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Lambton County - Lake Huron shore from Sarnia to the Pinery

Can anyone recommend a good place for lunch on or near Lambton County Road 7 or Ontario Highway 21 between Sarnia and the Pinery? We make the drive once a year on our way to a rented cottage in Port Elgin, and the 2 places where we used to find a nice lunch are no longer options: the Chipican in Sarnia has gone downhill under the new management, and the Lake Shore Cafe in Plympton-Wyoming was out of business the last couple of times we drove by. We're looking for something reasonable in the range of $10 per person. We're willing to get off of our route if it's only a few km out of our way. We'll be making the drive on Friday, 20 July, 2012.

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  1. Assuming you are heading to Port Elgin that day, continue another 25 minutes up Hwy 21 from the Pinery to Black Dog Village Pub & Bistro in on Main St in Bayfield. It is slightly above your budget - most mains $11-$16. The Little Inn in Bayfield is very good, but above your price range. Or continue another 35 minutes up Hwy 21 from the Pinery to Goderich - The Bistro at 10 The Square. Good sandwiches for under $10. If in Goderich, stop at Culberts Bakery on West Street, just off The Square, and pick-up some doughnuts for dessert (and more for your cottage stay). You will not regret!

    4 Replies
    1. re: DRD

      Thanks, DRD, for the suggestions. We're already planning on taking a slight detour in Goderich to drive around the square and check out the recovery from the big tornado last year. How recent is your information? Did Culbert's Bakery survive OK? It would indeed be nice to stop for some donuts to take to the cottage (if they survive our munchies during the rest of the drive). BTW, as of last month there's a periodic Great Lakes cruise that's originating in Detroit where I live with the first stop in Goderich.

      1. re: Michigander

        I was in Goderich a few weeks ago and Culbert's seemed a-ok when I drove by. Didn't stopy by for any doughnuts, which I now regret as I have never tried them.
        I like Global Donuts in Sarnia, especially when they bring out fresh batches.

        1. re: pakmode

          I seem to remember reading about Culbert's having an issue re: the vintage baking appliances they had been using, and that they were forced to close unexpectedly and temporarily, a couple weeks ago, until the appliances met the requirements of some sort of code. Maybe everything is back to normal now. IIRC, I had clicked on a link posted on Twitter.

          1. re: prima

            Culberts was closed from the tornado to early May this year, and then had to close again for a couple of weeks in June for reason Prima describes. It is open again.

    2. Have you tried Best in Grand Bend? It's a charcoal burger place which is okay - but they make their own ice cream.

      Also. have you ever stopped at Zehr's country market about a mile south of Bayfield? Not to be confused with Zehr's supermarkets. They offer home made sausage and other meat preparations including head cheese- - the brawn type- which is excellent. Good produce and home baking.

      3 Replies
      1. re: DockPotato

        DRD, pakmode, and DockPotato: Thanks for your suggestions. Based on your replies, I'm guessing that the reason we can't find a satisfactory lunch place in the specified location is that there must not be one, at least not right on roads 7 and 21. How about a 7 km. side trip to Forest on County Road 12? Various web sites list 4 or 5 places there, but I can't find any reviews. We're not looking for anything fancy -- just good burgers or sandwiches and (maybe) fresh cut fries. Our big meal of the day will be at the Bruce in Kincardine where we'll spend the night.

        1. re: Michigander

          I travel from Kincardine to Leamington several times a year and there is very little between Sarnia and Goderich on 21 as you state. I usually cut down along Road 16 or through London for that reason. In fact I just made the trip today.

          There is one exception in Grand Bend you may consider - the Colonial Hotel right on the main street. With my typical driving schedule it's usually too early or too late for us. However, on the occasions we did stop we found it to be solid. I see they now have a patio menu.

          http://www.colonialhotel-grandbend.com/

          Hope that helps. Forget Forest. Not much there.

          BTW Today was the first time we could bring ourselves to pull off and drive the square in Goderich. Yes, Culberts is still there - it seemed untouched, but some businesses we dealt with on that street and others are no longer.

