Hungry? Check. Babysitter? Check. Hot date? Check.
Restaurant reservations? Not yet.
There’s no better time to explore our city’s red hot dining scene. Here are a just a few of my favourite local romantic restaurants for a date night in Hamilton.
The epitome of fine dining, Dundas’ famed Quatrefoil is a romantic destination year- round. They offer a sumptuous, five-course tasting menu every Friday, with optional wine pairings to match the menu or drinks from their extensive cocktail and wine lists. Owner-duo Fraser and Georgina met while working at a restaurant and fell in love with both food and each other. Since then, Quatrefoil has won many awards for its culinary excellence.
Menu Must-Try: To start, order the house-smoked salmon with traditional garnishes, herring caviar, lemon sour cream and pumpernickel crisp. For mains, the Quebec duck breast with Sunchoke, faro, leg tortellini, preserved blueberry and foie gras jus is unique and pretty delicious!
The Aberdeen Tavern
If you’re looking for romance with style, you can’t ask for a better backdrop than The Aberdeen Tavern, set in an old bank building with an Art Deco-inspired design, dark woodwork and cozy banquettes. You’ll find a selection of mains like succulent half roasted chicken with lemon ricotta and rapini pesto and sweet notes like a decadent Earl Grey Creme Brûlée with lavender and vanilla to close off your meal.
Menu must-try: Aberdeen Tavern’s best sellers are the spaghetti carbonara (available in both appetizer and entree portions) and seared scallops served with mushroom risotto.
La Piazza Allegra
La Piazza Allegra has already played a role in many Hamilton courtships. Chef and owner Mark Farrugia’s commitment to culinary excellence and service standards has made his restaurant the silent partner in countless romantic first dates and anniversaries for almost two decades. Start your night off with a lychee Bellini or a glass of Italian wine in their ‘oh so comfortable’ lounge before digging into a tasty menu of traditional Italian food with a contemporary twist.
Menu must-try: Order the Osso Bucco, a veal shank braised in tomato sauce served over baked polenta and vegetables, followed by the Torta al Cioccolato, a decadent flourless chocolate cake.
James Street South’s hotspot Radius is the perfect venue for romance with a locally sourced, sustainable twist. Their team looks forward to hosting a candlelit dinner for you and your significant other in the lounge, dining room or multi-level patio. The dinner menu features hand-crafted entrees and shareable dishes plus wine pairings from their wildly popular drink menu. Visit from 6 pm-10 pm every Wednesday for half-price wine and live jazz!
Menu must-try: We’d recommend one of their steaks plus a side to share like the loaded baked potato or truffle fries. For a lighter option, try the maple glazed salmon with quinoa and butternut squash.
Baci Ristorante is Hamilton’s home for amore. With a name that means “kiss” in Italian, this Hamilton Mountain restaurant is a lovely spot for date night. Featuring dishes like Osso Buco and Linguine Alla Pescatore (with shrimp, mussels and calamari), Baci does modern Italian right.
Menu must-try: Dig into a fantastic Neapolitan brick-oven pizza (you can see it being prepared from your seat). Finish with the Nutella Stromboli: a dessert to share. Delizioso!
Toast Wine Bar
Toast Wine Bar pairs great wine with excellent food at one of Hamilton’s flirtiest destinations in historic downtown. Offering local and international wines by the bottle or glass, the wine list has both rotating options and long-time favourites. Food is meant for sharing: snack on locally sourced charcuterie, signature toasts, and other shared plates. Enjoy it in a classy yet relaxed atmosphere, accented by a shimmering chandelier, red brick walls and framed mirrors.
Menu must-try: Charcuterie and cheese boards gets couples negotiating on what selections to make to make to fill the board! Accompaniments are made in-house: pickles, mustard, chips, seed brittle and preserves. Finish off with their featured dessert and glass of dessert wine. Cheers!
Mattson and Co
Locke Street’s Mattson and Co is a romantic destination with their stylish, contemporary interior, sultry live jazz and thoughtfully designed menu. The restaurant and lounge offer casual fine dining with a modern bistro menu. Guests are invited for a meal that includes slow-braised lamb shoulder and lobster and shrimp spaghettini. Finish with a coconut cream tiramisu for a perfectly elegant evening.
Menu must-try: The beautifully plated beef short ribs are their speciality: merlot-marinated and slow-braised, served with oyster, cremini and shiitake mushroom truffle demi, Yukon Gold potato purée or house-cut fries.
Not only did the owners of this West Coast-inspired kitchen get engaged in California, but the destination also inspired their plans to open a restaurant. Get to know your dinner guest over small plates influenced by the season. The menu is comprised of dishes like tuna crudo, mushroom dumplings, teriyaki chicken skewers, and crispy polenta, meant for sharing. With its black and white colour scheme, potted plants, exposed brick walls, and garage-style door for patio weather, this trendy restaurant fits right into King William Street’s “Restaurant Row,” Hamilton’s hottest dining destination.
Menu must-try: For a dish that never disappoints, order the fresh cheese served with sourdough toast (both made in-house). Perfect for sharing.
It doesn’t get much more romantic than France. But if you can’t take your date to France, feed them some good French food. This bistro offers an upscale but accessible experience, hinged on quality and simplicity. Start off with a tantalizing appetizer like onion soup or crispy escargot followed by one of their magical mains. The spacious dining area decorated in soft, neutral hues features natural light, an open kitchen, and bar seating.
Menu must-try: The French is celebrated for their consistently good steak frites featuring an 8oz flatiron cut, and their pillowy ricotta gnocchi with truffle and parmesan.
Special occasions call for an elegant backdrop – and it doesn’t get more picturesque than dining beside a waterfall. Ancaster Mill is an iconic Hamilton fine dining institution that has kept its character intact, housed in an old stone flour mill. With an earth-to-table ethos and seasonally inspired dishes, the menu is exceptional. Whether you visit for the impressive Sunday brunch buffet or to get a taste of the delectable lunch and dinner menus, Ancaster Mill offers true fine dining paired with warm hospitality.
Menu must-try: Nothing beats their craft cut beef – butchered right at their farm! They offer a choice of tenderloin, ribeye or short rib with sides that change with the season.
A six-seat chef’s table, multi-course tasting menu, and the culinary expertise of Chef Matthew Cowan is the gist here. This tiny gem recently celebrated its two-year anniversary of good food, good wine and great conversations. Guests can enjoy an intimate dining experience from Wednesday to Saturday, consisting of ten courses with optional drink pairings. Get face-to-face with the chef who is making your meal. Plus, get to know others around the table in this cozy spot on Barton Street, a once under-the-radar neighbourhood that has recently seen some headline-making restaurants set up shop.
Menu must-try: Whatever Chef Cowan is cooking up! The only “constant ingredient” would be the local and Canadian products you can expect to taste here. Luckily, you don’t have to choose just one thing.
Nothing says I love you like treating your significant other to recipes passed down through generations. This Italian fine dining establishment is the real deal and has been around since 1986. Its iron gates, muraled ceilings, wood-oven pizzette and private garden patio make for a romantic setting to indulge in gourmet cuisine and aromatic wines.
Menu must-try: Customer-favourites include the seafood linguine, mushroom risotto, and wood oven pizzas.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Amanda shares her favourite places and experiences to inspire others to explore! Follow her on Twitter @amandastancati.