Category Archives: St. Catharines

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

Family Attractions in Niagara

Niagara Family Attractions

FAMILY TIME

In Niagara

Memories that Last a Lifetime

Whatever your Niagara may be, we’ve got you covered, no matter the season. Not sure where to start? Whether you’re looking to spend time in the great outdoors, or splash around inside an Indoor Waterpark, Niagara Canada has everything needed for a perfect getaway that will keep you coming back for more.

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill has reinvented itself over the years, and has established itself as one of the top family-fun destinations in all of Canada. Clifton Hill features hotels, attractions, restaurants and entertainment, all just one block from Niagara Falls and the Niagara Parkway.

Clifton Hill’s exciting array of attractions including the Niagara Speedway and the Niagara Skywheel, Canada’s Largest Giant wheel providing you with views like no other of Niagara Falls.

There are a number of museums, arcades, and restaurants found throughout Clifton Hill.

And based on its stellar location, you’re just steps from Niagara Falls and attractions such as Niagara City Cruises, the Niagara Zipline, and stunning natural green spaces such as Queen Victoria Park.

Clifton Hill, 4960 Clifton Hill , Niagara Falls, ON, L2G 3N4

Niagara City Cruises

You’ll be happy to be caught in the mist aboard one of Canada’s top rated attractions, Niagara City Cruises anchored by Hornblower.

Sail upon state of the art boats, coming face-to-face with the famous Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Along the way you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Niagara Gorge, American Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls. This is an experience unlike any other. You will feel the thundering roar, awesome power of this world wonder.

Niagara City Cruises: 5920 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6X8

Wildplay Zipline

Get a truly unique view of Niagara Falls aboard a thrilling adventure on WildPlay’s Zipline to the Falls.

This attraction is a hands-free, worry-free and fully-guided experience for both the thrill seekers and the hesitant. This is an experience like no other in the world.

WildPlay Niagara Falls Zipline to the Falls, 5920 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6X8

Niagara Parks

Experience the thrill of Niagara Parks’ attractions beloved by generations of explorers for more than 130 years.

Whether you’re standing in awe under the roar of the falls, soaring over a rushing whirlpool or surrounded by more than 2,000 free-flying butterflies, our iconic Canadian experiences will take your breath away.

Attractions include the brand new Niagara Parks Power Station, as well as the Whirlpool Aero Car, ?Journey Behind the Falls, White Water Walk, Buttefly Conservatory and more!

Tablerock Welcoming Centre, 6650 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 0L0

Waterparks in Niagara Falls

Enjoy the water year round in Niagara Falls. Home to major waterparks such as the American Resort’s Waves Indoor Water Park and the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, the fun continues year round. Each waterpark offers unique rides, thousands of square feet of water slides, activities and fun for the whole family.

Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, 5685 Falls Ave, Niagara Falls, ON L2E 6W7

Waves Indoor Waterpark, 8444 Lundy’s Ln, Niagara Falls, ON L2H 1H4

Family Food & Fun

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 you will find Niagara restaurants, wineries, farms and more, catering to all tastes and palates.

We encourage you to discover new flavours and experiences, made with love, throughout the seasons.

Various Locations in Niagara Region

Up Close & Personal with Niagara Falls

Get up close and personal with Niagara Falls. The unique thing about a visit to Niagara is just how close you can get to this iconic natural wonder.

You will be taken in by the mist, the roar and a majesty of the Falls.

Visit the Table Rock Welcoming Centre and stand feet from the iconic falls. Or visit one of the previously mentioned attractions such as Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara City Cruises and Wildplay’s Zipline to the Falls.

Tablerock Welcoming Centre, 6650 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L2G 0L0

Hiking Niagara

Did you know that Niagara is home to amazing hiking! 

Visit the Niagara Glen Gorge is one of the best preserved remaining example of Southern Ontario’s original Carolinian forest.

Niagara is also home to the start of the Bruce Trail, the oldest and longest marked hiking trail in Canada.  

Various Locations in Niagara Region

Shareable Experiences

Shareable Niagara Experiences

Share the things that matter, with people you care about

White Meadow Farms

With roots over 75 years deep on White Meadows Farms, the Bering family is as passionate as ever to connect visitors with the unique character, quality, history and craft behind Canada’s sweetest natural treasure — 100% Pure Maple Syrup. 

