Newfoundland trip -- looking for recommendations
I'm going to Newfoundland next week. We'll be based in St. John's, but taking day trips around Avalon. I'd love to get some restaurant recommendations that don't begin and end with Bacalao. :-) Nothing against a pricey, upscale place, but I'm really more interested to find more moderate choices, places where locals enjoy local food. (One consideration is that we don't eat red meat, and I'm allergic to shellfish -- my plan is to eat (non-shell) fish all week!)
A place I'm not going to miss is By Da Beach for fish and chips. Is there anything in between the very downscale and the very upscale that anyone thinks I shouldn't miss?
Thanks in advance, and cannot wait to get to The Rock!
Okay, I am back from the Rock and have a few places on which to report! We ate breakfasts on the Club Floor of the Sheraton (hey, it was free, so that saved us some money during the week!), and missed lunch a few times, but here's where we ate:
Ches's (St. John's)
By The Beach (St. Philip's)
Lighthouse Picnics (Ferryland)
Taste of Thai (St. John's)
Classic Cafe East (St. John's)
Celtic Hearth/Talamh an Eisc (St. John's)
Sheraton Hotel's bistro: Bivvers
We eat at very nice restaurants quite often here at home (Philadelphia), and so we weren't champing at the bit to try places like Bacalao or Blue on Water or any of the other fairly upscale places. Partly because we only brought tromping-around-the-shore-and-hiking clothes, and partly because we really wanted to try the places where locals eat, and to eat real, regular, local food. Also because our goal was to relax on this vacation, and sometimes it's, well, _effortful_ eating someplace where the waitstaff feels (and acts) like they are much more hip than you are. So, we eschewed the upscale and went for the moderate.
Let me first weigh in on the Ches's / By The Beach divide: there is NO comparison. By The Beach has the superior fish and chips. I could barely sleep after eating at Ches's, the grease was laying so heavily in my stomach. The fish at By The Beach is so much less greasy, and its breading, while plenty thick and crunchy, is so light-tasting as to be nearly insubstantial. How do they do it? No idea, but it's definitely the better dinner. The trick is finding the place. So many people report it as being on Portugal Cove Road (Newfoundland 40). It is not; it is on Thorburn Road (Newfoundland 50). Take it all the way to the end. When you see the water, the restaurant is directly on your right.
Lighthouse Picnics was a delightful experience, and while we enjoyed it immensely and wouldn't have missed it for the world, I do think the fare is a bit overpriced. We paid somewhere between $60 and $70 (they didn't give us a receipt, and neither my husband nor I can remember the exact figure) for two identical meals of a sandwich (goat cheese, sundried tomato and red peppers), a jar of lemonade, a serving of an orzo salad, and a dessert (chocolate cake for me, lemon scone for my husband). It should be noted that you really do need to be in fit shape for walking to get there. After parking, there's a fair rise all the way up to the lighthouse, which is at least the 25-minute walk they promise on their website.
Taste of Thai was great, and suffers from what many restaurants in town similarly suffer: the outside looks quite downscale! We were pleasantly surprised after we opened the door to find a beautiful, modern, minimalistic dining area (half standard western tables, half were low tables on the floor where you can dine in traditional Thai style) with soft lighting and exposed brick. The menu was very nice, much more than the typical dishes you find at so many Thai places in North America, and as a bonus, they have fabulous desserts (not Thai; they're what you'd call European or western-style desserts -- we had an amazingly beautifully plated and delicious chocolate cheesecake!). We each had a chicken curry: my husband had the Massaman, and I had the Panang. The food was really terrific there, and I'd go back in a second if I lived closer!
Classic Cafe East was the surprise dining experience of the vacation, and we ate there twice. They bill themselves as serving traditional Newfoundland cuisine, and since that's what we wanted to eat while there, we gave it a try. Again, this is a place that looks much more downscale on the outside. The inside is better, although the tables are a little tired looking. The food, however, was the great, local, 'regular' food we were after! During our two meals we had the fish and chips, salt cod fishcakes, a Greek-style baked cod dish, and the traditional hot-open turkey with dressing dinner. Oh, and the figgy duff, which was _incredible_! I'm going to try making it myself here at home; it's the thing I miss the most from the local foods we tried while there. So, to sum up, not a fancy place, but the food was reliably delicious, and the staff very friendly. As a bonus, it's right across the street from the Sheraton, which was great when it was freezing cold and raining.
A lunch at Celtic Hearth/Talamh en Eisc was fine, but nothing to write home about. Fish and chips and the turkey with dressing, plus their house specialty, turkey soup. The soup was very nice; the rest was nothing special (and in fact they were a bit chintzy with the amount of turkey in the turkey with dressing platter).
