Hamilton’s culinary scene has undoubtedly picked up speed in recent years but there are a number of establishments that have been operating in our community for so long that they’ve become an integral piece of our city’s history and our personal traditions.
Below are the Top 5 restaurants that have been holding it down for decades and are still at the top of their game.
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This family-owned and operated restaurant, located in the heart of Stoney Creek, has been a local favourite for more than 40 years and one visit is all it will take for one to understand why they’re still on top. Walking into the restaurant is like visiting a member of the family — the staff is kind and welcoming and happy to accommodate. The food, which is of the highest quality, is what you would expect from a family-style restaurant: they serve up breakfast for most of the day (their eggs benny is legit) and lunch and supper (their shaved prime rib is popular). The Village is just one of those places where you can feel right at home hunkering down for an hour or two to read a book and periodically play catch-up with the staff, or you can help ease your hangover with some eggs and bacon and a Bloody Mary, or even take the whole family for a traditional Sunday dinner. Any which way you do it, it’s a comforting and delicious experience.
The Capri (pictured above) first opened its doors in November 1963 and quickly became popular for their pizza and the Blue Grotto located just above the restaurant that featured live entertainment and nightlife. This restaurant also has the distinction of being where my parents went on one of their first dates. Over the years, much about the eatery has stayed the same — the food, the faces, the homey atmosphere. Recent renovations have brought the decor up to the 21st Century but it still maintains that sense of familiarity and welcome. The pizza is still world-class and their pastas are rich and tasty. When I go to the Capri, though, it’s for their scallopini piccata. It’s oh so tender and fresh tasting and just melt in your mouth delectable. I’ve been eating at this restaurant for many years and I’ve yet to have a disappointing meal.
This steakhouse is a special place for many Hamiltonians. The Elizabethan-inspired space has set the scene for many celebrations, date nights and get-togethers. When you walk through the doors, you are transported to a different time as the restaurant’s old-world charm envelops you. This family-owned operation opened its doors in 1969 and has maintained a consistent reputation as being the best of the best in this city. Their steak and seafood are second to none; their desserts are divine and the extensive wine and cocktail lists are icing on the cake. The menu has gone through some changes over the years to adapt to changing tastes but the quality has never suffered. What puts Shakespeare’s at the top of the game is the personalized service provided by the Putignano family and their staff — they are as much a part of the celebrations that take place here as the celebrants.
We recently discovered the Innsville even though it’s been in business for more than six decades, and it has quickly become a date-night favourite for my husband and I. There’s something utterly romantic about its out-of-the-way location and its cosy interior. The decor has been updated throughout the years to keep things fresh but not enough to diminish its original character and charm. They’re known for their incredible prime rib dinner, but their other specialities include the Lake Erie Perch, Surf n’ Turf, and the Sirloin Steak. Kick things off with their signature Festive Salad and you won’t be disappointed. The Innsville is also known for their murder mystery nights (book well in advance because they sell out quickly) and Dinner & Show evenings. The fantastic service here is really personalized and efficient and really makes you feel pampered.
The Trocadero is a Hamilton landmark. This family-owned restaurant opened its doors on D-Day (yes, 75 years ago —on the ACTUAL D-Day). Its facade, made of lava rock, is an icon on Barton Street. As a kid, driving by the Troc always set my imagination afire because it’s unlike any other building in the city — I always thought it looked like a castle. The Troc was introduced to the city at a time when Barton Street was the place to see and be seen and despite the trials and tribulations of the neighbourhood over the years, they have remained a beacon in the storm. Today, the restaurant is only open on Fridays and Saturdays so one needs to plan ahead when visiting. The experience at the Troc is best summed up as being one your Nonna would approve of: the home-style Italian fare is deliciously rich and plentiful, the wine list is carefully selected and the desserts are nothing short of heavenly. There is no doubt that there is a lot of history housed in The Trocadero (the decor alone is a bit of a time warp), but the quality of the food and service is proof that there are more memories to be made at this Hamilton institution.
- Wild Orchid – They’ve been on James Street North since the late 90s — well before James Street became a culinary destination.
- West Town Bar and Grill
What is your favourite Hamilton restaurant with a long history?