A café is a beautiful thing. The clinking of ceramic mugs and metal cutlery, the scream of the milk steamer, *deep inhale* the smell of roasting coffee beans, the muffled banter of regulars and spontaneous sippers alike. All that white noise amalgamates into the perfect soundtrack for studying. There is something special about the atmosphere of an independent café. Starbucks and Williams are overrun with digital orders and Wi-fi hoggers, while independent cafes are hidden gems with unique offerings like art galleries and halloumi hurricanes. I have been slowly sampling Hamilton’s cafes this year and concluded that I need not go to a Starbucks ever again! Here are my honest reviews on just a few of Hamilton’s cafes:
1. Red Church Café & Gallery, @redchurchcafe, King St. E
Art. Coffee. Prosecco. Beer. What else could you need? A friend recommended this place to me, and I am so grateful they did! Victoria Hall was built in 1888 and has since been converted into a café with an art gallery hidden in the back of the space. When you walk into the café, you are immediately welcomed by the aroma of the coffee from floor-to-ceiling shelves of local craft beer and prosecco, and colourful art murals. Their menu offers a plethora of sandwiches made with fresh bread, housemade pastries, and hot drinks with beautiful latte art. I recommend the croissant BLT. Best of all, you can meander toward the back of the café and enter the gallery space (free admission), which is run by The Assembly, a cooperative of professional artists that present their work on a rotating monthly bases.
2. Detour Café, @detourcoffee, Dundas
When I moved to Dundas, I had an absolute hoot frolicking around the town centre, discovering the various shops and cafés straight out of a storybook. I fell in love with Detour as soon as I sat down in their outdoor patio space one mild fall morning. You can sit under the shelter of an old sprawling walnut tree and order an Americano brewed with thoughtfully sourced beans or a hot chocolate made with the real deal. My favourite thing to order for brunch is scrambled eggs with fresh sourdough toast, fried halloumi, fresh avocado, and a rooibos tea latte with oat milk to drink.
3. Ark + Anchor Espresso Bar, @arkandanchor, King W. at Queen
Magical. That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Ark and Anchor. As soon as I walk in the door, I feel calm, safe, and ready for a latte! Fantastic coffee and tea, lovely scones, and my personal favourite, their halloumi hurricanes; it’s like halloumi cheese wrapped in a dinner roll blanket… come on!
The owners are partners Patrick Guilbault and Yigi Chang. Coffee and creativity collide with Guilbault’s rich barista experience and Chang’s breathtaking murals, which can be found splashed across the walls of the café. The first floor features the espresso bar, while upstairs is a tranquil seating area bathed in natural light, surrounded by tasteful nautical-inspired décor and even a bookshelf full of interesting reads to accompany you while you sip.
4. Shady Grove Lukaya Café, @lukayacafe, Upper Wellington
I first visited Lukaya Café on the day of a great thunderstorm, so needless to say, it was the *perfect* day to hunker down at a warm and cozy café nestled on the Hamilton mountain. If you have watched the show Gilmore Girls, you will understand me when I tell you that Lukaya Café was absolutely giving Luke’s Diner. They offer a unique variety of loose-leaf teas served in antique tea cups, and have a cute array of baked goods to munch on, such as homemade scones and cookies. They also host regular open mic nights where local talents can showcase their musical prowess! The regulars that show up simultaneously and catch up over a cup of coffee, the quirky seating, and the background music all made for a welcoming experience.
Whether you’re a primed coffee lover, casual tea sipper, or even a croissant connoisseur, you will not be disappointed by Hamilton’s café scene. So crawl out of Thode, Mills, or whatever other campus holes you are hiding in and start exploring today!