Eat less meat. And when you do eat meat, make it count. That’s the mantra at The Butcher and the Vegan, a new Hamilton restaurant specializing in haute vegan cuisine and local farm-to-table meats.
Walking into this ethical eatery, guests feel instantly at ease. The Butcher & the Vegan boasts a casual vibe, complete with mismatched chairs and tables and a welcoming open concept kitchen.
The “butchers” (aka meat-eaters) who have been frequenting the restaurant swear it’s the best filet mignon they’ve ever had. Meanwhile, vegans savour the creative and thoughtfully prepared gourmet options.
The Barton street area of Hamilton has had its ups and downs over the last several years. But the founders and staff are proud to be operating a new business in a neighbourhood that’s on an upswing. As flocks of people arrive in the Hammer’s affordable housing market and hipster art scene, the area is enjoying a slow but sure revival.
Trained at George Brown College and several upscale Toronto restaurants, owner and Executive Chef James Kayser decided to open up shop in Hamilton. The Butcher & the Vegan hopes their restaurant will help customers look at food in a new way. A primary focus of the team is to stop factory farming by supporting high animal welfare farming. What’s more, Chef James has big plans to forge connections to the community by sourcing only local products through suppliers working within 100km of the restaurant.
With Cauliflower-geddon in full swing during our visit, we were served a gorgeous Parsnip Apple soup instead of the menu’s Cauliflower Saffron soup. As offerings change frequently and based on availability, the chefs are skilled and nimble at managing seasonal changes. The beet fries with citrus thyme salt and tarragon aioli followed. The crispy coating combined with the al dente centre turned this root veggie into an unlikely finger food that didn’t disappoint.
My lunch date tucked into a pesto pasta with parmesan and free-range chicken. As with many items on the menu, this dish was also offered as a vegan option. The classic pesto was made with shallot, garlic, and basil, and the dish was topped with roasted tomato, caramelized onion and candied almond. My lunch, a savory avocado sandwich on grilled ciabatta with roasted tomato, pomegranate, vegenaise, and arugula all but melted into my mouth.
You might be wondering who exactly frequents this against-the-grain, innovative kitchen? Anyone and everyone. The menu doesn’t just tolerate dietary choices, it celebrates them with a range of vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and gluten-free dishes. Upon reviewing the menu, I noticed that items weren’t specifically labelled one way or another. This seemed unusual until I realized that most dishes could be made to suit the diner’s preferences (a far cry from the “no substitutions” sub text found on many menus).
The most popular dish on the menu is the vegan Moroccan Tagine. Other drool-worthy vegan options include a forest mushroom pizza with hemeji, enoki, and shitake mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil. Or a “Beet poke” with pineapple pico de gallo, red and gold beets, ponzu sauce, and jasmine rice. For those that do diary, the fried brie, and roasted butternut squash with goat’s cheese pizza are popular options. And for the meat-eaters, choices are varied and include Butter Duck or Scallop Tagliatelle.
Given the restaurant’s plans to amp up nightly entertainment, my next visit might well focus on the desserts and drinks. For now, offerings include a selection of local beers, Niagara wines, and desserts like vegan cheesecake, vegan pumpkin pie, or apple crisp with whipped cream.
As someone who lives a vegan lifestyle, dining out often means making compromises. But The Butcher & the Vegan allows friends and family to enjoy food together without compromise making for a truly unique and special dining experience.