Where local eats meet
Papa Leo’s cooks up fresh new partnerships.
Leo Santos brings another dimension to the term “eat local.”
Not only does his Hamilton restaurant serve locally raised food whenever possible, it also focuses on other homegrown businesses as suppliers.
Santos opened Papa Leo’s, on Concession Street just a block west of Juravinski Hospital, some 18 months ago with the idea that he would have it reflect the city and its agriculture.
“It came from me being here and wanting to open a place based on what is available locally,” Santos says.
That means he does his own sourcing and shopping — no wholesalers, thank you — and his menu offers “what I can get locally when I can get it.” So the coffee is a special roast from Red Hill Coffee Trade on Lancing Drive on the east Mountain, the bacon is cured by Super Sausage on Stone Church Road, the baked goods are fresh from the ovens of Cake & Loaf on Dundurn Street, the custom-made chourico sausage arrives from Alves Meats on MacNab Street North and every drop of dairy hails from Hewitt’s in Hagersville. All that local food is cooked by Chanta Hack, a graduate of Hamilton’s Liaison College. Even the décor of Papa Leo’s shouts Hamilton, thanks to local multimedia artist Amanda McIntyre.
“Once the local farmers’ markets open, I’m there,” Santos says, adding he frequents the ones where he deals directly with the farmers themselves, especially the Hamilton Mountain Farmers’ Market across the street on Viewpoint Avenue.
Papa Leo’s is open only for breakfast and lunch, although dinner is in Santos’s business plan for this year. He also does private catering.
The reception to the concept has been very positive, Santos says. “People are ecstatic. This is what people are looking for in my community here on Concession and elsewhere in Hamilton.”
Friendship has a lot to do with how Santos developed his business. He worked as a waiter at the Ancaster Mill along with McIntyre before they pursued their own career paths.
McIntyre’s most visible presence is at Papa Leo’s, where the walls are adorned with four large close-up photos of fruits and vegetables she took at markets in Dundas, Ancaster and on . “Leo has been fantastic. He knew I was an emerging artist and needed exposure,” McIntyre says.
Jason Hofing, who owns Red Hill Coffee Trade, visited Papa Leo’s shortly after it opened to pitch his product and the fit was right. The bonus was that two young Hamilton entrepreneurs were able to team up and support each other.
Hofing and his wife, Rachel, started roasting coffee three years ago, concentrating entirely on fair trade and organic beans. They buy raw beans from all over the world, then roast them fresh in small batches for customers. “Leo gets the freshest possible. I roast his coffee on Wednesday and he gets it Thursday morning,” Hofing says.
Papa Leo’s Restaurant
638 Concession St.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Red Hill Coffee Trade
75 Lancing Dr.
Hours: Monday to Wednesday, 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, noon to 6.30 p.m.
RHCT also has a coffee bar at the downtown Hamilton Farmers’ Market, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
1151 Stone Church Rd. E.
Hours: Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cake & Loaf Bakery
321 Dundurn St. S.
Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sunday, Monday
157 MacNab St. N.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hewitt’s Dairy Bar
4210 Highway 6, Hagersville
Hours: Daily, 9.30 a.m. to 11 p.m.