Friday, 26 April 2013

Eataliano Panini & Pasta Ristorante

255 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love Italian sandwiches...I remember there was a time when you could only get them in Toronto but not anymore...I'm super excited! I know I have said many times that Italian cuisine is not my favourite but I'm a sucker for veal sandwiches, good meatballs and lasagna. Eataliano is not a place to get fancy Italian food...if you want fancy Italian go to Eatalia in Burlington but rather this is just good, simple Italian food at its finest! And that's just what I like.

We decided to visit for dinner. We arrived to an empty restaurant and were warmly greeted by the assistant manager who was overseeing the entire restaurant. We ordered our sandwiches...a veal sandwich with provolone and hot peppers and a meatball...which we were told that they had run out of we got the chicken sandwich with mushrooms and provolone (he was nice enough to charge me the meatball sandwich price since they were out).

Both sandwiches were huge. The chicken had a crunchy breading exterior. While the chicken itself was moist and delicious. The provolone added the right amount of strong flavour and the mushrooms were the perfect partner for the cheese. Overall, a delicious sandwich.

I shared half of the veal sandwich. It too was really delicious as well. The veal was perfectly cooked and the breading kept its crunchiness as well. I had to remove some of the hot peppers as it was a little too much warmth for me...but the provolone, tomato sauce and a few hot peppers made this a kick ass sandwich.

I hope that Eataliano has much success...this is a great place to eat simple Italian favourites. I need to return and try their pastas as well.  Definitely give this place a try. 

In his opinion:
Sometimes things are not exactly as they appear! At first glance, Eataliano looks very much like some cheesy Italian fast food franchise (maybe a step up from a mall food court type of restaurants) but I assure you that those are only appearances! Behind the odd larger than life pictures of the old Italian Man on the wall and beyond the "East Side Marios-ish" decor lays what truly separates this place from others. THE FOOD...

As the latest off-spring of the people that brought us the "The Grill Burger Kitchen', Eataliano serves good Italian paninis and pasta, served fast. There are absolutely no previously frozen items in this restaurant, everything is fresh, from the cuts of meat, to the toppings for the sandwiches. All is fresh and carefully chosen. This is already a huge step up from most sandwich places that I have encountered and deserves a good mention.

I had the pleasure this day of trying out 2 sandwiches, the "Veal Sandwich" and the "Chicken Sandwich". First thing worthy of mentioning is the size of the sandwiches which are very large. I mean, its highly impossible to take a bite holding on with both hands large. The meat in the sandwiches is also generous.

The veal sandwich ended up being my favourite. I topped it with hot peppers and provolone cheese and those toppings worked quite well with the sauce. The veal cutlet had a surprisingly crunchier than usual coating which I enjoyed very much.

The chicken sandwich was equally large, shared the same sauce as the veal and it was very tasty. The chicken portion was again very generous, a bonus for the meatatarians in search of their fix. In my opinion, it didn't display the flavour impact of the veal but still a good sandwich nevertheless.

The Good: Fresh, tasty Italian food done well and served in a fast food manner. Huge sandwiches and very friendly staff (Assistant Manager).
The Bad: Limited menu to choose from and they had run out of meatballs early in the afternoon.
The Verdict: The restaurant and the food pleasantly surprised me as I was expecting a "California Sandwiches" clone. I did not have a chance to try their pastas or meatballs but plan to go back and try them. Overall, seems like a good option for a quick fix of Eataliano food, especially when time is limited.

I give it 3 out of 5 Olives as rating

Eataliano Panini & Pasta Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Monday, 22 April 2013

Bread Heads

16 Duke Street East
Kitchener, ON

In her opinion:
This place has been on my radar for some time. I have seen it on the Urbanspoon's "Talk of the Town" list a few times and have even attempted to visit on a Saturday...before it was open on Saturdays. I finally organized a small foodie crawl for the Duke Street area in order to try a couple of places. 

This is a very small family run restaurant. They don't even have a phone number. There are probably 5 seats in the whole place. But none of this is important. The most important thing is the food...specifically the pizza. 

We ordered two of their pizzas as it was almost closing time and they had run out of bread for melts and sandwiches. I am kind of glad that they had run out since it allowed us to try two of their amazing pizzas.

