Maritime migrations - need help for vacation in NS and NB
We're heading north from Kansas City for a little R&R and cool weather next week. It's kind of a last minute trip, so I'm playing catch up on getting the lay of the land. Itinerary has us flying into Halifax on Saturday, taking the ferry across to Saint John's, spending a couple of days in Moncton (hitting the Fundy National Park), then driving back around to Halifax for a couple of days.
I've seen quite a few threads about Halifax, but not so many about NB. Any suggestions on where we should eat, particularly in NB?
Here's generally what we're looking for. Any ideas on any or all of these would be appreciated.
1. Seafood, more a restaurant with good beer and a casual atmosphere than expense account, fine-wine place. Bonus points if on the water with picnic tables. Demerits if the tour buses pull up in front.
2. Restaurants with kitchens that are open late, preferably in neighborhoods that would make it easy for us to see some live music. If the bar or restaurant has good food, a late kitchen, AND live music, that would be even better.
3. Anything that is particularly good or characteristic of the area. Given my limited knowledge of the demographics, I would expect to be able to get an excellent meat pie. What are the other regional specialities?
4. Interesting ethnic food. I'm not so much interested in finding the one lone outpost of a particular cuisine in Moncton, for example. But if a city has a particularly robust Turkish or Chinese or Jamaican community, where are the best places to eat?
Sorry if this seems like a lot all at once. Thanks in advance for your help!
Being from Saint John, and having lived in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Oxford UK, and now Berlin Germany, I tend to feel that the city, and NB generally is under-appreciated. There are certainly bad meals to be had, but this is the case anywhere, and in terms of general travelling, NB is every bit as beautiful as Nova Scotia and PEI, but often without the amount of tourists and definitely without the downhome-we're-all-charming-fishermen-here, tourist-aimed schtick. I recommend trying to visit the Fundy Trail, and Alma NB is a beautiful town as well. But for food....
In Saint John NB:
Suwanna is, within Saint John, widely considered the best place in town. A reservation is necessary. It's Thai food in a beautiful old house on the West side of the city. Not at all imbiss-type---this is really well-made food in a semi-formal atmosphere.
Opera Bistro is good with a variety of inventive, well-made dishes and well-sourced ingredients, too. The owners are really lovely people and certainly their presence adds to the experience.
In the city market Lord's has good seafood takeaway (or eat in in the market, though it's all takeaway-style) and there's a great Korean spot opposite Lord's.
Taco Pica on Germain st. has the best south american/ mexican food I've found anywhere (I recommend the Flautas or Fajitas.)
Happinez wine bar is a really nice little spot in the uptown area (Princess st., I think) as well.
Thanks so much for your replies. Sadly, we had to leave Thursday night, and were already back in the States before we saw these postings. We didn't really have any outstanding meals -- ended up at a lot of guide book spots, which were inoffensive but not spectacular. The only outstanding meal we had was Indian at Taj Mahal in Moncton. But we had an great time, saw some great music, met many friendly people, and drank some really good local beers -- in particular Picaroon in New Brunswick and Propeller in Halifax. My hub is threatening to move to Halifax, so I expect we'll be back. I'll save all these ideas!
Too bad you had to come and go so quickly!
Greg B, I normally wouldn't post those kinds of places, but heatherkay was specifically requesting informal and ethnic type restaurants. As far as those criteria go, the spots I mention are among the best Halifax has to offer. I've eaten at a couple of the more reputed Mexican restaurants in Toronto and Mexico Lindo compares favorably. Turkish Delight, in my humble opinion, is better middle eastern food than any of the many spots in Toronto I tried while living there. Naturally, Mezza is very good, and so is Gio(you'll find many threads in which I've raved about it), but I didn't think they were really what the poster was describing.
Oh, one more place I thought of since you're taking the Digby ferry: there's a great French-Acadian place in nearby Grosse Coques called Chez Christophe. They do local specialities like 'rappie pie', a really weird concoction made from grated potatoes and chicken topped with molasses. Not my cup of tea, but people who grew up on love it, and this place's version is supposedly so good that it converts even the haters. They have other good Acadian specialities as well as seafood dishes.
You mention meat pies. I wonder if you're thinking about 'tourtiere' which is actually a French Canadian (Quebecois) dish that is very difficult to find outside Quebec. The only restaurant I have actually found that does a really delicious one is in Toronto, ironically, called Edward Levesque's. If you find a good one in the Maritimes, please tell me where, I'd love to hear about it.
I was raised in NB eating Tortière every Christmas eve. While it may also be made in Québec I (having an acadian grandmother) always understood it to be an acadian dish originally, and one made at Christmas time too--maybe this is why you have not found it so much outside of Québec, because it is very much a seasonal dish in NB. My mother made an incredible one last Christmas with pork and veal...........
For seafood, the Tin Fish at the Lunenburg Arms Hotel in Lunenburg does an excellent job. Nearby Fleur de Sel is probably one of the top 3 restaurants east of Montreal in my opinion, and they do wonderful things with halibut and scallops, but it is an expense-account kind of place, not one you'd have to worry about either picnic tables or tour buses.
Halifax: For casual but delicious Turkish food, Turkish Delight on Spring Garden Road is inexpensive and you'll leave full. I recommend the Garlic Chicken Kebab combination plate, although if you like lamb (I don't particularly) everyone says the lamb kebab is fantastic. Mexico Lindo on Dutch Village Road (a really unimpressive, blue-collar part of town, but safe enough) is the only place with authentic Mexican food in Halifax. Cheap and delicious, parking is an issue (they don't have a lot), you're better off to find a side street and walk 5 minutes.
