The beautifully bustling Downtown Hamilton

A lunch-hour stroll solidifies my opinion that it’s functionally impossible to not love this city.

Call this a rare occasion where the overwhelming need to write trumps any organization of thought. But when you’re inspired, you’re inspired. And today, Downtown Hamilton left me inspired.

Recently, I’ve been plying my copy writing trade at the amazingly cool co-working offices of CoMotion On King. Smack-dab in the heart of our city. Today’s lunchtime tour began there and ended up at The Burnt Tongue, just east of the James St. North and Cannon St. intersection. So, let’s start there and we’ll stroll back to ‘point-A’.

This was my first time to The Burnt Tongue — it came highly recommended from a friend of mine, so I took the “why the hell not?” approach. As I opened the door to the tight-ish location, I was greeted by a long, but quick moving line. There was an energy to the place that was really cool — likely aided by the near-capacity lunch hour crowd. But this vibe seemed personified by the person taking the orders. Just a welcoming, happy, friendly dude that was more than happy to help out a newbie to the place. Of course, my Lemon Chicken soup and Kale Caesar salad was damn good. Well worth the price and definitely worth the return trip.

My next stop was right next-door. More to simply see what’s up than to satisfy a thirst, I popped into Smalls — “a tiny take-away coffee shop”. A relatively subdued-yet-cool place where, again, the shop-keep was happy to engage in a quick chat about the place and the neighbourhood. It was welcoming and friendly, and provided a fine cup of coffee.

With a full belly and coffee-in-hand, I traversed my way along the busy sidewalks of James North to King William — another of Hamilton’s burgeoning gem-streets that’s been transformed in recent years. Under the towering cranes of new condo developments, smaller-scale construction was also underway. A new, unidentified (by me, anyway) storefront was taking shape in the Lister Building as people wove their way around the odd obstruction.

I also took note of people pouring in and out of The Mule — one of my favourite HamOnt spots. A few good nights and collection of delicious tacos have been enjoyed here. If you’re ever in there, order up a pint of their house-brew — it’s a good beer and doesn’t get much more local than that.

A handful of paces away, the pop-up patio of Hmbrgr was packed — thanks to a 23 degree mid-October day — as was the scene inside. On my growing list of “must tries”, Hmbrgr is definitely in the top three. In fact, a slightly bigger appetite and less regard for my physique might’ve had me stopping in for lunch #2.

My slow, meandering, picture-snapping tour stopped briefly for a chat with a host and greeter from Berkely North — West Coast Kitchen. This place looked jammed, too — with a cool completely-open-to-the-street interior. While catering to the vegetarian and vegan crowd puts me a bit outside their target audience, the menu I was given offered choices that even a meat-n’- potatoes guy like me could enjoy. But again, a nice, friendly passing-by chat enhanced an already-impressed impression.

Downtown Hamilton, to me, goes beyond the beautiful old buildings, treed streets and cool shops. Despite being the hub of an amalgamated city nearing 600,000 — this feels like a community. This is an understated element of downtown’s revitalization. Whether it’s a nod on a busy sidewalk or being welcomed in by a retailer, there’s a feel-good vibe. It’s not the cold, blinded hustle of nearby big cities. It’s the feeling of inclusion. The feeling that a simple stroll makes you feel like you’re a part of something.

As someone who lived downtown during the more desolate days, this was quite fulfilling. Whether you’re a resident, or just happen to be passing through, stop and let yourself be a tourist. You may be surprised and you won’t be disappointed.

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