Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Return of Hess: Hamilton, Ontario

Like most of the people I know, you typically only went to Hess St. when you were in university and have since avoided it. You affiliate it with drunken underagers, police, violence and who knows what else! In any event, you likely don’t associate it with amazing food. Until only a few days ago, I too, was part of that group.

Last Friday we decided to venture outside of our comfy Locke street bubble and return to Hess. We had been hearing a lot of good things coming out of The Tavern on George and when we found out that they had St. Ambroise on tap, we decided to make our way down.  When we arrived, they had not yet opened so we figured we would walk around and find somewhere to pop in for a drink and a bite. We ended up at Ora and here begins our perfect Friday night in Hess, a sentence I never thought I would say!

The large, clean patio and wood touches to the exterior immediately drew us over; we were subsequently blown away by the beautiful interior!  The feel inside this place is great: sleek yet rustic, classic but hip. They have 2 bars, beautiful exposed brick and a wood fired oven. You can either sit at the bar, near the bar on funky high tops or in the dining area. We sat at a high top and were quickly greet by Magic Mike! Not that Magic Mike… this Magic Mike is a very friendly and funny magician who doubles as server and bartender here at Ora. 

We ordered two pints of Mill St. Organic (admittedly, they could improve/diversify their beer selection) and settled on the Salumi pizza. After we saw the wood fired oven, we didn’t have a choice, really. While we were waiting for our order, Mike came over and entertained us with tricks! We were both laughing and it was a perfect way to pass the time between sitting down and eating.

After a few tricks, the pizza was ready and it was quite impressive. It came out in a rustic rectangular shape and was served with PIZZA SCISSORS! (IKR?) The pizza was loaded up with italian sausage, calabrese salami and cured sausage! It is served on a sun-dried tomato tapenade and topped with fresh basil and fiore di latte mozzarella.  The tangy sweetness of the tapenade is the perfect balance to the fresh pop of the basil, the creamy cheese and the salty meat. We left full, entertained and ready for the next stop.

A fresh face on the George street strip is The Tavern. Boasting an impressive array of craft cocktails and a selection of craft beer on tap, this place is definitely one to check out next time you are in the area. Oh, and did I mention the awesome food?

It didn’t take us long to start up a conversation with the resident bartender and manager about food and the local craft beer scene in Ontario. As homebrewers ourselves (well, my boyfriend is the homebrewer and I am officially the taste tester) we were interested in what he had on tap and what he was planning on ordering in next!

We decided to order the masa battered okra and the plantain chips with fresh guacamole. Firstly, who doesn’t love to see okra on a menu every once in awhile? It is a vegetable, that often gets a bad rap for being “slimy” but when cooked properly, it is delicious. In this case it was coated in a masa batter (corn based), deep fried and served with a greek yogurt ranch dip. It was crisp, light and the masa let the taste of the okra shine through without being overwhelmed by batter.

The plantains were sliced fresh and fried up to order. Crisp and not oily, but sweet. Paired with a freshly made guacamole, complete with cilantro and red onions, it was perfectly balanced. 

Needless to say, we are definitely going to be back to both of these places very soon with renewed excitement for the future of a food-forward Hess street!

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