Nova Scotia

Best Eats of 2022

I feel like 2022 was kind of an uneventful year. I just realized I’ve written a total of 5 blog posts, and I guess that is because my priorities have shifted a bit. I celebrated 10 Years of Eat This Town this year, as well as my 40th birthday, and I’ve reflected a lot about my journey. My priorities have shifted a bit, and I have been more preoccupied with nutrition, fitness, and social media hygiene. I’ve also been writing for Curated Magazine: see my article about the origins of Shuji Manabe and Doraku restaurant (Halifax’s best and oldest sushi legacy).

I went on trips this year to Fredericton, Calgary and the Niagara Peninsula but these were largely not food-focused. (I still managed to sneak in some food, of course, because it’s me we’re talking about). But I’m honestly not sure what 2023 will bring. I’ve been increasingly unplugging my social media and pursuing a healthier lifestyle. With that said, I have still done quite a bit of eating and here are my best meals of 2022:

Grilled Chick’n Wrap & Tomato Soup – Springhouse

2290 Gottingen St, Halifax

In January I celebrated Veganuary for a second time, and you can read about my Veganuary highlights here. (Also: my rankings of vegan donairs).

But my favourite Veganuary meal was the grilled chick’n wrap at Springhouse, an awesome vegan grocery and takeout right on Gottingen St. This wrap is kind of like a soy curl burrito – delicious. If you’ve never had a soy curl, it’s basically a type of textured soy protein that does a good job pretending to be chicken.

You can get their phenomenal tomato soup as a side with any of their wraps. Highly recommend.

Korean Food at Busan Korean BBQ

6311 Quinpool Rd, Halifax

Busan wasn’t exactly on my radar. Its location on Quinpool has had a revolving door of restaurants over the years, and was most recently an AYCE sushi joint. I haphazardly wandered into Busan with a friend when our chosen lunch spot turned out to be closed. But I walked out very satisfied!

The sweet potato noodles were lovely, and the fried chicken & rice stick combo was excellent. I was also impressed by the banchan (side dishes) that were more plentiful and varied compared with the boiled broccoli I had at another Korean BBQ place (*cough*… Gangnam).

I’m interested in returning to Busan to try the BBQ.

The Canteen

22 Portland St, Dartmouth

For years I had been a big fan of The Canteen’s famous sandwiches and chowder. But only this year did I commit to a full dinner, and it was such a good experience that I’m confident The Canteen makes my list of favourite restaurants. The chowder and kale Caesar salad were spectacular, and I was pleasantly surprised by the not-too-sweet chocolate pound cake served with spiced pear.

But I think the highlight of the meal – and the one I’ve showcased (poorly, I’m sorry), in the photo above – was the flash fried broccoli. Perfectly cooked crispy broccoli with anchovy aioli, spicy pickled chilies, roasted peanuts, fish sauce & lime vinaigrette. A flavour explosion.

Tortilla Soup & Breakfast Tacos at Verano

1871 Hollis St, Halifax

Verano typically makes my end-of-year lists because the food is just so fresh and tasty, and the folks that run it are so lovely. I get excited every time I get a chance to eat here. This year I tried the tortilla soup and breakfast tacos, and they were both so freakin’ good.

This is some of the best Latino food in the city, and if you haven’t tried it you gotta run there right now!

Mappatura Bistro

5883 Spring Garden Rd., Halifax

Another restaurant that always makes my annual roundup is Mappatura Bistro. This is one of my favourite restaurants, and this year’s feast was no exception. Whenever somebody tells me they love the Bicycle Thief, I always respond with: “But have you tried Mappatura?”

One of my favourite things about Mappatura Bistro (other than the amazing pasta and seafood) is the wine pairings. Front-of-house par excellence, Simone, always has fabulous wine recommendations and it really ties together the whole experience. Finish off with a grappa with dessert, and it’s the best boozy dinner around.

Charcuterie at Le Caveau

11611 Evangeline Trail, Grand Pré (Annapolis Valley)

I ventured to Le Caveau (the winery restaurant at Grand Pré Winery) this summer for my chowder article for Curated. I can attest that the chowder here is unique and exceptional. And while enjoying the chowder and some Grand Pré wines on the sunny terrace, we also delved into Chef Jason Lynch’s charcuterie (Le Caveau has their own charcuterie program). This was an impressive and engaging board, and the experience is totally worth the drive from Halifax.

