The heyday of quality fast food largely feels like a bygone era. In recent years, portions at those familiar franchises have gotten smaller while prices have gotten higher, and – let’s face it – a lot of the classic favourites just don’t taste like they used to.
If you feel nostalgic about the fast food of yesteryear, you’re not alone: so does Hamilton chef and entrepreneur Joel Soares.
That’s why he’s opened a new local takeaway spot called Goldies Fast Food. Located at 152 James Street South, it’s a small, no-frills joint for exceptional burgers, fries, sundaes, and other fast food comforts that are a far cry from your Wendy’s Baconator or McDonald’s Big Mac.
Soares is no stranger to Hamilton’s food scene. With 15 years of culinary experience, he’s someone many locals surely know through lending his talents to prominent local restaurants like Aberdeen Tavern, Bread Bar, and Quatrefoil, as well as being one of the founders of the now-iconic Cowabunga Pizza, which holds its reputation as one of the city’s best pizzerias.
If you’ve tasted Soares’ food, you’ll know how exacting he is about crafting his optimal version of a dish. It’s a trait that’s apparent the second you sink your teeth into the tempting eats on offer at Goldies.
Soares’ menu favours the smash burger style over plumper hand-formed patties. For the uninitiated, a smash burger is characterized by its rough-and-tumble yet surprisingly technical cooking process: well-seasoned beef is shaped into a ball, then smashed flat and thin on a hot cooking surface. The resulting burger patty, when done correctly, is flavourful with a caramelized exterior and crispy latticed edges spilling well outside the bounds of the bun.
A handful of Hamilton burger spots offer solid takes on this style, but Goldies – even in its few short months of existence – is arguably one of the best at it. If you want a prime example of what a smash burger is supposed to be, look no further. Soares has put in the work.
“Smash burgers are a particularly common style in the United States, where burger legend and icon George Motz has mastered this technique and is insanely knowledgeable about the history of the hamburger,” he tells me.
“I just studied him and gained as much knowledge as possible. The smash burger, to me, is the best way to eat a hamburger.”
Perhaps the closest thing to a flagship dish at Goldies is the Gold Standard, which Soares crafted as his own idea of the perfect burger. Expect a crispy smash patty dressed simply and thoughtfully with American cheese, bacon, pickles, caramelized onions, and a tangy house-made burger sauce called Gold Sauce. That’s really all there is to it – no lettuce or tomato in sight, but you really don’t miss it on this well-calibrated creation.
For those who want a burger that feels a little more familiar, The Classic is probably an attractive option, dressed with all the usual suspects like iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions, American cheese, ketchup, mustard, and mayo.
But don’t discount the slightly more adventurous options like the Cheddar Jalapeno burger loaded with cheese sauce, bacon, pickled jalapenos, spicy mayo, and crispy onions; they just might win you over thanks to the care and craft Soares and his growing Goldies team put into their work.
With Soares’ background in fine dining establishments, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t really cut corners with the food at Goldies. He makes sure to source great quality ingredients, and favours scratch cooking even on the smaller details like sauces and pickles.
“We make everything in house and I like to think it shows in our product,” he says.
You don’t even have to be a burger fan to find something to love on the Goldies menu. Soares also makes some mighty fine fried chicken sandwiches and tenders as well as loaded crinkle-cut fries guaranteed to give you the best food coma of your life. The knockout Ranch Fries are a particular customer favourite: tossed in an all-dressed seasoning, smothered in creamy homemade ranch, then finished with bacon and scallion.
In spite of the classically-inspired, nostalgic approach to fast food at Goldies, Soares keeps things modern where it really counts such as a diet-inclusive selection that includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items. Plant-based chicken and Impossible burgers are given just as much thought and attention as the rest of the menu.
Then – as if all that fried goodness wasn’t enough – there’s the sweet stuff. Goldies has a menu of desserts and treats that are just plain fun, including loaded vanilla soft serve sundaes; slushie floats just like the kind you get out of the ice cream truck; iced coffees; and the 24 Karat Gold Cookie made with brown butter, milk chocolate, toffee bits, white & yellow sprinkles, and sea salt. No matter how good you think that sounds, trust me: it’s even better than you think.
Sure, Hamilton wasn’t exactly starved for burger options before Goldies Fast Food opened at the very end of 2022; but even though they’re not even a year old yet, Soares’ efforts to serve up the best possible food has already made this tiny takeaway spot stand out.
“All I want to do is provide the community with what I feel is a proper hamburger and not be outrageously expensive,” he says. “Ultimately, I’d love to continue growing into multiple styles of restaurants, with the same mentality: offering better quality take-out food for a reasonable price. Hamilton deserves it.”
Visit Goldies Fast Food at 152 James Street South on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 pm to 9 pm; Fridays and Saturdays from 12 pm to 10 pm; and Sundays from 1 pm to 9 pm. See more on their social media.
Images courtesy of @talisman.media.co