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How far would you drive for good chow within Ontario?

If you had the time, transportation and craving, where would you go in Ontario for great food that is available to the public? Is there something worth going far out of your way to enjoy? I've always wanted to try Eigensinn Farm, but even if you think the best donut is worth a 4 hour drive, let me know.

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  1. For me, I would say I wouldn't drive very far for chow. I've gone 30 - 60 minutes which isn't' too much. The thing is, I'll drive a long way for food if I can combine it with other things. There is too much good stuff around here (GTA) to have to go too far out of the way. I have been known to go to Niagara or St. Jacobs or further for certain places. And do other things while there.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      I agree that it's a bonus to have great sightseeing on a road trip - I think the main reason I love eating in Bayfield (The Red Pump Inn), Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Dalhousie, and St. Jacob's (Vidalia's) is for the atmosphere, view, family and/or great shopping. You're right that since we live in GTA, we don't have to go very far to find great chow of all kinds. But for example, if I wanted to try Dutch/Indonesian rijstafel, I'd have to drive far away, right?

      1. re: Food Tourist

        There's a Rijstafel in Tobermory right? That is a little far. But, if I'm ever in the area.

        I'll go anywhere within a decent day trip. I have gone as far as Tillsonburg to try the Shakes at Hewitt's Dairy Bar.

      2. re: Davwud

        What kind of cuisine are you looking food? TO has a lot to offer without going out of the way.

      3. Hey FT

        Next time you go to St. Jake's, give the Olde Heidelberg House a try. It's just outside of town and has really good food. We prefer it to Vidalias.
        It also has an excellent house brew on tap.


        3 Replies
        1. re: Davwud

          Thanks for the tip, Davwud. I don't think Vidalia's is worth the drive, but since St. Jacob's is, I'll give OHH a try next time I'm in that region!

          1. re: Food Tourist

            I had the schnitzel last time I was there and liked it. I love the pig tails and my wife gets all but apoplectic when she starts to think about the roasted ham hock.


          2. re: Davwud

            I wish I saw your post last week! I drove through Heidelberg on the way to St. Jacobs on Thanksgiving Monday. We ended up at Vidalia's (again), mostly because we didn't know there was another German option nearby.
            Here's the website, in case anyone is interested:

            I ordered the wurst with kraut at Vidalia's. It was very ordinary. The sausages from the carts near Nathan Phillip's Square are tastier.

            Will try the Olde Heidelberg House next time I'm in the area.

          3. Wouldn't drive further than Etobicoke to dine at Via Allegro. Otherwise everything one could want is within Toronto proper. Or I fly to New York (great steaks) or London (great atmosphere) and enjoy fine dining in the course of a vacation.

            NO WAY would I drive even 5 minutes to Eigensinn (sp ?)
            Farms to be told what I have to eat and to bring my own wines in a precious atmosphere at high prices !

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bigtigger

              I've always wanted to go to Peter Luger steakhouse in NY, but is it really better than anything here in Toronto? For instance, I had a fantastic porterhouse at Ruth's Chris' and I know it's a chain, but it was still the best I've ever had!

              I don't mind chefs choosing my menu or not having wine, but if the ingredients and preparation are not worth the money, then I wouldn't want to dine there.

              I, too, have always loved Via Allegro, but haven't been there for over a year, sadly.

              1. re: Bigtigger

                Wouldn't drive more than 5 minutes to go to Eigensinn Farm, but you are willing to drive to Villa Allegro. Interesting. You are missing out a really great dining experience from one of Canada's master chefs. Michael Stadtlander prepared the best meal I have ever eaten, and yes I've dined in New York, Chicago, Paris and London too.

              2. I can't think of anywhere in Ontario...but a few times I drove to Rochester for a big plate of Dinasaur BBQ...and picked up a few bottles of their sauce for home..

