Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Atlantic Canada >
Nov 9, 2013 02:30 PM

Foodie Angst about East Coast Canada Move

I was advised that a query I had posted elsewhere might be more appropriate in this forum. - I like the Maritimes, having been born there, but since apples and maple syrup and potatoes are not things we can eat except on rare occasions I would like to get an idea of what we can find when we move there. Where I currently live on the West Coast we like Vietnamese, Indonesian, Portuguese, East Indian, West Indian, and Japanese foods, though we are always open to experimenting with other types like Persian foods etc etc. I am anxious to know whether I can go to a grocery store in say, Moncton or Halifax or Charlottetown and buy things like: masala, quality curry powders, various types of hot peppers, Trassi, and other ingredients of that sort, or not. I understand the major store down there is Sobey's but does anyone know if they have as good a selection of imported ingredients as say T&T or Superstore has out here in the West? Or are there any small mom & pop groceries in those down-east towns that would sell ingredients from other countries?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can speak somewhat for Halifax (which is your best bet for anything ethnic). We have nothing like T&T. You will very likely have to hit up more than one store to get everything you want. There is the Mid East Food Centre, for Middle Eastern groceries. J J Mart for Korean specialities. There is a plethora of small Asian groceries, including a Japanese one on Barrington St. There is an Indian store on Robie and North, and an African store on Gottingen. There is even a Newfoundland store!

    You may find lots of neat things at the Seaport Farmer's Market. Best spices are from the Spice Man at the Brewery Market, however. Superstore is getting better at providing ethnic groceries. Pete's Frootique has lots of amazing produce, including a fair selection of mushrooms and hot peppers. Some imported goodies as well.

    Don't even bother looking for ethnic stuff if you are rural anywhere. You'd be hard pressed to find an eggplant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: existential_crisis

      Oh yes! Thank you sooo much. That is exactly what I need. So, Halifax it is - which is lucky in a way because that is where I was born and I'm sure there are still relatives on both sides of the family kicking around the area somewhere, from Sydney to the Annapolis Valley. Where I live right now in BC we are known to the neighbours as "the house with the fabulous smells" and neighbours regularly ask for samples, so maybe we can start a trend there too. And the information you have kindly supplied will keep us trucking into a wonderful retirement.

      1. re: Pat50

        I believe it is doable. Just not as easily as out west.

    2. In addition to the spots identified by existential_crisis in Halifax, I would add the Asian grocery beside the Sobeys on Queen St (I forget the name) for a great selection of all things Asian, including good produce. There is also a really great Indian grocery on Oxford St called Fanor's and Tian Phat on the Bedford Highway is a good spot - they supply a lot of restaurants. There is a Turkish grocery currently under construction on the Bedford highway! very near Tian Phat.

      We also have Superstore here. I prefer it to Sobeys, especially if you're looking for anything imported or "exotic"

      I think most things are available if you know where to look. And once you are here and settled, I'm sure you'll figure it all out. And people will be happy to help!

      1 Reply
      1. re: CanadaGirl

        Thank you CanadaGirl. This is obviously a great start on the idea that people will be happy to help. For now, I am going to copy and save your ideas and those from "existential_crisis" in an email I will send to myself and save under my "Relocation" folder. When I get there I'll buy a map and try to mark down the locations you have both mentioned and keep that as my starting points on my first map for exploring.

      2. Lots of great advice in here already from existential_crisis and CanadaGirl

        the majority of the ethnic food is on or near the Halifax Peninsula

        I like Heiwa on Chebucto for Korean, across the street from the Mid East Food Centre is Cafe Aroma Latina which has a small selection of Latin Groceries like dried chillis

        The Japanese grocery on Barrington is for lease so their days are numbered

        Pelley Foods can often get odd fresh items for you

        and the Markets are a boon of goodness but mostly on Saturdays

        Pete's Frotique is great for British items, the new Walmart Supercentres actually have a selection of non perishable ethnic items that aren't available at Sobeys/Superstore

        Speaking of Superstore I've noticed this year that they have started to carry some T&T branded items

        Fanor on Oxford has been converting from Indian to Middle East but Taste of India (220 Volts) is great for Indian foods

        Tian Phat on Bedford Highway or Ca-Hoa on Queen are great asian selections

        13 Replies
        1. re: HalifaxRetales

          Thanks to you too Halifax Retales, especially about the up-to-date info like the Japanese on Barrington. That I must admit was a concern; all these small mom&pop type venues; especially those with very cheap prices, will they still be there by the time I get there? Still, good to know. I like the idea that Pelley Foods can, will order for you. That gives me a great idea. I will try to collect as much info as I can about the foods I like by jotting down any info on packages, not only name and brand but also distributors, and then maybe some place like Pelley's would be willing to try and get it? Sounds hopeful. As for Superstore and T&T, I looked up the Halifax Superstore online and it was quite a surprise! So tiny! So mom&pop-ish! SS here in the west is HUGE and about 2 years ago they bought out T&T and so now the T&T stuff has filtered through, which is a good thing. It saves me a half hour drive to get to T&T, although I still have to go there to get things like fish-heads for soup stock. Long beans are a treat there, and their large packages of dried mushrooms are so great for everything. But after getting some names here in this forum it gave me a place to start for online research and it seems that there are places in Halifax where mushrooms and even some fresh produce like bok choi can be obtained. Everyone has been so very helpful. When I get there I shall have to throw a very large party and invite all of you. (I hadn't asked but I am assuming that ordinary items like fresh ginger-root and fresh garlic are easily available everywhere?) With all the snow there, does anyone ever do outdoor winter parties or does everyone just hibernate inside all winter?

