Dining in Nova Scotia
We are flying to Nova Scotia for 2 weeks in June, staying in Halifax, Annapolis Royal, Lunnenberg and CapeBreton. Looking for dining suggestions in or near these places as we'll be travelling by car. Also need a restaurant for a nice dinner in Halifax to take our Goddaughter. We like places that serve good local ingredients and love to eat mostly everything.
We recently completed a trip to Nova Scotia. Here's where we ate and how we felt about each:
The Press Gang, Halifax - LOVED it (for details see www.chow.com/topics/855570#8197754 )
Chabaa Thai, Dartmouth (Halifax) - liked it a lot, very good Thai food
Sugar Moon, Eastown (pancake breakfast) - LOVED it*
Lobster Pound, North Sydney (Cape Breton) - LOVED it (for details see www.chow.com/topics/796950#8202568 )
Rusty Anchor, Pleasant Bay (Cape Breton) - liked it a lot
*Sugar Moon deserves special mention. It's a farm that makes their own maple syrup, and it involved a slight detour from Highway 104 between Halifax and Cape Breton. They were recently named one of the seven best places in Canada for pancakes, and the pancakes were indeed wonderful. www.sugarmoon.ca
Highlights from our 16 day trip to Nova Scotia, June 2013
We stayed at the Haliburton House on Morris Street in Halifax, very well situated for walking to all the sites. As recommended we ate at Stories http://www.storiesdining.com/. It’s a shame it was not busier as the food was delicious. We shared their signature appetizer of pan seared rice paper wrapped sea scallops, ginger sesame vinaigrette. Each of the 3 packages had 2 large scallops, perfect for sharing. For our mains we each had Ahi tuna grilled “rare”, new potatoes, tomato caper fennel, with red pepper vinaigrette. The tuna was a very generous portion, lovely presentation and very good service. A wonderful start to our trip.
Rain in the forecast for later in the week so decided to head for Peggy’s Cove. We had lunch at Rhubarb in Indian Harbour http://www.rhubarbrestaurant.ca/ run by a lovely couple Jim and Diane Buckle. Watch for signs on the left for Oceanstone Seaside Resort as we drove by it twice (grounds were lovely and would be a nice place to stay if touring the Margaret’s Bay area). Upon ordering we were served warm homemade biscuits, delicious. They had a small but well selected wine and draft menu. I had the seafood chowder, haddock, mussels, clams, lobster, cream and herbs, and my husband had the mussels steamed in Hell’s Bay draft beer. A very enjoyable lunch, lovely restaurant, patio overlooking the Bay and great service.
We wanted a lighter dinner, so went to Gingergrass http://gingergrass.ca/ a 2 minute walk from the Inn. Started with shrimp salad rolls followed by stir fried ginger beef and a stir fried basil chicken noodle dish. Both very generous and good. It looked to be a very popular restaurant as we got the last table. Not fancy but very good food.
The day turned out to be perfect for exploring the harbour and city with our Goddaughter. Had lunch at the Triangle Ale House a typical pub popular with the locals. Chowder, fish and chips, large selection of draft beer. We went for a walk in the Public Gardens off Spring Garden Road and found an oasis. Located in the historic Horticultural Hall is the Uncommon Grounds Café and Sugah serving hand made chocolates and ice cream which looked very tempting, but opted for coffees instead. There is a lovely shaded deck outside and people were taking advantage of the lovely afternoon to meet with friends, read or play a game of scrabble.
We decided we needed a fix of Italian food so went round the corner from the Inn to Café Chianti http://www.cafechianti.com/. We started off sharing an order of Cast iron seared scallops, wilted spinach, portabella mushroom, double smoked bacon, very good but not as tasty as the scallops at Stories. Next we shared an order of their version of a Caesar, grilled hearts of romaine with a lemon anchovy and roasted garlic vinaigrette, fried capers, cheesy crouton, very refreshing and light. For mains I had salmon crusted with snow crab, delicious and my husband had penne with shrimp, smoked salmon and flambéed scallops in vodka rose sauce (loaded with seafood and sauce not too creamy, just perfect). Portions were large and we should have split a main dish as well. The décor was lovely and staff were very attentive. We had looked at a few restaurants in Bishops Landing but thought they were catering to the tourists and Café Chianti came highly recommended by the staff at the Haliburton, so were not disappointed with our choice and it was only a 5 minute walk.