Cannellini Burger at Black Sheep

1496 Lower Water St, Halifax (Brewery Market)

This is the best veggie burger I’ve had in a long while. It’s made from cannelinni beans with a crispy coating, topped with tomato marmalata, seared mozzarella, charred eggplant aioli, and arugula. What’s just as impressive is how good the side salad is!

Steak ‘n Kidney Pie w/ a pint of Peculiar – Henry House

1222 Barrington St, Halifax

Some of the most exciting news this year was the Henry House reintroducing Granite beers, including my beloved Peculiar! They are shipping them in from the last bastion of Granite Brewing in Toronto. If you know, you know.

Granite beers are the perfect pairing for English pub food, and the Henry House makes some of my favourite English pub food in town. I enjoyed both a steak ‘n kidney pie and a pasty platter this year. I love the homey basement pub and the solid food here, making it one of my go-to restaurants in Halifax.

East Coast Pub Food at The Narrows

Left: boiled dinner with house-cured corned beef. Right: Nova Scotia hodge podge (front), split-roasted bologna sandwich (back).

2720 Gottingen St, Halifax, NS

The most exciting thing about 2022 has been the opening of The Narrows, or – the perfect, most excellent and amazing pub in Halifax. As far as pubs go, it’s up there with Lunenburg’s Knot Pub for me, (and if you know me and you know the Knot, you know how serious this is!).

Located in an old Victorian house on Gottingen St., it is the coziest and most perfectly designed pub in Halifax. But let’s talk about the food.

The menu is a showcase of east coast classics, with an emphasis on the seasonal, the traditional, and the house-made. Dishes like boiled dinner, Lunenburg sausage, and Dutch mess are served with molasses brown bread and mustard pickles. It is a celebration of our traditional Nova Scotian foods – elevated and inspired, but still familiar and comforting. I’ve already been there 4 times this year, and I can’t wait to go back.

Don’t sleep on the desserts, either!

Dumplings and Cafe Drinks at Suda Table

5520 Almon St, Halifax, NS

Suda Table is a little Korean cafe in the North End, with excellent coffee and inspired cafe drinks. I enjoyed an espresso, an iced yuzo tea, and these wonderful veggie dumplings with a Portuguese egg tart for dessert. It’s such a clean, bright space with lovely people. I have sworn to return to try the basque-style cheesecake.

Cracked Conch Platter at East Coast Conch

771 Bedford Hwy Unit 5, Bedford

I was aware of East Coast Conch during the time when Instagram was full of new homegrown delivery restos and ghost kitchens responding to the covid lockdowns. They transitioned from delivery-only to their new digs on the Bedford Highway recently. But in the interim, they did a pop-up at Gus’ Pub for a few weeks.

I popped in to try the cracked conch. It was pretty pricey at $36 because you’re paying for the plane ticket. (But hey – it’s cheaper than going to the Bahamas!). My dinner came with peas ‘n rice, macaroni and cheese (which was phenomenal), and fried plantain.

I had never had conch before, and it reminded me of calamari, only sweeter and more tender. I loved every bit of this!

Chana Chaat at Adda Indian Eatery

5640 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax (basement of Spring Garden Place)

I discovered Adda Indian Eatery this year, in the basement of Spring Garden Place Mall. They specialize in Indian street food, and I was so pleased with this chana chaat with fried bread. There are so many new Indian eateries popping up in Halifax these days, and I haven’t come close to trying them all. But this place has potential for being a go-to restaurant for me.

Detroit-style Pizza at Rinaldo’s

2186 Windsor Street 

I love that Rinaldo’s has expanded into Detroit-style pizza, and that they have done such a good job. Apparently they are also offering Chicago deep dish now, and I am super intrigued…

Pizza Slice at Morris East

1984 Vernon St., Halifax

I also learned this year that I really enjoy the slices at the Morris East slice shop. This slice of mushroom pizza was really, really good.

