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Niagara-On-The-Lake / NOTL Suggestions?

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  • RCC Jul 5, 2005 12:32 PM
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We're from NYC and we'll be at NOTL for an overnight this weekend. It's been ages, about 7 years, since we last visited this beautiful area. We had good dining experiences at On The Twenty and Vineland Estates back then.

We love good food and good wines - a pairing menu is prefered but not a requirement.

We're looking for a nice dinner this Saturday within the confines of NOTL and have come across positive postings (and few negative ones) on Peller Estate Winery Restaurant, Hillerbrand, Charles Inn and Riverbend Inn. Looking for suggestion for our one-and-only dinner.

Thank you.

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  1. Those all sound like good bets for a "one and only" dinner. There is a new place called Zeez that is across the street from the Shaw Festival theatre, that might be worth a try (same owners/managers as the Charles Inn, I believe, and some exciting talent in the kitchen). I'll be at Stone Road Grille on Thursday night, so I'll post something as soon as I can.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Gourmando

      Peller is the best choice for a deluxe tasting menu kind of dinner. (And a gorgeous space.)

      Stone Road Grille is the best medium=priced place around.

      Charles Inn is very good as well.

      1. re: Gourmando

        -I went to Zee's recently on Sunday night. The food was decent, not extraordinary (Stone Road is WAY better by far), the service was ATROCIOUS, it look like they forgot to train their waitstaff. Check out Zest in Fonthill, received excellent food and service, worth the extra 10 min drive. The view is always better at the winery restaurants, but you will be paying a premium for it.

        1. re: Blondie

          I'll certainly second Blondie's endorsement for Zest; I still think it is the best restaurant in the Niagara Peninsula. The original post was specifically looking for something in NOTL itself, so I didn't include it.

          A comment on the 10-minute drive: I live in Fonthill and sail in NOTL, and I've yet to do the drive in under 35 minutes (even less likely after my speeding ticket in Virgil last summer...). That said, it is still worth the drive!

          Good to hear a report about Zees; I hope things improve. I found a website for them yesterday, and have put the link below.

          Link: http://www.zees.ca/

          1. re: Gourmando

            Zees had a great atmoshphere, the veranda is beautiful, but the services was seriously lacking. Zest's atmosphere is okay at best but everything else supercedes that, excellent food and service.
            (Sorry, the drive is 10 mins from St.Kitt's)

            1. re: Gourmando

              My wife and I had dinner at Zees Patio and Grill in Niagara on the Lake last Tuesday and I have to say it was one of the best meals I have ever had in the town. It's so great to see someone in Niagara trying something new. The food was exceptional, the atmosphere was exciting and our server guided us towards some wonderful wines and meal suggestions. We will certainly be back to Zees(we actually cancelled our lunch reservations at another restaurant on Wed and went back!)

              1. re: Steve Holmes

                Unfortnately, we had the exact opposite experience & did not enjoy Zees at all. The service was terrible - we received our wine about 2 minutes before our food came. It ended up giving 'fast food' a whole new meaning. Upon seating us, the waiter asked if we were going to the theatre. When we responded that we were not, he basically forgot about us ... and the rest is history! When I wrote them afterwards they did not even respond to my e-mail. Our party of four was very disappointed with both the service and food (the food didn't make up for the poor service)& none of us will recommend or return to Zees. Our friends own a bed & breakfast in Niagara on the Lake so it would have been in Zees best interest to have courteously responded. On well ....

                1. re: mary

                  We had a fabulous dinner at ZEES and would highly recommend it. I thought that the menu was appealing, the food was wonderful and we could not have been happier with the waiter - a very pleasant, knowledgeable guy.

                2. re: Steve Holmes

                  My wife and I with another couple went to Zees Patio and Grill on Sunday Aug 14, 2005. We arrived for our 5:30PM reservation and were seated immediately. Then the waiting began. The service was extremely slow and unattentive and it took 2 hours to suffer through a mediocre meal.

                  People around us came later and finished earlier but we were handled poorly and slowly for no apparent reason and without explanation.

                  I had the Duck Magret and found the duck tough and the bed of Asian noodles bland and uninteresting. The description sounded very interesting and flavourful but the meal was very bland and flavourless.

                  My guests only had appetizers. The wild mushrooms and goat cheese was flavourful but the Niagara greens is nothing but a few greens covered in vinaigrette.

                  Summary, I will never return and I suggest you go to Zees at your peril.

              2. re: Blondie
                j
                Jennifer Goodine

                WOW! I was really surprised to read that review for Zee's in niagara on the lake! I just googled it because i was in this weekend and had an excellent experience! I found the food to be creative and fun...not to mention fabulous to the last crumb! The server i had was very good, and quite knowledgable about the wines offered there (which is an extensive list!) i guess every restaurant has good days and bad days, but I highly recommend dining there because i haven't experienced a place like that in niagara for a long time! i'll definately be returning, i loved it!

            2. loved the charles inn. really didn't love inn on twenty that much.

              1 Reply
              1. re: todc1996

                Agree with Inn on Twenty. Way overpriced and service was kinda condesending.

              2. Without hesitation I would recommend The Stone Road Grille, also known as "Rest". Doesn't look like much from the oputside, but the food is really nice and the staff couldn't be friendlier.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Hungry John
                  t
                  ThomOnTheNet

                  I just had the opportunity to write a review for Stone Road Grille. Hope you'll find it informative.

