Category Archives: Restaurants

Explore Niagara’s Patio Scene

Patio Season

IN NIAGARA

Niagara was made for Patio Season.

Whether you prefer wine or beer, spirits or smoothies, Niagara’s roots are steeped in fresh, award-winning products, perfect for sipping and savouring in the region’s wide-open spaces. While wine tours and brewery-hopping offer a great introduction into the great tastes of the region, a tasting experience is truly elevated with the right foundation – a patio.

From sprawling spaces and beautiful balconies, to hidden oases and private platforms, Niagara is full of patios for you to enjoy a tasty beverage under the open summer skies. To help you sip your way through the countryside where good things grow, Visit Niagara has five perfect patios to get you started, no matter your tastes.

Niagara was made for Patio Season.

Whether you prefer wine or beer, spirits or smoothies, Niagara’s roots are steeped in fresh, award-winning products, perfect for sipping and savouring in the region’s wide-open spaces. While wine tours and brewery-hopping offer a great introduction into the great tastes of the region, a tasting experience is truly elevated with the right foundation – a patio.

From sprawling spaces and beautiful balconies, to hidden oases and private platforms, Niagara is full of patios for you to enjoy a tasty beverage under the open summer skies. To help you sip your way through the countryside where good things grow, Visit Niagara has five perfect patios to get you started, no matter your tastes.

Ravine Estate Vineyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake

It’s not just the views to sprawling vineyards that make this patio a perennial favourite for locals and tourists alike. It’s all that Ravine’s outdoor space has to offer. This is the place where you can sidle up to the outdoor bar and pizza oven for one of this winery’s incredible hard ciders and a wood-fired pie. It’s also where you can bring your family to gather around a table for a more formal meal. But don’t confuse that with stuffy. There are ping pong tables to help pass the time, wide open spaces for family matches of footie and never any rush to move along.

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, 1366 York Rd, St. Davids

URL: RavineVineyard.com

Niagara Oast House Brewers, Niagara-on-the-Lake

The atmosphere here feels very much like hanging out in your BFF’s big, country backyard. The PatiOast is a casual gathering spot for leisurely sipping of this craft brewery’s seasonal suds, including strawberry-rhubarb ale, peach hefeweizen or its flagship Barnraiser. In keeping with that backyard feel, Brushfire Smoke BBQ serves up a changing menu of meaty and vegan fare cooked over a flame and with a view to Stratus Vineyard’s pristine grapevines, which hug Oast’s red barn headquarters.

Trust Beer Bar, St. Catharines

Grit, grain, hustle, bustle and tacos sum up the experience at one of downtown St. Catharines’ largest and newest patios. Trust brings rare and unusual suds to the city, serving them alongside tacos on a large patio overlooking an alleyway where wall space serves as a canvas to graffiti artists for their next masterpieces. The scenery is colourful, just like the city’s core. And the patio, shaded with sails to protect beer pints from warming up too quickly under the summer sun, is a fun and comfortable spot to take a load off.

Creekside Estate Winery, Jordan Station

Leave the city in your rear view when you head west to St. Catharines’ outskirts and the deck at Creekside Estate Winery. Creekside is an award-winning producer of Syrah — and one of the few Niagara wineries teasing consistently remarkable vintages from a grape that doesn’t always fare well in this climate. But everyone fares well on the deck, which conjures relaxation overlooking a koi fish pond, and comfort with charcuterie boards and casual bites by longtime wine country chef Ross Midgley. In addition to wine, Creekside makes a stellar cider, Rood Apples, that pairs well with any summer day.

Honsberger Estate Winery, Jordan Station

Beauty, charm and pizza — there’s not much more a person needs for a memorable patio experience. This family-owned and operated vineyard has a lock on all three. Once considered a hidden gem in Niagara, Honsberger and its outdoor pizza oven is rightfully becoming known as the place to while away a day from May to October. Tipple some of Honsberger’s swoon-worthy vintages or chill out with a non-alcoholic beverage, including a gelato-lemonade sipper or iced coffee. Pets are welcome.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, Vineland

It’s easy to miss this winery, set back from King Street, the artery carving a swath along west Niagara’s wine route. But you really don’t want to. Stoney Ridge is home to beautifully manicured rose and flower gardens that conjure Europe and provide an idyllic escape from, well, everything. Enjoy a tasting flight of Stoney Ridge’s diverse wines alongside cheese plates, or save yourself for Fridays and Saturdays when Avella’s Wood Fired Oven pulls up to serve some of the most notable pizzas in Niagara. Take your time taking in the sights and sounds, and enjoy a bottle with Avella’s signature pepperoni, Margherita or Blue Moon.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, 3201 King St, Vineland

URL: StoneyRidge.com

Bench Brewing Company, Beamsville

Set at the base of the Niagara Escarpment in Beamsville, Bench Brewing has quickly become as formidable in Niagara’s beer scene as the landform overlooking it. The patio is set in a protected alcove between the century school house that’s the heart of Bench and the ultra-modern addition where the brewing magic happens. Bench is known for its deep tap and bottle list boasting several award-winners. Bench brews hold their own when sipped alone on a warm afternoon or evening. They also pair beautifully with the regional, seasonal fare by chef Erik Peacock, who helms the Bench kitchen.

Bench Brewing Company, 3991 King St, Beamsville

URL: BenchBrewing.com

Redstone Winery, Beamsville

Keep heading west and you’ll find Redstone Winery, which is named for the red clay soil upon which its immaculate vineyards grow. Redstone is home to a spacious and tranquil patio overlooking rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see. In addition to offering wine by the glass and bottle, alone or alongside the locally inspired menu crafted by Chef David Cider, there’s a sizeable lawn to enjoy a packed picnic lunch. Either way, Redstone is a must-stop for enjoying the sun and warmth while it lasts.

The Good Earth, Beamsville

The Good Earth is a beacon of conviviality and its gorgeous patio overlooking English gardens, grapevines and fruit orchards has a lot to do with that. Easily one of the most picturesque and comfortable patios in the region, this outdoor dining and sipping area opens early in the season.

It’s equipped with blankets to protect against the nip in the air that can linger into May and June. And it stays open well into fall for visitors to behold the breathtaking autumn colours that spread along the spine of the Niagara Escarpment in September and October. The Good Earth patio offers a seasonal menu that changes regularly and a solid wine list that goes well with any weather, whether it’s the high heat of July or September’s more easy-going temperatures.