Pillar and Post Hotel

The Pillar and Post Hotel, Spa and Conference Centre’s original structure was built in the late 1890’s, and since has been lovingly transformed into a charming hotel. With its relaxed elegance, modern amenities, indoor and outdoor pools, this five-star hotel boasts a rich history and features modern comforts.

Olde Angel Inn

Hearty food and ales, cozy historic rooms and good friends await you at The Olde Angel Inn, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This local’s favourite was established in 1789 and is one of the oldest buildings in Canada.

100 Fountain Spa

Escape into tranquility with a trip to this 13,000 square foot Niagara spa resort. Here you’ll find an extensive menu of spa services to soothe from head to toe and mind to soul. Spa guests receive access to the fireplace lounge interior seating area as well as the heated indoor saltwater pool, hot tub, outdoor pool, hot spring pool, and fitness center.

13th Street Winery

Set amongst 25 acres of estate vineyards, just west of St Catharines, 13th Street Winery creates exceptional wines that reflect the unique terroir of Niagara. The winery’s grounds offers guests a unique blend of Wine, Food and Art found via their bakery, indoor & outdoor wine tasting sections and their on-site Art Gallery.

Fall Harvest Season in Niagara

Fall in Love with Fall

FALL HARVEST SEASON

In Niagara

It’s easy to fall for Niagara in autumn.

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.

Short Hills Provincial Park, St. Catharines

This provincial park on St. Catharines’ western edge is the place to reconnect with Mother Nature and yourself, especially as the weather cools and the changing colours set the place aglow. Whether or not the pastiche of steep hills here feel short when you’re hiking on them, the name of this provincial park comes from the spirited Twelve Mile Creek forging through sedimentary deposits and glacial till, creating “short hills” in the process.

The park spans more than 660 hectares and is filled with six side trails connecting to the mighty Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath stretching from Queenston to Tobermoray. Short Hills is a great beauty to behold in any season, but none so much as in the Fall while walking under a canopy of colourful foliage along this storied trail system.

It’s also filled with wild foods native to the dense Carolinian forest that reaches from the Carolinas into Southern Ontario. You can find such tree-grown treats as the pawpaw, a Kosher dill-sized fruit with creamy flesh that tastes like a cross between a banana and mango; sweet chestnut; and the Kentucky Coffee, whose seeds can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

There are plenty of other wild edibles, including mushrooms, leeks, garlic mustard and burdock. Just remember that foraging in provincial parks is only allowed when it’s for personal consumption. Please leave behind more than you take.

Short Hills Provincial Park, Pelham Rd, Thorold, ON, Canada

13th Street Winery, St. Catharines

Not far from Short Hills is another park-like setting, this one focusing on the bon vivant’s holy trifecta of wine, food and art. 13th Street Winery is co-owned and operated by third generation farmers Doug and Karen Whitty, and it’s truly the whole package when it comes to experiencing Niagara in a glass and on a plate.

13th Street has made its mark with award-winning Gamay Noir, a light red that hadn’t always been taken seriously until winemaker Jean Pierre Colas showed the magic that could be worked with a Gamay grape grown in the Whitty vineyards. Gamay Noir is now considered one of Niagara’s flagship wines thanks to such vintners.

This winery has also made a name for itself for another reason: its iconic butter tart. It’s a quintessentially Canadian treat represented a dozen different ways thanks to a Whitty family recipe. There’s the classic plain, raisin or pecan for the purists. But there are also super-indulgent spins, including one based on Turtles chocolates and others with raspberries & coconut, and icewine. They’re a sweet tooth’s calling card, beckoning butter tart fans from all over Ontario. 13th Street’s editions were even voted Canada’s Best Butter Tarts by House and Home Magazine in 2017.

For those who don’t want to start with dessert, chef Josh Berry focuses on what’s in season in the 13th Street Bistro kitchen. The winery market also offers take-home options, including its wildly popular salsa, frozen soups, and preserves.

No visit is complete without wandering the pristine grounds dotted with a curated collection of Canadian art. The entire space, indoors and out, is begging to be photographed so don’t forget the selfie stick.