                1. After today, I may reconsider how far I travel! (See my rant under Mike Love's BBQ). I'll usually drive the 1.5 hr to Paris, ON for Camp 31 BBQ, 4 hrs to Syracuse, NY for Dinosaur Jr BBQ, 45 minutes to Caledon for Flapjacks' toast and jam, 1.5 hrs to Buffalo, NY for Schwabl's beef on a weck, 5 hrs to Montreal for St Viator's bagels and fly 5 hrs to San Francisco for an El Farolito's al pastor burrito.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: fickle

                    Sorry to hear you went all the way to Mike's BBQ in Barrie for nothing. I hope you took advantage of a gorgeous, sunny day on Lake Simcoe at the very least, even if you were angry and disappointed! I don't blame you for never wanting to go back...but if I ever get a craving for BBQ, I'll make sure I call them first and then go the same day (and mention that they lost a customer already)! Although, after reading the review, I am sure I would be disappointed because my main complaint with "northern" southern 'cue is the lack of smokiness.

                    1. re: fickle

                      Fickle, I think you and I have bad long weekend karma. I went all the way (20 mins. drive across the city via Gardiner) to Barrio for brunch on Sunday. They are normally open on Sundays and had no posters on their window to indicate that they would be closed. I had to eat at another restaurant (Joy Bistro) nearby, which wasn't as tasty, but it was quite good and definitely very affordable. Barrio was still closed when we left Joy.

                      I'm never leaving the house again before calling ahead.

                      1. re: Food Tourist

                        Calling ahead wouldn't have helped me that morning since we left early to head up there for lunch. But the weekend was not all lost, got my bbq from Camp 31 today. Yum! Love that cornbread and pulled pork. Can't wait to have it again for lunch tomorrow. I'm gonna be dreaming about it tonight ;-) Off to Montreal next weekend to stock up on my bagels and if St Viator's not opened, there's always Fairmont at least!

                      2. re: fickle

                        fickle: ditto on the Dino BBQ (have been to Sryacuse and LOVE IT but not been to the closer Rochester location), bagels etc.

                        Have you tried El Trompo - 277 Augusta Avenue, in the Kensington Market area? It might save you the 5 hour flight. Mind you, its likely different and good but less $$$ as its in CAD and theres no flight involved. Very worth a try and I adore one of the ladies who works there and I believe is the owner. After going there a few times she recognised me, remembered my request for her to try speaking a bit of spanish and when I said I wanted to learn how to make some of the food, she said she'd love to teach me but to come during a time that wasn't too busy and made suggestions. Such a sweetie. They server Horchata and a Agua de Jamaica (Hibiscus Flowers) and a few other fun bevvies.

                        1. re: live4food

                          Hi live4food,
                          Yes I've been to El Trompo, Burrito Boyz, Big Fat Burrito, Mexitaco, Dos Amigos, Jalapeno, Bandido, Rancho Relaxo, Sneaky Dees, El Sol, Quesada and El Asador. All in search of the perfect replica to El Farolito! My SO lived in SF for 6 years and made it his mission upon his return to find a replacement. We're still looking... The closest thing in Toronto is Burrito Boyz but unfortunately their quality has gone downhill quite a bit since they've expanded. The last time I was there, they were watering down the salsa with a pitcher of tap water to make it go further and that just churned my stomach. Haven't been back since. Pity since their halibut was tasty! The next closest thing to El Farolito is actually in NYC (so a bit closer to travel to!) in this dinky tacqueria in Harlem north of Central Park. Now we just travel back to SF, load up our carry-on with half a dozen burritos. Not sure how that's going to work now with the new security measures ;-)

                          1. re: fickle

                            I've concluded there is absolutely nothing close to the taquerias indiginous to SF. When I want a big burrito loaded with real ingredients not too overprocessed I make it at home.

                      3. I won't go anywhere I can't cab- cause a great meal without wine is a draaaaaag for me. Hmmm. Is that a bad thing?

                        1. Paris, Ontario from Downtown Toronto for Camp 31. We'll take that trip at the blink of an eye. Love it!

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

                            This is an older thread on "snacks worth the drive" and some posters mention cities other than Toronto.

