Best Chowder in Nova Scotia
I’ve been trying to write a post about the best chowder in Nova Scotia for years now, but never feel like I’ve covered enough ground. Chowder is so ubiquitous across Nova Scotia that it would be quite impossible to try every bowl. The Nova Scotia Chowder Trail is a start – but since it is a promotional list, you can’t necessarily count on it for insight about the best chowders in Nova Scotia. This blog has always been about not trusting glorified “lists” by major publications, and since the inception of Eat This Town I have always committed to thoroughly examining everything for myself.
But chowder is a big ask!
I can only drive so far, spend so much money, and eat so much chowder. And as the years go by, I’m no longer sure I can vouch for the place I loved in 2016, or the place that changed ownership last year.
Last year I wrote a piece for Curated Magazine: (For the Love of Chowder: Four of Nova Scotia’s Best) and this expediated my pursuit. But I’ve still only scratched the surface.
So take my recommendations with a grain of salt (and a splash of cream). I have worked hard on this list, but there is a chance that some of these chowders aren’t as I experienced them. If not an absolute list of the best chowder in Nova Scotia, this is a useful guide for your own chowder trail adventure. Comment below with your own favourites and experiences.
At the bottom of this post, I’ll show a few candidates that didn’t make the list due to inconsistencies and uncertainties.
But let’s first take a look at my top picks!
Best Chowder in Nova Scotia: Top 5 Overall
1. Charlene’s Bayside Restaurant & Cafe
9657 NS-105, Whycocomagh, NS
Right in the middle of Cape Breton Island lies the best chowder I’ve had anywhere, and I’m confident in saying this is the best chowder in Nova Scotia!
The bowl is loaded with seafood (just look at all that lobster!), and a super flavourful broth. Served with a humble dinner roll on a paper placemat, this bowl of chowder is both traditional and elevated. The best of all worlds!
2. The Canteen
22 Portland St, Dartmouth, NS
Whenever people ask me where to go for the best seafood in Halifax, I tell them to go to Dartmouth. A scenic ferry ride across the harbour will deliver you to The Canteen – your one-stop-shop for iconic Nova Scotian seafoods.
The chowder is exceptional, and The Canteen has won “Best Chowder” in The Coast’s Best of Halifax Awards since 2017 (I won’t hold that against them).
This bowl of chowder has a nice light broth (it’s gluten-free) and flavourful additions of double-smoked bacon, smoked haddock, leeks, celery, fresh dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper complimenting the ample portions of haddock, lobster, mussels and potatoes.
3. Le Caveau
11611 Evangeline Trail, Grand Pré, NS
Tucked away in Grand Pre Winery, Le Caveau has consistently been one of the best restaurants in Nova Scotia and a summery meal on their garden terrace should be on your bucket list.
The chowder here is inspired by Ajo Blanco, a chilled Spanish soup (sometimes called “white gazpacho”), with its use of ground almonds, garlic, olive oil, and soaked bread.
This chowder is served hot, of course, but contains those ingredients in its base as well as cream. It is filled with scallops, lobster, cold water shrimp (all local) and julienned celery root, garnished with smoked paprika and toasted almonds. It is an ingenious marriage of Spanish and Maritime ingredients, traditions and flavours. Very yum.
5 Willow Lane, Summerville Centre, NS
I hesitate to put this on the list just because someone told me it wasn’t as good the second time he had it. Alas, consistency.
But when I had this chowder in 2020 I described it as “flawless”. Superb flavour and texture in the base, with lots of lobster, haddock and scallop. Served with a lovely cheddar jalapeno biscuit.
But even if you do drive all the way to Liverpool (plus 13 minutes) and it’s not as good as I say, it is worth it for the ocean view alone. The Quarterdeck Resort is located right on Summerville Beach which is one of the nicest, sandiest beaches in Nova Scotia.
5. Argyler Lodge & Restaurant
52 Ye Old Argyle Rd, Glenwood, NS
It’s been even longer since I’ve had this chowder (2018). But it was just such a pleasant bowl, garnished with edible flowers. It has stuck with me.
