a café guide to Hamilton, New Zealand: where to grab a coffee + brunch in "The Tron"

Just two hours south of Auckland lies Hamilton. There you’ll find Seddon Park {Hamilton’s cricket grounds}, the birthplace of The Rocky Horror Picture Show…and a lot of cafes.

Is Hamilton an amazing city? No. It’s a pretty average town. Known throughout New Zealand thanks to their super STD and the Velodrome, It’s offered referred to as “The Tron” by locals, though no one seems to really know why. Hamilton isn’t really a place I recommend to others as a “must see”. Despite its lack of…charm? excitement?…I never get picky about where I am if I’m spending time with the people I love. So, when Tash graciously let me stay with her for some time during my most recent trip to New Zealand, between stints in Auckland and the Hutt/Wellington, I jumped at making dinners together, watching the Amanda Knox documentary, and dancing to country music.

While in Hamilton, I found myself writing a lot in cafes, surprised by how many of them exist. I was also surprised by the vegan food scene that exists {though, I didn’t take full advantage as I was happily trying out my domestic skills in Tash’s kitchen whenever I could}.

NOTE: While Hamilton seems to have a decent cafe scene, none of the cafes I went to were very conducive to remote work. Hamilton, get your shit together.


KEEP READING FOR MY FAVOURITE HAMILTON CAFES


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CAFE CINNAMON

On a rainy Saturday in Hamilton, Tash and I visited Cafe Cinnamon for some late brunch and banter. The cafes indoor seating was chalked full of people trying to escape the cold weather and rainfall and coffees were being served up left, right, and center. After ordering and finding a seat, we warmed ourselves up with food and caught up on anything we might have missed over Skype.

Cinnamon seems to always make it on Hamilton’s list of best cafes, and I think I get. I will say I found the food a bit overpriced in comparison to other cafes in the area. New Zealand cafe food is notoriously expensive, but one look at Cinnamon’s menu and your wallet will cringe at the thought of spending NZD $19 {roughly USD $13} on a Breakfast Burrito {yes, wages are higher blah blah blah, it’s still ridiculous}. Prices aside, the avo and poached eggs combo I snagged was delicious and it’s the kind of yum food I miss being based in Laos.

WHAT TO TRY: The corn fritters come highly recommended by Tash, and I’d say the poached eggs on multigrain are pretty decent, though I understand the idea of paying people for toast and eggs {something so simple} is pretty silly.

VEGGIE FRIENDLY? Yes! Cinnamon serves up food for vegetarians, vegans, and those who are gluten-free.

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @CINNAMONHAMILTON

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: Monday - Friday from 7 AM- 5 PM and on the weekends from 8 AM- 5 PM.

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SUGAR BOWL

I had to walk a long way to get to Sugar Bowl from where I was based {i.e. Tash’s flat}. However, I can say honestly that the walk was worth it. Sugar Bowl was one of the few cafes I found in Hamilton that had charging ports, internet, and a food menu that offered choices for vegans at reasonable prices. It ticked every invisible box.

Despite my warm welcome to the cafe and the friendly staff who took my order, as soon as I opened my laptop I got a bit of an eyeroll. “She’s one of those customers.” I understand. There are people who buy a single coffee and work for hours on free WiFi taking up seating that could be used for other patrons…but I’m not one of them. I bought multiple items over the course of my time at Sugar Bowl and I took up the most out-of-the-way single seater table. Still, I felt like I was being a bit watched, though it might be all in my head? WE’LL NEVER KNOW.

Overall, I did enjoy my time at the cafe. The food and the coffee I had at Sugar Bowl were delicious; among the best I had anywhere in Hamilton. Go, leave your laptop, have a flat white with almond milk.

WHAT TO TRY: The NZD $4 cheese scones are well worth the money and I also recommend {what else} their flat white, which was served with a smile and at the perfect temperature.

VEGGIE FRIENDLY? Yes!