Lake House Restaurant - Vineland Station

What happens when you take a stunning, old Niagara home, pair it with an unparalleled view of Lake Ontario and pepper in an expansive outdoor patio featuring a taste of the Corfu coast? Transport yourself to the Mediterranean seaside with a visit to Lake House Restaurant’s waterfront patio in Vineland Station, open for lunch and dinner. The house’s natural charm offers the perfect place to quench your summer thirsts with Ontario’s finest vintages. Dive into divine dishes and Lake House’s incredible history as the lake laps the shore—and maybe make a friend or two! Said to be one of the first stops for the Underground Railway, the house played an important role in Canada’s history.

The Twenty Valley region is a short visit from the Lake House. Visit the boutique shops in Jordan Village or venture to one of the area’s 35+ wineries

Dispatch - St. Catharines

Named one of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants by enRoute Magazine, this eco-friendly restaurant offers an adventure through global cuisine on a sunny curbside patio. Creating a personalized and memorable experience for guests (with a few surprises along the way), Dispatch can be found along Niagara’s wine route within the redeveloped Lincoln Theatre in the heart of downtown St. Catharines’ arts district. Stop by for street-side small plates and drinks on a specially designed patio, where great food and summer cocktails await, along with cellar goods and take-home cocktail kits for you to recreate the feeling of sipping something great under the warm Niagara sun from home.

Continue your outdoor adventure with a stroll down to Beechwood Doughnuts for incredible vegan doughnuts before heading along the pathways hugging Twelve Mile Creek.

Lock Street Brewing Company, St. Catharines

Built by the first Lock on the Welland Canal in Port Dalhousie’s Heritage District, Lock Street Brewing Company offers a tucked-away Biergarten where you and your social circle can take your time and enjoy their range of unfiltered, 100% organic brews. Grab a seat at a table by the firepit on the open patio surrounded by trees—you’ll have no trouble sipping suds in this oasis. Taking Ontario craft beer to new heights, Lock Street’s Flagship brews are tried and true favourites, from its Port Side Pilsner and Industrial Pale Ale, to the ‘Jealous Mistress’ English Brown Ale. Looking for something a little different? Dip into an ‘Olde Red’ aged amber ale, with strong caramel and banana notes, or the ‘None the Weisser’ Belgian Witbier to taste the difference natural ingredients make in this brewery’s craftsmanship.

This patio is the perfect destination after a walk down St. Catharine’s Harbour Walkway Trail through nearby Lakeside Park. While your footprints on the park’s sandy beachfront may wash away, the memories of an afternoon well-spent in Niagara’s great outdoors will last for seasons.

Lock Street Brewing Company, 15 Lock St, St. Catharines

URL: Lockstreet.ca

Gate House Restaurant - Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic downtown street may be one of the region’s most beautiful—and peaceful—destinations for friends, family and couples visiting the region. Pairing one of the newest restaurants with one of the oldest and most historic buildings in NOTL (dating back to the 1700s!), Gate House Kitchen & Café’s shaded terrace overlooking Queen Street is the perfect place to sip your way through the sirahs and sauvignon blancs of the region. Taste the difference Niagara soil makes with fresh dishes using produce from local Thwaites and Ohme Farms, paired with a constantly evolving selection of wines with a focus on Ontario’s top producers of both wine and craft beer. 

After you’ve savoured your patio moment, explore Queen Street’s picturesque shops at your leisure or try something more adventurous on for size with a historic ghost tour or jump on a guided bike ride down the Greater Niagara Circle Route.

The Gate House Restaurant, 142 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake

URL: TheGateHouse.ca

Taps Brewhouse - Niagara Falls

Great beer requires great food. Taps Brewhouse’s extraordinary menu and craft beers await on their expansive cobblestone patio in downtown Niagara Falls, away from the hustle and bustle of Clifton Hill’s entertainment district. As Niagara’s first and oldest microbrewery, craft beer here is brewed in small batches, but with a lot of love. Sip your way through a flight to discover what sets Taps apart – a must-try is the ‘Art Attack’ IPA, a west-coast style IPA that inspires art-full contrasts of ingredients, or the seasonal ‘Pumpkin 3.14’ (made with real pumpkin!).  Paired with a carefully-crafted menu, the brewery’s greatest bragging right is its chef!

Take a quick, post-pint drive towards the Niagara River and head south to find the legendary views of Niagara Falls. Or, head north to find Niagara helicopter tours, the Whirlpool Aero Car and Whirlpool Beach – the perfect place to start a hike in Niagara’s great outdoors.

With over 450,000 acres of wide-open spaces across the region, Niagara is home to hundreds of patios to safely share a pint or glass with those you love. Whether you prefer privately sipping under the shade of an umbrella or savouring an afternoon under the sun, Niagara’s patios look forward to welcoming you back to great taste in the great outdoors.

Patio Season in Niagara

Original From the Ground Up

Original From the Ground Up

Where the Scenery Becomes the Scene

Think you know the Niagara Culinary & Wine scene?
Think again.

Sure, many of us know the Niagara Region as the home of the world-famous Falls, but there’s so much more to the region.
Here we’ll feature Niagara restaurants, wineries, farms and more… to encourage you to discover new flavours and experiences, made with love, throughout the seasons.

Harvest Season in Niagara

Farm stands loaded with diverse harvests operate at full throttle early in the season. By the time they shutter for the year, the leaves have started turning and the Niagara Escarpment becomes a breathtaking swath of technicolour boasting every shade of copper and gold. Wineries buzz with activity as grapes are harvested and the region’s world-class winemakers tease out the story of another vintage. Niagara sparkles at this time of year and there are more than a few places where it really — and rightly — shows off.

Meet the Makers

Ryan Corrigan of Rosewood Estates

I really enjoy taking the superfluity out of wine and seeing customers discover a style or taste that they didn’t know about before.

David Sider

“What you do in a restaurant is equally important as where it is,” Sider said motioning to the Redstone vineyards. “It’s unique …”

Adam Hynam-Smith Profile

“…national and international media outlets, including Condé Nast Traveler, which sent a reporter to cover the rebirth of St. Catharines…”

FRUITS OF CURATION

Cory Linkson

“We wanted to get closer to farmers. I wanted to change the paradigm of how we eat our food.”

James Treadwell

“From day one, our restaurant has always tried to showcase the many artisanal producers of the region.”

George Ward

“Growing up and seeing all of the orchards, farms and vineyards has inspired me”.

MY Niagara Experiences

Wineries

Two Sisters Winery

Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake

“Niagara is the perfect place to experience with loved ones, family, children or friends.

We love Niagara and want to be sure everyone visits because it’s so easy to get hooked on the beauty, friendly people, history and agriculture that it offers.”

