What It Is:
Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor (10 James St. North) brings a taste of Toronto’s Union Chicken to Hamilton. While on the Toronto menu, Uncle Ray’s is a section dedicated to fried chicken, the new Hamilton restaurant focuses on and expands this concept, becoming the fourth location to house “Ray’s Famous Fried Chicken”.
Over the last few months on James Street North, you may have noticed the decal of a bunny wearing an eye patch adorning the shopfront asking, “Who the hell is Uncle Ray?”. After our visit, it is safe to say we know exactly who Uncle Ray is.
The name is a metaphor for the passion that you find from all the staff. This not only comes across in service, but also through the quality of food that Uncle Ray’s dishes out to its customers.
How to Get There from
Grab the 51 from campus towards Main Street West and James Street North. Head north-east past King Street East and you’ll find the restaurant on the east side of the street.
Alternatively, you can take the 5C or 1A from campus and jump off at Main Street West and MacNab Street South. Walk north-east towards King Street West, then east towards the intersection.
For a quicker trip, you can take the 10 from Main Street West and Emerson Street to Main Street West and MacNab Street South.
Entrees are broken into two categories, plates and fried chicken. Plates range from $17 to $29.50. Fried chicken will cost you $18 or $19 depending if you get the O.G. Plate or Lightning Chicken, respectively. I am warning you now, a to-go box will probably be a good idea as the meals are big, providing you with two great portions. Sides dishes range from $5 to $9. The restaurant also has a large list of snacks and appetizers that run from $6 to $19. If you are looking to share a meal with two to three friends, Ray’s Southern Platter costs $69. Uncle Ray’s is able to split cheques.
As the name boasts, Uncle Ray’s has a wide assortment of beer from domestic to craft, as well as a few draught lines. A variety of wines can also be found on the menu as well as a handful of mixed drinks. If you’re gonna grab a drink, expect to be paying anywhere from $6 to $29.
Craving something sweet? Uncle Ray’s has a small, yet delightful dessert menu ranging from $5 to $8.
What to Get:
The moment of truth —
what should you try? When I went to the restaurant with my housemates, we were immediately greeted by the warm, industrial atmosphere of the space. It is slightly reminiscent of HAMBRGR before their renovations.
To drink, I enjoyed a Piña Colada that looked like it was straight out of a Caribbean resort. If alcohol isn’t your thing, they also feature pop and three types of water — sparkling, bottled and filtered tap.
Looking at the food menu, all of our eyes immediately went to the fried chicken section. Not only is it on the cheaper side of the menu, we figured it would be a mistake not to try their in-house specialty. I ordered the O.G. Plate (which includes gravy, pieces of fried buttermilk, boneless chicken thighs, hot honey and green onions) with a side of triple cooked fries accompanied by a malt vinegar aioli. My housemates ordered the Lightning Chicken (which includes habanero hot sauce, Nashville style fried chicken, hot honey and pickles stacked on a piece of white bread) with a side of fries.
We all exchanged pieces of each other’s chicken, and took a bite at the same time. We were blown away by how the kitchen staff was able to achieve a moist, tender thigh on the inside while being crispy and flavourful on the outside. The O.G. had a savoury, sweet flavour from the gravy and honey mixing on the plate. The Lightning Chicken didn’t taste spicy at first; however, two thighs in and your nose will be running and your eyes will be watering. DO NOT make the mistake of rubbing your eyes like I did!
The magic doesn’t stop there as Uncle Ray’s dessert menu features a few delectable desserts. As I was celebrating an early birthday dinner, I was able to get the carrot cake on the house, while my other housemates had the buttermilk soft serve and pot of chocolate. Uncle Ray’s triple-layered carrot cake with cream cheese icing was by far the winner at our table.
Why It’s Great:
Uncle Ray’s Food & Liquor is quickly establishing itself as a go-to Hamilton spot in the downtown core. I know the price really doesn’t conform to the student-budget; however, if you are with a group of friends for a night out on the town and if you’re willing to splurge a little outside of this week’s food budget, Uncle Ray’s provides a great atmosphere to catch up and enjoy some tasty food.
A “life-hack” that my housemate and I learned with Uncle Ray’s leftovers: if you bring home your chicken and fries, pop them in the oven at 400°F for 25-35 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. If you can resist for about 5 minutes, your meal will be almost as crispy as when you first bought it.