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Where To Eat Before the Show: 2016 Edition

The food at Mesa is top-notch.

The 4th annual Steel City Jazz Festival starts later today, so naturally now is a good time to take a momentary break from talking jazz to talk food instead. In case you missed out on NOSH last week, let me fill you in: there’s a lot of good food in Hamilton. I’ve got my go-to spots: Hamilton classics like Ola alongside newer favourites like Knead Pizza and Small’s. Since just last year all kinds of new restaurants have opened up around downtown Hamilton, bringing even more quality choices to a fantastic food scene. Each year we like to include a couple of shout-outs to our faves in the form of recommendations on where to eat before catching a show. This list is by no means exhaustive, just a few of the many options worth checking out!


A lot of people, myself included, were sad to see Mex-I-Can close down a little while back. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before Mesa opened at 255 James St North, offering up Mexican cuisine that’s as delicious as ever. If you’ve got a craving for something cheesy and saucy that will fill you right up, Mesa has you covered. Honestly I’d go just for the bean dip. The second best part (after the food)? It’s right around the corner from Artword Artbar, so no need to worry about being late for the show!


Located just down the street from Mesa is Zyla’s, which has quickly established itself as a jazz hotspot in the city. I love the vibe inside Zyla’s, it has a perfect jazz-club atmosphere. With a new menu and some killer drink-deals, it’s easy to see why so many people have fallen for Zyla’s as a great new spot to hang out, have a drink and listen to great music. On any given night you’re likely to hear some Steel City Jazz Festival performers playing, and like Artbar, Zyla’s have been doing a fantastic job of supporting young, local and up-and-coming musicians. If you’re just grabbing a drink or looking for a meal, Zyla’s is always a solid choice.

The Brew

As a member of the Hamilton Audio Visual Node, I’m down on Barton Street pretty often, and I’ve seen a few changes to the strip of Barton between James North and Hughson since HAVN opened up a few years ago. Unfortunately those changes are sometimes short-lived (we miss you, Golden Brown). So I’m extra excited that not only did the Brew open up just a few doors down, but that it has flourished as a welcome addition to the street. Serving up delicious pub fare, you can get a solid meal at a good price at the Brew for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff make the Brew the kind of place that you want to make ‘your place’. To top it all off, the Brew regularly present all different kinds of live music, including lots of jazz!

Wherever you decide to grab a bite tonight, we hope we’ll see you at Artword Artbar at 8pm for two-time Juno Award-winner Andrew Downing and his band Otterville as the kick-off the 4th Annual Steel City Jazz Festival!

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