It’s been years since I’ve last visited Hamilton whose claim to Canadian fame include being the location of the first Tim Hortons store, as the 9th largest city in the country, havng the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, and my personal favourite – home to McMaster University. I spent nearly five years here – living in two different campus residence, two different houses, and one apartment. This steel town is where I struggled to come to terms with notions of citizenship, and hybrid culturalism. Here’s where I demonstrated my first three acts of rebellion against my parents and culture*.
Anyway, I digress. My point being, I am back today! And amidst all the non-changes – amazing how things can stay the same, and yet not stay the same – I came across Jet Cafe in downtown Hamiton. In fact, smack dab in the middle of downtown Hamilton. It’s the kind of a place where even on a week day, people are walking in and out, parking and double parking for a few minutes to run in for a cup of coffee, ambling in for a quick, cheap breakfast at 8 am, 9 am, 10 am. It’s the kind of place where they don’t see the need to have a website (none that I could find). No one’s dressed fancily, and the young girl who works the morning shift as the bus girl/counter help is wearing a quaint pink apron around her waist, and a hastily put together wispy ponytail.
I have no idea how long Jet Cafe has been here but it seems to have been around for years. I never discovered this place during college, possibly because I never really ventured outside my campus world. It also doesn’t look like much from the outside…
but it’s absolutely adorable inside. Unevenly hung, mismatched frames of local art hang on deep yellow stucco walls. There’s a corner with a shelf that is shoved with tons of Chinese fiction, and history hardbacks on the British Royal Family. Oh, and there’s one biography of Jackie Kennedy. There is ample seating of Formica tables, with green and white chairs. You order at the back, where chalkboards list the daily specials, regular offerings and one that directs you to “Order Here”.
I ordered Combo # 2 – 1 pancake, 1 french toast, 2 eggs overeasy and a coffee, all for about $7 served on a square white dish, with minimal fuss and presentation. Service was quick, polite and best of all, they left you alone after bringing your order. I appreciated the no fuss casual acceptance of the place. No one rushed around, there was no chaos despite the steady stream of customers.
I also have to say, I loved their french toast. They used the “sandwich” bread – thin, square, and only very lightly dipped in egg. I think it was perfect!
When I lived in Hamilton, I couldn’t quite wait to “grow” up and leave. The city seemed more of a town, and too casual for someone who was dying to experience life as a glamorous jetsetter, possibly in Manhattan with a summer home in Italy. 10 years later, I know better. And appreciate the irony of being nostalgic of my past because of a “futuristically” named throw back of a coffee place called Jet Cafe.
* I was the first in my parents’ friend community to move away to school (specially when my parents lived *here* already (it’s acceptable to go away if you’re going to a school in a different country, but not when your parents live only 35 minutes away); second, I lived in a co-ed dorm where the boys had Naked Thursdays (my mom was NOT impressed); third, and perhaps the biggest betrayal of all, I switched from pre-med to economics within my first 48 hours here. Thankfully, my relationship with both my community and parents are intact 😉 Things all worked out for the best. Sort of 🙂