Ann Sperling Southbrook Vineyards

Southbrook Vineyards, Organic Canadian Wine

If you’ve ever had the chance to experience Niagara-on-the-Lake, you’ll know it as a picturesque paradise where less is more and where the lush green landscape and rolling hills are enough to enchant you on their own, even before you try the wine born out of this renowned grape-friendly microclimate.

Explore 100+ Niagara Wineries

Incoho Restaurant

Incoho

RESTAURANT

St. Catharines

The Dining Room Making a Difference

There’s a photo posted recently in the Incoho restaurant Instagram feed that conjures a different time entirely.

That might seem odd for a dining room that’s been open only a short time — since March 2019 — but given how the world has changed since then, the image feels like forever ago. The caption is more of the moment, however. It talks of how 2020 hasn’t been what Schmoll and Syegco expected. But it also expresses gratitude for the support they’ve received and celebrates the 160 Thanksgiving dinners Incoho donated to various charities and first responders.

It’s heartwarming, yet rueful. But mostly it’s reflective of the Niagara College alumni’s goal to run a restaurant that does things differently, from ensuring staff have a work-life balance that eludes many in hospitality to forging close relationships with the community. The picture shows diners gathered around tables to celebrate opening night at the downtown restaurant owned by young chefs Selah Schmoll and Ray Syegco.

Pre-pandemic, Incoho carved a niche with nearby office crowds, serving them their breakfasts and lunches. At night, diners from all over Niagara would show up for communal, single-seating dinners. Months into the pandemic, Schmoll and Syegco had adapted fully to slower, quieter takeout and patio service while keeping busy with other projects as they adapted to the new reality.

They bought excess food that farmers had grown to sell to restaurants forced to scale back inventory amid pared-down service. Schmoll and Syegco wanted to keep the pipeline open for local suppliers, so instead of putting those harvests on the menu, they turned them into meals for charities and first responders trying to stay afloat themselves in the new reality.

“We can either be negative or adapt. We chose to adapt,” Schmoll said. “We’re still around. It’s just trying our best to make it work.”

That’s meant putting on bake sales and offering all the carbs one could crave during hard times. There are fewer hours devoted to serving breakfast and lunch menus that change regularly, but the patio with new heaters and a covering is open for anyone who gets to Incoho for their morning or midday meals of breakfast sammies with egg, tomato, cheese, choice of bacon and seasonal greens or market bowls starring fresh vegetables and grains.

The dining room is open again, too, though the communal dinners have room for only eight these days instead of the usual 14. As a silver lining, two more courses of high-end comfort food with an intensely seasonal and local flair have been added to the set menu, bumping it to seven plates per person.

Still, the past few months have given the duo and their small team, which they’ve expanded, the chance to experiment in the kitchen. They’ve made their own vinegar, dry-aged meat, helped on the farm that supplies much of their produce and held those massively successful bake sales.

“It’s helped push creativity,” Syegco said. “During the slower periods, we had a lot more time to experiment. Usually when you run a restaurant, you don’t take the time to work on those skills. You have to put in extra time or go in on your day off.”

And then there are those Instagram posts with their nods to normalcy while doing things differently.

“Everything gets talked about in the kitchen. We’re all on the same page so everything’s a lot of fun,” Schmoll said. “The only difference is we slap on a mask every day.”

We can either be negative or adapt. We chose to adapt.

Selah Schmoll

Bolete Restaurant

Bolete

Restaurant & Market

St. Catharines

Collaboration Mushrooms at Bolete

When Andrew McLeod opened Bolete four years ago, all thoughts were on making his St. Paul Street dining room a destination. These days, the veteran chef has been thinking about how best to feed people at home. It’s been an unexpected shift, but then that’s what running a restaurant in a pandemic will do.

Take the composed Thanksgiving turkey dinner that was a recent collaboration between McLeod and Nathan Young of In the Smoke Cookery. All thoughts were on people who stayed home during the cresting of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic yet still craved a sense of occasion. Takeout turkey with the all the fixings was McLeod’s answer to help people celebrate on a smaller scale anyway.

“We wanted to turn this into a positive,” McLeod said. “After a negative time in the beginning, it was ‘Let’s stay on top of this, be positive and make this as amazing as we can.’ ”

There are many beginnings to go back to in McLeod’s storied career as a chef. The real beginning was sitting in the exalted dining room of Canoe when McLeod was a teenager. He was wowed by the towering Bragard hats and flawless choreography of the kitchen brigade. Soon after, he took a job washing dishes at an Italian restaurant in his native Whitby, working up the ranks to short order cook. Next came graduating from George Brown College’s culinary program, then working in storied kitchens throughout Toronto. By the mid-aughts, McLeod turned his attention to Niagara.

McLeod took full advantage of what the wine region and buckle of Ontario’s fruit belt had to offer, spending six years in the kitchen at Andrew Peller and connecting with winemakers and other chefs in the area. After a few years helming high-end kitchens in Stoney Creek and Burlington, including at Spencer’s on the Waterfront, McLeod found himself back in Niagara with dreams of a place of his own.

Bolete was it and it was a culmination of everything he’d done to that point: show-stopping food paired with the best Niagara vintages, but without the conventionality of the dining room that originally drew him to the profession.

People could sit at the bar at Bolete and watch McLeod and his team work. Or they could luck out and have him serve their entrée to them at a table. Soon after opening, Bolete ranked among the go-to dining rooms in the downtown. But then the pandemic hit and it was another beginning for McLeod, who was forced to lay-off his staff and translate fine dining to takeout.

“Standing in an empty restaurant with no people and no staff to communicate with… and waiting for the phone to ring for takeaway, it was really sad,” McLeod recalled.

Bolete had to be reimagined, starting with opening a patio in early summer after restrictions loosened. McLeod barbecued chicken and ribs and served his trademark composed dishes staring each. There were burgers with diners’ new budgets in mind, and then jalapeño mac and cheese because comfort was being given top consideration, too.

They’re still “beautiful dishes that would be a Bolete dish” but reflective of people’s cravings in a global health crisis.

So, too, is the market that McLeod has opened where tables once occupied space in his restaurant. It features take-home meals, including Young’s brisket to reheat sous-vide. There’s also kimchi from Paul Bang at Korean BBQ Town, McLeod’s own preserve projects, fresh pasta, gourmet pantry staples and wine.

“Bolete — what it is — is supporting other people,” McLeod said.

And feeding them, too. With one of the largest dining rooms downtown, McLeod is inviting diners back to physically distanced tables in a newly renovated space that currently features the photography of local shutterbug Joel Smith.

The barbecued chicken and ribs that beckoned people to the Bolete patio are still on offer. But there are plans to get back to the “OG” menu, of “lots of braises and warm comforting things,” as the weather turns colder.