We ordered two of their pizzas as I said...Breadheadigan and the Quattro Formaggi.  The Breadheadigan is described on the chalkboard menu as "pesto, fresh cherry tomatoes, Monforte Fresco cheese, balsamic reduction and fresh Parmesan". The Quattro Formaggi is described as "olive oil, mozzarella, asiago, ricotta, fresh Parmesan and white truffle oil."

These lovelies don't take long to make at all. But the flavours are outstanding. The Breadheadigan is absolutely delicious. The pesto and cherry tomatoes work extremely well together. The balsamic reduction is the piece de resistence tying everything together perfectly. Just an exceptional pizza.

The Quattro Formaggi was unbelievably good. My definite favourite of the two. These four cheeses are a perfect union of flavours resulting in a refined and delectable pizza. Just amazing!

I definitely want to return. Bread Heads is a little treasure with a beautiful Italian wood fire oven, an ingenious chef and a lovely family creating delicious pizza in the Neapolitan tradition. I do believe that they have indeed succeeded in giving pizza some dignity back!!!

In his opinion:
Stepping into this little gem you would think you are somewhere in Provence, France or in Cinque Terre in Italy, that's the feeling it portraits. Small, cozy and with a great lively feel. It gives you such a welcoming feeling despite the limited seating available for the customers.

This is not much of an issue as a good portion of the customers will order to go but for those that do stay, the opportunity to sit side by side, chat a little and enjoy their great food together is a definite plus. This place is a cross between a bakery/patisserie, a pizza place and cafe, all rolled up into one and delivering on all of them.

The menu boasts 6 choices of gourmet pizzas, 3 different melts, 4 types of sandwiches and there is a tray of fresh baked goods at hand's reach to entice the sweet tooth in all of us. The coffee station sits near the seating area, inviting you to make it as you like it. The pizzas are prepared and made, right in front of you in a brick oven and in record time as well, as fresh as it gets.

Since this was late in the day, we ordered pizzas only as they had run out of buns for the sandwiches. Sometimes those strange circumstances lead you to try more of one thing and in this case it was entirely true and a definite plus. We ordered the Quattro Fromaggi pizza and the Breadheadigan pizza. Let's start with the Breadheading pizza which had fresh parmesan covering a bed of fresh cherry tomatoes, balsamic reduction and Monforte Fresco cheese. This pizza was great in flavour and texture. The thin slightly crunchy crust is perfect for the Italian minimalist topping style of the pizza.

Quattro Fromaggi Pizza

The Quattro Fromaggi pizza was out of this world...easily in top 5 pizza's I have ever had. The combination of the 4 cheeses is perfect and they all give you something different, from texture to flavour and all the way to finish. It features Asiago, Fresh Parmesan, Mozzarella and Ricotta with topping like olive oil and white truffle oil...seriously? Yes, very serious and extremely tasty.

The Good: Great artisanal Pizzas and sandwiches, brick oven makes the difference and great service form the family ran restaurant.
The Bad: Limited seating and running out of bread early means pizza is only selection available. Also only 1 of the pizzas has meat (meatatarian drawback).
The Verdict: A true gem that seems to go unnoticed by many. The pizza is truly amazing and doubles as a coffee shop as well. I will certainly be back soon to try the sandwiches and melts and if they are anything like the pizzas, this can become a regular spot for me.

I give 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating  

Bread Heads on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex

14 Duke Street West
Kitchener, ON


In her opinion:
I love Mexican food and I am fortunate enough to live in Cambridge were we have two authentic Mexican restaurants. I will begin by saying that I enjoyed Holy Guacamole but they are not serving authentic Mexican food!

It is a busy, happening place. There's no doubt about that! I think this could be because they are serving a much needed cuisine in Kitchener-Waterloo...I believe I read recently that they are one of the last Mexican restaurants still standing. They serve fresh tasty food in the Mexican style...there I said it!!!

During our visit we ordered a "Spicy Chorizo Sausage Quesadilla" and three "Lime Marinated Chicken Tacos". We also ordered a mango  Jarrito and a Diet Coke. 

