As a college student, I personally run on coffee. Despite the fact that I do have a coffee maker in my room, going into town for a taste of something different is always a welcome treat. For being a small town, we actually have a variety of coffee shops. Hamilton boasts three coffee shops or cafés in town: Rye Berry, Flour and Salt, and FoJo’s — or four if you count Dunkin’ Donuts.
Right off the bat, it is apparent that Dunkin’ Donuts has the best hours, as they are open seven days a week from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. It is difficult to be subjective about hours of business when one place is open 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Dunkin’ Donuts also has a drive through and online ordering, which offsets the pain of lines before class, as well as the location being slightly further away from houses and dorms than other spots in town. I, for one, love seasonal flavors, and Dunkin’ Donuts definitely has that, especially having holiday inspired drinks as a main point of advertisement. With Dunkin’ Donuts being a chain with approximately 12,871 locations (as of 2019), and throughout 36 countries, there is a decent chance that you could get a Dunkaccino nearly anywhere you go. Personally, in addition to loving seasonal flavors, I also love local ingredients and inspired drinks and food. For example, Gilligan’s Raider Passion ice cream is amazing to me, not only because Gilligan’s makes great ice cream, but also because it is a local business that has a flavor that is custom and special to the area and us as students. With big chains, such detail and connection is lost.
Moving on to cafés specific to Hamilton, I’ll start with Flour and Salt. For not being a bagel person, I will admit their rosemary sea salt bagel is very good. I will also admit that I got this bagel as a result of a club meeting, because it terrifies me to go into Flour and Salt. It is constantly busy and if you are unfamiliar with the menu I would recommend looking it up beforehand because the people waiting in line are regulars who are hungry. That being said, the actual location is cute and the inside has a couple of small tables at which to sit and eat. In my opinion, the small tables are suited towards couples or pairs of friends, possibly even visiting parents. Flour and Salt does have a lot of nice homemade pastry options, with apple hand pies, oatmeal creme pies, and a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin among other options such as cinnamon buns and biscuits. They also offer cupcakes and cookie pies through preordering and donuts on Saturdays, which sell out almost immediately. For other food, they mainly serve breakfast sandwiches. For a café that closes at 1 or 2 p.m. depending on the day, they seem to cater to a breakfast crowd. Their coffee options include the standard drip, lattes, macchiatos, mochas, etc., along with a few small twists such as a latte with local honey, a matcha or chai latte, and a London Fog. While the coffee selection at Flour and Salt seems solid, I have heard far more praise about the bagels– when you’re able to get them.
Just around the corner of Flour and Salt is Rye Berry. The inviting atmosphere is very missed, as before the COVID-19 pandemic this spot was amazing for sinking into a comfy chair or couch to study, or for meeting up with a group of friends. Far more of a place to sit and relax for a bit with a group, Rye Berry’s food also reflects this as their menu boasts more meal-like options rather than just breakfast sandwiches. While the menu has changed slightly over the years, Rye Berry still offers the same comforting foods as before, with options including French toast, a yogurt parfait, avocado toast, and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Rye Berry also has rotating daily breads and a selection of pastries, made with organic flour from Massachusetts and Vermont, such as croissants, Danishes, and cookies. All pastries and breads are made in house. They also have a bread subscription program that you can subscribe to for six or twelve months. In terms of coffee, besides the standard fare of red eyes, espresso, and lattes, they also have a ‘sweeter side’ with drinks such as a “Lavender Fog,” salted caramel mocha and honey almond latte. Closing at 2 p.m., this café has more of a lunch and breakfast crowd, and pre-COVID I recall seeing many meet-ups between professors, as well as groups of students here, showing how great of a meeting spot it was for many people.
FoJo, on the corner opposite of the bookstore, is the most centrally located café in my opinion, in terms of parking and proximity to the bookstore and the cruiser stop. They also have indoor and outdoor seating, offering locations in the café, on the sidewalk and in the courtyard. The seating is conducive for pairs and groups of people meeting up, and singles getting work done. This atmosphere accommodates a variety of needs. I cannot say enough about the Dans (the two men, both named Dan), who own the café, as well as the baristas and chefs, who are always quite kind and make an effort to get to know and remember you. FoJo even has a pop up in the O’Connor Campus Center (COOP) that would routinely sell out last year. The café in town also sells out of certain food depending on the day. This café has the most variety, with breakfast sandwiches, overnight oats, mac and cheese, paninis, soups, breakfast and lunch dishes, baked goods both made in house and from local businesses, it is very difficult not to find something to eat here. They even carry mochi. On days when the kitchen is closed, they still have grab-and-go options and paninis. Closing at 3:00 p.m., this café definitely has the most selection ranging from breakfast to lunch. In terms of coffee, if you love coffee, you might be enticed by them grinding coffee beans in front of you. They have all of the standard coffee drinks — lattes with a selection of flavorings, matcha lattes, espressos and cold brews — and if you don’t like coffee, they have an array of other drinks, including a whole tea wall, smoothies and bubble tea on the weekends. FoJo is also the only café to accept Gate Card payments, which serves as a huge benefit for students.
The location, plethora of food and drink options, ability to sit inside, friendly staff, and ability to use Gate Card make FoJo my go-to coffee spot in town. The extra hour they are open compared to Rye Berry and Flour and Salt coupled with their locations makes FoJo a no-brainer for anyone who wants to a grab a coffee or something from their ready-made food area before taking the cruiser up to an afternoon class. Each coffee shop in town has their own claim to fame, whether it be an easy drive-through, bagels, bread or charismatic owners with a love for coffee beans, and each is worth a try. Personally, the atmosphere and variety you get at FoJo is one of a kind.