13th Street Winery, 1776 Fourth Ave, St. Catharines, ON

Howells Farm, Pelham

Whoever coined the term agritainment must have had Howells in mind. This off-the-beaten-path attraction was a surprise hit through the summer of the pandemic with a cosy beer and wine garden set up in a greenhouse and stretching outside, where heaters fend off the chill in the air at this time of year. The bar serves up local vintages and brews by the glass. For those feeling peckish, poutine and charcuterie are options, all while beholding the expansive views of Pelham’s rolling hills.

Howells is a beacon of activity with its corn maze, seasonal-themed family fun and rides for children of all ages, candy apples, and of course, a pumpkin patch.

Fall is arguably among the best times of year to visit Niagara. Whether it’s spending time among the unadulterated natural features or enjoying those sippable, snackable attractions that have been teased from the earth by a knowing human hand, Fall in Niagara is prime time to experience everything the region offers.

Howell Family Pumpkin Farm, 2878 Holland Rd, Fonthill, ON

Fall Harvest Time in Niagara

Parks and Greenspaces to Explore

Parks and Greenspaces

TO EXPLORE

5 “Undiscovered” Parks and Greenspaces That You’ll Want to Find

With most of us looking for a little extra space these days, it can almost seem as if there aren’t enough options. But let’s face it, there are tons of options if you’re looking in all the right places.

If you are looking for vast, open space to lay your eyes on, plant a picnic basket on, dig your toes or hiking shoes into, that is a little less “been there, done that” and more of a glorious hidden gem with jaw-dropping views — look no further than the Niagara region.

With over 3,000 acres of parkland, 3,000 kilometres of hiking and more in Niagara, you’ll be sure to find your perfect undiscovered oasis. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to spend an hour or two in between vineyard visits or an entire afternoon in the great outdoors, there’s plenty of space for you and your crew to enjoy all that Niagara has to offer.

Here’s where to start:

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls

Serenity and seclusion await! Explore 10 acres of paradise on this incredible series of manmade islands connected by bridges and walking trails. Although only a short drive south from the hustle and bustle of Niagara Falls’ biggest attractions, this unique and tranquil escape is one of the region’s “best kept secrets,” favoured by both locals and tourists alike. Perfect for anyone looking to take in a quiet, scenic stroll not too far off-the-beaten-path or an afternoon picnic in a storybook setting. If you simply cannot get enough of this little slice of paradise, come on back when this gorgeous space goes from green to white and bright! Make this your new go-to spot, and you’ll be happy to know its open year-round and is the site of the Winter Festival of Lights, where twinkly bright, colourful Christmas lights are on display around the islands from November through to January. 

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Niagara Falls

Just 10 minutes from the Falls can transport you to another world in Niagara! Take a quick drive along the Niagara Parkway and continue taking in all things beautiful by stopping in at the Botanical Gardens. Also home to the Butterfly Conservatory, where you will be amongst almost 100 acres of breathtaking gardens and their world-famous rose garden with over 2,400 blossoming beauties to see. Onsite you’ll spot the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, whose students maintain the manicured gardens all around you. Whether you’re a flower enthusiast or just have an appreciation for these bursts of colour that Mother Nature has to offer, immerse yourself in a world of blooms including perennials, azaleas, herbs and even a formal parterre garden all surrounded by butterflies. Needless to say, this is a magical experience you won’t want to miss that will truly set your heart aflutter!

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, 2565 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls

Charles Daley Park, Jordan Station

Everything is better by the beach, and green spaces are no exception! With not one, but two beaches, this 22.5-acre waterfront park is a total gem. Offering sand and greenspace galore, this park is perfect for those who want to spend their day surrounded by nature. In the summer months, enjoy the park’s lush green lawns, dig your toes into the sand on the beach or even take a hike. With both the Fifteen and Sixteen Mile Creeks flowing through Charles Daley Park into Lake Ontario, take advantage with a scenic creekside trek, indulge in the ultimate Canadian summer activity— canoeing —or tap into your fishing skills. If you end up staying the day or popping in during the evening hours, you won’t want to miss the stunning sunset over Lake Ontario at the end of a glorious summer day. With almost too much to do at this park, should you want to extend your visit and stay the night, be sure to check out the nearby Jordan Village for cozy accommodations, wine tastings, as well as one-of-a-kind shops to help you pack for a charming park or beach picnic with your pals in between activities.

