Jack & Lois – a Hamiltonian hidden gem

A homemade classic cheeseburger with bacon on a toasted garlic bun.301 James St. North
Hamilton, ON L8L1H3
(289) 389-5647
(Dine in or take out)

I recently had the pleasure of visiting this cute little hole-in-the-wall establishment on James Street North (at Barton), not once, but twice.  I was involved in the McMaster 24 Hour Film Festival and we had the gala at a nearby theatre during the artcrawl this month. The after-party ventured over to Jack & Lois’, as one of our judges was the owner, Eric. I had never heard of the place and really have to say that I enjoyed it so much that I took my mother and husband back there a mere two nights later. It was simply that good.

Now, it is tiny. Very tiny. I think Mom and I counted about 22 or 24 chairs, total. There are two 4-seater tables, one 6-seater and a few 2-seaters, plus a couple of tall chairs at the counter.

The menu as a good selection, but they stick to a theme: burgers/sandwiches and breakfast. That’s it. It’s not complicated. The ingredients ensure big flavour, but the menu isn’t all over the map like some places. They’re not trying to be a Heinz 57 place that offers everything from seafood and steak to pasta and pub grub; they stick to their theme, experimenting with the ingredients to find their niche. I find that their menu online doesn’t match their in-house menu, so don’t use their website as a means to decide if you want to check them out. Consider it more of a “teaser” to what they have to offer.

Chef Shane seems like a truly down-to-earth nice guy who is passionate about the food he cooks. When I stopped to chat with him briefly, he immediately asked how my meal was and beamed when I told him it was, “the best burger I’ve ever had.”

He asked, What did you have? The classic cheeseburger with bacon, of course. He proceeded to explain to me that it was made with local beef and other ingredients. He commented on how barbecued burgers sucked, and why was that? Because they dried out, losing their juices to the flames, that’s why! And so this is why he does his burgers on the flat-top, securing the juices within, and forming a nice, tasty crust on the outside…

I mentioned he was passionate about the food he makes, right?

All of the staff were friendly and helpful. I asked our waitress on the night of the film festival gala what beer she would recommend for a person who normally doesn’t drink beer (it’s  not usually my ‘thing’). She recommended this:

A bottle of Nickelbrook green apple beer

Nickelbrook green apple pilsner is pretty damned tasty for a beer. It really did taste like green apples. And it really did still taste like beer, not a cooler. In combination with my dinner, it was a really fantastic choice. The waitress even came back to ask if I liked the beer and I had already drank half the bottle, so it was obviously a good suggestion.

Back to the food. On the first night I was there, I did have the Classic Cheeseburger, with bacon added. This is literally all you get: burger, cheddar cheese, bacon and a toasted garlic bun containing all of that deliciousness.

Homemade kettle chips rest on black and white checkered wax paper.

I also ordered a side of their homemade kettle chips, as I felt the burger wouldn’t have been enough — hoo, I couldn’t finish it all. The burger was so big, that would have been enough. But the chips were delicious, too.  One bite into the burger and I was in love.

It was juicy. It was crispy in all the right places. It was well-seasoned. It was thick. And it was cooked to perfection. I meant what I said when I said it was the best burger I’ve ever had. When I took my mom and husband to the place two days later, she also got the cheeseburger and her words were, “This tastes just like the burgers my mom used to make.” Needless to say, the burgers are a hit with my family. Hubby enjoyed his so much that he barely talked while eating his. Mom really didn’t care for their version of ‘slaw, but she’s not a fan of some Asian flavours, and this definitely had an Asian flair (she let me try some). Not that it was bad — just wasn’t her cup of tea.

When the three of us went, I decided to try their “all day gourmet breakfast” menu, ordering the Hummingbird breakfast, which included two eggs done my way, two choice of meat (I got bacon and breakfast sausage), a grilled cheese sandwich for egg-dipping (yum!) and homemade hashbrowns. A really tasty, really filling breakfast (for dinner)!

Would I go back? Hell yes. I saw other things  on the menu I’d like to try, including their chicken parm sandwich and maybe I’d even branch out to their burger that has both avocado and a fried egg on it (sounds weird, but also sounds tasty!). I promised Chef Shane that I’d blog about this, so here’s me, fulfilling a promise, but also just spreading the word about a great little diner in downtown Hamilton which I think everyone needs to go and check out.


Go now.

You won’t regret it.


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