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Wanted to like

b
bishopsbitter Jul 9, 2011 05:25 PM

With the motel-bar restaurant closed for annual holiday there is John's and a Chinese place in Hearst and that's about it. Since here for 2-3 days I wanted to like John's . . . but didn't. There used to be a TV series in the UK called "Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width" about two Jewish tailors. That's what I felt about John's. There was plenty of width, but not too much quality. I gather it is basically a Greek joint: fine . . .except why then souvlaki that is really pork butt skewered and BBQ'd? versus lamb "mystery meat" which is really where the flavor bouncing ball wants to land in a Greek place.

I ordered a bottle of Lindeman's Shiraz ($5 @ Wal-Mart) marked up 500% which got things off to a rocky start. The fried mushroom appetizer was absolutely non-interesting. And the Souvlaki plate was lacking hearty vegetables (I asked for lots of onions but got lots of off-cuts of onions) and flavor and particularly dry for the want of some dipping sauce.

I will try the Chinese place tomorrow . . . I guess that's about the line-up in town.

Now all this said, at the bar at the motel across the street hearing the "bar maids" yattering in French . . . that was worth the price of (extremely PRICEY) gin and tonics.

I like Hearst but I have to give John's the thumbs down because I think the portions are generous but the actual product you actually wish there was less!

Call it like I see it, and I never patronize out-of-the-way places. There's no reason to think they have to be patronized. Not horrible, but definitely not somewhere I'd head back to. Unfortunately the nearest towns are about 300km each way . . . :-)

Love Ontario, and love being able to dust off my high school French. Unexpected, and pleasant to do.

Thanks for reading. bb

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John's Restaurant
826 George, Hearst, ON P0L1R0, CA

  1. b
    bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 04:25 AM

    As I look back on last night's meal I think what struck me was that all the pieces were there to have been a nice meal but not enough thought had been given. Had the pork been butchered a bit differently, cooked a bit slower, the rice seasoned, the salad not cut up with a razor blade but big and "Greek" in nature, and had a yogurt mint sauce been provided to moisten things up, and most importantly had fresh mushrooms been used in the mushroom balls versus tinned (and then the oil being hot enough), the entire experience would have been quite nice. It seemed here was a talent for being a generous host and putting lots of stuff on a plate, but without great cooking skills in terms of balancing flavors, textures and seasonings.

    1. b
      BorealEater Jul 9, 2011 06:56 PM

      Hi BB,
      Glad to hear you are enjoying your tour around northeastern Ontario! I wish I were more familiar with the offerings in Hearst, because I cannot give you any help with respect to restaurants in that town. However, depending where you are heading from there, I may be able to give you some information. Are you headed east or west from Hearst? As Wahooty states, prices for alcohol in Ontario are indeed extremely high compared to the U.S. so neither direction with offer you any relief from that, unfortunately. Let me know your next stop and I will try to gather some food recommendations.

      6 Replies
      1. re: BorealEater
        b
        bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 04:19 AM

        I think it most likely I will drift west to TB (on 17) then back to Minnesota. Likely but not 100% definite. I will report on the Chinese place which gets big build ups in reviews on tripadvisor and such as basically the best Chinese place outside of Hong Kong. I have slight doubts on that, but that's where I will dine tonight or possibly (ref: G&T and wine prices) get a takeout and have it in my room. I like the people-watching tho' Almost worth the $60 evening liquor & wine tab :-)

        1. re: bishopsbitter
          b
          BorealEater Jul 10, 2011 11:29 AM

          I look forward to reading about your meal tonight. There are few reviews of restaurants so far north in Ontario on this board.
          I don’t know if you have made the drive before, but if you decide to continue westward, the drive between Hearst and Longlac has sometimes been referred to as somewhat, well, uninteresting. However it becomes much more scenic as highway 11 turns southward toward Nipigon, along the Pijitawabik Palisades and the lakes.
          Food choices in Longlac are limited. Longlac Steak and Pizzeria is probably your best bet for a simple meal along the way. It is a simple diner that serves many things other than pizza. The fries are excellent, and the pizza is very good.
          Once you get to Thunder Bay your options open up significantly. If you are in Thunder Bay on a Thursday evening or a Saturday morning, head over to the farmer’s market at the CLE grounds. In addition to the local produce and meats, there are some prepared food options available that are very good and sometimes made from local ingredients.
          I could narrow or expand my recommendations if you let me know what you are looking for (i.e. High-end, low-end, ethnic, lunch, supper, etc.) But, off the cuff, some of your options include:
          Kebab Village: Lebanese food. The name does not do it credit – it is a small family run business with great quality food. It don’t know if it has a liquor licence. It is cafeteria-like and has zero atmosphere, but the food makes up for it.
          Cronos Café: lunch only. Greek-inspired menu with limited options, but good quality and flavourful.
          Giorgio’s – Italian – pricier, but good.
          Bistro One – another fine dining option. Consistently great food.
          Caribou Restaurant – weird acoustics, but excellent food and service. Terrific wine selection, some emphasis on local ingredients. Again, this is a fine dining option.
          And if you have a cooler, you might want to grab some perogies from one of the local Polish or Ukrainian Legions/churches and take them home with you. They know how to do perogies in Thunder Bay. Actually, I think the Polish Hall on Spring Street also sells warm lunch options to go on Fridays, so you could get your perogie and cabbage rolls there and pick a scenic spot to enjoy them if it is a nice day.