                  Peace,

                  Thom

                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                2. We just came back from a long weekend in NOTL. We usually go up from Philadelphia once or twice a year. You can't beat the combination of plays, wineries, and food.

                  If you're only having one great dinner I think you should go for the best combination possible. For me, that means Peller's. It has excellent food, superb view of vineyards, beautiful presentation, and very good waitstaff. You can ask to sit on the patio (I think they hold a table in the dining room for you in case the weather is nasty).

                  The other recommendation I saw here was to the Stone Road Grill. This is also a very good place to try but the setting is not on the same par as Peller's. The Stone Road Grill is basically a bar with seating. It's nice but not in the same league atmosphere-wise.

                  Inn on the Twenty is beautiful but lacks the view of the vineyards. It's also a little bit of a drive from NOTL (about 20-30 minutes). The food was very good but I didn't like it quite as well as Peller's this time. I thought that they used to have more game on the menu.

                  So, my vote goes to Peller's.

                  1. The Buttery.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Negaduck

                      more like AVOID the buttery

                      1. re: blondie

                        agree (to avoid the buttery that is).

                      2. re: Negaduck

                        My wife and I went to the Buttery last summer with another couple and we were talked into the King's Feast in an upstairs room. Although there were a few laughs, we paid a high price for a poor meal, that we ate with our hands and drank poor wine and beer. Basically we paid to be insulted by the king and eat bad food.

                        Not a very good formula for an evening. I agree with everyone's comments, "stay away from the Buttery"!

                      3. Thank you, all, for your response.

                        We'll do Peller and, hopefully, be able to squeeze in Zest (at Fonthill) for lunch before we leave on Sunday.

                        I'll post a report when we get back.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: RCC

                          RCC: Zest is unfortunately closed on Sundays and Mondays, and only open for dinner on Saturdays. Fonthill isn't exactly "on" the beaten tourist path, so they just don't get the traffic.

                          Here's a suggestion for a Sunday lunch that I don't think has been mentioned: the Niagara Culinary Institute dining room at Niagara College. I've put the link below. It's a beautiful dining room, with superb food, and the Niagara College Teaching Winery (whose boutique is right next to the dining room) has some truly outstanding, award-winning wines. Their chardonnays (they have two different ones that are both great), pinot noir, riesling, and late harvest vidal are all world-class.

                          I've posted the link below.

                          Link: http://niagarac.on.ca/features/nci_di...

                          Image: http://niagarac.on.ca/ncglobal/images...

                          1. re: Gourmando

                            The food is alright. Practically speaking, I would go at the end of their semesters, theoretically the students would be more "advanced" and experienced.

                            I must say the service was PAINFULLY slow, so much that it really ruined the meal. THe room is lovely however, and the prices are very fair.

                            1. re: Gourmando

                              Tried the Niagara Culinary Institute restaurant for dinner yesterday when we couldn't get a table elsewhere. A very pleasant surprise. I suspect that food and service can be wildly inconsistent, but our experience was great. Not cheap, but half the price of comparable food elsewhere. Seems it is rarely full.

                              A 4 course dinner is $35, but this would have been too much food. The house-made white wine was very good, though lacking in complexity and finish. We didn't try the red ("semi-sweet") version.

                              Hits:
                              - The bread (an herbed baguette)
                              - Cavatelli pasta with wild mushrooms & truffled cream sauce
                              - Boston lettuce salad with sweet peppers
                              - Pickerel filet with roasted potatoes and tomatoes
                              - Grilled rib steak

                              OK:
                              - An amuse of pickerel escabeche with watermelon had some small bones
                              - Dessert trio: the sugar cap on lavender cream brule overwhelmed the lovely custard; the brie cheese was fridge cold and not ripe

                              Misses:
                              - The steak was served on a bed of chilled vegetables (primarily eggplant) that were weird. The veggies should have been served on the side or should have been served hot.
                              - The steak had a disk of flavoured butter with a strong English-style curry flavour that did not go with the steak. This butter turned out to be lovely on the pickerel.

                          2. I was just at "Zee's" last weekend...please see my recent review. In a nutshell, I'll be trying Stone Road Grill next time! I understand that reservations are difficult to get at times at the Stone Road Grill, so it's best to beook ahead!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: starvin

                              We booked a week and a half ahead of our visit (which is next Saturday evening), and they could only fit us in a 9:00 p.m... which is fine, because I don't mind eating late.

                            2. On a recent trip to NOTL we went to Queenston Heights for a fabulous dinner of carrot and cauliflower mousse, medallion of veal with wild boar sausage, Ontario lamb chops in a great sauce, herb encrusted chicken and a Triple Cream Canadian Brie with portabella mushrooms, apple cinnamon ice cream, macadamia nut chocolate tart,and lemon ginger yogurt for dessert. The restaurant had impeccable service and a fantastic view of the river from the dining room. The sauce for the lamb chops was kiln-dried black currant Merlot glaze that gives an idea of the sophistication of the cuisine. This was an unexpected treat and we would return in a heartbeat.

                              1. Forget Vineland the dispossed of there Chef and are only
                                middle of the road and very expensive.