been in ages but remember their chicken and waffles fondly, some who visit regularly and others who hadn’t been at all. Myself and a few family friends were well overdue for a hangout and we always plan to try a great spot in Hamilton for some dinner and chatter. This time we chose Staxx. We planned this dinner about a month in advance so the anticipation was killing me by the time I got there.

A large group of us (about 12) went on a Friday night and were smart enough to make reservations well ahead of time. Being as small as the restaurant is, if you’re looking to chow down on some fried chicken, I’d recommend trying to make a reservation beforehand. Now, this is nothing new as I believe their old location only sat about 25-30 people, their new location is about the same.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long for our tables (about half an hour past our reservation time) and were greeted by very friendly bar and wait staff. This gave us all a chance to look over the menu, get recommendations and ask for clarification on things we had questions about.

Once we sat down, the restaurant quickly filled up and before we knew it all tables were full and people were waiting at the door to be seated. Needless to say it was a bit hectic and loud but that diminished over time. A few of us ordered starters for the table to share which included deep fried pickles, onion rings and Wagyu beef sliders. I only managed to snap pictures of the beef sliders as the other apps were snatched up real quick!

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These bad boys were absolutely delicious. The beef was juicy, perfecly seasoned and was dressed with minimal toppings which is so important with sliders. Just some gooey cheese, aioli and lettuce and tomato on the side. The bun was amazing too, soft on the insdie with crispy, buttery edges. This app came with three sliders for around $11. The sliders, along with the deep fried pickles haven’t been added to their new online menu yet.

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I ordered the Fried Chicken Platter (2 pcs) and a side Caesar salad. I really enjoyed these two hunks of meat. The chicken was piping hot, incredibly juicy and the seasoning was really lovely. I didn’t find it overly salty either, which was a big concern of mine going into this. The chicken had great flavour and such a satisfying crunch. One thing I realized at the end of the night was that I never received coleslaw that was supposed to be included in my meal. So, unfortunately I can’t speak to how that was. The Caesar salad was good. Nothing spectacular, just your average Caesar salad. I at least appreciated that it came with bacon and I didn’t have to pay extra for it!

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My uncle did his research before coming to the restaurant and read that the Jerk chicken was a popular item on the menu. It really is a beautiful looking dish. The mango salsa topping was fresh and sweet and paired perfectly with the spicy Jerk seasoning. My uncle really enjoyed the Jerk seasoning and said the chicken was tender and juicy.

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My boyfriend and I shared a large order of fries and let me tell you they were the bomb. SO good. I love skin on french fries and these were so addicting. But let me tell you, the real MVP here was the gravy. I would have drank that stuff out of the cup if I wasn’t going to be judged for it 😉 My boyfriend also ordered the fried chicken fingers tossed in buffalo sauce. I have to be honest in saying that we nearly choked when they were brought to the table. The sauce was heavy with vinegar and was very spicy, to the point where he couldn’t enjoy eating them. Someone who has a taste for very spicy things maybe wouldn’t have found it overbearing but even for myself it was a bit much.

Overall it was a great dinner. I really enjoyed the food and bustling atmosphere but there were times that the service was very lacking. It did take quite some time for our appetizers to come out and some of us had to go to the bar to get a refill on our alcoholic beverages. We sat at our tables with empty plates for quite some time while servers walked by, looking directly at us and our table and not taking anything away. I need to note that the restaurant was at capacity during this time and there were only three employees working the dining room, one of which didn’t even work there and was helping out for the night. So, with that in mind, I can understand why the service would be less than perfect. The staff was very friendly and had a very positive attitude despite the fact that they were short handed.

The next time I have a craving for fried chicken I will definitely keep Staxx in mind.

Staxx Chicken and Waffle house is located at 275 King Street East, Hamilton.

Cluck, cluk!

-Rach

Earth to Table: Bread Bar

I’ve been waiting for quite a while (almost a year) to try this place out. I don’t know why it took me so long but that’s besides the point. I finally made it!. Since I’ve moved to Hamilton, whenever I talk to people about restaurants to try in the area, the Bread Bar is always one of their top suggestions. My dad wanted to come to Hamilton for dinner last week and it didn’t take much convincing on my part to get him here. He checked out the menu beforehand and was just as excited as I was.

