Hamilton’s vibrant Portuguese community has been a touchstone in the city’s culinary scene for generations.
A number of popular longtime restaurants were borne out of this community. One might even suggest that Hamilton is the premier destination for Portuguese cuisine (besides Portugal itself.)
And one of the more popular dishes hungry Hamiltonians gravitate to is Portuguese chicken.
So here are the Top 5 places in Hamilton to get Portuguese chicken.
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5. Toma La
This is a wonderful little Hamilton-based chain has a location on Upper James and one on Rymal. They dub themselves the “Portuguese Pitstop,” but in all honesty, I think they’re being a little bit modest. The food here is really top-notch. Their Piri Piri sauce is exquisite. In fact, we keep a jar on hand to put on basically anything. Their chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender and lightly seasoned. Their roasted potatoes, which have a slight kick, are probably among the best on this list.
4. Wild Orchid
Wild Orchid is one of my favourite Hamilton restaurants. I’m particularly fond of the seafood here and this was my first time trying their chicken. It did not disappoint. The seasoning had a bit of heat to it, but the chicken was beautifully tender and juicy. The Piri Piri sauce, as with most Wild Orchid sauces, is rich and flavourful. It packs a powerful punch but has a little more depth than some of the other sauces on this list. Wild Orchid really is a Hamilton gem.
Charred is earning a reputation among Hamiltonians as being the go-to Portuguese BBQ joint. I really can’t argue with that because the chicken is really well done here. It has a slight char on it (I guess that’s where the name comes from) and a nice, slightly crunchy skin that was perfectly seasoned. Below the skin, the meat was succulent and delicious. I was mildly disappointed in their Piri Piri sauce as I felt it needed a little more salt, but the chicken itself was so beautifully cooked that you don’t really need it. Their potatoes are pretty fantastic as well. All in all, a very delightful experience.
Photo courtesy Charred Chicken’s Facebook page.
Here’s another favourite restaurant in our family. Conquistador has served as a backdrop to many of our special family occasions because the food is sooooo amazing and the service is great. We are very fond of the roasted potatoes here: they don’t pack much heat but they are perfectly seasoned and flavourful. The chicken and Piri Piri sauce are what keep us coming back. I love the skin on Conquistador’s chicken. I’m not sure what its makeup is, but it’s simply mouthwatering. Their sauce should be jarred and sold in bulk: whenever I have leftovers of it, I make sure to take some home because I put that s***t on everything! It’s buttery and spicy without being overwhelming. This is a fabulous restaurant that I think anyone who loves Portuguese food has to try. Please note: they do not offer chicken every day. You must call ahead.
1. O Cantinho Churrasqueira & Cafe
So this restaurant has been around for a long time but this was the first time I’d actually gotten around to trying it. We had to do take out the day we tried O Cantinho and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up from the restaurant to home. I was even more impressed by how perfectly this chicken is prepared. It has, far and away, the best flavour (sans Piri Piri!) of the chicken we tried. The chicken’s seasoning was a perfect balance of salty sweetness and spice. It was so good, in fact, that we ate most of the chicken before realizing that we didn’t have any sauce (I forgot to order it, or they forgot to include it). The thing is: this chicken does NOT need it. It is perfect on its own. The potatoes from O Cantinho are also really well done and a nice compliment to the chicken. I’m a little sad that I didn’t get to try their Piri Piri but I can’t say that I was in any way disappointed in O Cantinho.
Photo (main) courtesy of O Cantinho Facebook page
Where’s your favourite Portuguese chicken place in Hamilton?