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Moving to St. Catharines -- tips?

So in the new year I'll be picking up my Toronto/Mississauga-based life and moving it all about an hour down the QEW.

I'm not asking about restaurants quite so much as just general food-related questions:

First of all: how is the farmer's market? I'm not expecting SLM by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll be right near downtown and I'm really hoping there are some finds to be found there.
In that vein, are there any other hidden gems, grocery-wise, in the downtown area? Any places that consistently have good produce? Any specific place that has nice meat?

There is that monstrous Loblaws Superultramegajumbostore in the superultramegajumbocomplex across the 406, but if there's something better, perhaps an unassuming-looking little store that I wouldn't otherwise notice, I'd love to know about it...

Oh, and... I have this incurable addiction to Vietnamese food. Hoping against hope that I'll have some source for it in the St. Kitts area (I also won't have a car, so that makes travel even more painful...) Any good pho, bun, maybe some nice Chao Tom... *drools*

Thanks in advance. :)

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  1. Oh dear. Poor you.

    Mai Vi and Pho Dau Bo are your go-to places for Viet. Go with low expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised with a dish or two.

    There's also an interesting pan-asian-middle-eastern grocery store beside the mosque on Geneva St. near Welland Ave. next to Pho Dau Bo.

    You will have to be a trailblazer and try out everything you can find within walking distance of your home and then report back.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Food Tourist

      Is you were moving there in the early eighties, you could eat at a good Swiss Restaurant that was about a minute walk from the courthouse. I doubt it's still there, it was called "Heidi".

      1. re: foodyDudey

        Agree with you foodyDudey - Heidi's was great - unfortunately it has closed. Miss the lemon dill shrimps and scallop dish that they had....yum.
        The market - open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - is great considering the size. They have honey, cheese, chickens, produce, home-made dog biscuits (my dog was very happy this morning), a bakery where a fellow makes his own bagels, fresh flowers, plants etc etc. There's also a booth with home-made chocolates too.
        Antipasto's off Martindale Road is great for home-made italian food, deli, meats etc. They have a hot table for take away, or frozen for you to heat up/bake at home. The lasagna is great.
        Big Marco's, Pow Wow are great for reasonably priced food - Treadwell's in Port Dalhousie for higher end. Wellington Cafe gets good reviews although I've never been. Cat's Caboose in Glenridge Plaza is a local favourite for wings and other pub food.

        1. re: thebutcher

          Great deal at market -- unpasteurized local honey in a bear-shaped bottle, only $4.

          Also yummy authentic hummus and zaatar pita at the middle eastern stand.

    2. Oh my! My recommendation for Vietnamese would be to drive to Hamilton. However, without a car.... Good luck! St. Catharines has a few good restaurants but with the current economic downturn, these are becoming fewer and fewer. I recently drove through downtown St. Kitts and was shocked to see the number of boarded up shops on St. Paul Street. Downtown is becoming a ghost town similar to downtown Brantford or Hamilton's Lister Block. Good luck with your search... you'll need it.

      1. Thanks very much! I figured I might be hoping for too much re: the Vietnamese food, but I'll make sure to take one for the team and try everything I can find -- maybe there'll be a diamond in the (really) rough somewhere!

        Great to know about that grocery store, too -- that's the kind of place that I'd hope would cover some of the more unusual ingredients (that SuperultramegajumboLoblaws wouldn't have.)

        Agreed that downtown is rather sad to walk through... seems like at attempt at "revitalization" is in progress but Lord knows how much good it'll do, when people can buy damn near everything they'd ever need in that big mall.
        The death of the small-town downtown is a painful thing... :/

        3 Replies
        1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

          Downtown has been dying for 20 years but there are still gems going strong. I have always wanted to try Amakara (Japanese restaurant) and would return to Spicy Thai, Touch of India and Sahla Thai to see if they are still decent. Pow Wow and Mon Bijou are also worth checking out. The trick is to go in with low expectations and try to find out what the chef does best NOT what's most popular on the menu.

          1. re: Food Tourist

            Touch of India lives up to its name. (It's watered down.) Too bad Taste of Bombay was closed last weekend. Touch was really crowded - every table was taken at prime time on Saturday night - so food took forever to arrive.

            1. re: Food Tourist

              My parents are really frustrated with the service at Taste of Bombay -- they actually walked out last Friday after being told several menu items were unavailable (fried fish and mustard greens), and that they couldn't make a paratha because they were too busy with the take-out orders.

        2. Thanks!

          Any recs on general groceries (I'm thinking meat and produce mostly) -- how is the farmer's market?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

            My parents recommend Pilgrim Meats for local and organic high-end meats, Oriental Food Mart on St. Paul Street; Taste of Bombay on Court Street for most authentic Indian food (no liquor licence) instead of the two on St. Paul Street which tend to be blander; and Dinh Dinh asian market beside Pho Dau Bo (one block away from the mosque middle eastern shop). They also like The Office (same chef as Pow Wow) and Stella's on James St. -- great lunch specials.

            1. re: Food Tourist

              i dont know if i would consider Pilgrims at all "High-End"...Drug Free Meat is their thing...not organic per-se. Better than Zhers but not in the Sanagans/Heathly Butcher realm (Toronto). they stock the basics, beef, chicken, pork, turkey. I have NEVER seen lamb, or any other poutry.

              1. re: Food Tourist

                I wanted to check out Zam Zam grocery on Geneva Street near Church Street but didn't get a chance - their sign advertises Bulgarian cheese.

            2. I lived there 8 years ago as a student, also didn't have a car which is a pain to get to anywhere since buses aren't that frequent.

              Back when I was there, there's only one Asian grocery store, should be the same one other people mentioned.

              The only restaurant we students like to go to is Fresco's, they have roast beef sundays and big bowls of caeser salad... it was better than the cafeteria stuff.