                            1. My husband and I drive to Cobourg and have buttermilk pancakes (mine with apple syrup) at the Buttermilk Cafe -- a pleasant hour and a half drive there, and another hour and a half back. Make sure you get there by 2 -- I think that's when they stop serving pancakes. A perfect way to start a weekend morning.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: courgette

                                Is it that good??
                                It'd be 2 hours for me but I'd be up for it.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  Love 'em. Nothing in the city compares. Add a side of sausages and I'm usually full for the rest of the day.

                                  The pancakes are consistent, but the apple sauce seems to change a bit each time -- depending on the combination of apples used, I guess -- some days sweeter, some days a little more tart.

                                  Don't know if it's on every Saturday and if it's seasonal, but in the summer, there's a farmers market one street closer to the lake a block away from the Buttermilk. I usually stop by there for bread and vegetable provisions for the week, too.

                              2. Eigensinn Farm >> that was far, hard to find and not worth it, in my humble opinion

                                the fish&chips shop at the end of the boardwalk in Tobermory, however, WAS/IS worth the 8 hour drive there and back

                                1. the 5 hours to Montreal for Schwartz's was worth it too :-)

                                  The Globe restaurant in Rosemont (about 1.5 hours outside TO) is also terrific -- the best gingerbread and rhbard dessert

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: orangewasabi

                                    If I didn't have to go to work, I'd be heading to Montreal for Schwartz's smoked meat sandwich and St. Viateur bagels for sure! I'll have to give Tobermory and the Globe a try - where exactly is Rosemont and could you describe the food please?

                                    1. re: Food Tourist

                                      Let's see:

                                      Forfar, ON - Forfar Dairy - fresh cheese curds, squeeky with whey, not the heavily salted frozen crap they sell in Toronto cheese markets.
                                      Cloyne, ON - Snider's Restaurant - pies and butter tarts
                                      Paris, ON - Camp 31 - BBQ
                                      Oshawa, ON - Teddy's - Warehouse Special (roast beef, turkey, corned beef and smoked meat on rye)
                                      Montreal, QC - St. Viateur - Bagels
                                      Montreal, QC - Schwartz's - Smoked meat sandwich
                                      Chapel Hill, NC - Mama Dip's - Hush Puppies, Catfish Gumbo, Chitlins

                                      1. re: Mike from Hamilton

                                        Never thought I'd see the day that Snider's Restaurant showed up on chowhound. And you're absolutely right, butter tarts, pies, hot sandwiches and the local gossip.

                                        1. re: Mila

                                          Snider's ain't fancy but I have fond memories of stopping there en route to my cottage in the Ottawa valley. As I recall the wild blueberry pie was phenomenal and their butter tarts still do eclipse anything that is available here in Toronto (yes even the fabled tarts at Hot Oven in Cloverdale Mall)...

                                          1. re: Mila

                                            I never thought I'd see the day that a Canadian drove to NC for chitlins. My FIL won't eat 'em. And he eats souse.


                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              I went to Duke university and eating a plate of chitlins was part of the hazing at frosh week. Once you get past what they really are, the way they are prepped at Mama Dip's, they are VERY tasty!

                                              On the other hand I am also going for some of her other house specialties as well...(catfish gumbo or her chicken fried steak for instance).

                                    2. What is this Camp31 BBQ you are all speaking of? Tell me more!

                                      We'll drive for chow without thinking about it as it combines two loves, road trips and eating. On saturday we drove from Hamilton to Picton just for their "Taste" event (mmmm. buddha dogs...mmmmmm), we drive to Chicago at least once if not twice a year really just to eat (though the art & architecture are nice condiments to our dine-around) and if we really had the time, we'd drive all the way back to St. Helena, CA for lunch at Travigne.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: WineWidow

                                        Camp 31 is a small roadhouse type eatery. They smoke fresh everyday and finish on the grill. Great Value too!

