Southern Cuisine on James North, Hamilton
Salt Lick Smokehouse | Hamilton, Ontario
This article also appears on TripAdvisor.
It starts like any other true tales do, many years ago 282 James St North, Hamilton was a Portuguese grocery and fish store. It was called Atlantic Fish Market. Linda and her husband ran it until circumstances compelled them to sell and move. That sign from their store is still adorning one of the walls of the current establishment – Salt Lick Smokehouse. This is a departure from dry salted cod and chorizo sausage.
When Shane took over this place he started a more subdued salad place that not too many remember. This one is different… the appeal is immediate and the style very congenial. Now a few words on our host extraordinaire Mr Shane McCartney: a self taught chef he has worked in many kitchens, including a long stint at Balazing Kitchens. Catering to artists and musicians for days on end you had to be creative and not bore them with the same food twice. He did a lot of catering, travelled and worked on the East coast and commuted to Toronto from the North End until he met Eric Bowden, of Jack and Lois, himself working in the film business in Toronto. So four years ago Shane’s James North End culinary adventure started a stone’s throw away from the current Salt Lick. He ran the place for the owner until he decided on opening up his own place. And just as an aside, part of his accomplishments was also assisting “Charred”, another successful restaurant on James North, in design and overall management.
He also partnered with George, owner of the Wild Orchid, to open Knead – a Pizzeria occupying the corner of the building North of Christ Church Cathedral.
With such a varied food culture background, Shane could jump on any tradition and feel at home in it, when one remembers the food world he has evolved in, it really meant catering to all kinds of tastes, diet restrictions, cooking methods and so forth. Well he happened to smokers, the barbecues not the nicotine addicted types. He likes cooking, creating bold flavours, with simple ingredients but in definitely your face. The flavours that come from slow cooking for hours on end in a place that requires very little supervision but is designed with care and safety in mind. One cuisine stood out and appealed to him: that is Southern American cooking. He set out to travel and try all what the good ol’ south had to offer. Soon enough anyone will find out there is no one single place that represents the ultimate goodness in all things Southern – pulled pork may have been best in Memphis, TN and ribs best in North Carolina, moist brisket in Texas and deep fried chicken in New Orleans, LA?
Finding that ready-made smokers were beyond his budget, he built his own, saving him about 80%. Being a self-taught chef, therefore a true free mind, he mixes ingredients that may not be thought of as part of traditional cuisine. He uses premium charcoal and maple syrup, dry rub of his design. The menu is displayed on wall mounted boards. Lunch and Dinner offer slightly different choices. Meats are Chicken, Pork and Beef. The presentation is rustic on wood boards and the sides very traditional, beans, green salad and coleslaw . The deep fried chicken drums are big and juicy. Smoked first, they are then deep fried. This is real food, tons of fat and sweet coatings. It is bold, tasty and filling. Pork Belly, pulled pork and brisket are all there, at a dinner you could add Korean ribs for good measure The wine list is simple and easy to understand, priced right and pairs well so do the beers.
Go ahead and gather with friends and colleagues and share in the goodness of food you could eat with your fingers. Pour some wine or beer, it will enhance your experience.