As most of you know, traffic coming into the city during rush hour is rage inducing, so it comes as no surprise that my dad didn’t make it for 5:30. While I was waiting for him to arrive, I decided to sit at the bar with a nice glass of red wine. The staff was very attentive, keeping me company while I waited and ensuring I had everything I needed.

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At the bar they have bowls perfectly arranged with a selection of their house pickles, carrots and other veggies. I actually didn’t get to try any but they looked delicious. I think this is a really good idea in lieu of bread. It’s always nice to have something to snack on while you’re waiting for your food (or your dad) to arrive, and I think these veggies are a great alternative.

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To the right of the bar is a beautiful and tempting display of their baked goods. Their pies and cookies look phenomenal and there’s pizza available by the slice. Directly across from this display is a cold fridge where you can buy a pie or a selection of their desserts to take away. While I was sitting at the bar, sipping my wine, I watched one of the staff cutting the apple pie and I just thought to myself, you won’t find anything like that in a grocery store.

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A short while later my dad arrived (fist pump!) and we managed to get a table right away. I had been scoping out the room for guests that were finishing their meals as I was waiting and was able to score a table for two by the window. I mentioned that I really wanted to try the kale Caesar salad and luckily my dad was all for it. The kale leaves were very tender and added a wonderfully earthy flavour to the traditional Caesar taste. I’m most familiar with the curly-leaf kale compared to the flat, more tender leaved kale used in this salad. I’m not sure which variety of Kale they used here but I intend to ask next time I visit because it was delicious. I was really impressed with how well balanced this salad was, especially because the kale leaves were so soft, a heavy dressing would just drown the salad. It’s topped with a fair amount of parmesan, bacon and strips of white anchovy. I normally wouldn’t eat anchovies (on anything) but I promised myself I’d try new things. I’m glad I did because they were so tasty! They weren’t as salty as I remember anchovies to be and actually complimented the salad nicely.

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Mmmmm pizza. I love a good pizza. We got our own individual portions which were out of this world. The stone baked dough was crispy, fluffy and had almost a creaminess to it. My dad ordered the Bee Sting pizza which has tomato sauce, mozzarella, local honey, chillies, ricotta cheese and strips of spicy salami. The ricotta on this pizza is perfect because it provides a wonderful balance against the sweetness of the honey and heat of the chillies. Sweet and spicy go together like peanut butter and jelly. I think its a brilliant idea to pair them on a pizza. Needless to say, it works and it’s delicious.

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I ordered the Vampire Slayer. Not only is the name awesome but this pizza has brie on it. I’m a sucker for cheese to begin with but brie? C’mon, I can’t resist. It comes topped with a white béchamel sauce, roasted garlic cloves and arugula. There’s something about leafy arugula on a pizza that makes you think you’re eating healthy. The garlic wasn’t as overpowering as you might think. Roasting the garlic tones down its potency and brings out its natural sweetness. It was a delicious addition to the pizza combined with the creaminess of the sauce and melted brie.

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Thankfully, by opting to take some pizza home, we had room in our bellies to try some dessert. My dad initially wanted to try one of their peanut butter cookies but once we heard about the cheesecake they had that night, we couldn’t resist. It was topped with caramelised pears and drizzled with a sweet brandy sauce. The cheesecake was so creamy and melted in your mouth like cheesecake should. The pears were soft but still firm enough and provided a wonderful texture and sweetness alongside the brandy sauce. I’m going to go ahead and say this is the best cheesecake I’ve ever had. No lie, I will tell my grandchildren about it.

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Earth to Table: Bread Bar is Located at 258 Locke Street South in Hamilton. If you’re from around here, you probably know there’s little to no parking on Locke Street, especially around dinner time. It’s best to find a free spot on a side street and walk over.

Website: http://hamilton.breadbar.ca/

Happy eating!

-Rach

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WASS Ethiopian Restaurant

Okay everyone, put down your forks. This is food you eat with your hands!

My boss offered to treat me to lunch a few weeks ago and suggested Ethiopian food. He said he knew of a great place downtown that had a pretty kick ass lunch special. I’d never tried Ethiopian food before, but I’m always up for trying something new – and lets be honest, free lunch? YEAH!