          1. re: Pat50

            Yes, our Superstores here are actually grocery stores. I love Superstore here. I hated it out west. You can get a good selection of produce (yes, always garlic and ginger) at Superstore, but I would check out Pete's Frootique because their produce selection is amazing.

            We actually don't get much snow here (not as much as I'd like) and it certainly doesn't get too cold. Halifax and Southwestern Nova Scotia probably have the mildest climate outside of the west coast. With that said, I wouldn't expect to do any outdoor partying.

            1. re: existential_crisis

              Too bad about the NO to parties in the snow. I remember as a teenager living in Ontario at that time, having a toboggan party in the snow with hot drinks in flasks/thermos and hot food - I think it was chili? - in some sort of keep hot arrangement. We were 16 at the time of course, which makes a difference, but I do know a fabulous time was had by all. Now that I'm older the news that Halifax and Southwestern Nova Scotia have the mildest climates outside of the west coast is probably more practical good news.

              1. re: Pat50

                Basically all our corporate owned Loblaws stores are called Real Atlantic Superstores

                There are smaller ones that just sell groceries Quinpool and Young St

                Larger ones that are mostly grocery Braemar, Barrington St, Bedford

                And large ones that have lots of general merchandise Bayers Lake, Sackville, Joe Howe & Portland St

                I agree the SS here are much nicer than the ones out west

                If you want to part in the snow there are people, but mostly involves snowmobiles

                And just as another note notice the response are all about Halifax,we are the food centre of the Atlantic.

                1. re: HalifaxRetales

                  No, am not at all into snow mobiles. My memories were more of toboggans and skating on the Rideau Canal. Ah, well. But, yes, I have definitely realised that, if I want to eat well in retirement it needs to be somewhere in, or very near to Halifax, say, not more than 45 minutes drive - whatever communities that would take you to. I am judging by my distance here to Vancouver, which is the farthest I am willing to travel for special items. Mostly I like to shop within 10 mins of home and about once per month I go to the T&T which is about 30 mins away, so that is the distance I feel comfortable with. Then trips to Vancouver are maybe 3-6 months apart if there is something really special there. So I guess that is where we will be looking. Odd maybe (maybe not so odd?) but while I thought I was one of the only ones braving the move from west to east I now find that there are a fair number of former westcoast foodie types who have moved east, all of which gives me more confidence. Where there is demand, after all, ....

                  1. re: Pat50

                    I'm sure those types of toboggan and hot chocolate parties exist, but they strike me as being more of a community affair aimed at families. In other words, not my thing. However, Halifax does have a big Olympic sized skating oval in the middle of the Commons which is quite the popular winter activity. There are lots of places for sledding, and we even have a few (laughable) ski hills.

                    1. re: existential_crisis

                      Nope, I'm not into winter sports per se. I was thinking more of the long cold winter months and everyone being cooped up inside, when and where do people down east manage to get together in groups of more than four, to share good food and drink? Unless everyone has huge homes where they can often entertain 10-20 people easily. And everyone lives really, really close to each other so there are no snowy, bad roads to keep people away? After all, one of the best things about good food is sharing the experiences, isn't it?

                      1. re: Pat50

                        Haligonians are pretty keen on going out to restaurants, lounges, and pubs. How else could we have the bars/restaurants per capita that we do with the population/economy that we have? lol Prioritize!

                        Then again, I live on the peninsula where all the action happens. I'm not sure how it works in suburbia. It sounds like you are partial to not living in the city itself. Most suburban areas have that one nice restaurant and the local bar. Do you have any idea where you were thinking about living?

                        1. re: existential_crisis

                          No idea yet. I haven't been to Halifax in over 60 years. We'll have to come out next summer and look around.

                          I did the bars/pubs/restaurant scene in my 20s and that is still enjoyable now and then but not exclusively; then in my 30s and 40s when we lived in the tropics, I discovered a talent for throwing really fabulous parties on the larger side; later we moved back to North America and the city and I've enjoyed the grocers etc but felt constrained by the lack of space for entertaining. Parties with less than 10 people just don't seem to be as much fun. Guess it was a bit of a pipe dream from the sounds of things but I was hoping in retirement I could combine the great food resources with the space for entertaining. (Now my sister, who thinks black pepper is too spicy, is considering retiring in Costa Rica. Go figure!)

                          1. re: existential_crisis

                            I live in suburbia (Bedford) and we have lots of places to go out to! It is definitely improving in my general area. But, I certainly think the kitchen party cliché is pretty correct!

                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                              hello - the OP posted out here on West Coast - i always find it's hard to believe we are all using the same passport ; ) ... and currency - it is so different from Pacific to Atlantic and up north - we really like that aspect of Cda.