That means another beginning in the story of pandemic dining. Still, McLeod is hopeful given how much he’s persevered since March, and especially since that meal at Canoe all those years ago.

“I look around the restaurant with the renovations and what we’ve accomplished, and who thought we’d do this?” he said. “We changed the entire dynamic of the restaurant in the middle of COVID with no staff and I’m proud of that. Looking around at what we’ve done, it’s kind of incredible.”

Bolete — what it is — is supporting other people.

Andrew McLeod

#OurHomeSTC

Patio Andaluz

Patio Andaluz

Mexican - Spanish Cuisine

St. Catharines

A Fresh & Flavourful Trip to Spain and Mexico in Port Dalhousie

Alejandra Lopez and Antonio Bueno decided to take matters into their own hands when they couldn’t find a suitable restaurant representation of paella or tacos. Lopez, who hails from Guadalajara in western Mexico, and Bueno, who grew up in the Andalusia region of Spain, decided to open Patio Andaluz, a Mexican-Spanish dining room in Port Dalhousie, specializing in the quintessential dishes of their homeland.

But it came after years of eating others’ spins on those recipes in and around Toronto where the couple lived for 13 years after immigrating to Canada, and leaving the table wanting.

“Tacos as a concept are tortillas with filling. You’ll find ours are traditional,” Lopez said. “People will make tacos with different ingredients and that’s OK. But sometimes you want a taste of home. I could never find a place where I could say ‘This is a taste of home; this is just like Mexico.’ I was always disappointed that our heritage wasn’t being represented in a culinary aspect.”

It is now, however, at Patio Andaluz. The couple, who have extensive restaurant experience, opened their cosy Lock Street eatery last year in a quest to provide proper tacos and shine a light on paella, the rice dish that’s one of Spain’s best-known culinary exports.

Doing that, though, means not taking shortcuts in the kitchen. So in the case of Patio Andaluz’s signature paella, which serves two, that means nothing hits the pan until an order comes in for any one of the three types they offer. It can take up to 45 minutes to make the Paella Valencia with chicken, the seafood-filled Paella de Mariscos, or the vegetarian version, Paella de Verduras, which Lopez admits is an exercise in patience for some diners. But the wait is worth it when the result is nothing short of what’s served on the other side of the Atlantic.

“We don’t want to change it. From a business perspective, we should, but we wanted to do it the way we do it for us at home or for our friends,” she said. “It’s been a challenge but we take much pride in what we do in terms of the cooking we do. We call it comfort food because it’s authentic.”

That MO of keeping things real in the kitchen extends to Lopez’s beloved tacos, too. The Tacos Baja, for example, are a nod to the Cal-Mex fish taco from the Baja Peninsula. The tacos al pastor honour the marinated pork tacos known throughout Mexico but with different regional variations, such as cooking the meat with pineapple as they do in Guadalajara. There are also the beefy tacos de asada, tacos charros filled with chicken, and tacos veganos filled with plant-based chorizo and refried beans so no plant-based eater misses out.

All the salsas topping those tacos are made daily in small batches, ensuring the freshness synonymous with true Mexican cooking.

The Patio Andaluz menu is rounded out with tapas served on larger plates specifically for sharing, including classic Papas Bravas, those cubed potatoes blanketed with salsa brava, and Tia Susi’s white clams with white wine sauce, a menu contribution from Bueno’s Aunt Susi in Spain.

Combined, Patio Andaluz’s dishes are calling cards for locals but also for diners, including Spanish and Mexican families from Hamilton and Toronto seeking flavours that aren’t easy to find beyond Spain and Mexico’s borders.

“This tells us we’re on the right track,” Lopez said. “They say ‘Now we know where to get paella. Having people from our home countries say this is where we can get food make us so proud and happy. It’s a pleasure when someone comes to the restaurant and they try (the food). It’s wonderful to see their faces change and they leave happy.”

We call it comfort food because it’s authentic.

Antonio Bueno

#OurHomeSTC

Korean BBQ Town

Korean BBQ Town

Authentic Korean

St. Catharines

A Seoul Food Experience

When life gets busy in Korea, there’s dosirak. The Korean lunch boxes, similar to a Japanese bento with all its compartments, serve up comforting staples, including kimchi, dumplings, salad and soup, to keep people going through their full days.

It turns out, though, that dosirak is also fitting when the hankering for takeout brunch hits in St. Catharines. Just ask Paul Bang, the owner of Korean BBQ Town on Wellington Street downtown. Channelling the food culture of his birth city, Seoul, Korea, Bang sees dosirak as the perfect remedy for a breakfast-lunch hybrid taken to go during a pandemic in the Garden City.

“I’d never planned on doing dosirak before because it’s takeout. I’d always focused on dining in because having a restaurant is all about people gathering,” Bang said. “But the trend is changing to more individual-style (dining).”

Still, when people do want to gather around the table, Korean BBQ Town offers one of the most unique ways in the city to do that: with table-top barbecue.

Think of shared plates — all you can eat meat and vegetables — that diners cook themselves at the table while catching up and connecting with each other over every bite. All of it is served with banchan, those small Korean side dishes that include the essential of any Korean meal, kimchi. While typically made of napa cabbage seasoned with chili pepper, kimchi comes in many forms and Bang highlights its versatility with a handful of varieties, including spicy and non-spicy versions made with daikon radish, at Korean BBQ Town.


Korean table barbecue is the ideal cold weather dining as the chill in the air becomes harder to ignore at this time of year. It’s also one of the most social dining experiences in the city, and after months of people hunkering down to flatten the COVID-19 curve, diners have been seeking Bang’s Korean barbecue for the taste of normalcy it offers them and their social bubbles.


“They’re craving table barbecue and gathering,” Bang said.

“They’re eating, they’re cooking, they’re talking because it’s been a long time since they’ve been together.”

Bang, a graduate of Niagara College’s hospitality management program, came to Canada as a young adult in 2005, settling first in Windsor with his sister. The hope was to eventually open a restaurant, so he searched for culinary programs throughout Ontario to prepare for that dream.

He chose Niagara College for its reputation and the prospects in the region when he graduated. When Bang opened Naysa Fusion, Korean BBQ Town’s original incarnation, on St. Paul Street in 2009, he was the first international student to run his own restaurant in the area. After the lockdown in March, he stuck to offering the essentials: Korean fried chicken, known colloquially as KFC, and kimchi, the latter which he continues to sell by the kilogram at his restaurant and also at the new Bolete market on St. Paul Street. Takeout is still part of his repertoire — and will continue to be as he experiments with dosirak.