Initially, he ordered the meat combo lunch special but in a miscommunication, we ended up with vegetarian option instead. It really wasn’t a big deal to us and plus, we were too hungry to turn back and order again anyway. I’m actually really glad we ended up with the vegetarian combo. I love variety when eating a meal. I prefer to have at least three different things on my plate that I can nibble from, varying in texture, spice and flavour. The vegetarian option allows you to taste the many delicious flavours Ethiopian food has to offer.

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The lunch combos come served on whats called Injera, a raw,  flat sourdough bread made from whole grain products. It’s light and airy and soaks up the sauces perfectly. The vegetarian comes packed with collard greens sauteed with red onions, cabbage with carrots and potatoes, lentils with garlic, ginger and onion sauce, yellow split peas, a lentil stew and beets to finish it off. It’s a beautiful medley of flavours all wrapped up together. The beets and garlic offer a tangy bite and the rich nutty flavour of the lentils is wonderfully paired. The varying textures in this dish provide you with an exciting dining experience. The chilled beets are refreshing while the collard greens and cabbage provide a satisfying, juicy crunch. The warmth and creaminess of the lentils bring a welcome substance to the meal.  Overall, this combo will make any vegetarian smile!

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I’ve had the vegetarian option many times before, so I decided to change it up and try the meat combo for lunch today. As expected I was very satisfied with my choice. The meat combo comes with two meat selections, typically a chicken thigh and cuts of lamb and two vegetable sides. Although, I believe this can change based on what they have available that day. The meat comes served in a beautiful red pepper stew that is mildly spicy and full of flavour. The chicken thigh was a fair size and the meat itself was tender and falling off the bone. My only word of warning when ordering the meat combo is the amount of bones you will find floating freely in the sauce from the lamb. I do appreciate the fact that the meat is literally still on the bones and the flavour that adds, but it can prove difficult that with every other bite, you chomp down on a hard piece and have to spit it out. I’d recommend removing as many bones as possible before you eat.

Out of the two I’d have to recommend the vegetarian combo. It’s perfect for lunch as it’s not too filling and has a nice variety. However, if you’re a real meat lover don’t hesitate on getting the meat combo – it’s just as satisfying. For under $10 – these lunch combos will have you coming back.

On my next visit, I plan on eating in for dinner to experience their popular Ethiopian coffee ceremony and other dinner selections.

WASS Ethiopian Restaurant is located at 207 James Street South in Hamilton.

Website: http://www.wassethiopianrestaurant.com/

Happy eating!

-Rach

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Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar

Spontaneity is a wonderful thing.

A last minute decision to spend our summer night on a patio for dinner with my family turned out to be a wonderful experience. I haven’t made it down to Hamilton’s waterfront in a long time and was excited to try out a place my father suggested for dinner (his treat)! We wanted to enjoy the beautiful warm summer air, and could not have chosen a better place to do just that.

Sarcoa is located right on the waterfront with a beautifully designed patio and bar large enough to accommodate the many number of guests. The patio directly faces the water which offers the perfect backdrop for a sunset dinner.

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We started off at the bar and had a few drinks before heading over to our table. When I sat down, I immediately felt like I was on vacation, the atmosphere outside pulls off a classy, relaxing, resort-like feel which instantly calms you (the alcohol probably helped too).  The bar is long and spacious, the chairs are very comfortable and it provides a wonderful view of the water and passing boats. There were large umbrellas everywhere which I was happy to see, as it offered ample shade.

As we took our seats we were greeted by the chef who was also our waiter for the night – Ben. What a delight it was to share our evening with him. He knows the menu inside and out and his passion for great food is infectious.

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When we got our starters I knew I would have a lot to write about. The smoked brisket poutine is definitely something you need to experience. Although, I would recommend sharing it with a partner – the brisket was perfectly tender and the juice that came from it created a light savoury gravy that you most certainly didn’t feel guilty eating. The fries were crispy and thick with just a touch of salt – not soggy or greasy. Another starter we tried was the arugula salad. The  arugula was fresh, crisp, and topped with walnuts, feta, red onion and drizzled with a light dressing. The bitter and nutty flavours in the salad made for a delicious start to the meal. The caesar  salad had a creamy but light dressing with large strips of smoked bacon. I believe the croutons were toasted sour-dough, but I could be mistaken. Regardless they were a nice compliment to the salad that had the perfect amount of lemon tart and bite from the parmesan cheese.

