High St. Cafe to feature favorites when it debuts new look Monday

HAMILTON — A change in the High St. Cafe’s business model is a plan to give Phil and Alena Wong a better balance in their family life.

The couple knows how much High St. Cafe means to the community as it’s typically packed during the lunch hour as customers are either eating at tables or filling in any available space waiting on to-go orders. But between staffing and supply chain issues, working seven days a week, and shuffling family commitments in favor of work commitments, Phil Wong said something had to give.

“I’m at home stressing about things,” he said. “We’re up to 1 o’clock in the morning upset trying to get all the details figured out, and then I’ll be up at 3 in the morning to be at the restaurant at 4 a.m.”

Phil Wong also recalls his father, who died at 67 years old after working all of his life and didn’t get a chance to enjoy his life in retirement.

“Life’s too short,” he said. “You’ve got to step back and enjoy your family.”

When High St. Cafe reopens on Monday, the business model isn’t the only thing that will be different. There will be new hours ― 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, and closed Sundays and all holidays ― and there will be more of a focus on selling the vintage and collectible items that will encompass more of the store (and online). Phil Wong said collecting the vintage items has always been a passion, and being able to offer them to others, he said, “It’s fun. It’s memories.”

Also, all food will be to-go, though there is an area where people can lounge to enjoy a cup of coffee or a cup of soup, he said.

These changes will allow the Wongs to focus more on the catering business and their family. Phil Wong said the catering business “kept this place alive” during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When people walk inside on Monday, Alena Wong said it “will look completely different.” Monday will also be the restaurant’s debut of Very Berry Mondays, where she said they’ll offer only on Mondays the locally famous Chicken Berry Salad, where it’s prepared either grilled or blackened.

Kyle Jones wanted to stop by for lunch at High St. Cafe on Friday but was disappointed he and a client had to go elsewhere. He said he’s okay with the change of the business model, though he did like dining in the restaurant.

“I’ll miss that aspect, but I’ll still order some carryout,” he said. “It’s good food. It’s always good food. It’s always a good atmosphere.”

Though the menu will be pared down, it will feature staples the community’s come to love, like the Chicken Berry Salad (only available on Mondays at the store), various soups, and Phil’s award-winning chili.

The Wongs have owned and operated High St. Cafe since it opened in June 2015 in downtown Hamilton, and it has become a staple eatery for the city. They purchased the building at 250 High St. in July 2014, and 11 months later opened the cafe.

“I was here every day busting my butt,” said Wong during the renovation. “I had this place gutted, renovated, set up and opened the business all within 11 months. And this building went vacant for nine years.”


Among the changes at the High St. Cafe are the hours. Starting Monday, the new hours will be:

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays

Closed Sundays and holidays

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