The Hearty Hooligan
Hamilton has seen an explosion of options for vegan and vegan-curious folks in recent years, but The Hearty Hooligan has put its own stamp on meatless eats in the city. Operating under the tagline “Keep Vegan Trashy”, this east-end restaurant and bakery serves up classic, mouth-watering junk food and an unapologetic punk-rock vibe. Check out the interview below with owner Staicha Kidd and stop by for pizza pocket and milkshake or order a custom cake for your next celebration.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
I opened The Hearty Hooligan at the beginning of 2017 when the vegan options in the city were very sparse. I wanted to create the ultimate vegan stoner food; super indulgent, nostalgic foods from your childhood like dunkaroos, pizza pockets, and loaded mac and cheese. Now that there are so many incredible vegan spots in this city, what makes us stand out is how involved we are in our community. We do so many fundraisers throughout the year for LGBTQ2SIA+ organizations, our unhoused neighbours, Indigenous organizations, and so forth. We are very proud of where we stand on local issues, we believe strongly in our community, and for that reason, the majority of our regulars are non vegans that love the food and love to support us. We feel so lucky to have found our niche.
You’re located on Ottawa St North in Crown Point, what do you love about your neighbourhood?
I love the east end so much. I originally opened in the west end but I was always eyeing this neighborhood because so many of the business owners I was friends with were here. This street is incredible, we’ve got The City & The City Books, Simply Zen, East Hamilton Cheese Co (so many vegan cheeses), Stone & Shadow, so many great bars (like MERK and Argyle), and so many record shops. We also have the antique mall and we are steps away from Tim Hortons Field (and if you love Forge games like I do, that is important!)
What can people expect when they stop by the Hearty Hooligan?
The Hearty Hooligan is a bit of an overstimulating assault to the senses – whenever someone enters for the first time, you can always tell because they stand at the door looking a little bit overwhelmed. It is bright and colourful with cartoon-y murals, neon records, hot pink lights, lots of stickers, and fun music. Then when they look at the menu they see 4 pages of indulgent foods, fun cocktails, and milkshakes (not your usual salads and quinoa).
A lot of vegan joints have health-focused brands, you’ve leaned into a punk rock vibe and classic fast food dishes, tell us more about that.
I am very anti diet culture. I believe that people love food and that they especially love junk food. No one is going to be excited about a vegan option when that is a salad and a mineral water, but they will definitely get excited when it’s a gigantic pizza pocket and a chocolate milkshake. Being non judgmental and not finger waving at people about what they eat makes you a more accessible space that meat eaters won’t be afraid to try; most people don’t want to eat somewhere that focuses on their health or weight. We just want you to enjoy some good food, some awesome tunes, and maybe some drinks and desserts.
Vegan food used to be pretty niche, but has exploded in popularity recently, what do you think is behind that change?
Quite simply, convenience. I think a lot of people are interested in vegan food, be it for lifestyle reasons, environmental concerns, or just because they love animals, but most people don’t know where to start or where to find options. Nowadays there are options everywhere and so many of them are great. So, whether you are just interested in a meatless monday, or you’re looking to see if veganism is suitable for you, you don’t need to find a recipe on the internet and go buy a bunch of expensive ingredients you’ve never heard of, you can go almost anywhere for great options. I went vegan 14 years ago – back then it was like “hope you enjoy fries and lettuce.”
What’s your favourite item on the menu right now?
I always recommend the Anti Warrior Bowl, it is the most classic Hearty Hooligan dish. It is the complete opposite of a Warrior Bowl (something you would see at many vegan restaurants, a bowl of superfoods). Ours is a bowl of anti-super foods, mac and cheese, tex mex style “beef”, sweet chili heat doritos, green onion, tomatoes, and crispy onions. My favourite cocktail, forever, is The Angry Red Head, and I love our milkshakes (our ice cream is made locally by Fairly Frosted).
Besides your own place, where else do you like to eat or shop in the city?
My favourite places to eat are Bring Me Some, Coven, Moodys, Amigos, Mai Pai (I swear I’m not just saying that, haha! The vegan pickle pizza is my favourite thing to eat in this entire city), and Doors Pub.
Any advice to other small businesses wanting to open up shop in the city?
Standing out in Hamilton is hard because we have so many incredible businesses here, but this city is so adamant about supporting local. Hamiltonians are very loyal to Hamilton brands and small businesses. Get involved in the community and show up for people and you will earn a place in their hearts.