Charles Daley Park, Jordan Station, ON L0R 1S0

Short Hills Provincial Park, Thorold

This expansive park doesn’t fall short on space as the largest park in the Niagara region! Nature lovers will delight in the astounding beauty of the Short Hills area, the result of a glacial erosion over 12,000 years ago when the Short Hills area was flooded by what we now know as Lake Erie. Pretty cool, right? These steep, small hills and valleys create a landscape that is unlike anything else in the region, and something you’ve got to see to believe! If you’re looking for a solid hike, a space to mountain bike and even horseback ride, the park’s mixed terrain including forests, meadows, creeks, waterfalls and hills, make it the perfect space to delight in these activities against a beautiful backdrop. For those who prefer to stay on track, there are seven trails in the park including the iconic Bruce Trail, should you yet to have knocked that off your bucket list! If you’re up for rewarding yourself after taking in a trial, be sure to visit a nearby award-winning winery such as Henry of Pelham, 13th Street Winery or Hernder Estate Wines.

Short Hills Provincial Park, Pelham Rd, Thorold

Queen’s Royal Park, Niagara-on-the-Lake

If you are looking to capture the iconic beauty and breathtaking scenery that is so wonderfully unique to Niagara-on-the-Lake, look no further than Queen’s Royal Park on your next trip to the area. Known for its picturesque picnic area, charming gazebo, waterfront path, beach access, and sweeping views of Lake Ontario, Fort Niagara, and the Toronto skyline, this park is a must-see and must-experience destination for locals and visitors, alike. With plenty of benches and picnic tables throughout, there is no shortage of points to take in the waterside sights whether you choose to sit, stroll, or venture down to dip your toes in the sand and water. When planning your visit, be sure to bring a camera as this park provides ample space for incredible selfies and group pictures that are sure to be cherished for years to come!

Queen’s Royal Park is a destination that you have to see to believe.

Queen’s Royal Park, 45 Front St, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Our undiscovered parks and green spaces await being discovered by you, your way! Grab your friends, family and those within your bubble to bask in the natural beauty of Niagara while savouring the beautiful weather.

Niagara Parks and Greenspaces

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

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

Making Room for Patios & Pedestrians in Downtown St. Catharines

Making Room for Patios + Pedestrians in Downtown St. Catharines

There’s a photo on the Merchant Ale House’s Instagram feed that looks like it was borrowed from a Brooklyn tourism guide.

It’s a patio filled with picnic tables and framed by brick walls, the paint wearing thin in patches to reveal red clay blocks like finger nails under a tired manicure. Steel girders wrapped in strings of glowing Edison lights just add to the post-industrial ambience of a space filled with people enjoying a pint and easy conversation.

But this isn’t a scene from any New York City borough. It’s a snapshot of downtown St. Catharines in the midst of a pandemic. And the Merchant Ale House’s creation of this stunning space behind the main drag of St. Paul Street, until now an ignored opportunity, is one example of the efforts to keep the core a destination, even in extraordinary times.

“That back end of St. Paul Street is such a huge opportunity. When I look at it, I’m envisioning there are patios scattered throughout the whole area,” said Margaret Josipovic, a project expeditor with the City of St. Catharines. “(The Merchant Ale House Patio) ended up being this incredible space. And hopefully it will encourage others to maybe try to animate that back end (of St. Paul Street) a little bit.”

Meanwhile, the front end of St. Paul has become more lively than it has been in months. That’s thanks to the city and Downtown Association closing the street to car traffic on weekends so restaurants can use the artery to create pop-up patios and offer something other than the usual pandemic takeout on the busiest days of the week.

Known as 'The Garden City', Burgoyne Bridge near Downtown St. Catharines

The result is a makeshift, family-friendly pedestrian promenade with ample space to sip, socialize and meander safely, even as some restaurants have begun offering indoor dining again with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

All in, the effort has led to dozens of new and expanded patios approved throughout the city.