                                        You can't go wrong with anything. The ribs and pulled pork or brisket are fantastic, but my absolute favourite has to be the ribs. The grilled steak is also above average - great charcoal flavour! I like to switch between the side ribs and baby back - very different and both great. I also ask them to not finish my ribs with the sauce as I find it to be way too sweet. The cajun style on the table is my preference so I just use that.

                                        The other special thing about Camp is how fantastic the sides are. You must try the cornbread and baked beans - great combo. The sweet potato fries are awesome and almost like a desert. As well they make great regular fries. The only thing I didn't enjoy was the mashed potatoes.

                                        1. re: bestandworst

                                          I haven't been there for awhile but they didn't have any alcoholic beverages then. We had the lemonade which turned out to be fantastic.

                                      2. I've been toying with the idea of driving to Port Colborne, Erie Beach Hotel, for a platter of Lake Erie perch and a side of pickerel. From the sounds of it, it's gotta be worth the drive...however, is there always a wait? Would I be out of place alone (wife doesn't like fish)?

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Wiley

                                          The Erie Beach Hotel is in Port Dover. I haven't been there for a few years, but it was worth the drive at the time. I've gone there with people who aren't fish eaters, and they've been happy with their meals. You would probably feel out of place if you ate alone in the dining room, but you wouldn't feel out of place if you ate alone in the bar. (We almost always ate in the bar, as we had a habit of showing up on Saturday nights in the summer without a reservation.) Unless someone else posts who has been there more recently, I'd suggest calling ahead before you go, as my information is dated.

                                          By the way, I also consider Port Colborne worth the drive for Lake Erie perch and pickerel. My favourite is DJ's Roadhouse (just west of Port Colborne, at Long Beach.) There's two or three other places that serve perch and/or pickerel, and I've heard good things about them as well.

                                          1. re: Wiley

                                            Definitely go to the Erie Beach Hotel in Port Dover!!!

                                            I was introduced to it a few weeks ago and loved the pickerel (hello my new favorite fish!) and really loved the whole dining experience. It was very busy but we didn't wait longer than 5 minutes for a table in the dining room.

                                            It's so old-school -- they have this wacky salad cart that is wheeled to your table, which contains bowls of: lemon jello/horseradish squares, really good cole slaw, a "salad" comprised of mini-marshmallows and tinned mandarin orange segments, sliced beets, and pickled pumpkin. I'd never seen anything like it (and confess to eating more than really necessary of the mini-marshmallow/mandarin "salad"). The fish was cooked to perfection, the french fries were fresh, hot and not greasy and the celery-seed studded bread was delicious.

                                            Good chow that's worth the drive in my books!

                                            1. re: WineWidow

                                              Did the marshmallow salad have coconut? It sounds like ambrosia, which is strangely delicious.

                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                It might have -- and thank you for telling me what "ambrosia" is, I've always meant to ask but never remembered to do so!

                                              2. re: WineWidow

                                                Here is a just for fun recommendation.
                                                The General Wolfe Restaurant on Wolfe Island across from Kingston.

                                                You take the ferry from Kingston to Wolfe Island which is about 15 minutes.
                                                Arrive at the hotel and enter the dining room which is firmly stuck in 1982 and overlooks the lake.

                                                There used to be a gentleman in the lobby bar playing the grand piano while you had cocktails, definitely order a Gin Fizz or something Frappe.

                                                The menu is old old school French.

                                                I like to order only things that are made (preferably flambéed) at the table: Caesar Salad, Steak Dianne and Cherries Jubilee. Alas, they no longer seem to have Black Tower on the wine list.

                                                No guarantee on the quality, it's been a few years, but the experience was always fun. Time warp.

                                              3. re: Wiley

                                                The Erie Beach is WELL worth the drive, and since camp 31 is relatively close you can plan lunch and dinner.


                                              4. I once drove to Wawa in a blinding snowstorm for the best fried eggs in the world! Can't remember the name of the place. Anyone out there know what I'm talkin' about?

