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Specialty restaurants/eateries across Canada - Suggestions please

  • m

I am tossing around the idea of writing a series of articles for a magazine about specialty food places, but since the mag is national, I cannot focus solely on those I know of (I'm in Ottawa - the Prime example here is The Scone Witch).

If anyone knows of quirky specialty places that specialize in one kind of food, anywhere in Canada, please let me know. I'm particularly interested in places that aren't well known, and any kind of food is welcome.


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  1. I'm sure you'll find tons of ideas if you just scroll down and do some research on this board. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of information. Good luck with your article!

    1 Reply
    1. re: errant


      Peter's Drive Thru

    2. I don't know if fries qualify as "specialty", but the french-fry truck run by Claude Simard at the top of the "big hill" in Tadoussac, Quebec is legendary. Best fries I've ever tasted, hands down.

      Plus the owner is a real character. Calls all the locals "tremblay" (more often than not, he's right, it is a small town), and everyone else "l'anglais".

      Claude's truck has been mentioned in a few newspaper articles over the years. If I remember where, I will re-post.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sam

        Here you have Bud the Spud's.
        French fries from PEI.
        Parked by the library on Spring Garden like forever.
        But in winter they go to Florida.

      2. St Johns NFLD - Try Leo's or Chess's Fish & Chips both have great food & history.

        1. 786 restaurant - Second floor above Super Marché Jean-Talon on Jean-Talon Blvd. in Montreal. Halal Pakistani with great flatbreads, a bizarre décor more fitting for Red Lobster than Karachi (what's with the fishnets??!!?), no appetizers but a great choice of vegetarian dishes as well as halal meat dishes. Courteous service, no liquor license, try the mustard greens, butter chicken and naans with dal. Enough for two. English, Arabic, Urdu, some French spoken by wait staff.

          By the way, it's all hot, even if you ask for mild, unless that's what they mean by mild.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ursabear

            If you stop at Marche Jean-Talon, you won't be hungry for dinner. This is a DON'T MISS for any Chowhounder in Montreal. It is the best open air market in North America!

          2. In calgary there is a place called Graze Grill, It is an all beef restaurant. As they say..No Chicken, No Pig, No Fish.You can't even get bacon bits for your potato. So if you are looking for a great steak or a Salad bar of over 100 items thats the place to check out. They have great food. www.grazegrill.com

            1. Vancouver -

              Nando's Chicken
              Fritz Fry House
              Fat Burger

              Calgary -

              Peters Drive Inn
              My favorite Ice Cream Shoppe
              Spulombos Sausage

              1 Reply
              1. re: JWh

                Nando's is an international Portuguese chicken chain.

              2. Vancouver-
                Casa Gelato (hundreds of gelato flavours-try the basil one, or the pear gorgonzola)

                Schwartz's Smoked Meat deli

                1. Peters does not specialise in one kind of food- it's a burger place. They serve many foods.

                  JWh, Fatburger is a chain. Not what OP seeks.

                  In Calgary, I think you'd like Crave cupcakes- yes they also sell cookies but there ya go- www.cravecookies.com

                  1. If I'm in Montreal, I never miss going to L'Express on St. Denis. Great, casual, friendly old-school Montreal Bistro.

                    I'm from Toronto and one of my favorite spots in the city is Silver Spoon on Roncesvales. Very reasonably priced, friendly, and quality food.

                    The Terroni chain in Toronto also does very nice, authentic casual Italian fare (pizzas are fantastic, good pastas).

                    For the higher-end $$ in Toronto, North 44 is a landmark as is McEwan's newer Bymark. I haven't been to Marc Thuet's place on King West, but I've read great things and I'm a sucker for French food. Also on King W. is Crush, a place that doesn't seem to get much mention but has a great wine list and the food has never disappointed me in several visits.

                    1. The "Corn Crib" in Cottam, Ontario on old Highway 3 south of Windsor, sells fresh, hot-buttered corn in season from a roadside stand. Sweet corn just a few minutes in from the field and properly cooked as it is here, is amazing - these folks prepare it well. They don't do anything special, they just let the corn do its own thing.

                      Their main business is, of course, market sweet corn and they usually have a selection of varieties. On my last visit I was able to bring home some more traditional yellow corn with less sweetness and a deeper "corn" flavour.

                      In truth, I've found better sweet corn, but not by much. What is truly special about the Corn Crib is that it's about as far south as you can get in Canada. Essex County has the first, truly fresh corn in the country. It can be a week or two ahead of the rest of the country.

                      1. Toronto & Vancouver: if you like OYSTERS, don't miss RODNEYS... wonderful extensive selection, very fresh, good wine list too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jim2657

                          rodney's has little charm to me... but hey it could just be because i already have my favourite places down pat.

                          BUT if you're intent on doing something about oysters, my pick would be oysterboy. they offer a $40 shucking class most weekends where you learn about the history, anatomy, harvesting, etc of oysters, shuck about 18 with some instruction and walk away with a tshirt. the atmosphere is fun and educational and every year adam (the owner) makes it out to the oyster farms where he gets his bivalves from and partakes in all the gritty work. more often than not his managers go with him as well. true fantastic passion. oh, and i believe he won the canadian or ontario speed championships this year.

