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Guided by Locals: Java and Juice in Hamilton, Ontario

The Brain. Photo by Tyrone Warner.

By Kat Tancock

About an hour’s drive west of Toronto, the city of Hamilton is a bit of a secret in itself as it sheds its factory image in favour of a growing arts scene centred on James Street North.

The local: Novelist Trevor Cole

The local: Novelist and journalist Trevor Cole, former senior writer of Report on Business Magazine and the author of three novels, including the Leacock Award–winning Practical Jean.

The tip-off: Mulberry Street Coffeehouse, on the corner of James Street North and Mulberry Street, “is the café so cool it doesn’t need to show its name,” says Cole—the front still carries a Laundromat sign, though the word “coffeehouse” marks the side of the building. He recommends the organic baked goods (“try the nutty, gooey Hello Dolly squares”), wine, microbrews and panini.

At 199 James Street North, the Brain is “a narrow bar favoured by a young, arty crowd” that’s perfect for a beer tasting, with a few dozen picks in the fridge as well as “always interesting brews on tap,” such as Ontario-made Barley Days Yuletide Cherry Porter, Beau’s Lug•Tread and Nickle Brook Pumpkin Ale. “And somewhere behind the bar,” says Cole, “there’s a tiny, precious bottle of golden liquor with a preserved cobra’s head in it.”

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