The Argyler is a nice place to spend a night or two by the ocean when visiting the Acadian Shore. I also really enjoyed their creamed lobster on a homemade bread bowl.
Bonus: Harbourstone Pour House
1919 Upper Water St, Halifax, NS
Located in the Marriot Harbourfront, Harbourstone is one of the safer bets for seafood on the Halifax waterfront. It contains sea scallops and tiger shrimp (grilled to order), along with P.E.I. mussels and Faroe Island salmon.
Every bowl is made to order, with cream and fresh seafood added to a base of pureed potato, onion and leek.
I wrote in Curated: “It is a well-balanced dish of ocean and cream, with an earthy essence of potato.”
Top 5 Pub Chowders
1. Grand Banker
82 Montague St, Lunenburg, NS
The Acadian-Cajun stew at the Grand Banker may not a traditional chowder, but its uniqueness is what I like about it. It’s been a signature menu item since the Grand Banker opened in 1996.
It is a thick and hearty chowder (thickened with flour) that also incorporates tomato paste and fresh tomatoes with cream. Potatoes are omitted, but the seafood is grilled to order: local south shore haddock and Adam’s & Knickle scallops, PEI mussels and tiger shrimp. A secret spice blend gives the dish a kick; it’s a Lunenburg level of spice, but it’s nice.
2. Rope Loft
36 Water St, Chester, NS
This is a popular and touristy spot, and I can see why. You can’t beat the view and the summertime vibes of their waterfront patio. I’m usually hesitant about this sort of place, but I was so impressed by this chowder. It’s heaping with seafood and the flavour of the broth was bangin’. It ain’t too hard on the eyes either.
3. Durty Nelly’s
1645 Argyle St, Halifax, NS
Durty Nelly’s is a popular night life destination and gastropub in downtown Halifax. They promote their chowder as “award winning” so I’ve always been skeptical. I’ve tried the chowder 3 times now to sort out my feelings, but I’m pretty confident that this belongs here. It’s a thick and tasty chowder, with a somewhat unique broth. While it would benefit from a bit more seafood, the seafood within is top notch. The sweet Guinness bread accompanying it is also notable.
4. Henry House
1222 Barrington St, Halifax, NS
I’m always surprised by how good this chowder is, even if it’s a bit pedestrian. I really shouldn’t be surprised, though. I’ve always enjoyed the food at the Henry House. I am partial to the basement pub, and pairing my food with a pint of Peculiar.
5. Red Shoe Pub
11573 Nova Scotia Trunk 19, Mabou, NS
This is a nice creamy chowder, revved up with a bit of chilli oil. It’s not particularly bursting with seafood but has a nice flavour and a biscuit on the side.
The Red Shoe Pub is worth the trip alone for the traditional Cape Breton music and step dancing. It is a destination pub that you have to visit at least once.
Top 5 Traditional Chowders
1. Crow’s Nest / Shore Road Seafoods
3931 Shore Rd W, Granville Ferry, NS
Don’t be distracted by the heap of potatoes on top, this bowl of chowder is hefty AF and full of glorious seafood. There is a fish plant just down the road, and Digby scallops are fished just down the way. Everything is fresh and well prepared here. It’s also got that quaint, kitschy lobster trap vibe if you’re into that.
There is another location right in Digby called (somewhat confusingly) The Crow’s Nest / Sure Thing Seafood.
2. La Cuisine Robicheau
9651 Nova Scotia Trunk 1, Saulnierville, NS
Just less than an hour’s drive from Digby, along the Baie Sainte-Marie, is one of my favourite destination restaurants in Nova Scotia.
La Cuisine Robicheau is the nicest restaurant in this region, but the food still has that homecooked appeal and is the best place to try traditional Acadian cuisine. Being situated in a fishing village, this chowder screams freshness.