The breakfast at the Haliburton is very light and wanted a bit more substance so walked 5 minutes to the Westin Hotel and the Elements Restaurant http://www.elementsonhollis.ca/. Typical Hotel dining room, but we heard that the food was very good.
They had lots of options on their menu but opted for their cold buffet which was very good value, various pastries, fresh fruit, cheese, smoothies, smoked salmon, etc. Very enjoyable breakfast.
Haligonians, you should be very proud of your waterfront. Puts any city we have visited to shame. If you are in the market for good wines or scotch check out Bishop’s Cellar in Bishop’s Landing on the waterfront. Very knowledgeable staff and good selection. One of the Chowhounds said to watch for the opening of 2 doors down http://www.go2doorsdown.com/ , founded by Craig Flinn, Chef of Chives Canadian Bistro. We arrived around 12:30 and the only vacant seats were at the bar. It turned out that they had opened 2 weeks prior, but the owner’s reputation is so good they have been packed since opening day. The menu is small, but lots of delicious choices. Divided into meats, seafood and vegetables, appetizers and mains. We split a kale caeser, with crispy bacon and gouda and croutons to start, I had a Halibut Taco and my husband the Spanish mussels, both off the appetizer menu. Very good, fresh and just the right amount of food. As we sat there enjoying our lunch another wave of people came in about 1:00. We will be back.
We were taking our Goddaughter and her friend out for dinner that evening and had made reservations at Chives, http://www.chives.ca/ which had been highly recommended by many Chowhounds. It did not disappoint. To start we had the green seasonal salad and they both had mussels. For mains they both had Organic mushroom, caramelized onion & double smoked bacon stuffed chicken breast, red wine & wild mushroom sauce. It looked wonderful. I had roasted sea trout and snow crab with wilted greens and pickled beets. My husband had caramelized sea scallops with Atlantic lobster & sweet pea risotto. To start they bring you the most delicious buttermilk biscuits in a paper bag. Chives sources everything locally and makes everything fresh in the kitchen. Taste and presentation were wonderful. No room for dessert.
Didn’t venture far from the Inn as Halifax was getting the tale end of Hurricane Andrea. Lunch today next door from the Haliburton at the Hamachi House for sushi http://www.hamachirestaurants.com/morris_street/index.html . The server recommended the “Holy Dynamite” a smoked eel roll (delicious) and a lobster roll, also very good. Close to the Inn is a great coffee house called the Wired Monk which we frequented most afternoons. Went back to Gingergrass for dinner and had shrimp salad rolls again, then chicken lemongrass and a Thai noodle curry with shrimp. Both good.
Off to the Annapolis Royal today. We decided to stop part way and have lunch in Wolfville at Front and Central http://www.frontandcentral.com/ one block off the main street. We started by sharing a bowl of mussels, sauce of smoked tomato, garlic, shallots, Kalamata olives and capers. The best mussels we have had so far. We then shared the chicken pappardelle with pulled chicken thigh, bacon, mushrooms, arugula pesto, toasted walnuts, and Dragon’s breathe blue cheese. Excellent. Only a small sign on the main street to direct you so look for it at the corner of Front and Central, across from the NSLS. You won’t be disappointed.
We were staying at the Queen Anne Inn in Annapolis Royal http://www.queenanneinn.ns.ca/ a lovely Victorian Inn owned by Greg and Julie. We ate that night at the inn. We started with a spicy Thai shrimp salad and ceviche. For mains I had Mediterranean chicken breast and my husband had surf and turf which was a bit unique as the turf was a double lamb chop cooked perfectly and a very large lobster tail. Everything was delicious. We had no room for dessert, but the other guests were raving about the warm gingerbread cake and blueberry tart. Breakfast the next morning was equally as good with choices of scrambled eggs with steak, smoked trout or bacon, the daily waffles with strawberries or lobster scrambled eggs. I’m not sure where we are putting all this food.
