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Niagara Falls/Niagara on the Lake

Hi there:

We are heading to Niagara on the Lake for a conference the last week in Sept with an extra day planned for pleasure. We are trying to decide whether we should stay at Niagara on the Lake or at Niagara Falls. We will spend time in both places and I would love some suggestions for places to eat. We like all different kinds of foods and we prefer places that are moderately priced and not super fancy.

Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. There are many detailed threads on this, so search the board.

    NOTL:
    - Stone Road Grill
    - Zees (reports show inconsistency - we had a good experience)
    - Epicurion (lunch is cafeteria style and quite good; dinner is fancier, but still informal)
    - BARS at Piller & Post and Riverbend Inn
    - Niagara Culinary Institute (at QEW Glendale exit)

    We've had mixed experiences at Hillebrand, Peller, and Strewn. Some really good food and some really poor. All seemed overpriced.

    Stay away from the Vintage Inn restaurants (except the Piller & Post bar) and don't go near the Shaw Wine Bar.

    Falls:
    We've never had a good meal anywhere, local or chain. We haven't tried the new casino. (TGI Fridays was so bad that it was a life experience.) We can recommend the Redwood B&B in the Falls as a place to stay.

    1 Reply
    1. re: embee

      Thank you all for the suggestions! I am going to do a little research on these places. I will definitely post reviews after our trip. Thank you!

    2. I'll second all of Embee's comments. 17 Noir at the Casino has a good reputation, but I've not eaten there. I'd say that Niagara Falls is a better place to visit than to stay or eat.

      1. When in NOTL make sure you get to the Olde Angel Inn. It's a great old bar with a ghost story. http://www.angel-inn.com/
        If you can find/afford accomodation, I'd stay in NOTL. It's a great little town. It's used constantly if Hollywood movies that take place around Christmas.

        Enjoy
        DT

        1. I've yet to have a meal in Niagara on the Lake I don't hate. THe worst ever was a Shaw burger, that I assumed would be vegetarian. I was not angry to find meat (i love it), but it tasted like McDonalds. I hear most restaurants are owned by 1 person. I won't list all my dissappointments, but the worst was at the Landing. It was about $100 a person, and we left hungry and bitter.

          My partner is from Niagara Falls, a depressing tacky city with a few really good, old-style Italian Canadian restaurants. I like the Casa D'oro (laugh at the decor, enjoy the food), the Capri (weathered by pleasant), and Como in NF NY. The latter is spectacularly good. It's like being in a Doris Day movie, but with over the top Italian American food.

          1. That one person, the "Hong Kong dragon lady" spent millions on upgrading NOTL. Unfortunately, she priced everything for US tourists when our dollar was in the dumper. It didn't work, and she doesn't own everything anymore.

            She still owns the Shaw Cafe and Wine Bar (where I assume you had that "Shaw burger"). It is a tourist trap with exhorbitant prices, mediocre food, and bad service. She also owns the Oban Inn, but the restaurant there is leased to a local chef (Tony DeLuca) with a good reputation that I don't think he deserves. I haven't eaten there yet.

            She no longer runs the Prince of Wales, Piller & Post, or Queen's Landing. They are cheaper than they were, but not worth their cost. The one exception is the Piller & Post bar, where they serve very tasty sandwiches and such that are priced reasonably for their size.

            Stick with the independent places and, possibly, try Zees.

            (I actually had a memorable tasting menu meal at the Landing in 2004. Went back in 2005 to a very different experience. The chef was gone and the food was blah. I could have done without the plastic wrap in my sandwich that nearly choked me to death. The waitress told us that there was nobody in the house with the authority to comp the meal.)

            1. After searching the Niagra phone book (a handy chowish tool in desperate times)for any ethnic cuisine whatsoever - eager to avoid at any cost the torrent of crappy places - we discovered an excellent and authentic Vietnamese restaurant called The Second Bowl, about a mile or so from Niagra's concentration of culinary drek, and frequented by many Vietnamese. Very good spicy scallop soup and quite good pho, nice tofu and potato yellow curry (made extra spicy as requested), and almost-Japanese subtle chicken fried rice. We were ever so pleased to have escaped chain restaurant-hotel restaurant hell. Highly recommended.

              1. How many's "we"? You could check out chef Mark Piccone, who used to be executive chef at Vineland. He now runs a small studio kitchen/dining room, and does small seatings to order. You can arrange with him what you want on the menu.

                1. I've just dined at The Keefer Mansion Inn, in Thorold (10 minutes from the Falls) and they've got great suites and honest food, they do a three course table d'hote for $39. All the foods made in house and they use as much local as possible.

                  A great hidden gem to check out.

                  Here's the link to check out www.keefermansion.com

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: woodenhorse

                    Don't agree with this one. Six of us ate at Keefer about two months ago. Food was very ordinary - almost like something from the 80;s. I do agree though that the price is very inexpensive.

                    1. re: tasteebuds

                      Keefer's original chef, Bruce Worden, left a couple of months ago. I haven't heard much about the new regime.