But with indoor dining resuming once again, he’s back to offering a full menu, including other Korean flagships such as bibimbap, which is veggies, rice and protein served in a hot stone bowl, beef bulgogi, and chilli jeyuk pork. Tofu features prominently on the menu, too, ensuring room at the table for plant-based eaters.

While diners are undoubtedly grateful to have access to all of Bang’s dishes again, he also isn’t short on gratitude through these uncertain times for restaurateurs.

“Every day I go into the restaurant for work and I say ‘Thanks, God, for the work,’ ” he said. “I’m happy to be serving food and being in the kitchen. There’s not a complaint.”

I’d never planned on doing dosirak before because it’s takeout. I’d always focused on dining in because having a restaurant is all about people gathering,” Bang said. “But the trend is changing to more individual-style (dining).

Paul Bang

#OurHomeSTC

The Twisted Pig

The Twisted Pig

Italian Kitchen

St. Catharines

La Dolce Vida in Port Dalhousie

Opening a restaurant isn’t for the faint of heart. Opening a restaurant during a pandemic? Well, that’s for someone else entirely. Like Mike and Robyn Burgess.

The husband and wife team not only took a chance on their own restaurant when they opened The Twisted Pig Italian Kitchen in Port Dalhousie last August, they also took a chance on doing it in an entirely new city.

“In the middle of a pandemic, we decided to take the plunge and jump in,” Mike said. “We were counting on the fact the pandemic wouldn’t last forever. It was buy low and hope to still be here when it’s over.”

So far, diners are doing their share to ensure that’s the case. Many have become regulars in the few short months The Twisted Pig has been open on the corner of Lock Street and Lakeport Road. But the Burgesses are also doing their part to make it easy for them.

For starters, the entire business model of The Twisted Pig hangs on using seasonal and unadulterated ingredients in everything that comes out of the kitchen.

The Caprese salad that was such a hit this summer? It was simply good tomatoes from the garden of the Burgesses’ wine rep landing on a plate the day they were picked, then dressed with olive oil alongside fresh burrata.

“There’s no disguising it,” Mike said.

Even as the weather turns colder and gives kitchens different ingredients with which to work, the approach to food at The Twisted Pig remains the same. The fall spin on that classic Caprese stars beets, burrata, crushed pistachio and basil, for example. There are other comforts, too. They tend to come in carb form, including the fan favourite gnocchi gorgonzola, featuring hand-made potato gnocchi, gorgonzola cream sauce and Rosewood Estates Winery wildflower honey.

That dish has been so popular since The Twisted Pig opened that it’s already cemented a permanent spot on the menu alongside a seasonal version Mike makes from scratch every day.

“It’s next level and not something you’re going to make at home, spending a couple hours making gnocchi,” he said. “We’re the opposite of a chain restaurant. Everything is made from scratch and with love.”

And of course there’s pizza, given the wood-fired oven that was already in the restaurant when they bought the building in early summer. There’s classic Margherita, more current Hawaiian for those who don’t have a problem with fruit on their ’za, and everything in between that shines on crust covered with San Marzano tomato sauce and fior di latte.

All of it can be accompanied by wine, “the backbone of Italian cuisine,” including some of Niagara’s best vintages. And all of it can be eaten in the restaurant or taken to go. Specializing in Italian wasn’t a stretch for the couple who met while working at Il Fornello in Oakville. Mike led the kitchen of the popular Italian eatery after working his way up the ranks from a 17-year-old dishwasher to head chef, with culinary school and stints working in Kelowna, B.C. in between.

Robyn worked front of house. Both had been furloughed from their jobs when they decided to strike out on their own. Neither was daunted by the fact they were purchasing a restaurant with capacity for 200, including two patios and three dining rooms, during a pandemic. The couple have been living in Niagara since 2017 and on nights they weren’t commuting to work, they would explore local dining options, including the St. Catharines flourishing dining scene with the likes Oddbird and Dispatch downtown.

But then there was Port Dalhousie in the city’s north end. It had all the natural trappings of a destination with Lakeside Park and all that waterfront. Plus there was the promise of new residents with the condominium developments in the works.

When it came to dining, however, there was room for The Twisted Pig and the Burgesses’ vision of a place for both classic and contemporary Italian.

“The dining scene in Port Dalhousie was almost non-existent and that was the appeal,” Mike said. “There’s a lot of exciting things going on. St. Catharines has a really good dining scene going on but most of that is that pocket on St. Paul Street and bringing life to that area.”

And now The Twisted Pig is bringing la dolce vida to Port, pandemic be darned.

“It was important for us to give the diner the same experience we expect everywhere,” Robyn said. “We’re foodies and we like to dine out. We want to give people that same great experience.”

We’re the opposite of a chain restaurant. Everything is made from scratch and with love.

Mike Burgess

#OurHomeSTC

Patio Season in Niagara

Patio Season

IN NIAGARA

Niagara was made for Patio Season.

It’s true Lake Ontario and the Niagara Escarpment team up to achieve ideal growing conditions for the area’s fruit and wine grape crops but they also work magic for sitting outside to enjoy a drink or meal.

Niagara’s bragging rights are plentiful. Among them is its long patio season, stretching well into fall when others elsewhere have moved outdoor dining and entertaining indoors until the mercury points to perfect patio weather again. There’s no shortage of decks with panoramic views of the region’s rural landscape or outdoor seating offering a more urban vibe.

Ravine Estate Vineyard, Niagara-on-the-Lake

It’s not just the views to sprawling vineyards that make this patio a perennial favourite for locals and tourists alike. It’s all that Ravine’s outdoor space has to offer. This is the place where you can sidle up to the outdoor bar and pizza oven for one of this winery’s incredible hard ciders and a wood-fired pie. It’s also where you can bring your family to gather around a table for a more formal meal. But don’t confuse that with stuffy. There are ping pong tables to help pass the time, wide open spaces for family matches of footie and never any rush to move along.

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, 1366 York Rd, St. Davids, ON L0S 1P0, Canada

Niagara Oast House Brewers, Niagara-on-the-Lake

The atmosphere here feels very much like hanging out in your BFF’s big, country backyard. The PatiOast is a casual gathering spot for leisurely sipping of this craft brewery’s seasonal suds, including strawberry-rhubarb ale, peach hefeweizen or its flagship Barnraiser. In keeping with that backyard feel, Brushfire Smoke BBQ serves up a changing menu of meaty and vegan fare cooked over a flame and with a view to Stratus Vineyard’s pristine grapevines, which hug Oast’s red barn headquarters.