          -----
          Bistro One
          555 Dunlop St, Thunder Bay, ON P7B6S1, CA

          Cronos Cafe
          433 Syndicate Ave S, Thunder Bay, ON P7E1E4, CA

          1. re: BorealEater
            b
            bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 05:40 PM

            I arrived at the Chinese place (King's) at 08:00:30 and was told they are closed. I had thought they were open till nine but perhaps Sundays (Dimanche) . . . .sorry I screwed up. I had to go back to John's with Gyros pita and poutine. Still poor. :-( Wish I could ahve reported on the chinese. But, for reference, I did look at the menu at the (closed-for-the-holidays) Companion Motel restaurant and I think it has the goods for best dining in Hearst. Sadly, it won't be open until next week. :-( :-(

            1. re: BorealEater
              b
              bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 05:42 PM

              "weird acoustics" . . . that grabs my interest. I think I will be passing thru TB tomorrow. Thanks BE.

              1. re: BorealEater
                b
                bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 05:47 PM

                ALL i ever look for BE is good honest food that my old aunt Lil might have made. Doesn't have to be fancy, DOES have to be tasty.

                1. re: BorealEater
                  b
                  bishopsbitter Jul 12, 2011 05:20 AM

                  Sadly an thru Thunder Bay halfway through a mammoth day's drive back to the Twin Cities. Did not stop this time. I have been to the Finnish breakfast place but the Ukranian sounds good for another time.

            2. Wahooty Jul 9, 2011 06:31 PM

              I know nothing of Hearst or of this particular establishment, but since you have made multiple comments about drink prices...you DO realize that you can't buy ANY wine for $5 or at a Wal-Mart in Ontario, right? Looks as though that wine goes for $12 at the LCBO, so it's not a 500% markup. Unless you suspect the restaurateur is driving across the border and smuggling it back, which seems a tremendous effort at current gas prices. When confronted with drink prices in Ontario, it's important to adjust your frame of reference. Comparing to prices back home will only drive you crazy.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Wahooty
                b
                bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 04:14 AM

                No I did not know that. I assumed it was $5 @ Wal-Mart in Sault S. M. or Thunder Bay just like in the southern US (where liquor also tends to have high blue taxes) . Boy that's rough then, for I keep my wine tab down for daily home drinking with some Lindemans ~($60 the case range). Please don't think I am suggesting i want it to be any different. Part of the joy of hearing these personal reviews (for me at least) is that hearing things from another frame of reference (like your response above) is almost always useful in filling in the big picture. One thing I like about Canada is it is a foreign vacation for me and relatively 'exotic' versus trolling around the US (witness this 75% French community where at McDonald's drive thru they ask for your order in French (very nearly ordered a Royale with Cheese just to see what would happen) but without the 8 hour flight to France. It's all good. My friend also reminded me of the Golden Rule of Canadian dining (which, in my ignorance, I once ran afoul of in Windsor): viz. Order poutine or fries, BUT NOT BOTH. :-)

                1. re: bishopsbitter
                  Wahooty Jul 10, 2011 04:45 AM

                  Ah, ok. And here I was thinking you had spent enough time in Ontario by now to have figured out the charms of the LCBO. If you pass one, stop in and check out how much a bottle of Gordon's goes for. It'll make you appreciate your blue laws back home. :)

                  1. re: Wahooty
                    b
                    bishopsbitter Jul 10, 2011 05:36 PM

                    Charms indeed. Also as I reread mine, an 8 hour flight does not sound so bad versus a 14 hour drive from the Twin Cities :-) Is it just me or is LCBO a synonym for SMERSH? I suspect Ernst Stavro Blofeld is at the helm of that august organization!

              2. b
                bishopsbitter Jul 9, 2011 05:51 PM

                p,s, and I do mean "patronize" in the sense of indulgence a la "what might one expect in the boondocks?" versus "attendance." I've found fantastic places in the middle of nowhere, and horrible places in the middle of somewhere. So I don't amend my critiques for one or the other. A bit like Henry Higgins talking to a Duchess as if a flower-girl.

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