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Locke Street in Hamilton is quite the hip location in town, and now it’s home to one of the best independently-owned coffee shops around. As I walked into Democracy for the first time, I felt a very welcoming, comfortable atmosphere. Immediately, I noticed the huge chalkboard walls, beckoning people of all ages to create their own artwork or messages to decorate the shop. Board games were stacked on a shelf, inviting customers to stay a while and spend time with friends. Democracy was one of the few coffee shops I’ve visited that wasn’t filled with 20-somethings sitting in front of laptops. In fact, there were families here spending time together; friends chatting over lattes and sandwiches. Democracy coffee shop has taken a rare stance nowadays – it does not offer a wifi connection at all. What, no Internet? Say it isn’t so! This decision was made purposefully by the owners, encouraging people to engage in conversation and spend quality time with one another. Remaining true to its namesake, Democracy suggests that discussion and debate are valuable, and perhaps this coffee shop would be a great place to immerse ourselves in dialogues with our colleagues and loved ones.
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Another aspect that made me particularly happy was that there were several tables available on a Saturday afternoon when Justin and I visited Democracy. Maybe this related to the no-wifi thing, or maybe it was because this cafe had plenty of space and lots of tables. We made our way to the front counter, noticing a glass case containing bins full of bagels and numerous baked goods. The word vegan caught my eye and there was another reason to rejoice. It appeared that half of their treats were baked without dairy or eggs. The front counter staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. I mentioned that we were both vegan and happy to see so many vegan baked goods, and we were told that their entire restaurant menu was vegan! One staff member assured me that the kitchen staff were very knowledgeable about preparing vegan meals and took pride in being the most vegan-friendly cafe in all of Hamilton. While the whole restaurant wasn’t vegan, most of it appeared to be; there really was something for everyone here!
Justin and I took a seat by the giant garage door window, which I imagine could be opened up during the summer months. We had placed our food order at the front counter, and were given a cute little stand to place on our table signifying that we were awaiting our order. As it was Valentine’s Day, it was decorated with an Angry Birds Valentine. This was a great place to sit as we could look out the window to the bustling city street.
Justin ordered the BBQ Pulled Mushroom (King oyster mushrooms shredded and sauteed in BBQ sauce and topped with coleslaw) and I ordered the Stuffed Focaccia (smoked tempeh baked right in the dough with apples, maple syrup, walnuts, caramelized onions, and Daiya vegan cheese). I don’t think you can go wrong with eating maple syrup in just about anything! Some other menu items that we didn’t order but would love to try include the Vegan Charcuterie, the Sea Caesar Salad, the Tempting Tempeh sandwich, and the Nachos Supreme…because you can’t go wrong with sharing a plate of nachos!
The BBQ pulled mushroom sandwich was actually quite light and full of flavour. The BBQ sauce was tangy and delicious, while the coleslaw was crispy. As for the stuffed focaccia, wow was it ever good! Between the smoked tempeh, the sweet caramelized onions and maple syrup, and the gooey cheese, it was a very rich and savory mouthful. Justin said that it was actually quite meaty in its taste, and that anyone who loved eating meat would really enjoy this sandwich. I’ve never eaten meat before, and I loved the sandwich. It was really filling – I couldn’t finish the whole thing, and I lamented that.
I thought this phrase on the chalkboard wall was quite funny (vegan/health food humour, anyone?):
“Never eat ingredients you can’t pronounce. Except quinoa. You should eat quinoa.” On another wall, someone advocated for signing a petition to ban animal traps on trails through the website, Change.org. I later discovered was the petition was also advertised on the cafe’s Facebook page. Any coffee shop that speaks up for the safety and welfare of animals is a place that I will support! It also helps that the food was very, very yummy.
On one way out, we couldn’t resist getting coffee, a huge double chocolate cookie, and one of those decadent cinnamon buns. I’d love to come back for a latte or to enjoy a beer or glass of wine (yes, they serve alcohol, too!). I’d also like to return for more dessert.
Democracy Coffee House: We will be back!
Democracy Coffee House
202 Locke St. South, Hamilton, ON
Hours: 6:30am-10:00pm (Mon-Wed), 6:30am-11:00pm (Thu-Sat), 8:00am-8:00pm (Sun)