                  2. I had a lovely dinner at the Charles Inn in NOTL. Just don't stay in their (IMO) hugely overpriced rooms.

                    1. We had a less than amazing dinner at Zee's last month. In a nutshell...beautiful restaurant, brutal service, average to good food. We'll be trying the Stone Road Grill next time...

                      1. We is 2 ;-)

                        Thank you for the suggestion!

                        1. In Niagara-on-the-Lake, I will vouch for the Epicurean and Stone Road Grille -- Epicurean is an especially good deal for lunch when it's in cafeteria-style mode. Angel Inn is also good for more English/pub fare, with reasonable prices. One of the prettiest views (with a high-end kitchen) out on the winery tours is at Vineland, near the village of Jordan. If you have a day with good weather, that's a great place for a long lunch. It will be pricey, but delightful, and the Vineland wines served are, all-around, among the most reliable in the region.

                          One place not yet mentioned, if you are looking for good value, is the dining room at the local golf club. It has an amazing location, right in the town of Niagara on the Lake, and has a view of Lake Ontario. We've been three times over the past two years -- one salad/burger lunch, one evening meal with a pasta bar, and one on the patio for a light evening meal -- each time we had tasty, well-portioned meals. I remember in particular one very good grilled portabello mushrom burger. Not high-end chef's delight like Stone Road Grille, but the prices are modest.

                          1. 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.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: QXSTER1

                              mm sounds amazing!! Do they have a tasting menu?

                              1. re: QXSTER1

                                Queenston Heights is great. I've been there a couple times. The view is outstanding. The food is just as good.
                                Lots of great local wines too.

                                DT

                                1. re: Davwud

                                  have you ever done a tasting menu there? how big are the portions?

                                  1. re: hungryabbey

                                    They didn't have a tasting menu that I'm aware of. I haven't been there in about 5 years but the portions were fine. Not huge but not small. Probably about what a person should eat. I'm a big eater and I was fine with it.

                                    DT

                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      thats good. I'm a big eater too, but no one likes feeling 'stuffed' or hungry after an expensive meal. I'm going to call them about whether or not they have a tasting menu.

                                  2. re: Davwud

                                    They just won an award for best VQA wine list in the province, too.

                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      And price point? $100 for 2? This thread came just in time as we are visiting that area this weekend!

                                      1. re: Teep

                                        I think with tax and tip. 2 entrees, an appetizer a bottle of the house and maybe dessert and or a couple beers we were around $120. I'm not sure but my best guess is you'd be looking at just over $100 per couple.

                                        DT

                                        1. re: Davwud

                                          Thats pretty surprising

                                    2. re: QXSTER1

                                      This is pleasantly shocking. Most of the Niagara Park's Commission restaurants serve horrendous, often inedible food. I'm surprised this hasn't been publicized.

                                    3. Here's a post I sent after a few days in that area earlier this year. Looking back, I found the Lakehouse in Vineland very comfortable and should have spoken more than I did about it. Good food, great view, wonderful service, patio - all the usual stuff. It is west of NOTL. Of course, early March is not the season around there.
                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                      1. I had a nice dinner at Carpaccio this past summer. Reasonable priced, generous portions of rustic, homestyle Italian food. I really enjoyed my veal in gorgonzola sauce.

                                        http://www.carpacciorestaurant.com/in...

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: phoenikia

                                          Ok- we got back a couple of weeks ago and here is the report:

                                          We tried Stone Road Grille but the wait was a couple of hours. We asked the hostess for an suggestion and she said to go back into NOTL and check out the main drag into town- there were lots of options. That was not exactly helpful. We ended up eating at Estia. It was ok. I ordered a pasta primavera and it was extremely average. My boyfriend had the steak and it was very good with a tasty sauce. We could not afford to stay 3 nights in NOTL so we did eat a few meals in Niagara Falls. We ate at the Happy Wanderer and it was pretty good German/Austrian food. I liked everything we had there. The one thing I have to mention is the service in both NOTL and Niagara Falls- it was consistently bad everywhere. The servers were very inattentive. That was a real disappointment.

                                          1. re: karenmcgee

                                            You should have made a reservation for the Stone Road Grille. The place is packed everytime I have been there (and that has always been in the off season too).

                                            I am surprised about your comment about it being cheaper to stay in Niagara Falls than NOTL. You should have been able to find a B&B for a reasonable price. Regardless, the drive from the Falls to NOTL is not the far (and is a nice one if you take the parkway).

                                            1. re: Paolo

                                              From what I can find on Google Maps it looks like there are two Stone Road Grilles in or near NOTL. One is on Mary St., appears to be closer to central NOTL, and has a "Stone Road Grille To-Go" next door; the other is out on Garrison Plaza. Are these related? To which one do all of the positive reviews refer?

                                              1. re: Carruthers

                                                It's one and the same. It's in a plaza at the southwest corner of Hwy 55 and Mary Street. On the way into town from the QEW, it's on the right-hand-side, and there is a big sign that says "REST".

                                        2. I've been to NOTL a number of times, and I always stay at the White Oaks resort, just off the QEW, 10-15 minutes from the center of town. I really appreciate the new suggestions I'm seeing here (especially Queenston Heights..).