We had spent the morning in Bear River at “The Flight of Fancy” an incredible arts and crafts store, over 200 artisans. The café in town was closed so drove on to Digby and had the worst meal of the trip at the Captain’s Cabin. I would avoid Digby all together for food. Dinner in Annapolis Royal at Bistro East was also disappointing. Pizza wasn’t bad the blackened haddock not bad served with boring sides and very bitter cappuccino’s.
Another wonderful breakfast at the Inn. My husband slept in so walked into town to the German Bakery for his breakfast. Vey friendly owners, homemade baked good and breads. He had eggs, smoked salmon and a toasted multigrain Kaiser. Good.
Lunched in town as well at Café Restaurant Compose. We had a warm chicken, fresh fruit, mixed green salad and an apple, cranberry, chicken spinach salad. Very good food, wonderful service and fantastic view of the harbour. Excellent cappuccino’s.
We decided that our lunch was so good we would go back to Café Restaurant Compose. Arrived at 7:30 and got the last available table overlooking the water. We had the large Digby scallops, nicely seared and served with rice and lobster risotto, both excellent. We splurged and had warm apple strudel (homemade) with ice cream for dessert. The chef and owner is Austrian, so the menu reflects this. Another table had the veal schnitzel, large portion and smelled delicious. It was a fun evening.
Off to Lunenburg today in the rain. We lunched at Salt Shaker Deli http://saltshakerdeli.com/
a very lively spot with tourists and locals. Both had their pound (mussels) and a pint. I had the coconut curry which wasn’t quite what I expected, but the provencale was good. Mussels were very fresh. We had dinner at the Rum Runner Inn, not very busy so got a window seat. We started out with a dozen oysters, very fresh and delicious. Oysters are pricey in Nova Scotia ($3 each), so this was a real treat. I had salmon and my husband the seafood linguini in a rose sauce. The meal was enjoyable and staff very attentive. Our waiter had worked at Trattoria della Nonna, so was very professional. Worth a return visit.
We tried the Savvy Sailor http://thesavvysailor.ca/ for breakfast. I had their “Atlantic Eggs”, poached eggs, smoked salmon served on a potato rosti (yum) and my husband had the days special, lobster omelette. He asked for it made with egg whites and it was fluffy and delicious. Lovely view of the harbour. We drove to Mahone Bay for lunch and ate at the Biscuit Eater a café cum bookstore. They have a lovely patio, and also tables and stools among the shelves of books where you can eat or have coffee or tea. I had a grilled Spanish sandwich on olive bread, prosciutto, ham, artichokes, cheese and red peppers, toasted on a Panini press. It was delicious. My husband had bagel and lox. Both came with green salads. Would go back there again.
Dinner was at Fleur de Sel http://fleurdesel.net/ which came highly recommended. We started with 6 oysters each (3 different kinds) served in the most unique wooden serving tray. My main was loin of lamb served on a bed of orzo with lamb shank and bacon mixed into the pasta. Very rich, but very good. My husband had the breast of duck, also excellent. We tried their trio of sorbets which were disappointing as they tasted like they had been frozen too long and the flavours were flat. Ignoring the dessert, this was probably the best dining experience in town and also the most expensive. The service and ambience was top notch.
Breakfast again at The Savvy Sailor. The lobster Benny was decadent. More rain today, so drove into Halifax for lunch and the museum. Had another wonderful lunch at 2 doors down, sitting again at the bar as the place was packed. Had the Kale Caesar again and split a lamb slider and the crispy Haddock burger (this was the winner today). Back to Lunenburg and dinner at the Salt Shaker Deli. Split a green salad then had the linguini with scallops and their bouillabaisse, packed with fish and seafood (fantastic).
Day 12 -14
Off to Cape Breton to stay with some friends. Stopped south of Truro at Saltscapes. My chicken club was very good (fresh chicken) but the fish cakes did not look good and best forgotten. Over the course of our 3 days stay in we had dinner at the Glenora Distillery http://www.glenoradistillery.com/ , breakfast at the Coal Miner’s Café in Inverness and dinner at The Red Shoe Pub http://www.redshoepub.com/ in Mabou. All very enjoyable. Lunch on the trail at the Hometown Kitchen, not so good. Service was terrible and the food was not good. We couldn’t beat the food at our friend’s house either. There is nothing better than fresh steamed lobster caught that day, a chilled bottle of white wine, while eating outside watching the sunset.