Lime Marinated Chicken Tacos
I got the tacos with cilantro lime rice, beans, refried beans, lettuce, mild salsa, guacamole, cheese, cilantro, cilantro-lime sauce and sour cream.  This was a great combo. Really really refreshing, tasty and filling.

I also tried Edgar's quesadilla...although I wouldn't call the chorizo authentic it was still very flavourful. 

Overall, I would say that Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex serves very fresh, delicious and good food...not authentic Mexican but good never the less.

In his opinion:
I'm constantly reminded that the need and demand for Mexican or "Mexicanish" food in  Kitchener/Waterloo is high but somehow all the authentic Mexican restaurants that have existed in the last few years have closed. Sure, some were very small and lacked exposure and business savvy, but some larger ones just disappeared into oblivion. Meanwhile, other not so "Mexican" restaurants remain for me it begs the question. Does KW actually desire real Mexican fair or are they happy with Mexicanesque clones?

Enter Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex!  This is a very busy spot located in the downtown core area of Kitchener. The main attraction for this restaurant is surely the focus on fresh ingredients (hence the "fresh" in the name). Everything is prepared fresh, using fresh ingredients, fresh meat and all the way to the in house chopped lettuce. 

This place has somewhat limited seating and is decorated with the expected symbols of Mexico (cactus, somberos and suns), even if its only in the pinata form. The staff are very nice, efficient and have the preparation of items down to a science. The flow seemed well thought of to keep up with the long waiting lines but I admit I wasn't there in any of the "rush hour" time frames.

The menus are written in chalk on boards behind the servers and display the expected but limited range of Mexican dishes. There is a little bit for everyone including the vegetarian crowds. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas and nachos with dip are the main choices and come with a very long list of toppings to add to them and make them your own.

During this dining experience I was able to try the "Lime Marinated Chicken Tacos" and the "Spicy Chorizo Sausage Quesadilla". The tacos were big, tasty and full of flavour, especially when the fresh guacamole is added. The choice of toppings and sauces will determine how Mexican or not they turn out to be. I enjoyed them myself and found them to be a good value for the money, perfect for KW lunch crowd.

The Spicy Chorizo sausage Quesadilla had the flavour impact of the spicy chorizo at every bite and worked quite well with the supplied sides of guacamole and sour cream. The portion was again generous and the flavours were good with deserved highlights given to tasty cilantro and the hot salsa. I also had a Mango Jarrito drink, a staple Mexican fizzy drink found in almost every Mexican restaurant these days.

The Good: Fresh ingredients, tasty food and great location are surely the attractions to this restaurant. The word Mexican in its name will probably help.
The Bad: It lacks "authentic" feel and tastes. Not necessarily a bad thing but that will depend on customer expectations.
The Verdict: Overall, the restaurant gives you a good food experience and the fresh ingredients and need for Mexican food will take it a long way. The Californian and Texan influences are just as predominant as the Mexican ones, giving it a good mix of influences and a very good twist or mix of perceived Mexican food. Calling this Mexican restaurant authentic is a far stretch but it sure delivers well on what is expected of it...good fresh Mex food!

I give it 3 out of 5 Olives as rating

Holy Guacamole Fresh Mex on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 April 2013


527 Brant Street
Burlington, Ontario


Logo property of Eatalia
In her opinion:
Let me begin by saying that Italian food has never been my favourite type of food. There was a time when I was younger (I am actually old enough that I can start a sentence that way) and wasn't a foodie, that I considered places like East Side Mario's good Italian food. Boy, have I grown and learned. My first foray into real Italian food was probably during our vacation to Italy. Before our trip, I quickly learned in my pre-trip research that East Side Mario's isn't even close! We were not going to find "Linguine Chicken Tetrazzini" on any menu in Italy! 

Since then, I have had the pleasure of experiencing some very good authentic Italian...there's Capri's in Cambridge and Scarpetta in Toronto. But honestly, I can say that I have never been wowed by an Italian eatery...that is until I tried Eatalia!

Edgar made a connection with Linda from Tourism Burlington on Twitter and she in turn connected us with the manager of Eatalia, Ozgun Intepe who invited us to come down and try Eatalia. I am so glad that all these connections happened because it resulted in a wonderful meal.

We arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by Oz himself at the door and quickly shown to our table. Our server Lisa was energetic, bright and very helpful. She explained a few thing to us and then got us some water while we decided what we wanted to drink and eat.

I order a glass of the "Chardonnay Verduzzo San Tizano". Our server quickly explained that this was a light wine. I told her that that would be perfect. I wanted a refreshing glass of wine to accompany my meal.

The wine was as she promised. It was a very young, light flavoured wine. I rather enjoyed its uncomplicated flavours. Our server Lisa brought us a beautiful bread basket to start munching while we picked what we wanted to eat.

We ordered two appetizers to share. The "Polenta Fries with Truffled Brown Butter Escargot" and "Calamari", we opted for the lightly dusted and fried version served with "Chili Roasted Garlic Aioli".

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wwwwooooowwww...the polenta fries with the truffled brown butter escargot was to die for! The polenta itself was creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside...just amazing and the escargot...what can I say...the sauce was flavourful and delicious. Absolutely out this world good.

The calamari without a doubt was the best I have ever eaten! It was lightly dusted so no heavy exterior just a light, not greasy texture and the calamari itself was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Incredibly delicious. The accompanying aioli was the perfect match to the calamari.

For my main course, I ordered one of their speciality pastas - simply labeled as "Pappardelle" on the menu. It was served with a "truffled cream sauce, poached chicken, baby spinach and double smoked bacon".

This was hands down the best pasta I have ever eaten to date. Sorry if this upsets anyone but I can not lie. OMG! This was decadent and delectable all rolled into one and put into a bowl. The truffled cream sauce was rich and flavourful with the truffle shining through in the sauce. The chicken, spinach and double smoked bacon were the perfect accompaniments to the perfectly cooked pappardelle noodles. I was truly blown away by how good this pasta was!

As for dessert, we opted for one dessert, the "tiramisu" and we could share it! But Chef Jake insisted on sending us out the "torta al cioccolato" as well. All I knew was that the tiramisu is made in house by "a tiny lady in the kitchen" - that's what our server said anyway! And that the torta took fifteen minutes to bake since it was scratch made in the kitchen.

Again, I was truly impressed. The tiramisu was delicious...light and airy. It wasn't served in the traditional square slice but rather it was scooped with an ice cream scooper and topped with berries. You get four little delectable tiramisu scoops each topped with a blueberry. As our server's so light...the calories don't count. I totally agree!

The torta al cioccolato was very reminiscent of a molten lava cake only done the Italian or rather Eatalian way...topped with pistacho gelato and served with what looked and tasted like a caramel sauce.  Decadent and delicious.  I've been saying that a lot during this post, but I can't help it...the whole meal was outstanding.

At the end of the night, Chef Jake came out for a second visit and actually took the time to sit with us and talk food. You can definitely see the passion that this chef has...he has done an amazing job of modernizing Italian cuisine and bringing it into a whole new light. 

I truly enjoyed my dinner at Eatalia. It was outstanding and I would not hesitate on returning or suggesting it to anyone who truly enjoys Italian food.

In his opinion:
Italian food can take on many shapes and forms. Especially on this side of the Atlantic! I find that in this country, most Italian restaurants are either trying too hard to keep it traditional or on the flip side, are going in the opposite direction and changing it up too much. In my travels through Italy, I found that traditional still reigns supreme but an infusion of new items and flavours have creeped in, without the blunt attempt of modernizing or changing Italian food all together.

This is what I expect to see more and more in Canadian-Italian restaurants and luckily on this fine evening, I found it at Eatalia. Eatalia is an Italian eatery situated in Burlington in a former bank location on Brant Street. The setting is very nice, highlighted by an all glass main room with very high ceilings that somehow still give a warm feeling to the room. The restaurant combines style and design in both the space and their food.

After being greeted and shown to our seats by Oz, the very pleasant and attentive restaurant manager, we were again greeted by an equally attentive waitress. The menu spans all the expected ranges of Italian dishes such as pizzas, calamari, risotto and traditional pastas; however, in between the familiar words on the menu you will find some hints that this is not exactly an extremely traditional Italian menu. This is in part because of Chef Jake Rujevic's vision that pushes the food at this restaurant to be all it can be, beyond your usual "Nonna's recipes" per se.