Lock Street Brewery, Port Dalhousie

Port Dalhousie is hopping in the summer. Whether it’s with beachgoers, residents in search of their morning cuppa or revellers looking for a pint who are crowding the streets, this St. Catharines neighbourhood is one of the best places in the region to people watch. The balcony of this small brewhouse, overlooking Main Street, is the place to do that. But for those wanting a different view, brewery founder Wolfgang Guembel tapped into his German roots and set up a biergarten oasis around back. Shaded by mature trees, filled with picnic and wine barrel tables, a fire pit, and room for entertainment, this is a peaceful refuge in one the busiest parts of the city during the warm seasons.

Lock Street Brewery, 15 Lock St, St. Catharines

Trust Beer Bar, St. Catharines

Grit, grain, hustle, bustle and tacos sum up the experience at one of downtown St. Catharines’ largest and newest patios. Trust brings rare and unusual suds to the city, serving them alongside tacos on a large patio overlooking an alleyway where wall space serves as a canvas to graffiti artists for their next masterpieces. The scenery is colourful, just like the city’s core. And the patio, shaded with sails to protect beer pints from warming up too quickly under the summer sun, is a fun and comfortable spot to take a load off.

Creekside Estate Winery, Jordon Station

Leave the city in your rear view when you head west to St. Catharines’ outskirts and the deck at Creekside Estate Winery. Creekside is an award-winning producer of Syrah — and one of the few Niagara wineries teasing consistently remarkable vintages from a grape that doesn’t always fare well in this climate. But everyone fares well on the deck, which conjures relaxation overlooking a koi fish pond, and comfort with charcuterie boards and casual bites by longtime wine country chef Ross Midgley. In addition to wine, Creekside makes a stellar cider, Rood Apples, that pairs well with any summer day.

Creekside Estate Winery, 2170 Fourth Ave, Jordan Station

Honsberger Estate Winery, Jordon Station

Beauty, charm and pizza — there’s not much more a person needs for a memorable patio experience. This family-owned and operated vineyard has a lock on all three. Once considered a hidden gem in Niagara, Honsberger and its outdoor pizza oven is rightfully becoming known as the place to while away a day from May to October. Tipple some of Honsberger’s swoon-worthy vintages or chill out with a non-alcoholic beverage, including a gelato-lemonade sipper or iced coffee. Pets are welcome.

Honsberger Estate Winery, 4060 Jordan Rd, Jordan Station

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, Vineland

It’s easy to miss this winery, set back from King Street, the artery carving a swath along west Niagara’s wine route. But you really don’t want to. Stoney Ridge is home to beautifully manicured rose and flower gardens that conjure Europe and provide an idyllic escape from, well, everything. Enjoy a tasting flight of Stoney Ridge’s diverse wines alongside cheese plates, or save yourself for Fridays and Saturdays when Avella’s Wood Fired Oven pulls up to serve some of the most notable pizzas in Niagara. Take your time taking in the sights and sounds, and enjoy a bottle with Avella’s signature pepperoni, Margherita or Blue Moon.

Stoney Ridge Estate Winery, 3201 King St, Vineland

Bench Brewing Company, Beamsville

Set at the base of the Niagara Escarpment in Beamsville, Bench Brewing has quickly become as formidable in Niagara’s beer scene as the landform overlooking it. The patio is set in a protected alcove between the century school house that’s the heart of Bench and the ultra-modern addition where the brewing magic happens. Bench is known for its deep tap and bottle list boasting several award-winners. Bench brews hold their own when sipped alone on a warm afternoon or evening. They also pair beautifully with the regional, seasonal fare by chef Erik Peacock, who helms the Bench kitchen.

Bench Brewing Company, 3991 King St, Beamsville

Redstone Winery, Beamsville

Keep heading west and you’ll find Redstone Winery, which is named for the red clay soil upon which its immaculate vineyards grow. Redstone is home to a spacious and tranquil patio overlooking rows of grapevines as far as the eye can see. In addition to offering wine by the glass and bottle, alone or alongside the locally inspired menu crafted by Chef David Cider, there’s a sizeable lawn to enjoy a packed picnic lunch. Either way, Redstone is a must-stop for enjoying the sun and warmth while it lasts.

Redstone Winery, 4245 King St, Beamsville

The Good Earth, Beamsville

The Good Earth is a beacon of conviviality and its gorgeous patio overlooking English gardens, grapevines and fruit orchards has a lot to do with that. Easily one of the most picturesque and comfortable patios in the region, this outdoor dining and sipping area opens early in the season.

It’s equipped with blankets to protect against the nip in the air that can linger into May and June. And it stays open well into fall for visitors to behold the breathtaking autumn colours that spread along the spine of the Niagara Escarpment in September and October. The Good Earth patio offers a seasonal menu that changes regularly and a solid wine list that goes well with any weather, whether it’s the high heat of July or September’s more easy-going temperatures.

Niagara sparkles at each one of these patios. Spring, summer or fall, relaxing with a glass or meal served outside is one of the best ways to enjoy the region. Whether you spend an entire day at putting your feet up at one of these patios, or check off each one on your warm weather to-do list, you’re bound to find a new favourite refuge to while away sunny days.

Patio Season in Niagara

Ruffino’s Carhop

Ruffino's

PASTA BAR & GRILL

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Hopping Back in Time at Ruffino’s Carhop

You could say the solution for carrying on business during the novel coronavirus pandemic was presented to chef Ryan Crawford on a silver platter.

Well, technically, it was an aluminum tray. But it is silver in colour. Even better, it attaches to a car window. That way it can serve as the vessel for Ruffino’s Pasta Bar & Grill Carhop, a drive-in dining experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake that gets people out of the house in a time of hunkering down.

“It’s really making the best of a bad situation,” Crawford said.

And it’s doing it using a dining format that was on the verge of becoming an anachronism until a modern-day health crisis changed everything about the way we live — and eat at restaurants.

Crawford launched the Ruffino’s Carhop last May, nearly 80 years after cars pulled into what’s believed to be the world’s first drive-in in Dallas, Texas, for chicken fried steak sandwiches washed down with milkshakes. The concept caught on in fast food dining with servers — carhops — outfitted in roller skates, delivering burgers and fries on one silver aluminum trays to guests in parked cars.

Then along came the drive-thru, heralded for its efficiency in serving people quickly and with fewer hands to do it. The sun seemed to have set on the drive-in until May 15 when Crawford, with 36 new carhop trays in hand, took to social media to announce he would offer one at Ruffino’s as an alternative to takeout. The invitation to locals to pull into the Ruffino’s parking lot on Friday and Saturday nights and dine in the comfort and safety cars couldn’t have come at a better time. Niagara was reaching peak quarantine and people were craving social activity as much as the wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas, including the calling cards Carbonara and Bolognese, that Crawford and his staff have become known for serving.