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Our main dishes didn’t disappoint either. We were all equally pleased with the quality, quantity and level of freshness from our meals.

Chicken and waffles: I was especially looking forward to trying a bite of the chicken and waffles. It sounded amazing on the menu and when it arrived at our table, it looked even better. Although this dish is listed as an appetizer on the menu, the portion size could easily make it qualify as a main. The herb waffle was very interesting and played well with the white sausage gravy which was creamy yet not too heavy. It coated the chicken well and I was told there seemed to be hints of nutmeg in the dish.

Flank Steak: This dish was amazing – full of flavour. The bed of kimchi provided a nice, crisp and flavourful base for the steak to rest on.  Although the kimchi sauce was a bit too spicy for the person who had it, the heat didn’t stay on the tongue for long. Again, the sauce was light and didn’t overwhelm the dish. The steak was tender, juicy and cooked to medium rare. The dish also came with mushrooms and a smoked pepper puree.

Roasted Chicken: I chose this dish after long contemplating the daily pasta. I was very pleased with my choice (although the pasta was just as delicious – more on that in a second). The chicken was cooked to perfection. The skinless breast was lightly browned to a satisfying crisp and was so juicy and tender. My favourite part about this dish was the gnocchi. In the beginning we couldn’t figure out how they managed to bring so much flavour to what can normally be a bland dish. The large cubes were hand made early that morning, cooked and seared in a pan briefly in butter which provided a nice smoky flavour. I also enjoyed that the chicken came with edamame as it added nice colour to the dish and a contrasting texture.

Daily Pasta: The pasta of the day came with chorizo, red onion, cherry tomatoes, spinach and a creamy white wine sauce topped with parmesan on a bed of Tagliatelle pasta. The reason I was so torn between this dish and the chicken was the chorizo. I love chorizo. I knew I would be able to sneak a couple bites of the pasta so decided I’d be safe to try the chicken. The pasta itself was cooked well, not too soft or undercooked. The sauce was full of flavours which balanced well with the thick chunks of chorizo. There was a healthy amount of spinach and tomatoes making this a very colourful and filling dish.

Bed of Greens with Pan Seared Arctic Char: For a lighter meal, if you’re full from your chicken and waffles appetizer, the salads are a great option. A wonderful feature on the menu allows you to add their grilled flank steak, berbere rubbed chicken, or pan seared arctic char to the salad. The greens came with a light tangy dressing, shaved carrots, pickled mushrooms and asparagus. The Arctic char was obviously fresh and flaky with a mild flavour (not too fishy) and minimal seasoning. A very refreshing summer option!

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You’d think we were full by now (we were) and rolling around on the floor, but we couldn’t pass up a glance at the desert menu. Of course an innocent glance resulted in us all ordering desert. I had the cocoa nib crusted milk chocolate cheesecake that came with a home made pistachio ice cream. The cheesecake was out of this world. The coating was crunchy and chewy and the cheesecake was moist and rich. The ice cream was full of pistachio chunks which were so tasty. It also came with dark chocolate ganache, which was out of this world. It was so rich and went wonderfully with the chocolate cheesecake.

We also ordered the green tea creme brulee with caramel foam (yes, caramel foam) and banana ice cream. This desert is new to their menu and the flavour combinations are so creative and well thought out. I got a chance to try the caramel foam, but was too slow for the creme brulee. Not to worry, I hear it was delicious! The caramel foam was light and airy and had just enough caramel flavour to compliment the green tea brulee.

As Sarcoa states itself, this restaurant is a beautiful place with beautiful food. The atmosphere is inviting and trendy and the food matches this style with beautiful presentation and creative pairings. All dishes are made from scratch in house.

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Oh, and don’t forget the view of course!

Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar is located at 57 Discovery Drive in Hamilton, ON.

Happy eating!

-Rach

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