Finally, on our last evening, we had a yen for dessert and didn't want to go anywhere, so we ordered up from Bivvers, the bar/bistro in the Sheraton. I have to say that this dessert was EXCELLENT. It was figgy duff and brown bread ice cream in a brandied bowl (kind of like the bowls you make out of woven caramel threads), with unsweetened whipped cream as a garnish. Oh my gosh, it was so good I was REALLY sorry that we hadn't tried it on the first night (and then we could have had it several more times)!
The main thing to note about eating in Newfoundland is how delicious and fresh the cod is, most places. I ate fish as often as I could stand it, because I knew I wasn't going to get it that fresh again for a long time.
I hope this is helpful for those looking to dine moderately while there.
Correction to my price for the lunch at Lighthouse Picnics; we think it was more like $50. Sorry I over-estimated that! This was the only place we spent money in Newfoundland that didn't give us a receipt (and we didn't charge it so we can't check with the credit card company), so we've had to reconstruct how much cash we had with us that day, and what it likely cost based on other travelers' reviews from about a year ago. It still seemed a bit overpriced, but a lovely experience nonetheless.
Agreed that Lighthouse Picnics are expensive, but I consider that they make everything including the bread, that they haul in their food from Ferryland, and that, on a good day, the view and experience are priceless. And the food is always exceptionally good: the best curried chicken salad I have ever had. On last visit, I had an extremely tasty sandwich of home-cooked ham with brie, and a delightful lemonade.
Just back Wednesday from eight days in the Avalon peninsula. Some thoughts on places already recommended in this thread that we tested during our trip.
The Captain's Table in Witness Bay was pretty ho-hum, we thought. Service was indifferent (gum chewing teenage waitress despite the fairly stiff prices.) I can't remember what we had for lunch, which kind of says it all
We liked the Yellowbelly Brewery and ate there twice. The beer was excellent. On the first try my wife's shrimp salad was excellent but my hamburger (we'd overdosed on cod for two days) was as dry as a hockey puck. But the people at the next table were enjoying their pizzas so we came back the next day. If you have a chance try the smoked salmon and asparagus pizza -- to die for!
We also liked our upscale dinner at the cellar on Water Street. My wife had a good lobster and my halibut baked with a hazelnut crust was excellent. The half liter of house wine was very pleasant and a notch above what is often served.
The best fish and chips hands down was at the Motel and Restaurant in Trepassy. The coating was almost like tempura and the fish (although admittedly frozen) was excellent!
Enjoy your trip.
Dammit, I was just about to recommend Atlantica ;)
I do hope you enjoy By The Beach, both for the food, and the wonderful view in the area. Be prepared to wait though, the place is almost always blocked solid.
If your travels take you to Brigus, check out the little cafe there that has wonderful chowder, and divine blueberry crisp. Brigus is a beautiful spot to visit, in any event.
Also try The Captain's Table in Witless Bay if you're in that area.
Locals pretty much eat where anyone would eat , both high and low end places. I've put other recommends on the board. Yellow Belly is one of them, particularly if you are looking for local brews to boot. http://yellowbellybrewery.com/food.html
Get yourself to the restaurant at The Rooms and you'll also enjoy a spectacular view of the downtown area if you are lucky enough to get by a window. I swear it is worth going there alone for the dessert, especially if they have the Figgy Duff.
Also, for seafood, but really only if you're interested in shelling out a bit more, I was surprised to see that the Cellar restaurant is coming around again in terms of quality. You will get pan-fried cod, and cod tongues, amongst other things there. Gypsy Tea Room is also very good.
People talk about Velma's downtown in St. John's quite a bit for local food. I haven't been there in years, but it'd meet the requirement for your basic stuff. They'll have cod tongues and fresh fish as well, if I recall.
I'm hearing very good things about the Three Sisters Pub in Placentia as well.
Are you only looking for local / traditional fare?
Hey, nomad, thanks much! By the way, Atlantica's menu looks okay for us. They seem to have chicken, duck, non-shellfish fish...
We're definitely going to be traveling around Avalon, so we expect to see both Witless Bay and Brigus. I'm glad to know about Yellow Belly Brewery, too -- my husband is a beer afficionado, and the only brewery we'd heard about so far is Quidi Vidi. Nice to have another to visit!
I'm very interested in the traditional fare, but also open to other things. I mean, I'm probably not going to seek out any Chinese or Italian restaurants while there (we have many great ones here in the Philadelphia area), but I could probably be swayed away from fish and traditional places if you could tell me about an awesome tapas place!