Even better, dinner could be enjoyed with a milkshake, too.

The Ruffino’s Carhop also helped fill a void for Crawford, who enjoys interacting with diners — something that just doesn’t happen with the takeout-only model.

“It allows (guests) to see their friends and not over zoom. That’s why people have dinner together. It’s to be with other people. This lets you have dinner with friends again,” Crawford told the St. Catharines Standard after launching the concept.

To bring the the Carhop into the modern age, the sounds of DJ Marinko spinning the restaurant’s soundtrack of old-school Rockabilly can be streamed on car stereos while guests nosh on ’za and noodles.

But if it’s dining in house that people are truly missing, Crawford has made sure he has a seat at the table — not just the window tray — for everyone.

As COVID-19 restrictions have loosened, Crawford added a six-table patio that allows for safe physical distancing while dining. Guests can order à la carte or experience the tasting menu after 8 p.m. nightly.

Called Menu Tutto, the five-course tasting menu features regional Italian-inspired dishes made with luxury ingredients from the Ruffino’s farm. Dishes can change daily depending on the finer points of the growing season.

Crawford has also re-opened the Ruffino’s dining room, keeping reservations to only six tables and with plexiglass between each, including at the bar where diners can safely watch the kitchen staff cook over wood-fire, just like times before the pandemic.

“(One regular) said ’It’s honestly exactly the same (as before the pandemic). We feel safe. Honestly, it might be better because the plexiglass is blocking some of the heat (from the fire)’ ” he said. “That’s a great compliment.”

Ruffino’s Pasta Bar & Grill, 242 Mary Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake

A farm is more than land & crops. It is a families heritage and future.

Ruffino's

5 Sunny Niagara Patios to Sip Your Way Through Summer

5 Sunny Niagara Patios

SIP YOUR WAY

Through Summer

Perfect Niagara Patios

The summer heat can be hard to beat, but there’s nothing more satisfying than sipping on a cold drink in the great outdoors. Whether you prefer wine or beer, spirits or smoothies, Niagara’s roots are steeped in fresh, award-winning products, perfect for sipping and savouring in the region’s wide-open spaces. While wine tours and brewery-hopping offer a great introduction into the great tastes of the region, a tasting experience is truly elevated with the right foundation – a patio.

From sprawling spaces and beautiful balconies, to hidden oases and private platforms, Niagara is full of patios for you to enjoy a tasty beverage under the open summer skies. To help you sip your way through the countryside where good things grow, Visit Niagara has five perfect patios to get you started, no matter your tastes.

Lake House Restaurant - Vineland Station

What happens when you take a stunning, old Niagara home, pair it with an unparalleled view of Lake Ontario and pepper in an expansive outdoor patio featuring a taste of the Corfu coast? Transport yourself to the Mediterranean seaside with a visit to Lake House Restaurant’s waterfront patio in Vineland Station, open for lunch and dinner. The house’s natural charm offers the perfect place to quench your summer thirsts with Ontario’s finest vintages. Dive into divine dishes and Lake House’s incredible history as the lake laps the shore—and maybe make a friend or two! Said to be one of the first stops for the Underground Railway, the house played an important role in Canada’s history.

The Twenty Valley region is a short visit from the Lake House. Visit the boutique shops in Jordan Village or venture to one of the area’s 35+ wineries

Address: 3100 N Service Rd, Vineland Station, ON L0R 2E0, Canada

URL: LakeHouseRestaurant.com

Dispatch - St. Catharines

Named one of Canada’s Top 10 Best New Restaurants by enRoute Magazine, this eco-friendly restaurant offers an adventure through global cuisine on a sunny curbside patio. Creating a personalized and memorable experience for guests (with a few surprises along the way), Dispatch can be found along Niagara’s wine route within the redeveloped Lincoln Theatre in the heart of downtown St. Catharines’ arts district. Stop by for street-side small plates and drinks on a specially designed patio, where great food and summer cocktails await, along with cellar goods and take-home cocktail kits for you to recreate the feeling of sipping something great under the warm Niagara sun from home.

Continue your outdoor adventure with a stroll down to Beechwood Doughnuts for incredible vegan doughnuts before heading along the pathways hugging Twelve Mile Creek.

Address: 386 St Paul St, St. Catharines, ON L2R 3N2, Canada

URL: DispatchRestaurant.com/

Lock Street Brewing Company, St. Catharines

Built by the first Lock on the Welland Canal in Port Dalhousie’s Heritage District, Lock Street Brewing Company offers a tucked-away Biergarten where you and your social circle can take your time and enjoy their range of unfiltered, 100% organic brews. Grab a seat at a table by the firepit on the open patio surrounded by trees—you’ll have no trouble sipping suds in this oasis. Taking Ontario craft beer to new heights, Lock Street’s Flagship brews are tried and true favourites, from its Port Side Pilsner and Industrial Pale Ale, to the ‘Jealous Mistress’ English Brown Ale. Looking for something a little different? Dip into an ‘Olde Red’ aged amber ale, with strong caramel and banana notes, or the ‘None the Weisser’ Belgian Witbier to taste the difference natural ingredients make in this brewery’s craftsmanship.

This patio is the perfect destination after a walk down St. Catharine’s Harbour Walkway Trail through nearby Lakeside Park. While your footprints on the park’s sandy beachfront may wash away, the memories of an afternoon well-spent in Niagara’s great outdoors will last for seasons.

Address: 15 Lock St, St. Catharines, ON L2N 5B6, Canada

URL: Lockstreet.ca

Gate House Restaurant - Niagara-on-the-Lake

Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic downtown street may be one of the region’s most beautiful—and peaceful—destinations for friends, family and couples visiting the region. Pairing one of the newest restaurants with one of the oldest and most historic buildings in NOTL (dating back to the 1700s!), Gate House Kitchen & Café’s shaded terrace overlooking Queen Street is the perfect place to sip your way through the sirahs and sauvignon blancs of the region. Taste the difference Niagara soil makes with fresh dishes using produce from local Thwaites and Ohme Farms, paired with a constantly evolving selection of wines with a focus on Ontario’s top producers of both wine and craft beer. 

After you’ve savoured your patio moment, explore Queen Street’s picturesque shops at your leisure or try something more adventurous on for size with a historic ghost tour or jump on a guided bike ride down the Greater Niagara Circle Route.