I started by ordering a glass of Chianti Ca'del Doge, a medium bodied, ruby red colour with fruity aromas and well balanced tannins. The bread basket came to the table and featured Focaccia bread which was spongy, full of flavour from the tomato or garlic toppings, house made flat bread with herbs and an excellent eggplant spread. A good sign of what was to come...

For appetizers, we shared 2 dishes that promised a lot of excitement. The first was "Polenta Fries with Truffle Brown Butter Escargot". Now, for a foodie like myself having words like truffle, butter, escargot and polenta in the same sentence is like achieving nirvana. The polenta was served in 2 long pieces, not deep fried like they do it in my hometown but baked and served with a decadent truffle cream sauce. I cherished every single bite of that polenta and its sauce to the point of "scarpetta" (scooping the leftover sauce with some bread). Excellent pairing for the polenta by the way...the escargot nestled between the polenta fries was probably the best escargot I have ever had, with due respect to all the great French Chef's that I have had the pleasure of sampling from throughout the years and around the world.
The second appetizer was a bit more predictable in the form of calamari. The rings were lightly dusted, still together and tasted as fresh as if it had been picked out of the ocean that morning. Perfectly cooked and served with a delicious "Chili Garlic Aioli" dip.

For my entree, I selected "Risotto #2". A tomato sauce based risotto surrounding a medley of wonderful sea creatures such as cultivated mussels, jumbo shrimps, bay scallops, calamari ringlets and clams. The seafood tasted very good, again super fresh and it was an excellent compliment to the risotto. I did not get any scallops in my dish but I'm sure it was just a selection issue. I also did find the risotto itself a little more "saucy" than I'm used to, but without losing any flavour because of this. 

I had a chance to sample the papardelle pasta and I must admit that the truffle cream was in a league of its own. It is very hard to make a sauce so abundantly rich in truffles without overpowering the dish, but Chef Jake R. was able to do it.

For dessert, I got my usual espresso and it wasn't too bad...for those that know me that's a compliment as I'm super picky with my espressos. We also shared a tiramisu and a gift from the kitchen in the form of a baked chocolate torta with pistachio ice cream. The torta was creamy and delicious and what I can only describe as something between a brownie and a molten chocolate lava cake, but twice as tasty. The tiramisu was actually served in 4 perfect spheres and topped with blueberries. It was light, fluffy and not hard on the stomach as some traditional tiramisus can be...bonus!

We had a chance to talk to Chef Jake and I was very impressed with his humble and simple approach to Italian food and cooking in general. He is not afraid to take risks and the proof was in the great meal and discerning ingredients that he obviously combines to make this food so exceptional. I had read some mixed reviews about this restaurant but given the quality of the meal and the service I experienced, I wonder if these other people actually "ate" there? I for one, was more than pleasantly surprised and that doesn't happen very often.

The Good: Outstanding flavours in a well prepared Italian meal is what you should expect to find at Eatalia. The atmosphere is great, the staff is friendly and the menu has something for everyone.
The Bad: Again my unfounded complaint is that it isn't closer to my house and no scallops were found in my seafood risotto.
The Verdict: It takes a fair bit to impress us both, especially as far as Italian food is concerned. We have traveled through Italy in search of culinary wonders, but would go as far as saying that the food at Eatalia is as good or better than any place we ventured to in Italy. Chef Jake has found the right formula to elevate Italian Food to what it should be and seldom is, palate excitement!

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

Eatalia on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Smokin Tony's BBQ

471 Hespeler Road
Cambridge, Ontario


In her opinion:
I was itching for fried chicken...not knowing exactly where to get amazing fried chicken in our town without going to a chain restaurant (as my foodie friends know...I have a soft spot for Popeye's Fried Chicken)...we opted for BBQ instead.

I had heard some mixed reviews about Smokin Tony's Bar-B-Que. But I truly believe that taste is subjective and therefore we needed to try it for ourselves. Smokin Tony's is conveniently located on Hespeler Road. It is a large space with an interesting cafeteria style approach.

We walked in to Smokin Tony's and were greeted by a friendly server who also explained their ordering concept. We were told to sit where we pleased. We found a cozy booth and studied the menu.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed that they didn't have a fried chicken dish (a lot of bbq spots will have that as an option) but I decided to get over it quickly. After studying the menu, we decided that we would get the "Family Platter - Dinner  for 4" even though there was only two of us (it means we get two meals for the price of one)!