Impossible Smash Burger at Lemondogs

54 Locks Rd, Dartmouth (Shubie Park)

When I was told that Lemondogs makes some of the best burgers in the city with Impossible Meat, I thought, yeah, maybe. It’s not impossible. But I was already pretty sad that they had transitioned from tacos to burgers, considering they made the best carnitas in the city.

But onwards and upwards! We made our way to their seasonal lemonade kioask to check out these famous vegan smash burgers.

In fact, they aren’t all vegan. While the patties are made from Impossible meat, you can opt for real or vegan cheese. (We went full vegan). And they are amazing. There’s something about how they smash the Impossible meat on the grill that makes these better than any other meat alternative burger that I’ve ever had – nay – better than a lot of burgers I’ve had! I could easily put these in my top 5.

Anniversary Dinner at Highwayman

1673 Barrington St, Halifax

The Side Dish and I love celebrating our anniversary at the Highwayman because it reminds us of our honeymoon in Portugal and Spain. It is probably our favourite restaurant in the city, and this year’s occasion was phenomenal as always.

We sat at the bar where we had incredible service and excellent cocktails. We enjoyed a luxurious meal of oysters with caviar, manchego cheese, olives, bread, jamon serrano, and mojama (dry aged tuna belly with almonds). And yes, countless cocktails.

Squash Crown at Bar Kismet

2733 Agricola St, Halifax

One day I randomly popped into Bar Kismet, (which is often touted as the best restaurant in the city), – solo, with no reservation, and just sat at the bar. I don’t remember why, it was just a whimsical decision. And a good one. I just ordered one dish off the menu, and something totally random: the squash crown pasta with browned butter, hazelnuts and sage.

This is one of the best things I ate in 2022, and I can confirm that Bar Kismet is easily one of the best restaurants around.

Small Plates and Cocktails at Dear Friend

67 Portland St, Dartmouth, NS

Took a friend here (a dear friend, even) for her birthday last fall when it was still warm enough to have most of our meal on the patio before retreating inside for one last cocktail at the bar.

Fantastic cocktails abound here, including my new favourite: Hot Pot Bling! Baijiu (a Chinese liquor), pineapple, Szechuan peppercorn, Fino sherry, and orange liquor combine into a very unique taste experience!

Dear Friend has an oyster happy hour from 4pm-5pm every day, and you can’t go wrong with the cheeses and meats. We also really enjoyed the carpaccio.

Birthday Dinner #2: Ostrich Club

Top left clockwise: pork katsu sando, boar tacos, beef short rib, 14 day dry aged duck breast.

5529 Young St, Halifax

Since I was having such a landmark birthday this year, I wanted to enjoy as many nice dinners as possible. I still hadn’t been to the Ostrich Club, and it had been on my bucket list for a long time. I am now kicking myself for not trying this place sooner! I loved the small plates, many with an Asian flare, and the perfectly paired wine. The shrimp dumplings are enough to make me return, but I enjoyed every single course.

Birthday Dinner #3 at Drift

Left: lamb dish, right: celery root schnitzel

1709 Lower Water St #102, Halifax (Queens Marque)

My final birthday dinner was at Drift. I had heard such mixed reviews of this place, and I’m not one to get all excited about all the new restaurants in “Little Toronto” but I felt obligated to try one, and it might as well be the first that opened. Besides, when I hear such mixed reviews I am more inclined to check a place out for myself.

Drift was not disappointing at all. I loved their creative – if sometimes risky – takes on Eastern Canadian cuisine. The chef seems unhindered in experimenting with flavours and ingredients, and I like that. They were mostly hits, and the service and atmosphere were next to none.

My two highlights were 1) the lamb dish, which featured lamb three-ways, served with sesame potatoes, and turnips in a tasteful nod to donair sauce. It made me do a happy dance. 2) the celery root schnitzel, which I found so inspired and satisfying. I’m happy to see it’s still on the menu.

Mackerel Sushi at Doraku Dartmouth

44 Ochterloney St, Dartmouth

Many of you already know that Doraku is my favourite sushi restaurant in the city, and I wrote an article this year about sushi master, Shuji Manabe, for Curated this year.

The Side Dish and I went to Doraku in November after a relaxing session at Nature Folk Nordic Spa. The special sushi that day was “Saba Bousushi” – mackerel stick sushi made with shiso (an herb) flavoured rice. This is the kind of sushi that makes you pause and close your eyes, finally understanding the difference between acceptable and exceptional sushi.

Schnitzel at Side Hustle Snack Bar

21 Portland St Unit 2, Dartmouth

I’ve been to Side Hustle a few times for their smash burger (best in the city!) but I hadn’t tried out any of their other fare. Hardly seemed fair.

So when I found myself doing some Christmas shopping in downtown Dartmouth one day, I decided to duck in for a bite. The pork schnitzel came with a salad of grilled treviso, fennel, red onion, dates, sumac, dill, mint and parsley and a lemony sauce on the base. Wow. I have to say, this is one of those situations where the greenery competed with the meat for my attention. That salad was so fresh and full of flavour, I would go back just for that.

Thai food at Kofuku

Red curry with lamb

2752 Robie St, Halifax

I had been to Kofuku before for sushi, and while I enjoyed the meal I was a little thrown off by how much cheese was involved. Plus, the Thai food being presented to other diners looked much more tantalizing.

I have struggled with Thai food in Halifax. I always find it too sweet, the meat low quality, and the balance of salty, sour, spicy, sweet just isn’t there. I even checked out a Thai restaurant in rural Nova Scotia (Thai Memory in Alyesford) because I heard it was the real deal. Hated it. Started to think I just don’t like Thai food.

But I joined a friend for a much belated birthday celebration at Kofuku, and we ordered a few dishes off the Thai menu. Success! The food here had a much better balance of flavours and was less sugary. The chicken had some actual texture and the lamb was served on a the bone. We were in love!

I’m so happy I have a go-to place for Thai food now.

Indian food at Brothers Punjabi Flavours

Paneer Lababdar (red), Lamb Biryani (rice), and Chicken Saag (green)

51 Supreme Ct, Halifax (Fairview)

This is my last restaurant meal of 2022, and it was a spontaneous UberEats order that happened when I realized I couldn’t stomach the idea of more turkey dinner.

Someone I work with highly recommended the Chicken Saag (boneless chicken in a spinach gravy) so I went with that, as well as a lamb biryani, and the most popular paneer dish according to the Uber app: Paneer Lababdar (paneer cheese in a tomato cashew gravy). The order also came with some raita (a yogurt-based sauce to tone down the heat).

One bite and that was it. So. Much. Flavour. This has got to be the best Indian food I’ve had.

Best 3 Out-of-Town Meals

Luna Pizza – Fredericton

91 York St., Fredericton

We went to the ECMAs in Fredricton in May. It was amazing! But I’m pretty sure we caught covid while underneath Rich Aucoin’s parachute lol.

The aftermath may have been shitty, but the trip was great and we adored Freddie’s brewery-lined bike trails and artsy scene. I also had two pizzerias to check out while in town. The New England Pizza Co. ended up being a bust, despite their cream cheese stuffed crust.

But Luna Pizza was fantastic! They describe it as “Montreal-style pizza” which reaffirms my theory that the old school pizzerias in the Maritimes were originally influenced by Montreal.

Atlas Pizza – Calgary

6060 Memorial Dr, Calgary, AB

I was only in Calgary for 3 days, but when we got picked up at the airport I told my sister-in-law, “Take me to Atlas!”

I love Calgary-style Greek pan pizza, and Athens has that old school Calgary sports bar vibe. I just have to go there every time I’m in Cowtown. And a pitcher of paralyzer please!

Hippos – Lowbanks, ON

 2472 N Shore Dr #2464, Lowbanks, ON (Mohawk Marina)

While visiting my in-laws this year, they took us to Hippos restaurant, which almost felt like a tropical beachside restaurant, except it is on Lake Eerie. When on the shores of Lake Eerie, one must try the local delicacies: I had a peameal bacon sandwich (an Ontario delight), and some Lake Eerie perch. I never get to eat freshwater fish, so this was a treat. It was battered nicely, flavourful and moist. And I was surprised to see decent fries and tartar sauce attached. I didn’t get to do much food exploration on this trip, so this was an unexpected joy.

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