3. Evan’s Fresh Seafoods
Alderney Landing, 2 Ochterloney St, Dartmouth, NS
Evan’s is a must-visit for anyone in pursuit of fresh local seafood. The Dartmouth ferry basically drops you off at their doorstep, which is perfect.
Everything from their fish tacos to their lobster poutine to their fish and chips is top notch and the seafood is so fresh (brought to you from an actual fisherman and his family). The chowder is an old Acadian recipe, handed down by the owners’ mother. Beauty in its simplicity, it doesn’t get much better than this.
4. The Knot Pub
4 Dufferin St, Lunenburg, NS
The Knot Pub is my favourite pub in the world, and it is one of the few restaurants in Lunenburg that is open year-round. It’s where the locals go, and for good reason; it’s got some of the best pub food around and the vibes are unmatched.
They make a really nice fish chowder, which is distinct from seafood chowder which can be thicker and/or creamier. This simple fish chowder has great flavours and is a great way to kick off your meal.
5. Neil’s Harbour Chowder House
90 Lighthouse Rd, Neils Harbour, NS
You’ll find this chowder house just off the Cabot Trail, with rugged coastal views and a spartan dining area. It is a notable chowder for its use of soft shell crab, which, as far as I know, is only fished in Cape Breton. The broth is thick, but has an unusual texture that makes me suspect they thicken it with corn starch but I didn’t think to ask at the time.
It is a humble chowder that grew on me, as I dined at a picnic table overlooking the ocean. A unique experience to include on your next Cabot Trail adventure. Just keep in mind that they are only open for a short season (fall foliage trippers beware).
Candidates that didn’t make the list and why:
Salt Shaker Deli
124 Montague St, Lunenburg, NS
Inarguably one of the most prized chowders in the province, I really thought it would make my top 5 best chowders in Nova Scotia . But I’ve found it too inconsistent over the years. Going clockwise from the top left, we’ve got a wonderful bowl of creamy chowder from 2010. Then we’ve got an AWFUL grey bowl from 2016 when the Salt Shaker decided to cater to dairy-free folks by using celery root puree instead of cream. By 2017 (next pic), they nixed that and returned to their wonderful creamy chowder. But wait – another visit in 2022 was a bit disappointing and the presence of seafood was scarce. So I hesitate to recommend the Salt Shaker Deli.
Should it be on my list? Maybe? But the pictures here tell a story.
5315 Nova Scotia Trunk 3, Chester Basin, NS
This one pains me the most because I always pictured their bowl of chowder being in my top 3! The chowder at Chester Basin’s Seaside Shanty used to have an absurd pile of seafood atop luscious broth. It almost seemed impossibly wonderful. But I returned this year (2023) to see if the new owners had made any changes and I almost sobbed into my bowl.
Lane’s Privateer Inn
27 Bristol Ave, Liverpool, NS
My initial visit here was a train wreck. The owners knew I was coming, but somehow forgot that I was specifically coming to try the chowder. They were all out of lobster, and the owner made a special trip to the dock just for me. Of course, the problem with this is that I probably got more lobster than a normal diner would have (skewing my perception).
On my next visit there was new ownership but the chowder was more or less the same (maybe slightly less impressive).
This is a bowl of chowder that has so much potential but is just missing a certain je ne sais quoi. It is decent though, and I especially appreciate the seared Mersey (very local) scallops.
2 Doors Down
1533 Barrington St, Halifax, NS
This used to be my favourite bowl of chowder in downtown Halifax, but inconsistency has made it impossible to recommend. I believe there are two different chowders that rotate (or at least, there were) and the one on the right was about as disappointing as the one on the left was phenomenal.
I’ve had other good bowls of chowder at Edna, Black Sheep, and various other upscale Halifax restaurants where chowder occasionally makes an appearance. But I don’t know where I stand right now when it comes to bougie bowls, rotating menus and tinkering chefs. It’s hard to recommend a moving target.
I will continue my search for the best chowders in Nova Scotia at my leisure, and do my best to update this post as things change.
Where do you think has the best chowder in Nova Scotia? Comment below!