                                                1. Some of the wineries in Niagara on the Lake are great for a lunch -- you get the kind of view you can't get anywhere in Toronto, combined with good kitchens. My personal favourite (exceptional view, good kitchen) is Vineland: others have particular favourites?

                                                  Most times people combine food and theatre on a trip down to Stratford -- there are a pile of restaurants there. Some have a grand setting (along with grand price) such as The Church. Pazzo has a beautiful upstairs fine dining and a great stone-walled lower-level pizzeria; Down the Street is always hopping during the theatre season. Many restaurants scale back or close when the theatres are not in operation.

                                                  Over the fall/winter, you should also check out the dinners at the Stratford Chefs School (there's a web page with dates and menus). They are held in the Old Prune restaurant building, Mondays to Fridays. Most Stratford inns give deeply discounted rates from November through March, when the Chef School dinners are offered, so you can have fine dining at low price and stay overnight for not a lot of money.

                                                  15 Replies
                                                  1. re: nasturtium

                                                    oh yes I agree with Stratford's the church. If you are ever in Stratford and only have ONE meal to eat, GO THERE, you will not be disapointed. Its worth going just go see the beautiful old church that they turned into a restaurant

                                                      1. re: intheweedss

                                                        hm.. i guess thats a toughy.. i just really really love being in that beautiful old church

                                                        1. re: intheweedss

                                                          Rundles is overrated and not worth the effort.

                                                            1. re: hungryabbey

                                                              Yes, a few years ago. I liked it but thought it was overly expensive as they had a prix fixe structure (with choices) and no a la carte.

                                                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                                                Hm, maybe I was lucky to get a la carte. and yes, I think its pretty expensive too.

                                                        2. re: hungryabbey

                                                          Have to disagree with you on this one. Overrated food, micro portions, poor services and high prices. There are much better options in Stratford. (And Rundles is not one of them.)

                                                          1. re: cynalan

                                                            I had an excellent experience at the Church this past August - would go again if it wasn't just a little too far! :0)

                                                        3. re: nasturtium

                                                          Another great option close to Stratford is the Brittany restaurant in New Hamburg, owned by a French chef. Bigger portions, and wonderful food at a lower price than Rundles, The Church and the Old Prune...

                                                          1. re: spaetzle

                                                            I've tried both the Brittany and the Waterlot, but neither were memorable. Mind you, this was more than a couple of years ago.

                                                            1. re: Food Tourist

                                                              I also had a disappointing meal at the Waterlot, about 18 months ago.
                                                              One of my meals at the Brittany was amazing, and the other meal was pretty good. Perhaps the Brittany isn't the most consistent restaurant.

                                                              Another option is to drive to St.Mary's. Woolfy's, Smith & Latham and the Westover Inn are all alternatives to the big 3 in Stratford. But Smith & Latham and Woolfy's also suffer from the tiny portions problem that seems to plague the more upscale restos in Stratford.

                                                              1. re: spaetzle

                                                                Sorry, spaetzle, I also had a mediocre experience at Westover Inn in St. Mary's. In fact, my parents are starting to mistrust my choices of restaurants, because everytime I say, "Let's try this well-reviewed place!" in Stratford or N-O-T-L, we are disappointed. Tourist industry and good food don't seem to be natural partners.

                                                                1. re: spaetzle

                                                                  We went to the Waterlot for my birthday lunch a few years back. Yack... Yack food, yack service... NOT worth the drive in my opinion, but that was some time ago - perhaps it's improved?

                                                            2. Good Question!
                                                              I would head out West from Toronto after a small breakfast at your home and go directly to Annie (Auntie?) Mae's in Millbank just north of Stratford. A great small town Ontario experience in Mennonite country in Northern Perth County.
                                                              Quite often you will be sat with other people, from mennonites to local farmers to Japanese tourists!
                                                              They boast about the "broasted chicken" which is deep fried chicken, but I don't feel it is their strong point.
                                                              Have fun...