Address: 142 Queen St, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada

URL: TheGateHouse.ca

Taps Brewhouse - Niagara Falls

Great beer requires great food. Taps Brewhouse’s extraordinary menu and craft beers await on their expansive cobblestone patio in downtown Niagara Falls, away from the hustle and bustle of Clifton Hill’s entertainment district. As Niagara’s first and oldest microbrewery, craft beer here is brewed in small batches, but with a lot of love. Sip your way through a flight to discover what sets Taps apart – a must-try is the ‘Art Attack’ IPA, a west-coast style IPA that inspires art-full contrasts of ingredients, or the seasonal ‘Pumpkin 3.14’ (made with real pumpkin!).  Paired with a carefully-crafted menu, the brewery’s greatest bragging right is its chef!

Take a quick, post-pint drive towards the Niagara River and head south to find the legendary views of Niagara Falls. Or, head north to find Niagara helicopter tours, the Whirlpool Aero Car and Whirlpool Beach – the perfect place to start a hike in Niagara’s great outdoors.

Address: 4680 Queen St, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 2L8, Canada

URL: TapsBeer.ca

With over 450,000 acres of wide-open spaces across the region, Niagara is home to hundreds of patios to safely share a pint or glass with those you love. Whether you prefer privately sipping under the shade of an umbrella or savouring an afternoon under the sun, Niagara’s patios look forward to welcoming you back to great taste in the great outdoors.

Patios in St. Catharines

Patios in St. Catharines

blogTO

This might be the ultimate patio weekend getaway ☀️

Check out these patios in downtown St. Catharines

Lost + Found

Inspired by LA taquerias, Lost + Found is a modern taco and spirits restaurant with an emphasis on serving up innovative tacos, beautifully constructed cocktails, craft beer, and of course tequila and mezcal.

They specialize in tequila. You can taste something different from their vast collection every night.

oddBird.

Founded in 2017, oddBird is an ever changing, new age Canadian bistro.

Their family farm is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Jeff shows up with whatever produce is in season and they take it from there. The chalkboard menu is updated daily based on the produce available.

Trust Beer Bar

Trust is a craft beer centric bar featuring dozens of local craft beer options to choose from.

Prefer wine? They’ve got a few, including a trio of sparkling wines from The Old Tun that are bubbly and perfect to enjoy on the patio.

A small and delicious food menu is available, as well as a large outdoor patio.

Pearl Morissette’s Le Pré takes dining outside

Pearl Morissette’s

Le Pré

Takes Dining Outside

Panoramic shots of a minimalist black barn surrounded by lush fields and vineyards have become unmistakably recognizable as the headquarters for Restaurant Pearl Morissette.

They’re the quintessential capture of the Jordan Station restaurant that has consistently ranked among the best in Canada since opening in late 2017 under the leadership of co-chefs Daniel Hadida and Eric Robertson.

These days though, the focus of photographs is on the equally striking structure beside it: Le Pré. It’s the newly constructed outdoor dining room and kitchen by the restaurant that topped enRoute Magazine’s best new list in 2018.

Pearl Morissette’s Le Pré

As with the indoor dining room upstairs in that striking black barn, currently sitting empty as a symptom of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a table at Le Pré has become a coveted reservation.

“It helps us stay relevant,” said Hadida, who, like Robertson, has worked in Michelin-star kitchens in Europe.

Le Pré also gives diners what they’ve been craving over the past few months of sheltering — and eating — in place: Restaurant Pearl Morissette conviviality in a safe and beautiful setting.

That includes a multi-course tasting menu for lunch and dinner, Friday through Sunday. But now, to limit diner and staff contact, those meals include abbreviated wine or juice pairings, or wines by the bottle. Cutlery is set in a hutch on the table for safe and easy access and removal. Keepsake menu cards are also placed tableside instead of being handed to guests at the end of the meal.

Seats on the tented Le Pré patio are limited to ensure the safety of all, but they’re available to everyone.

“What’s really exciting about this is it will be wheelchair accessible,” Hadida said.

“We’re trying to reach out to people who have been inquiring about that over the years.”

Over the past few months, though, Hadida, Robertson and a pared-down restaurant staff have been reaching out in other ways in an effort to feed people while providing farmer-suppliers with an avenue to sell their wares.

After shuttering for two weeks in the early days of the pandemic, Restaurant Pearl Morissette (RPM) operated as a country market until earlier this summer, selling food and wine, and serving as an outlet for local producers to market meat, vegetables and fruit.

It gave RPM fans the chance to safely support local farmers and the restaurant while avoiding grocery stores lineups and touch points. RPM also started an ongoing vegetable box subscription program to channel the abundance that had been planned and planted pre-pandemic in the restaurant’s gardens.

“We started the country market because it felt relevant and necessary when people didn’t want to go to the grocery store in the early days because it was uncomfortable.” Hadida explained.

But as the weeks went on and people started to feel more relaxed about venturing out, RPM staff turned their focus instead to a way of dining that had never been part of the business plan: takeout.

“It felt like people were missing fun, feeling fancy and spontaneity,” Hadida said. “You can only cook so many meals at home that’s a chunk of meat, vegetable and carb on the side.”

So he, Robertson and other members of the kitchen team decided break the pandemic dining doldrums with multi-course takeaway that came with instructions for finishing the main at home.

Menus were simpler and more collaborative than dine-in versions from times before coronavirus, but they were unmistakably Pearl Morissette in content and presentation, featuring ingredients produced in line with sustainable, regenerative farming.

“We can do that in so many ways. We don’t need a dining room for that. We don’t need 12 courses. We don’t need a sommelier,” Hadida said. “We just built out a menu that was functional. It was prepared at the last minute before pickup.”

It felt good to feed people again. And given the response, people were still hungry for the calibre of meal that landed RPM in the 17th spot on Canada’s 100 Best list this year.

“We put our hearts into it, for sure,” Hadida said.

Soon after, though, restaurants in Niagara were OK’d to open patios. Visiting one instead of ordering takeout or cooking at home was a chance at something vaguely resembling normal after months of avoiding public gatherings. That’s when Hadida and crew decided to shift their focus once again.

Takeaway was shelved in favour of Le Pré, which Hadida hopes to run late into the fall with outdoor heaters and warm ambience. Come winter, RPM staff are practised enough to revert back to takeout, if necessary.

Reservations for Le Pré can be made via the Pearl Morissette website. Blocks of bookings are released one month at a time.

“We had to sit down (when the pandemic started) and identify from the start what the restaurant is,” Hadida said. “Our focus has always been ‘Make it great and (success) will come from that.’ This was different. Now it’s thinking outside the box.”

Pearl Morissette’s Le Pré

Le Pré – the open air terrace for Restaurant Pearl Morissette

Located in the prairie field next to the big black barn, here you will find the same beautiful approach to ingredients and hospitality that many of you have come to love.

PearlMorissette.com/Restaurant

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