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @THESUGARBOWLCAFE

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: Monday - Friday from 7 AM- 4 PM and on the weekends from 8 AM- 4 PM.

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ROCKET COFFEE + SUPPLIES

It’s said by some {and by “some” I mean my old friend from University, Dan E.} to have the best coffee in Hamilton. I wouldn’t be being honest if I agreed because when I visited Rocket, I opted for their tea {I know, who am I?!}. The smell of the coffee roasting in the back room of the renovated car garage with industrial interior details had me seriously jones-ing for a cup of cold brew, but I’ve made an effort for my health to cut back on the coffee, sadly and with many a caffeine tantrum.

With no charging outlets and very limited seating, I was truly surprised at how much I liked Rocket. Maybe it was the vintage New Zealand posters hung on the wall in mismatched frames, or that fact that despite all the makings of a very hipster cafe, it was filled with old men in tweed caps reading the newspaper and business colleagues going over meeting notes.

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @ROCKETCOFFEE

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: Monday - Friday from 7 AM- 4 PM and on the weekends from 8 AM- 4 PM.

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GREY ST. KITCHEN

Grey St. Kitchen was the best cafe workspace I found in Hamilton. Why? Outlets, WiFi, and a wide variety of seating options. Also, the soundtrack here is phenomenal. That being said…the WiFi was slow as molasses in winter time, the flat white was average, and the staff was singing along with the music so loudly that it took some getting used to {though I’m all about a happy sing along, guys}.

Grey St. Kitchen is, as its name suggests, located on Grey St. in the up-and-coming East Hamilton area. The outdoor seating makes it an ideal location for a sunny afternoon coffee, while seating inside is perfect for those who want to be in the midst of all the cafe action. White walls, minimal design elements, and plants on every tables make Grey St. Kitchen a light and airy place to grab brunch.

WHAT TO TRY: I only had a flat white while visiting Grey St. Kitchen, but all the food on the menu sounded good and everything patrons around me ordered looked like I could’ve gotten down to it.

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @GREYSTKITCHEN

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: weekdays from 7 AM - 4 PM and on weekends from 8 AM - 4 PM

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MAVIS + CO.

The family story behind Mavis and Co really tugs at my heart strings. I love the idea of one woman baking bread that created such a demand in the town that she then had to open her own cafe and kitchen.

The interior of Mavis + Co. was gorgeous. The cafe was filled with giant palm plants, antique chandeliers, and vintage mirrors. “MAVIS” was painted on the backs of wooden chairs and the sugar bowls were like 925 silver— lacking shine due to their age in the best way.

WHAT TO TRY: Mavis began with bread, so give all their carbs a try. I had a sweet chai that was above average.

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @MAVISANDCO

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: weekdays from 7:15 AM – 4:30 PM and on weekends from 7:45 AM - 4:30 PM

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YALLA YALLA

If you’re looking for something brand new, look no further than Yalla Yalla on the south end of Victoria Street. The owners of Yalla Yalla refer to their establishment as “The People’s Cafe”, and it lives up to its name as Hamilton’s choice non-profit eatery for soulful kai and quality coffee. It can be tricky to create a cafe environment that is trendy minus the pretentiousness, but Yalla Yalla succeeds flawlessly in its execution. Te Reo murals and signage fills Yalla Yalla, and the staff was overwhelmingly friendly. Not only is the cafe plant-based, they serve up food for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and easy vegetarian. Did I mention they make their own bagels in-house? Because they do. And they are delicious.

WHAT TO TRY: I had the bagel with smashed avocado and pico de gallo salsa, sprinkled with toasted seeds and it hit the spot. 10/10 would devour again!

CATCH THEM ON THE ‘GRAM: @YALLAYALLACAFE

CATCH THEM IN REAL LIFE: weekdays 7:30 AM to 3 PM and from 8:30 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays

NOTE: This is a cash only cafe, so bring your dollars and coins! Also, Tuesdays are 2-for-1 Coffees! So plan your coffee dates accordingly.

 

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