Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, St. Jacob's and area
There tends to be a lot of griping about the food in the KW area, especially since we're so close to Toronto that it seems a shame not to pop by for a really great weekend dinner. We also hear a lot about the same old places-- Charbries, Charcoal, Wildcraft, Hannah's, Janet Lynn's, Verses, Bhima's for the upscale, and Ye's, Benh Than, Malasa Bay, The Grill, Angie's, Caesar Martini's, Morty's for the more reasonably priced. All of these are good (or great, or awful according your opinion), but I think we're missing out on some less well-established places. Plus, I've seen so many brand new places opening up this summer that I'd love to hear what people think about them.
Here are a few of my choices, which I haven't seen discussed before:
The Homestyle Diner:
at Albert and Philip, this non-descript little restaurant makes all their food from scratch. You'll usually see quite an elderly crowd interspersed with a few students. The great fish and chips (ask for it breaded!), rolled ribs dinner, and fabulous array of homemade pies are all reason enough to check it out, but the fantastic reuben is the shining star of this neighbourhood place. The owners, a pair of chatty older ladies, seem to know all their customers by name and they painstakingly decorate the restaurant for every holiday and season (it's so outrageously cheesy and over-the-top that you can't help loving it). Huge portions, low prices, great atmosphere, home-made food-- it's a gem.
A new addition to the University Plaza by The Mongolian Grill. I was so glad to see a decent Mexican place in Waterloo (finally!). Once again, all the food is made fresh and from scratch. Amazing fresh tortilla chips, which are never greasy, and a range of different salsas (possibly made in house?). The guacamole and pico de gallo are also excellent. I've tried the quesadilla, burrito and soft tacos-- while the tortilla and toppings were all good, I found the meat occasionally underseasoned. A small quibble, but something I think they'll work out as the restaurant grows. Also, the pineapple and mango "Mexican pop" are completely addictive.
another new arrival to Belmont Village this summer, though I believe it was previously the Acropolis Bakery. The almond and walnut baklava is just superb. I've also tried the mousaka, tyropita, spanakopita and the fresh bread-- all of which I reccommend heartily. The place is still working out the kinks of the service in their new location, so be prepared to wait a little while for hot food during the day. Their tatziki is quite good with a lemony zing (I think I prefer mine more garlicky, as at the Al Madina, but still). One of the reasons we moved to Belmont Village is because it's full of great food-- Vincenzo's, The Village Creperie, Casa Rugantino, even the John's sub place is delish. Melitsa's looks like it will fit right in. If anyone has tried the new Thai Bistro (which replaced the Swiss Bakery across from Vincenzo's), please please tell us about it!
The pita place at St. Jacob's Market:
Easily my favourite foodie experience in the area. The tantalizing smell of sizzling meat lures you to an open-air grill wagon, at the very back of the market, piled high with "chicken, steak, lamb on a pita" (the perennial shout of the man behind the grill). For 6 bucks, I always get a hot pita filled with grilled onions, peppers, the most succulent and well seasoned ground lamb kebab, and positively dripping with tzatiki. At this time of year, when Ontario produce hasn't quite ripened yet, we go to St. Jacob's just to get a lamb pita and a huge cup of lemonade topped with strawberries. Afterwards, we grab some calabrese bread from the delightfully eccentric Portuguese baker across the way (just look for the man holding listeners spell-bound in the midst of mounds of fresh-baked bread) and it's pretty much the nicest imaginable way to spend a Saturday morning.
What are your tri-city foodie haunts?
Great post!! I agree with your opinion that the meat at Casa Salsa is underseasoned. My friend actually wrote them an email giving him his opinion-they were grateful and kind in response.
Nice post! I'll have to try some of these! Definitely want to check out the new Thai place across from Vincenzo's as well.. I'll post as soon as I do!
This is just what I was looking for in preparation for a trip with my two kids to St. Jacobs next week--affordable, good quality food. I remember liking Angie's Kitchen, too. Can anyone tell me if there's Vietnamese worth trying in the K-W area? I've been telling them about salad rolls you make yourself; coming from a small town, I like to expose them to more interesting flavours when I can.
For someone making a trip to the KW area, my recommendation would be just down the road from the St. Jacob's Market - the Olde Heidelberg House. There are few places where you and your family can experience pork hocks, pigs' tails and other classic Waterloo County dishes. 35-40 years ago, when I went to school up there, almost every crossroads hamlet in the county had a place like the Heidelberg House. Only a couple remain.
Is the Heidelberg House at an intersection on a country road? I think I went there last summer but i can't remember the name of the place. They brewed their own beer? Big old brewing equipment there as you enter? Kind of a nostalgic & casual place, with a piano player?
We had a huge pork hock and some tails too. It was good....but oh so fattening! I think that was the place. Love to go back some time. It was fun.
Also, btw, for anyone interested, I heard an Oliver & Bonacini Cafe is opening in Waterloo later this year.
I always enjoy the buffet at The Crossroads in Elmira--homestyle Mennonite food and great desserts. Just a few minutes north of St Jacobs.
tigerlily104, what's the Vietnamese place on Victoria north of the Saturn dealersip and TA Appliances which I deal with? It was good but can't recall the name.
Also, across from old City Hall in Kitchener, downstairs in a grubby mall, with no A/C, is that Asian soup/noodle place? Damned good when I was there.
Update on the Home Style Diner. No sign of the little old ladies since 2011. A bit of bias towards regular customers. New customers ignored. I wonder how a new customer becomes a regular.....hmm.
I want to add to this list, since the thread has been revived.
Vincenzo's has a great sandwich bar. Most sandwiches are $5 and if you want more than 80gr of meat, they simply weight out the extra as if you were buying deli meat to take home. I can't think of a better $5 sandwich. Anywhere. Period.
The owner of Hog Tails BBQ has opened in the old Lancaster Hotel and is gradually renovating. There's some really good southern BBQ food. Try the Collard Greens as a one of your sides.
In the spirit of updates...
As far as Cambridge is concerned, it's a bit less of a culinary wasteland than it used to be. The new kid on the block is the Cambridge Mill, which is in downtown Galt on the river and owned by the same people who own the Ancaster Mill and Spencer's in Burlington. Their food is consistently solid (had a lovely arctic char paired with a Cortese last time I was there) and the space is beautiful.
Another gem locally is Marcelo's. They are in a weird location (think strip mall amongst a bunch of auto parts places) but the kitchen is open and you can see the chefs prepping food as you enter, service is great, they do a small focused menu of mostly Italian dishes (pastas, veal chop, risotto, and the best caprese salad I've had in town) and have a short but intriguing wine list.
Finally, my favorite Mexican place downtown, El Rinconcito Mexicano, has done so well that it's now in a bigger space around the corner (where Diana Restaurant used to be). Everything is handmade but of particular note are the tamales, which I love.