“The idea behind the closure was to provide the ability for these restaurants to put out patio tables, chairs and provide them with sufficient enough space to dine out,” explained Samir Husika, the city’s downtown development officer. “And then, (it’s) using the road allowance to provide pedestrians with a way back and forth through the downtown.”

Dispatch ~ Photo Credit Brilynn Ferguson

St. Catharines’ core was enjoying some rare and coveted attention before the city went into lockdown with the rest of the province in mid-March. Condé Nast Traveler dubbed it ‘The Surprisingly Cool City Hiding in the Middle of Wine Country’ and waxed poetic about the former industrial city’s renaissance. It was home to noteworthy shops and some of the best dining rooms in Canada, including Dispatch, ranked ninth best new restaurant by enRoute Magazine.

To maintain that momentum in the throes of a global health crisis, the city created a website with all of the downtown takeout options for those who’d grown weary of eating through their pantry staples.

As the weather warmed and the COVID-19 curve flattened, that online repository grew to include patios and other unique ways for entire families the get out of the house safely, including at the Niagara Artists Centre’s Nomadic Cinema. The arthouse spin on the classic drive-in movie is a showcase of current and classic flicks paired with food by local restaurants.

Nomadic Cinema

Even parking spaces and alleyways behind buildings, once used as short cuts and traffic work-arounds, have become prime seating for dinner, like at Fiddler’s Pour House where street-facing sidewalks are too narrow for a patio when St. Paul Street is open to cars.

Fiddlers Pour House - Photo Credit: Giant Shoe Creative
Fiddlers Pour House - Photo Credit: Giant Shoe Creative

Farther down the block, Trust, a new beer bar and taco joint, opened in a former cinder block warehouse with a sizeable permanent patio off the alley between James Street and Garden Park.

Trust Beer Bar

“It’s inspiring people to think about more than just the sidewalk,” Josipovic said.

Mostly, it’s inspiring people to get downtown. Patios are full on weekends. Pedestrians are taking advantage of all the walkable space and stopping to enjoy a small plate at one restaurant while sipping a pint later on at another.

Plans for safe live entertainment along St. Paul are also being considered as the city pushes through the pandemic.

“People are happy to be out. I think people are really happy to be experiencing that social aspect that maybe they haven’t been in the last couple months,” Josipovic said. “But everyone (has been) very respectful as far as social distancing. It (feels) like a very nice social summer night would normally.”

Downtown St. Catharines

Patios Galore and So Much More! Downtown restaurants, retail stores and services are open. St. Paul Street (between William and Carlisle) becomes a pedestrian zone on weekends.

TourismStCatharines.ca/Our-City-Our-Summer/

Adam Hynam-Smith

Dispatches from one of Canada’s best new restaurants

There’s a way to earn chef Adam Hynam-Smith’s respect.

It’s with couscous. But there’s a catch: the tiny balls of crushed durum semolina that are a staple in North Africa and the Middle East have to be cooked properly.

“I have no respect for anyone who can’t cook couscous,” Hynam-Smith said. “It takes a lot longer than people think.”

And it’s different than how the Australian-born culinarian, who co-owns Dispatch in downtown St. Catharines with his wife and local artist Tamara Jensen, was taught to prepare it in some of the finest kitchens that weaned him Down Under.

It wasn’t until a trip to Morocco as a young twenty-something that Hynam-Smith learned the right way to cook couscous. It starts with respect for the ingredient, with the finer preparation details gleaned during an a méchoui feast in the lower Atlas mountains. Outside, the men cooked a whole lamb in an underground pit of coals. Inside, women prepared vegetables, fresh breads and what would become Hynam-Smith’s benchmark, couscous.

“I’d go from outside to inside to watch the women inside preparing the couscous and vegetables,” Hynam-Smith recalled. “I was absolutely fascinated watching them prepare couscous.”

Those influences from his world travels can be tasted today on Dispatch’s lauded meze-inspired menu. It’s filled with the small plates that are a big part of the dining experience in Mediterranean and Arab countries.

And Hynam-Smith is as exacting in his preparation — be it of couscous or anything else on the menu at Dispatch — as what he saw in Morocco in 2006.