          1. re: DockPotato

            Thanks, DockPotato. Like you, timing is the reason I'm looking for someplace closer to Sarnia than Grand Bend. By the time we wake up, pack the car, drop the dog at the kennel, drive from Detroit to Port Huron, cross the bridge, wait to pass through immigration, and stop at an ABM to withdraw Canadian dollars for the week, it's late enough that we're ready for lunch before we cross into Huron County. We did eat lunch at the Colonial Hotel in Grand Bend several years ago, and it was OK. We'll bypass Forest and find something. There are 3 or 4 places in our target area where we can stop for lunch and not starve -- just nothing worth posting about here. But I'll keep checking over the next week in case someone else posts a suggestion.

      2. Not entirely sure of the geography but this might be helpful:
        http://www.thestar.com/travel/article...

        1. I should add a couple other recommendations.

          First off, you can't go wrong with Purdy's in Sarnia. It's a fish and chips place located underneath the Bluewater Bridge on the river, so will be easy as you cross over. It's located near the Casino and is a fan-favourite for CH'ers and locals alike.

          Second, I didn't realize Port Elgin was so close to Southhampton. I posted a couple years ago about an eclectic little place I really enjoyed there - I believe it was called Armen's Cafe.
          I'll try and dig up the post - but I found his mains, and desserts especially, very good.

          8 Replies
          1. re: pakmode

            Thanks, julesrules and pakmode. JR: your recommendations are outside of my target area, but I'll hold onto them for future use because we drive through there in both directions every year. PM: Armen's is in Southampton which is just 7 km. north of our cottage, so it would be very convenient because we're in Southampton almost every day. I'm wary of trying it, though, because of reviews on other sites. Some people report fantastic food, but others report bad food, high prices, and horrible service -- like being ignored by servers and waiting an hour and 45 minutes for an over priced pizza. How long ago was your most recent good experience there?

            1. re: Michigander

              I had lunch at Armen's last summer. It was perfectly fine and I thought they handled the lunch "rush" well - sometimes these seasonal small town places really struggle with crowds but they did fine on this occasion. I didn't try dessert, but lunch was basic but much more varied than typical local fare (ie fries fries and more fries). There's different salads, hummus, etc. Nothing exotic by big-city standards but they're trying. It's super casual and cheap and if you find yourself waiting too long there's ok pizza next door.
              I like the Chelsea bun at the bakery across the street too. Like Grandma used to make.
              Do you know about the big Tuesday market at Keady? It's huge with a lot of junk and imported produce, but there are some gems like Mennonite baking. Last summer I found a woman doing all kinds of preserves including from foraged wild foods. Choke cherry jam and pickled ramps were both great.

              1. re: julesrules

                Keady is great. For sure there are resellers, but as a local I find them valuable as they have stuff I can't get off our supermarket shelves.

                Have you tried the Saturday Farmers Markets in Paisley or Kincardine, Jules? Producers only and very high quality. They both have local beef, pork, lamb, eggs, produce, preserves and baking.

                1. re: DockPotato

                  I've been to the big Keady market once, and there was a nice selection. I went to the Saturday market in Goderich once a few years ago, and it was a wonderful surprise as well. I go to the Kincardine Saturday market whenever I'm up there. The selection isn't nearly as much as in Goderich, but I've gotten plenty of good stuff there, too, which is why I keep going back.

                  1. re: DockPotato

                    I love Keady too, I just meant that it's not a curated cutesy farmer's market, there's a lot to sift through. Do you have a favourite supplier for summer sausage? The one I bought last year I was annoyed to then be told it needed to be hung to age because it was just made?!?! Sell me a ready product please. Then it stunk up the cottage and my MIL threw it out, lol.
                    I'm not down Kincardine or Paisley way much coming to the peninsula from Toronto/Wasaga.

                    1. re: julesrules

                      Agreed about Keady... it's hard scrapple - the real thing. Better described as a "fair" in the original sense. The livestock auction makes it so. The vendors usually pack up at 12:30 and then the auction begins. You can buy any rural product at that auction including deals, milled lumber, working dogs, hardware etc.

                      Yes I do have a source of summer sausage and I hope it's still available. I encountered Elmer Auerbach and his wife Sharon at their Saturday morning produce stand at Home Hardware in Kincardine when we moved here. Typical young Amish couple who offered superb produce at low price.

                      Elmer worked at Beefway, the local abattoir/butcher and was able to process his own stock there under government supervision. His sausage was sent down to Heidelberg for smoking, so the bags say "Noah Martin" but they're labelled with his name. Good? Imagine the original Noah Martin's on steroids.

