Eat your way around St. John’s
Enjoy a sunny afternoon with great outdoor seating at the Gypsy Tea Room (image by Gypsy Tea room)
In the past couple of years, the restaurant scene in St. John’s has gone through the kind of revolution that takes most cities decades to pull off. Talented chefs have taken over, and combined with Newfoundland and Labrador’s recent tourism boom, the revolution won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
Finally, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are recognizing the fact that the province has a whole lot of good stuff to offer. Gone are the days of deep-fried everything. If you’re looking for something in particular, here are a few suggestions.
Local and high-end
Many chefs in St. John’s have recently made it a mission to “go local” – most ingredients are sourced locally, either from farmers or other producers. This means you get a truly unique dining experience.
There is no better example of this than Raymond’s, a restaurant that has been making lots of headlines lately due to its excellent cuisine. In a short amount of time, the folks in the kitchen have collected various awards, like Canada’s Best New Restaurant by Air Canada’s EnRoute Magazine. Raymond’s takes a sustainable approach to fine dining, sourcing local-grown products while working with independent purveyors. If you’re indulging, try the eight-course wine-pairing menu.
Chinched Bistro is one of St. John’s newest players in the revolution (chinched means “to be stuffed or stowed tightly,” which is a play on old Newfoundland language). All dishes are made from scratch, and this place is well known for its charcuterie and innovative handmade desserts. Try the bacon ice-cream – you’d be surprised how well it works!
Bacalao was the original restaurant to start experimenting with traditional Newfoundland cuisine. They use local products whenever possible, and most of their dishes are classic-with-a-twist. Try the Jiggs Dinner Cabbage Rolls – traditional Jiggs Dinner (boiled veggies like turnip and carrots, with salt pork) rolled up in a cabbage roll, with a side of peas pudding and a shot of pot liquor (the warm liquid from the boiled veggies).
A little world flavor
Admittedly, St. John’s has been a little slow to embrace foreign foodstuffs and exotic dining. But with a little poking around, you can find some amazing spots.
One of the best sushi and sashimi spots in town is Basho, where you’ll find an infusion of both Japanese gourmet and typical North American food. Order any of their dynamite rolls or scallop maki.
For real Italian dining, hit up Piatto Pizzeria. Piatto offers everything from Neapolitan Pizza to baked calzones. Cool fact: their tomato sauce is made from real tomatoes grown around Mount Vesuvius.
J Korean opened only a few years ago as St. John’s first and only authentic Korean restaurant. The menu is extremely diverse and there’s even a BBQ table where you can make your own dishes with fresh ingredients!
Outdoors dining and drinks
St. John’s is notorious for both its nightlife and it’s gorgeous views. With these options, you can get the best of both worlds!
If you’re looking for the ultimate outdoors dining experience, try the Lighthouse Picnics in Ferryland (about 20 minutes from the city).
Based at the Ferryland Lighthouse (built in 1870), patrons are given classic picnic baskets filled with goodies and then handed a blanket, which they’re free to spread out anywhere. Since you’re on the ocean, watch for whales. The mason jar filled with homemade lemonade is worth the trek itself!
Another option is Atlantica, Located by the ocean in St. Philip’s (again, about 20 minutes outside of St. John’s). This place also won Enroute’s “Best New Restaurant” in 2007. It has one of the best views of any restaurant, and depending on the time of year, you may be able to spot humpbacks frolicking around the restaurant. You can also stay in their beautifully decorated Beach House. Their specialty is seafood.
Yellowbelly Brewery & Public House is the city’s only craft brewpub, and so this place tends to be busy every night of the week. Try a burger or one of their gourmet pizzas, and of course wash it down with a cold beer. Favourites include the Wexford Wheat or the Fighting Irish Red. During the summer, you can dine outside on their small patio.
The best place for outdoors drinking and dining is the newly opened courtyard at The Gypsy Tearoom, smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Not only is the food delicious, but the courtyard is heated and you can order “tower beers” (a glass tube that holds four draft beers and comes with its own tap).
Coffee and cafes
You don’t have to go far to grab a coffee or set up your laptop for a few hours of work in St. John’s.
Rocket Bakery is one of the newer coffee spots in town, located on Water Street. They also offer baked goods and meals on the run, and specialty groceries. Try the pain au chocolate.
Hava Java is where a younger crowd tends to hang out, but their lunch sandwiches (“sammies”) are to die for, and their coffee is reasonably priced.
But diehard coffee fans will tell you to head to Jumping Bean for the best coffee. The roast master selects and imports raw coffee beans from around the world, and then roasts them locally. The most unique flavor may be the Screech – a Newfoundland favorite variety of rum.
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