"The Family Platter - Dinner for 4" allowed us to pick 4 meats, 4 sides and 4 buns. This was awesome. We decided to pick pulled pork, beef brisket, wings (1 lb.) and ribs (1/2 rack) for our meat selections. We picked sweet potato casserole, onion rings, baked beans and macaroni salad for our side dishes. We opted for 4 pieces of corn bread instead of buns.

Let me begin by saying I was shocked at the amount of food that we received. There was definitely plenty for two meals. I really enjoyed the chicken wings. They had a nice smokiness to them. I had asked for the honey bbq sauce which complimented the smokiness of the wings perfectly. The pulled work was also excellent. I found the ribs really nice as well, they were quite meaty! My least favourite of the meat dishes which was a little surprising for me since I haven't ever found a brisket that I didn't like!

As for the side dishes. Well, the onion rings were great...huge and not too greasy. The macaroni salad was needed a punch of flavour. The beans were awesome...nice flavour with a little porkiness add for punch! But the best side in my opinion was the sweet potato casserole...just great with the nuts on so good...reminded me of the sweet potato casserole that I've made in the past! Really really nice selection of sides and overall, great tasting.

The cornbread was okay...definitely not the best that I have ever had. I found it a little dry and lacking in the sweetness that I love in a good cornbread. But slathered in butter it was fine.

Overall, Smokin Tony's Bar-B-Que was great. I really enjoyed the wings, pulled pork, ribs and sweet potato casserole and wouldn't hesitate to go back and have it again.

In his opinion:
What happens when you picked a restaurant to kill your craving for fried chicken just to find out they don't have any? make do with some other "meaty" goodness...I guess. That was the third strike for me and I had not even eaten there yet. The first strike was that it's a franchise, its second was that it had horribly mixed reviews (mostly for its Waterloo location) and then no fried chicken? Really?

Since I was already there, I decided to take the plunge and find out what the talk or bad talk was all about and I'll start by saying I was pleasantly surprised. The food didn't "suck" for lack of a more technical term and it was actually....good! Rewind a few minutes back to the time we didn't see fried chicken on the menu and all seemed lost.  I'm glad that we didn't give up on them and things started to look up right after that.

On to the food...we ordered the family platter so we could have a lot more choice and get a real good sense for the that even a word? Anyway, the Coles Notes is that we ordered food for 4 when there was only 2 of us.

The family platter for four gives you the option of 4 meats, 4 sides and 4 buns or slices of corn bread. That's a lot of food and I was either rolling out of the restaurant or I was going to not have to worry about my next meal. Ended up being the latter.

Our picks - meats
1 lbs of wings- Crispy, meaty and with a good medium sauce on them, not quite Buffalo style but a good clone I suppose.
pulled pork- Top choice for me, juicy, well prepared and seasoned. The type of dish that you could have all day and not get sick of it. 
1/2 rack of ribs- Again a good choice, smoked, tender with great texture and flavour. Rival some of the best "rib places" of choice in the area.
beef brisket- Unfortunately, this is where the disappointment comes in. It was dry and lacking in flavour and even the sauce on the outer rim of the slices couldn't help it much.

Our picks - sides
sweet potato casserole - great side dish, full of flavour and with the right texture, went well with the pulled pork.
onion rings - mix of small and colossal rings, crispy, tasty and good flavour.
baked beans - I don't normally enjoy baked beans but these were the exception. Really good.
macaroni salad - another slightly disappointing dish, almost no impact in flavour. Definitely needed a punch of something!

We also picked corn bread and it was just ok, nothing to brag about.

The Good: The balance is positive, some very good dishes and only a couple so-so. Great attentive service and I enjoyed the cafeteria style serving.
The Bad: Hard to take a BBQ place that cannot make good brisket. I would love to think that it was just a bad day but I think it's not a one off.
The Verdict: I recommend this place because it deserves you checking it out for yourself. Try lots of dishes and nothing will be actually bad. You will just like some dishes more than others.