                          skip on the nando's, if anything that's like a south african chain specialty thing.

                          another place in toronto that's really fun... r-shop. at king and spadina you'll find an italian furniture store with somewhat ok offerings.. but during hte weekdays until about 6pm there are a few japanese ladies manning the front counter with homestyle japanese lunch menus. kind of kitschy fun to have lunch in a furniture shop.. but it also helps that the place is actually quite good and one of the few places in toronto that seems to serve a chicken katsu don.

                        2. I recommend McKellar Confectionary in Thunder Bay, Ontario. A small shop, it doesn't thrive on variety, since it serves only 4 items 1)hamburgers 2)cheeseburgers 3)hotdogs 4)toast (nope, not even fries)

                          The burgers and dogs are covered in coney sauce, are are just the right size to have two. The decor (olive green vinyl) and the prices are indications of how long it's been there. It is run and owned by Gus who has been there forever, and the 50+ crowd who remember it from their highschool day's affectionately refer to it as Gussie's Place.

                          Truly a TBay treat!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Kase

                            Bridge Drive Inn Ice Cream---very well known, long long lineups at peak season, be prepared to wait, but well worth the wait. Best Ice Cream in the world, lol.
                            Ichi Ban Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar---Very delicious food, cooked at your table by a professional chef, includes knife show, lol.....

                          2. Edmonton is chock full of fabulous quirky shops and restaurants. On Saturday mornings we head out the door with the flush of anticipation on our faces, ready for the next culinary adventure. A fun and delicious stop is Langano Skies, an Ethiopian restaurant on Whyte Ave where you unroll your bundles of spongey grey pancake to scoop up the delicacies from a communal platter. The Cupcake Shoppe on Stoney Plain Road bakes up cupcakes so decadent and perfect that decision-making can take ages. We don't let a weekend go by without stopping at the Italian Centre. There are two of them in town and we usually go to the southside store. We stop at the cafe first for a latte and something tasty from the huge pastry counter. Then we ooh and aah up and down the aisles until we hit the deli. That's the best part! Also check out Tim Wood's Eco Cafe near Pigeon Lake (south of Edmonton). I haven't been yet but everyone who has raves about it. This man knows how to cook and all of his food honours the environment around him.

                            1. OK this was also a review I posted on another site...so maybe a little of it seems snotty. My apologies...it wasn't originally intended for chowhound. But Calgary's Pulcinella is fabulous. There is also Capo too. Or Amato Gelato...ok so my favourites are Italian...

                              Pulcinella is fabulous. I have eaten there at least ten times...and tried to order at least something different every time.

                              Keep in mind that this establishment, like every other business in Calgary, is hurting for staff, and quite frankly, I find the staff great. They do not want to be my new best friend, as many "teeny-bopper" restaurants... but simply to bring me my food, and they do so meticulously. Every single time...except once....I received my food so quickly, that it was almost too fast! But I am not complaining...they need to get all the masses in there...and besides...those pizza's hardly take any time to cook. The point is that once I waited exceedingly long for a pizza...but every other time I have never waited more than ten minutes! The way I figure it is, if you think that getting on a plane to Naples...and dealing with the garbage currently rotting in the streets...is easier and faster ....than an incredible pie you can eat and enjoy here in town...I say go right ahead. It leaves room in for Pulcinella for me! I love travelling, but this is as good as it gets folks.

                              OK. So my question is....have any of you who have written these reviews ever had REAL Italian pizza before? As in, cooked in an 800C oven? Or ate it in Naples? Or even New Haven, Connecticut. The pie...I do not mean apple pie....is supposed to be slightly burnt on the bottom. It has character. That is the point. It is not from a chain...it actually tastes like something. The crust is not supposed to be overwhelmed with toppings, or plastic-like cheese. It is about balance. And this pie is also about history. That doesn't mean you have to like it. But give it some time and savour it. It is almost impossible to call this pizza, when what the chain's serve is also called by the same name. The dish is not really the same. Italian pizza doesn't even have to have any sauce!

                              This pizza is not just Neapolitan style...but certified! Nearly every ingredient is imported, and this labour of love is reflected in the quality of the dishes. Not only is the pizza good, but I highly recommend the arancini. Essentially, you take risotto and roll it into balls and fry it. These are done to perfection here. The essence of Italy shines through, as Italians adore fried foods...no not just Americans. But the style is much different. I also highly recommend the fritto misto - lightly battered and fried oyster mushrooms, with a gorgonzola sauce. This is just like eating in Rome.

                              The polenta lasagne is also great, in that every element of the dish is seasoned correctly. The sauce is sweet, but balanced. The polenta is perfectly cooked. This is winter comfort food at its finest.

                              The only thing Pulcinella is missing, would be a seasonal pizza with figs and gorgonzola. I'd take pears too. But that is probably not ever served in Naples...so I suppose I'll survive. It would be yummy though.

                              Italians and Italian cuisine, is not, and has not evolved as gluttony per se - because it is a cuisine...something you can eat everyday, as part of a healthy lifestyle. It is not about binging and purging, as North Americans tend to do. You can eat an entire pizza here, and not feel guilty...the guilt becomes even smaller with one of the many fine choices of wine offered here."