On our way back to Halifax we stopped in New Glasgow for lunch at Hebel’s http://www.hebelsrestaurant.ca/. Mussels were fresh and the Greek chicken salad tasty. Very popular with the locals. Back in Halifax, staying at the Haliburton overnight. We had to make one last visit to Chives for dinner. We split their special salad of local greens with pear and caramelized walnuts. I had the stuffed chicken with a decadent wine sauce and my husband had the Moroccan lamb shank, both excellent.
Our last day in Nova Scotia, flying home late in the day and won’t get much to eat so we decided on a late lunch at 2 doors down to tide us over. We split the Kale Caesar, again, so good. We had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Spaghetti with the best meatballs we have ever tasted. The staff at both Chives and 2 Doors Down were wonderful and knew our faces by now. As a thank you for our patronage they treated us to a piece of the warm gingerbread cake with Bailey’s Caramel Sauce. Outstanding. The recipe for the cake is on Chives website.
Nova Scotia is a wonderful province. Great people, food, scenery, lots to do and see. We will be back.
Thanks to all the Chowhounds who helped plan our trip. Loved Halifax, loved Nova Scotia.
Wow! What a way to eat across much of the province. Sometimes I forget how many great spots we have, and you make me think I need to explore my home province a bit more.
I do love our waterfront, and am often surprised when visiting other (often larger) cities how much nicer Halifax's waterfront is. Even as locals, we head down often.
I am coming late to this discussion, but may as well add my thoughts anyway. I grew up in Lunenburg, and the local favourite is the Knot Pub. It's my favourite pub in the whole world. Avoid the Grand Banker.
Fleur de Sel, Salt Shaker Deli, and Magnolia's Grill are highly recommended. The Black Forest Cafe is a little hidden gem on the old highway, but serves impressive German food.
In the valley: Le Caveau and Front & Central.
Halifax: I know that Elements on Hollis really stresses local ingredients. I only had a sample from there but it was out of this world. Two Doors Down is quite inspired and reasonably priced.
I agree with all the others recommending Chives. I loved Chives, especially their innovative and tasty version of Chowder. http://www.chives.ca/menu
I also like Fid in Halifax. http://fidresto.ca/ Edit: I'm sad to read that Fid is serving its last meal May 31, 2013. I'm glad I had a chance to try it when I was visiting. If anyone reading this hasn't had a chance to try Fid, you've still got time! http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/779067-high-end-halifax-eatery-fid-shutting-down
For a casual meal in Lunenberg, I recommend the Grand Banker. Great chowder. http://www.grandbanker.com/
In Cape Breton, we enjoyed our meal at the Glenora Distillery's restaurant near Mabou. http://www.glenoradistillery.com/dining.htm
Recommend trying Butterscotch Pie, if you get a chance.
Here are some of the highlights from my trip to Halifax, Lunenberg and Cape Breton,as well as a few other places in NS & PEI, last summer: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/802308#7548157
I found this thread about the Cabot Trail very helpful: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796950
Enjoy your trip!
Thank you prima for your wonderful suggestions. We will be taking our Goddaughter to Chives. She has been there before and said the food was fantastic. We have 6 nights in Halifax, so plan to try other recommended restaurants.
The link to Cape Breton is very helpful. Will be staying 4 days with friends near Port Hood and wanted to take them to a nice place for lunch, so have lots to choose from. We are really looking forward to our trip.
This post has some good suggestions for Halifax: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/871306
We really enjoy Le Caveau, which is near Wolfville in the Annapolis Valley. It isn't exactly where you've specified, but may be en route. http://grandprewines.ns.ca/restaurant/
I have heard good things (but haven't actually eaten) at a couple of places in Lunenburg:
Trattoria Della Nonna. http://www.trattoriadellanonna.ca/
Fleur de Sel: http://fleurdesel.net/
Fleur de Sel's more casual sibling, The Salt Shaker Deli, is fantastic.
I've also enjoyed meals at Magnolia's, also in Lunenburg.
I ate at Leo's Cafe, in Annapolis Royal, a long time ago, but remember it as quite pleasant (very casual soup and sandwich place, with healthy and satisfying offerings)