                                          I have to say, though, that Liv, White Oaks' main restaurant, is really quite good (a lot better than the restaurants in town, from what I've seen). Not everything I've had has been wonderful (and I kind of wish they didn't limit their wine list to Niagara vintages, with few exceptions) - but a number of meals have been excellent, and the service is always very good.

                                          I especially recommend the mussels (in a flavorful cream sauce with bacon and tomatoes) - and the chocolate armageddon dessert is to die for.

                                          Also - the hotel is a lot nicer than the in-town B & Bs - and a little cheaper, too (but I must add that I'm not a B & B person).

                                          Any other White Oaks thoughts?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: annettesan

                                            I really like Liv, and it's good to hear that the hotel at White Oaks is maintaining its standards. Across the road is the dining room at Niagara Culinary Institute (the Chef at White Oaks, Michael Price, is a graduate), which is also good value, and I've both had good meals and heard good things from others recently about it.

                                          2. I had a bad experience at Estia. It looked good from the outside and the patio in the back is nice. But the chicken tasted extremely old - the kind you would get from the frozen food section of a low end supermarket. In fact my dinner companions also ordered chicken dishes and it was the same. The couple next to us sent their dinner back for the same complaint. The pasta was overcooked and the dishes way too oily. And this was on Canada long weekend when the A team should have been on! The people that seemed to be enjoying their food were the ones that ordered burgers. The prices are too high for the poor quality of food that was served. I would recommend staying away from Estia.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: cantremember

                                              I'm a San Francisco Hound who was in Niagara on the Lake last week. I want to also add my advice to avoid Estia. Just to let you know, I've never posted a negative review of a restaurant on chowhound before. The restaurant has been fixed up nicely but the food was bad, the service awful and the prices high, although not unusual by NOTL standards. The crabcakes were mostly filler, very gummy and deep fried to the hardness of hockey pucks. The lasagna was also gummy with what tasted like a bad jarred sauce. I didn't expect professional service and the servers were nice and meant well but were completely untrained, although they told me they had been there awhile. The entrees were brought before our appetizer plates were taken away and the server just moved them to the corner of the table to put our entrees in front of us. He then left them there. There was especially interesting since my wife hadn't finished eating her appetizer yet. We had a very good meal at the Epicurean the night before with a monkfish in a mustard beurre blanc with fresh fennel that I would have been happy to get at any restaurant in New York or San Francisco. The service at the Epicurean was also very good. We've been eating at the Epicurean for years on our regular visits and have always been happy.

                                              1. re: Steveberkeley

                                                We're headed to NOTL this week, so I'm checking all the threads, so far we are thinking of having dinner at Zee's and a lunch or dinner at Epicurean. A friend also suggested we stay at Shaw Club, thoughts anyone?

                                            2. There's a great bakery and cafe at Niagara Stone Rd, on your way to Niagara on the lake called "the pie plate". They make the most incredible pies and other excellent baked goods. They also make really tasty sandwiches.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hanc

                                                I just came back from a full week in NOTL, and I found that across the board the food was way over priced and not that good. I also spent a week there two years ago. And have gone for many weekends for the past 15 years.
                                                After trying lots of places, we ended up eating many of our meals at the Pie Plate. It is fresh and flavorful. It is simple soup, salad and sandwiches, and they don't serve dinner, but the food is fresh and good. And the pies and pastries are excellent. I would just rather have a healthy and tasty meal, than a not so good expensive meal.
                                                That said,
                                                We had a good meal at the Stone Road grille, however, the portions were tiny and it was pricy. But, the staff was wonderful and the service excellent. We did not have a reservation on a Monday at 6 pm, and I had my infant son with me. We promised to be quick, and they squeezed us in. And never once did we feel rushed. This is not a restaurant that I would normally bring a baby to, but they were v ery accommodating and we have a great experience.
                                                The Epicurian was good too.
                                                Be aware that the Angel Inn is under new ownership. The fish in my fish and chips was overly breaded and very greasy. Good, casual place though, especially for a pint before or after a show.
                                                We also had a meal at the Peller Winery. I was very diappointed. I got one of their specialties, a veal loin with veal bacon and corn and peaches. It was flavorless. And expensive.

                                              2. Falls Manor on Lundy's Lane is a great family restaurant with good prices. Excellent service. They also serve breakfast all day.

                                                There is also a new Italian restaurant at the corner of Lundy's Lane and Dorchester called Johnny Rocco's. We had lunch there. It was really good, except the service was slow. That was when it just opened though, therefore, I'm sure service has improved by now. I hope.

                                                1. Ugh. White Oaks? I guess I just don't get why anyone would want to stay in a "cookie cutter" chain-like hotel beside a highway when a 10 minute drive away is a beautiful, traditional Ontario town on the river with the country's best selection of heritage B&B's. I have tried it and it was OK if you like "Holiday Inn" but there are so many options with way more character in the area. We also tried Liv and it was OK but not worth the drive (the winery restaurants are no farther from town and certainly are more unique to the peninsula).

                                                  1. Stone Road Grill is amazing. A little unassuming from the street.

                                                    Epicurion is also nice for a light lunch.