                      The couple's stand is given up after they got their own farm, but the sausage was available at a relative's produce stand in Bervie on Hwy 9 right beside Kinfarm Tire. Beefway was sold a few months ago and I don't know if Elmer was able to continue his arrangement. If you can find it, it's the best. I haven't had any for a while, but I will ask when I run out to Bervie next time. I'll post here. I hope he's still making.

                      At Paisley you have Dave Weber selling his own meat product and I believe he offers summer sausage. If so, I'd try it. He's dependable.

                      Michigander, if you come into Kincardine for the Saturday Market you'd do well to stop at John Power's stand in front of the bowling alley on Sutton Park right after you exit Hwy 21 on the way down to the market. Mostly his own produce, but he does sell for friends and neighbours. His plantings are spaced for timing. he's there from sunup till mid afternoon or sellout. Excellent, fresh produce.

                      1. re: julesrules

                        It's been a while but I finally made my way to Bervie today, and, yes, Elmer is still producing.

                        I picked up a chub. I was able to choose one that wasn't vacuum packed, but in its traditional cloth casing.

                        Elmer is a single pair of hands so weights vary a bit. This one was 775 grams (1.7 lbs) and cost, as it has for the last few years, $12.

                        The sausages vary as well. This one is smokier than usual and exhibits less lactic acid than past ones. But it still has a kick. Mind you I only tried a small end piece.

                        It's labelled "August 10, 2012" which is when I assume Noah Martins smoked it for him. It may sharpen given time, but I doubt it will have the chance.

                        These folks attend Keady, and I assume they sell the sausage there as well. However I can't help you with their stall location.

                        I'd be interested in your remarks if you should chance on some of Elmer's product.

                  2. re: Michigander

                    Yea I was a bit surprised at some of the mixed reviews. I went there twice a couple years back and found Armen friendly and engaging. He tries, and sometimes in a small town, that's all that matters.

                2. I've enjoyed many meals at F.I.N.E. in Grand Bend, about 10 minutes north of the Pinery. I usually get the pickerel. I've found it to be the best upscale restaurant in Grand Bend over the last few years. Might be fancier than you're looking for. Might be more economical at lunch.

                  The Hessenland Inn also serves decent food, and isn't too far from the Pinery.

                  1. Have a lot of family in that area.
                    Purdy's is great for supper. In the summer they have Fish Frys at their place outdoors. "Fries under the bridge" are another local tradition, although it won't be a full meal. A few other places might catch your fancy. The marina in Sarnia has new ownership. It's casual, reasonable and on the water (three of my fave criteria). Here's a link to the menu.
                    http://www.alternategroundscafe.citym...
                    The other thing is if you will be going east, there is a diner called "John's Restaurant" on London Line. It is a great Greek diner with homemade food and great breakfasts all day. They sometimes have fresh fish catch as their daily special in the summer. People from all over go there and order bacon. Here's a link: http://www.famousbacon.com/

                    Cromwell Diner is another Greek Diner that is an oldie.
                    http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_...

                    Lastly, Sideways grill is developing a large following. We haven't been there since it opened, but family go there often for lunch and said the food is great. Here's a link to a newspaper article that was sent to me (couldn't find a website). http://www.theobserver.ca/ArticleDisp...

                    1. Well, I'm back. We made it to Grand Bend for lunch on the 20th, so we tried Best's, one of the places listed in the newspaper article that julesrules posted a link to. The write-up in the article was totally accurate -- they had tons of ice cream flavors and better than average burgers. However, instead of fresh cut fries which we were hoping for they served battered fries that went straight from the freezer to the deep fryer. [More and more of the places that we've gone to regularly in that part of mid-western Ontario seem to have made the same switch.] The ambiance was pure fast food though the patio would have been nice if it hadn't been too hot to sit out there. As I'm lactose intolerant, we won't be back, even for ice cream.

                      We saw Armen's in Southampton which several people recommended, but we didn't end up going. Duffy's and the Highview in Southampton have deteriorated under their new managements. We had a very nice dinner at A Taste of Europe in Port Elgin. Elsewhere on Chowhounds there have been rhapsodic posts about Klara's Kountry Kitchen near Underwood. It changed hands several years ago, and we like it as a cheap place for a good bacon and eggs type breakfast under the new name of Power Valley Inn & Restaurant.