                                                              1. I don't have a car, so I'm definitely limited these days. If I did, I would travel a few hours at least if I craved something. It's my father's fault - when I was younger we'd pick up and go to Kingston from Toronto on a whim for a hoagie, eat 'em, and come home. I miss food road trips.

                                                                1. As it turns out, the best donut is about a 7 hour drive and its not in Ontario (or Canada for that matter):


                                                                  If you go, you need to try the coconut cream one. Yeast risen, FRESH sweeted coconut puree inside and glazed. The best one you will ever have. So popular they have 7 locations in Tokyo where they love their sweets.

                                                                  Not many places in Ontario worth mention really, but there is Eigensinn which is generally great and worth the trip/money. I think JKWB does great things in the spring/summer with seasonal produce, Batifole for their cassoulet, Kaji for their sashimi (Thurs is generally best).

                                                                  Now if you are willing to travel a little bit outside Ontario, there is Le Club Chasse et Peche in Montreal for "casual fine dining" or Smoke Meat Pete for the best fries in North America (sorry JK, yours are second).

                                                                  You might need to move to NYC!

                                                                  1. Young's Point: The Old Bridge Inn. Chef Podd is doing a foie gras at dinner that will melt in your mouth and his mushroom risotto is meticulously perfect!

                                                                    Stoney Lake: Irwin Inn -- over the summer, Chef Watt arrived and has turned the place on its head, in a very good way!

                                                                    Peterborough: St. Veronus. The best grilled panini sandwiches and Belgian beer...

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: kawarthagirl

                                                                      I havent been to the old bridge inn, but I can agree with the irwin in and st. veronas- two great spots!!

                                                                    2. Also....

                                                                      We drove to Picton for the Milford Bistro (closed and the Potter's re-opened as Harvest, in PIcton)... That was WORTH the drive! I'm sure Harvest in equally interesting.

                                                                      Montreal: Toque...... Definitely..........

                                                                      1. I have NEVER EVER had any food that has even come close to the food at Eigensinn Farm!!!!!!! I am ruined for life!!!!!!!! You MUST go there ASAP!!!!!!!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: zoohort2

                                                                          The Globe and Mail had a story a few years back about an adventure to Eigensinn Farms. My takeaway from the story was that it was a long, dark, drive; the food was excellent; but then it was a long, dark drive back. That might spoil it for me, because I would want to relax and have good wine and really enjoy the meal, but I'd be stressing over the return trip.

                                                                          I've gone to Paris for cooking school, driven to Savannah for southern cuisine, and flown to Seattle to visit Pike Place Market. In my area, I would probably drive an hour for a good meal, but probably not more.

                                                                        2. About 3.5 kilometers.

                                                                          1. Going back to the Montreal bagels, you can order from St. Viateur online. Minimum order is 6 dozen. They'll be shipped Express Post.

                                                                            I ordered some last year and although they weren't as good as being there, they were sure a lot better than the buns with holes at many places here in Ontario.

                                                                            If anyone is ever travelling up north, check out the chip stands in Sturgeon Falls - Larry's and Le P'tit Riv. And don't forget to have a pronto pup too, while you're there.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: foodiemommy

                                                                              I believe that Schwartz' s Express Posts briskets too.

                                                                              1. re: foodiemommy

                                                                                I drive to Montreal at least 3 times a year to get some authentic bagels (St. Viateurs is the best) and smoked meat. Thanks for the tip about ordering online.

                                                                              2. Every year, for Mother's Day, we go to The Doctor's House, in Kleinburg.
                                                                                21 Nashville Rd. -- Kleinburg 905-893 1615 - 416-234-8080
                                                                                Their Mother's Day brunch is excellent. All-you-can-eat lobster, roast beef, etc. Great selection, good service. Many people use the garden for wedding pictures. We never tried regular lunch or supper.

                                                                                1. 100% for sure I drove 2 hour to try great food, love to eat.