I'm not familiar with New Brunswick dining really... I was in Moncton for a weekend last year, but I wasn't overly impressed with the choices. I've heard St. Andrews has a number of good places.
Good luck finding anything late night! In Halifax, there's Onyx, Cut Steakhouse, Seven Wine Bar, but most of them stop serving full meals at 10 or 11 pm and then switch over to the late-night menu.
In Halifax, while Turkish Delight and Mexixo Lindo have good food, it isn't that good that I would send a visitor from 2500 miles away to either place, both of which are not that impressive otherwise. I would, however, send someone to Mezza for good middle eastern food in a beautiful atmosphere, or to Da Maurizio for fine dining in Italian style, or to Gio for a simply wonderful overall dining experience, or to ChaBaa for great Thai food in a clean, pleasant place for a not too expensive meal.
re The Old Triangle, the Halifax location is the better of the two for a number of reasons. The Moncton location isn't bad for entertainment, drinks, but I wouldn't seek it out for the food.
I've been to Little Louis and it was very good. As is the Windjammer in the Delta Beausejour, very good , lovely amuse bouche. AND they had fiddlehead potage last time I was there. Here's their menu :
I hear very good things in general about Pink Sushi in Moncton, i've only ever had take-out there once, and it was really good. They've no website, but it's on main street.
Check out the Pumphouse in Moncton for microbrews (I recommend the Scotch ale) and some decent pub fare. They also regularly have entertainment, and outside seating.
A newer addition to Moncton / Dieppe is The Blue Olive, I hear good things in general, but have only had their falafel, which was quite good. Nice little grocery on site as well.
Regional specialties outside of seafood, would be acadian dishes. Look for fricot, poutine rapee , maybe cretons (you'll see at some breakfast places). I can not attest to what any of these are like in the area, I don't eat meat. Also, as mentioned, fiddleheads.
I second the mentions on the farmers markets. There is one in Dieppe, and one downtown Moncton. They both have their merits. Many wonderful local products is the least of them. There is a cheese vendor at the Dieppe market that sells local cheeses in addition to others. Seek out "Le Gamin" produced in Sainte-Marie de Kent, you won't regret it. If not around on Saturday, there is a little gourmet foods shop down in the Highfield Square mall that I *think* sells many of the same products. Lots of great ethnic foods at both markets.
link to Moncton market:
And I see they're now open through the week !!
Plenty of seafood restaurants and lobster places in Shediac, not far from Moncton. I hear there's a good clam shack down there somewhere, but I can't remember the name !
And if you are driving to Halifax and have a little time, i'd recommend driving the Amherst shore for scenery alone, but also some nice roadside finds for seafood as you describe with the picnic tables (such as McMahons), and a recommend to seek out Jost Vinyards.
However, if you don't have time, many of the Jost products are sold at the Masstown Market, right off the highway before you reach Truro. It's worth a stop, as they also sell other local products, including those from That Dutchman's Farm (name I think), and the much loved "Dragons breath" cheese. They also have a stand at the Halifax farmer's market.
I live in Halifax, but frequently hit Moncton where I have family. I eat out a lot in Halifax, have had limited luck with finding good places in Moncton, but I'll mention a few that I know.
You should have no problem finding something for #2 while you are in Halifax. Most of the downtown bars serve food and serve food late. Depending on what kind of music you are interested in, you might want to try The Old Triangle - celtic music and british inspired food. http://www.oldtriangle.com/ (hmm, they seem to have a Moncton location now too, so you might want to check that out while you are there). Halifax has a pretty strong local rock scene as well, but few of the venues have food in them. However, they are generally close to the downtown and access to the late night restaurants. For Blues, Bearly's is a place to check out - they do bar food (not sure if it's late) and they have a mean rack of ribs (not gourmet by any means, but still pretty tasty).
For stuff that is characteristic of the areas, I would suggest checking out the local farmers markets. A lot of local food producers have things for sale there - meats, vegetables, and seafood, but also cheese, preserves, maple syrup and the like. If you're looking for a meal with some local flavour, in a lot of these smaller places, you might just want to grab a picnic from the market. Halifax has a great farmers market and I've heard lots about the Dieppe (Moncton) market as well.
I haven't been to this Moncton restaurant myself but the chef from Little Louis http://www.littlelouis.ca/ recently won a competition at the Catch Seafood Festival here in Halifax. It's made me interested in checking out his restaurant.
When I'm in Moncton, I always go to the Laundromat for a drink. It's a bit of a neighbourhood place, but with good music and beer selection, including local (NS and NB) beers. Their signature drink is an espresso martini which is amazing. It's a coffee shop during the day, a bar at night.
Finally, I'll mention a couple of my Halifax faves in general:
Janes on the Common for weekend brunch or dinner - good use of local ingredients, creative menu and good atmosphere)
Hungry Chilli - great Szechwan in downtown Halifax
Fid - for French inspired food with a lot of emphasis on local ingredients. the best restaurant in Halifax imho and not as expensive as some may suggest
Emma's in Eastern Passage - if you have a car while you are in Halifax, definitely worth the trip for the Fish Cakes (breakfast/lunch only
Hopefully this will inspire a few others to add some suggestions.