I give it 3 out of 5 Olives as rating

Smokin Tony's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Monday, 1 April 2013

Harbour Diner

486 James Street North
Hamilton, On


In her opinion:
I was surprised by some of the bad reviews for this Hamilton diner, especially considering the fact of how packed this place was. They even had to turn people away...Harbour Diner obviously can't be that bad.

I first heard about his restaurant through Food Network's "You Gotta Eat Here". It was featured on one of their shows. I had filed it away in the back of my mind. This past weekend when we were in Hamilton, I decided to give it a try. 

It definitely is not a fine dining establishment and in fact most folks would call it a dive or hole in the wall. Mismatched tables and chair make up this small restaurant but we weren't here for the interior design. In fact, we have been to absolutely gorgeous restaurants with awful food! We were here for the food!

Our attentive server came to take our drink orders right away. Luckily for me they served Coke products. So after ordering my usual Diet Coke, I studied the menu carefully. I knew what I wanted for my main course even without looking at the menu. Remember, I had watched "You Gotta Eat Here"!

We decided to start with an order of escargot. It is described on the menu as escargot "simmered in garlic butter and served with portabellini mushrooms and 3 garlic crustini".

This was absolutely delicious. I really enjoy escargot and these little beauties were so so good. The sauce was excellent. I loved that it was served with the mushrooms. I could have one of these every night! It really was that good.

For my main, I ordered the "Habour Diner Meatloaf". It was served with "mashed potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions and peppercorn gravy."

This dish was featured on "You Gotta Eat Here". I watched it again after our meal at Harbour Diner. This is any regular meatloaf. I have to honestly say that this was the best meatloaf that I have had in my entire life. If you watch the will see why. For a truly simple dish...the flavours were complex. The whole thing was amazing. So so good.

I, of course didn't finish my main so that I could have room for dessert. Where we were sitting, I could see a selection of pies and I knew that we needed to try some. So we opted to share a slice of the "Banana Cream Pie". I asked if it was made in house and I was told that it was actually from the Village Bakery in Dundas.

The pie was delicious. Thick banana custard with whipped cream and banana chips...really really good.  Not the best piece of banana cream pie I have ever had but a very descent piece of pie.

Overall, I really enjoyed my late lunch at Habour Diner. It is a little kitschy but truly amazing. In the words of Mr. Catucci..."You Gotta Eat Here" really, you seriously need to eat here...really amazing!

In his opinion:
Featured on Food Network's "You Gotta Eat Here", this little gem named Harbour Diner serves a lot of people and it's consistently full; however, it's nowhere near the harbour! Let's take a back step and try to analyze this information. Is it popular because it was featured on the show? Or was it featured on the show because it is popular? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It is all irrelevant because it is all about the taste of the pudding or of the pie in this case!

Located in what some would call a "shady area of Hamilton", this diner is small, full of character and with servers that match its vibrant personality. As you walk in you will literally have a welcoming feel and the tables are pretty close to each other so the warm feeling will continue.

After browsing the menu for a few minutes, I was instantly drawn to one of the dishes. As the thought of tasting such delicacy creeped deeper into my mind, I had to order it as soon as possible to avoid any delay.

The dish was "Lobster and Crab Macaroni". read right! Huge pieces of crab and lobster tossed in a creamy cheese sauce on a huge bed of macaroni. Calling it delectable or yummy doesn't begin to give it its proper recognition. The portion is huge, the seafood is plentiful and the cheese keeps it all together so well, making you wish the dish never finished, and it almost doesn't... It is served with 2 pieces of garlic bread, this is what I think they meant when they describe this place as "Home Cooking at its Finest".

For dessert, which I had no idea I actually had room for, the Banana Cream Pie was the choice. The crust holds a perfectly executed pie, topped with banana slices. It was surely a great end to the meal.

The Good: Nice cozy atmosphere, friendly service and food made as if it was their own family being served it will surely continue to attract customers to this place.
The Bad: The tables in front of the door suffer with cold every time the door opens with new customers and it opens a lot.
The Verdict: A definite winner in my books, serving great "Home Style" food with care and love. The staff is also great and add to the colour and charm of the place. A must visit when in Hamilton.

I give it a 3 1/2 out of 5 Olives as rating

The Harbour Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato