Best Meals of 2018
Another year of blogging done and it’s time to discuss some of the best restaurants in Halifax. Or at least, my favourite meals of 2018. The first chunk of this post will deal with restaurants in Nova Scotia and there is a section at the end for my meals “on the road”.
I had a stellar year in 2018! I got to visit Calgary again, with a bonus ski trip to Revelstoke! I went on a big road trip of southwestern Nova Scotia, and a sunny vacation to Cuba! I joined a new gym, got 3rd place in an 8 week fitness challenge (hard to do when you’re a food blogger!), and Lushark ran her first half marathon!
I won Best Food Blogger in the BOH for the 4th year in a row (thanks again for your votes!), and finally wrapped up my Nacho Quest and Pizza Quest. In other news, Eat This Town: Ottawa launched in 2018, with the capable Murray Wong at the helm!
But the most exciting news of the year is that LuShark and I got engaged! I attended Halifax ReTales’ wedding (Congrats Arthur & Allyson!) in 2018, and it’ll be my turn this summer! I also became an aunt this year, and have been preoccupied with building a library for my niece (I’m still working on my fear of dropping babies).
Phew! What a year! But let’s get back to the food. Here are my best meals of 2018:
1. Fleur de Sel
53 Montague St, Lunenburg
We made the pilgrimage to Fleur de Sel last summer to pay our respects to Nova Scotia’s finest restaurant on its final year. Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador decided to retire the restaurant after 15 successful years.
My main course (pictured) was duck breast with Israeli couscous, punctuated by red currents and other elaborate flavours and textures that wow’d with every bite.
You can still enjoy Chef Ruiz Salvador’s other restaurants: Salt Shaker Deli, Beach Pea, The Half Shell, and The South Shore Fish Shack.
Current Status: Permanently Closed 🙁
2. Mappatura Bistro
5883 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax
We enjoyed Mappatura Bistro’s $85 prix fixe menu for New Year’s Eve, and everything from the oysters and bubbly to the final cappuccino was fantastic!
I always say Chef Terry Vassallo makes some of the best seafood dishes in Halifax, and when halibut is on the menu I have to order it every time! This year the halibut was served with a creamy lobstery fregula pasta. Great flavours and great portions – Mappatura Bistro is easily one of the best restaurants in Halifax, and my favourite.
3. Bar Kismet
2733 Agricola St, Halifax
I loved the small plates at Bar Kismet (more on that later) but one of the meals of 2018 I definitely can’t stop thinking about is the Charred Octopus with Green Lentils. It’s funny because I’ve heard varying reviews of this dish; it seems people love it or they hate it. I loved it. It’s good portion of tender charred octopus, paired with earthy lentils spiked with bright lemon and crunchy celery.
Current Status: on the menu
1. Field Guide – foie gras w/ cheese & cherries
I often find myself at cocktail bars, ordering and ordering, trying to finally find that one cocktail that blows my mind. At Field Guide it is literally every cocktail I try. As for my favourite small plate of the year: this modest plate of foie gras, cherries, hibiscus syrup, and an ashy cheese was the ultimate perfection. A couple tears streamed down LuShark’s face….
Current Status: not on menu
2. Bar Kismet – Raw Scallops
I was only able to nab one scallop off of this plate but the resulting flavour explosion is something I still dream of… where I’m perpetually straddling FOMO. I will return just for these.
Current Status: on the menu, possibly a different version
3. Bar Kismet – Ahi Tartar and Allumettes Fries
This must be the most perfect tuna tartar I’ve ever encountered (also the most striking). I love the pairing with the crispy frites.
Current Status: on the menu
4. Studio East – House-made Charcuterie Board
LuShark is a big fan of charcuterie boards and a big fan of Studio East. It’s no wonder she loved this plate… er, tree trunk? Anyway, this is no ordinary charcuterie plate! It consists of fermented sausage, chicken rillett with pistachio foie gras mousse, chicken liver pâté, Spanish olive, shrimp granola, kimchi, mustard, tomato chow, Chinese fried croutons. It’s like a world tour on a dead tree! Seriously, though, order some cocktails and snack away (pro-tip: get the chicken crisps too), and there’s your night. A+.
Current Status: available now
5. Highwayman – Smelts & Chips
The Highwayman was my Best Meal of 2017, and while it didn’t wow us quite as much this time, I still have a soft place in my heart for this dish of smelts and chips. This is a unique play on fish ‘n chips, with a Spanish twist. The potato chips are surprisingly perfect with the oily smelts.
Current Status: not on menu
1. CHKN CHOP
6041 North St, Halifax
I ventured out to CHKN CHOP last fall on a solo mission. It was kind of a pre-birthday treat to myself, and an attempt to nail down some restaurants I was late to try. Why on earth did I wait so long?! This meal was utterly delicious! I ordered the half chicken + two sides: Mexican corn and green beans. This is one of those rare cases where the plant-based side dishes actually rival the meat! But that’s not a diss. This chicken is by far the best rotisserie chicken I’ve ever had.
I excitedly told a few co-workers about this amazing feast, and they’ve all been converted, spreading the good news of the CHKN CHOP gospel.
1467 Brenton St, Halifax
Dora-Q is my favourite sushi restaurant (and one of the best restaurants in Halifax IMO). So when I heard they were doing izakaya on weekends I couldn’t wait to try it!
They had salmon aburi (blowtorched nigiri) and fresh, local bluefin tuna on special. This was a good start to a lovely meal, for which we sat on couches watching sumo wrestling and drinking sake.
3. 2 Doors Down
1533 Barrington St, Halifax
The Smoked Pork Chop at 2 Doors Down was delicious as ever, with its slab of deep fried mac ‘n cheese and its sweet and smoky elements. Easily one of my favourite entrees in Halifax. For dessert, definitely get the ice cream cookie sandwich!
Old Argyler Lodge
52 Ye Old Argyle Rd, Glenwood, NS
I went on a Road Trip of Southwestern Nova Scotia last spring, and my favourite meal was definitely at the Old Argyler Lodge. The chowder was fantastic. The root beer ribs – decent. And the creamed lobster served in a house-made bread bowl? AMAZING!
1. Parkside Pub
14 Highfield Park Dr, Dartmouth, NS
Pitmaster Quinn Graham, formally of Hoghorn Barbecue, moved on to Park Side Pub where he helped set up the new menu and a brand new smoker! The brisket and ribs here were incredible and I only wish you could get them combined on the same platter. Quinn has since left Park Side Pub and I will have to return soon to see if they’ve maintained the quality.
2. Knot Pub (Lunenburg)
4 Dufferin St, Lunenburg, NS
I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time that The Knot makes the best potato skins in Nova Scotia. And while LuShark’s Pub Burger was “just okay”, I thoroughly enjoyed my Knot Burger, made with Lunenburg sausage and topped with sauerkraut, mustard and Swiss cheese.
Paired perfectly with a FirkinStein Nor’easter Ale.
3. Stagger’s Pub
26 Portland St, Dartmouth
Oh Staggers, how I love you! This unassuming dive bar in downtown Dartmouth is the sweetest little hang out, with cheap arcade machines, cheap drinks and lovely people. I attended their 5 year anniversary party in November for which they launched their new menu, featuring chicken fried steak! Where else can you get this southern delicacy of tenderized steak battered like fried chicken and drenched in a cream gravy? Staggers makes most of their pub food from scratch and it shows!
Food Courts, Drive-Ins & Dives $
1. Ed’s Take-Out (Digby)
452 NS-303, Digby
When I went to Digby in 2014 for a Scallop Quest, I missed Ed’s Take-Out. It’s not on the waterfront. It’s divey as all hell. It’s the best damn scallops in Digby, as I finally found out in 2018.
2. Tin Pan Alley
1990 Barrington St, Halifax (Scotia Square Mall)
I’ve been following Tin Pan Alley since they were a Bedford-based food truck specializing in Dutch-style frites. Nowadays you’ll find them in the Scotia Square Food Court, slinging Steak Frites, poutines, ribs, and more recently, hot dogs and peameal bacon! Also – fish ‘n chips.
I reviewed their fish ‘n chips last May and pretty much fell in love.
3. Red Shed (Yarmouth)
76 Water St, Yarmouth
Another great find was The Red Shed on the Yarmouth Waterfront, catering to the lunch crowd with hand-cut fries, fresh fish and delicious hamburgers. I have only praise for their Dill Pickle Burger and only regret that I didn’t try the Dilly Poutine.
Best Global Cuisine
1467 Brenton St, Halifax
Dora-Q was one of my best meals of 2018 overall. I’ve already talked about the izakaya, so here is a picture of when they got in a fresh, never frozen bluefin tuna from PEI. Pictured is otoro, chutoro and akami. You just won’t find this kind of quality at most sushi restaurants. As as added bonus, Dora-Q prides itself on its warm rice. Perfectly seasoned and textured, this sushi consistently impresses.
2. Shivani’s Kitchen
1209 Marginal Rd Unit 110a, Halifax (Seaport Market)
This new Seaport Market venue is open 7 days a week and serves up authentic Indian food from both northern and southern regions. Shivani invited me for lunch one day, and I’m never one to refuse Indian food. So I showed up and was surprised to see a tandoori oven right on site! The naan bread was phenomenal, and we absolutely fell in love with the spicy chicken tikka masala and her unique palak recipe. It’s the best Indian food I’ve had in Halifax to date, both affordable and delicious.
3. Beaver Sailor Diner
1820 Hollis St, Halifax
I hosted a dinner at Beaver Sailor Diner last spring for my East of East Dining Series (Read Review). Beaver Sailor is located in downtown Halifax (next to the Bluenose II) and serves house-made Chinese noodle dishes! If you only try one thing, make sure to try the hot and sour chicken wontons.
Best Brunch: Black Sheep
1569 Dresden Row, Halifax
If I wasn’t won over by the brisket benny, I was won over by the poutine. And if I wasn’t won over by the poutine, I was won over by the Tofu Chorizo Tostada. Black Sheep owns the brunch game! I was won over by it all.
Best Pizza: Salvatore’s
5541 Young St, Halifax
The Bianco in Stephano is the best pizza in Halifax. Fight me.
Best Nachos: LevelBar & El Chino
1725 Market St, Halifax (Prince George Hotel)
2398 Robie St, Halifax
After several years of nacho questing, I finally narrowed down the top 10 and recruited a new team to score and rank them. El Chino was the official winner, but it was a close race with LevelBar (the winner hinged on whether I included the score for guacamole)! Let’s call it a tie.
Best Burger: Krave Burger
5680 Spring Garden Rd, Halifax
Krave Burger makes the meatiest, beefiest burger in Halifax. It’s all about simplicity and quality ingredients. No bullshit. It’s perfect.
Best Fish ‘n Chips: Tin Pan Alley & Sydelle’s
1990 Barrington St, Halifax (Scotia Square Mall)
733 Rocky Lake Dr, Bedford
I reviewed 8 different fish ‘n chips this year and my top two are Sydelle’s (pictured) and Tin Pan Alley (pictured elsewhere). I like them for different reasons, but they both have good fish, crisp flavourful batter, and wonderful potato accompaniments. They were both also $10 or less!
Best Salad: Elle’s Bistro
1678 Barrington St, Halifax
I’m turning into a die hard Elle’s Bistro fan. I’ve had sandwiches and breakfasts there that could easily make this list, but their cobb salad is definitely the best salad I’ve had this year. I love a good cobb salad, and this one is just about perfect! Full portions of chicken, bacon, avocado, tomato and blue cheese will make any keto crazer smile. And even more so when they see the price ($10.95).
Best Sweet/Dessert: Roll on Two
1209 Marginal Rd, Halifax (Seaport Market)
(formally Granville St.)
Oh man, this was ridiculously good. A chimney cake filled with Nutella and soft serve, finished with a sprinkling of nuts and sprinkles. O.M.G. yes! This was the sort of summer treat that you couldn’t possibly finish because it’s so rich but you do anyway because it’s so delicious and now you have a tummy ache.
Unfortunately, Roll on Two closed their Granville Street shop and now only serve their chimney cakes at the Seaport Market (sans ice cream). Meanwhile, different folks have set up a chimney cake cafe on Spring Garden that does have ice cream. I’ll try it this summer and let ya’ll know!
Best Meals On The Road
1. Native Tongues Taqueria
235 12 Ave SW, Calgary
We went to Native Tongues for a birthday last May. I had been hearing so much hype about this place and it was #1 on my Calgary hit list. The tacos were incredible, and even the salsa sampler was a winner, with 4 unique and addictive salsas. Let’s just say… this is an upscale taqueria done right, and I wish we could have this in Halifax.
2. Han’s Restaurant
116-303 Centre St S, Calgary
Described as “Taiwanese-influenced Szechuan cuisine” by my blogger friend, Miss Foodie, Han’s Restaurant is a hidden gem in Calgary’s Chinatown that brings the flavour! I only got to try the Won Ton with Spicy Sauce and the Fried Green Bean with Minced Pork but that’s enough to call myself a fan.
3. Regal Beagle Pub
180 94 Ave SE, Calgary (and other locations)
After a long, stinky, soul-crushing flight, LuShark and I were happy to join our friends and gracious hosts, Kurt and Jackie, at their neighbourhood watering hole, the Regal Beagle. Most Calgarians are familiar with the Beagle, which has a reputation for its chicken wings. But we needed a hearty Albertan meal, and this steak sandwich was sooooooo satisfying. If you’ve been to Alberta, you’ll know that the steak sandwich (typically a 6oz sirloin on a piece of garlic bread) is ubiquitous. This is a must-have pub dish any time I travel to Calgary.
4. The Village Idiot Bar & Grill
306 MacKenzie Ave, Revelstoke, BC
LuShark and I went on a ski trip in Revelstoke with a couple of baby sharks, and had to pick a place for dinner from the Google/Yelp express. The Village Idiot is a busy spot, full of ski bums and tourists, but the food was surprisingly good! The nachos were huge, and would easily make a top 10 list in Halifax. Even the pizza was better than most pizzas in Halifax. I was expecting overpriced tourist fare, but ended up getting a fair shake!
5. La Vicaria Resaurante
37, Varadero, Cuba
I know that Cuba isn’t particularly well known for its food, but it turns out I’m a big fan of beans & rice. Despite having some form of food poisoning for most of our trip, I continued to eat and eat, re-poisoning myself again and again, and barely tolerating it, laying on the beach medicating myself with cheap Cuban rum. It was splendid.
On a day trip to Veradero, I took a break from the infected resort food and tried the local lobster. I was served the tail of a spiny lobster with the shell removed. It was so delicious and tender, served with beans & rice, root veggies and “salad”. No butter required!
That’s a wrap! Here’s to 2019! I hope it treats everyone kindly. I’ve got big plans this year: I will, of course, keep reporting on the best restaurants in Halifax, but keep your eyes open for new quests, events and expansion! I’m also implementing advertising on my site this year, so if you are a business owner, consider Working With Me!