                              what is a kitchen party exactly? It is not a term I know about.

                              ps - i like your comment OP re: big parties - much better! esp in our beautiful winter and summer out west here. I've had 40 people over for winter party BBQ in the snow --- and thankfully - NO snowmobiles / atv's as you say ; )

                              1. re: Georgia Strait

                                Basically every party in the east coast ends up in the kitchen. Even if it's not in the kitchen it can still be a kitchen party. Usually it involves instruments. It may involve a jig or two. Probably some booze involved. If you ever find yourself drunk in the kitchen singing a song with some good friends, you're at a kitchen party.

                                1. re: existential_crisis

                                  Sounds like the informal, spontaneous weekend parties we used to have in Suriname; Saturday afternoon on the patio, good music, enough good food, perhaps being cooked as we partied; something good to drink, lots of dancing,(not too sure about the jig thing?) .... I could live with that. And give me the occasional visit to a really good restaurant for variety. Maybe a theatre or play now and then. Yeah, sounds doable.

          2. and think of the shellfish! I'd be excited by all the lobster, oyster and mussel varieties that are so local they're fresh! truly honestly fresh!

            9 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              Now that is one thing that definitely excites me about the east coast. I remember as a child going to the cottage for the summer and having an outdoor meal with lots of lobster my grandfather caught (he wasn't a fisher/lobsterman by profession but somehow I remember him having some lobster pots the uncles helped him with? how that all worked is now lost in the mists of time), rather like the modern day equivalent of hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill but way tastier. we get some shellfish out here in the west but I have memories of way better shellfish down east. Lobster, oysters, mussels, oh yes. Looking forward to that.

              1. re: hill food

                Oh yeah! It can usually bought the cheapest from a truck alongside the road, often in a big box store parking lot. Yum.

                1. re: CanadaGirl

                  Just curious; are the fish from trucks safe to eat? They sell them from the side of the road out west here too but I never thought they would be safe enough to eat. If I want fresh I go to the wharf in Maple Ridge.

                  While I'm here might as well ask another question. Just went today to order my fresh pork leg which I cure every year for my Xmas ham. It started me wondering about a few other ingredients I like to have around, or at least be able to get for special occasions, so here goes: where on the east coast (halifax but am also willing to travel now and then for special items) can one get: fishheads, pork feet, fresh pork legs? Given the East Coast reputation for fish, I suppose fishheads are available in lots of places? But can I get my pork feet and fresh leg of pork every Xmas at some meat market or store, or is that something one can only get at a farm? If the latter does anyone know which farms would sell the feet and a leg without asking you to buy the whole, or even a half pig because even with a dedicated freezer I doubt that I would have room for that. Which reminds me - I don't anticipate transporting my upright freezer from west to east, so, given all the good restaurants everyone has talked about here, I assume that there is somewhere one can buy a dedicated upright freezer? You have all been so helpful I hope I am not overdoing these questions.

                  1. re: Pat50

                    you're just flipping a little - a transcontinental move will do that.

                    it'll be fine.

                    1. re: hill food

                      Yes, you're probably right. Not to mention that we are starting to plan for renovations required before we can sell here. I think there must be a reno brain syndrome and possibly a large move syndrome as well. The bigger part of the renos soon, then a trip out next summer to see the lay of the land and meet up with a relative out there, then next fall/winter the cosmetic finish part of the renos and then in the spring, selling and moving ,... yeah, I guess flipping would be a good word. Thanks for your patience.

                      1. re: Pat50

                        I've made drastic "drop everything!" moves a few times (a few months planning for me is a drastic action), it sounds like you're planning patiently and well.

                        your scouting trip for the 'lay of the land' is crucial. just wander the streets of neighborhoods/areas you like, stop off for a coffee in a local joint and check the menu for the everyday things they serve, browse the grocery stores - y'know, just to see what's fresh, what do they stock frozen etc. chat up the librarian.

                        1. re: hill food

                          Yes, I've made quite a few moves in my life too, including the "drop everything" type, but this move will the the last move of our lives and being less resilient and having less stamina and muscle power in the last few years, it is important that it be done right. So, thanks to all of you, this gives me a lot of good places to start. See you on the streets of Halifax then someday!

                          1. re: Pat50

                            Halifax is like the Toronto of Atlantic Canada (at least to a little ol New Brunswick girl like me). If you're going to find all these foreign type foods... Well don't come to Northern NB where I live LOL

                    2. re: Pat50

                      The fish from the trucks is fine. It's fish - your nose is all you need to know if it's fresh. Here at least, it's usually being sold by the guy that caught it, and is just as fresh as going to the wharf.

                      As far as a spot to buy an upright freezer, you'll be fine. We are not a shopping wasteland. Within a 15 minute drive of my home, there are 3 Future Shops, 2 Home Depots, a Bay, 2 Sears, 1 Sears Home Store, Brick, Leon's, 2 Costcos, plus a few independant appliance stores. I know people think we are deprived when it comes to shopping. But we really do have access to an excellent selection, both food wise and other. If only we had IKEA.....