If you haven’t already noticed, both P.A.M’s Coffee & Tea Co. locations have closed inside Jackson Square. A sad loss for those who want a simple cup of coffee and a treat. It was a place I’d always visit before going to the library, wandering the mall, or if I was just cutting through. Although it seems trivial, I embarked on a journey to find a new spot to frequent for that same cup of coffee.
I wanted to find a spot that’s not like the usual destinations downtown. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of the coffee shops and cafes this city has to offer and have spent countless hours and dollars patronizing these establishments, but there’s something about going for a cheaper, no frills cup of coffee at an unassuming place that makes you feel like a quintessential Hamiltonian. After all, this is the home of Tim Horton’s. We were raised on the simple, okay coffee. It’s in our DNA.
Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to find a new spot.
Located at 1 James Street, 1st Smoke & Coffee is much more than just a cup of java, as I quickly learned. It’s basically a variety store with a full lunch menu. A place to buy your lottery ticket, pick up the paper, eat your sandwich and sip on something warm. It’s got just about everything inside you could ask for. The perfect office tower cafeteria.
This spot has always intrigued me and for years I’d want to give it a try, but for some reason, I’d never step inside. It was the perfect opportunity to finally visit. I don’t know why it took me so long, and it’s been around a while. Upon asking the kind owner how long they’ve been in operation, he replied “over 20 years.”
The coffee is Reunion Island and honestly it’s not that bad at all. It reminds me of the coffee from Grandads or The Donut Stop. The price point is great too. $1.60 gets you a medium. Hard to beat that. The menu didn’t seem too bad either. Sandwiches, breakfast, BLTs, burgers, salads, soups, Daily Specials – all the comfort foods you could ask for. I’ve yet to try anything off the menu, but I’ll be sure to stop by soon to fill my gullet before a meeting.
I sat down to enjoy my coffee, opting for a table by the window to glance at The Spec while I watched the commotion outside unfold. It was like watching a chaotic ballet of urbanism and was a reflective experience, an odd moment of zen before embarking on my trek. All I needed was a cigarette and I’d be set.
1st Smoke & Coffee is an unsung hero for office workers and city dwellers alike and it was great to see many patrons (surely regulars) coming and going upon my visits, because we should be celebrating these small independent spaces that often go unnoticed. We don’t need anymore of them closing.
1st Smoke & Coffee
1 James Street North
Hamilton, ON L8P 4R5
Monday to Friday 6:00AM – 4:00PM
Saturday & Sunday CLOSED