His education in professional kitchens started much earlier, however. Hynam-Smith was 13 when he landed a job washing dishes for chef Robert Griffiths, who helmed some of Australia’s best galleys. He landed the gig with the help of his parents who knew even then that a kitchen was where their son wanted to be.

“Going into restaurants, eating at restaurants, I wanted to do it,” Hynam-Smith said. “We’d go to (Griffiths’ restaurant) for dinner all the time and my parents told them of my interest. They offered me a job in the kitchen washing dishes.”

But Hynam-Smith, who was fascinated by food — the preparation, the bonding that happens over the table — wasn’t so good with steel wool and dish soap. He was too busy watching the chefs as they worked.

He’d fall behind or let the dishwater get soupy, and get barked at. One day, though, he got called over to the pass to help plate desserts. The end of his tenure in the dish pit was nigh.

“It was a thrill to go and plate desserts and watch and ask questions.”

 

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By the time he was 17, he traded his final year of high school to apprentice with Griffiths. Hynam-Smith handled entrées and desserts while Griffiths oversaw hot entrées and main courses. Together, they prepared “the nouveau cuisine” of the time, all the while Hynam-Smith absorbed the intricacies of it, including butchery.

“Really it was learning skills and techniques in cooking that a lot of people don’t get to learn at that age,” he said. “It was that one-on-one experience. Having all of my chef’s attention for learning was absolutely priceless.”

After his apprenticeship, Hynam-Smith cooked and staged at restaurants in an around Melbourne, including at Restaurant Jacques Reymond.

“I tried to get a job in there. (Reymond) didn’t have a job so I just worked for free.”

Hynam-Smith’s determination didn’t go unnoticed by the famed chef, who helped the young cook get into a restaurant specializing in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. That’s where Hynam-Smith fell in love with the foods of the region and proved how serious he was about cooking professionally.

“Like any cook of that era, I burnt the candle at both ends. I’d be working 60 to 90 hours a week,” he recalled. “That was my decision because I’d go in before my shift started… I wanted to be there. (At the end of my shift) they’d say ‘You’ve got to leave.’ I’d go and sign out and go right back to the kitchen.”

 

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Eventually, though, Hynam-Smith started to long for one of the rights of passage he missed by not graduating high school: the gap year, a time meant for world travel before starting university or the job hunt. He worked and saved to hit the road, logging time with “incredibly gifted” chefs Sonia and Nick Anthony at a gastropub outside Melbourne. He also cut out the partying synonymous with kitchen life that he used to cope with the death of his grandfather.

In 2006, Hynam-Smith bought a one-way ticket for Canada, landing on the West Coast first, followed by pivotal stops in Morocco, France and England.

It was his visit to Barcelona, Spain, that would change his life forever, for the better. It’s where he met Jensen, and rather than return to Australia in 2008 after two years on the road, he moved to Ottawa where Jensen worked as an analyst for Corrections Canada.

They would stay in the Capital Region for another year and travel to Bangkok, Thailand, where Hynam-Smith learned Thai cooking from Chef Ajam Kobkaew, who’s taught Michelin-star chefs and liaised with the Culinary Institute of America.

They also visited Jensen’s friends in St. Catharines, Niagara, and saw something in the rustbelt city that compelled them to move here in 2009.

“We saw the potential in it.”

“At the time downtown was a ghost town. We maybe didn’t know the extent of the bureaucracy in the city and region, but nonetheless, we saw the potential in the city. It was also smack dab in the middle of two wine regions. We looked at it as a place that can be built on, that was going through a rebirth.”

St. Catharines Revitalization

Hynam-Smith and Jensen would become well-versed in that bureaucracy when they launched Ontario’s first gourmet food truck, El Gastronomo Vagabundo, in the Garden City in 2010. They would learn hot dog carts got an easier pass serving food on city streets than a refurbished courier truck helmed by a professional chef wanting to cook based on his world travels and a partner in Jensen who put on her career on hold to help make it happen.

It was a constant battle with city halls throughout the region and province, and with bricks and mortar establishments, who feared the competition from roving gourmets shelling out tostadas, fish tacos, and green papaya salad curbside.

The truck was supposed to be a gateway to a restaurant of their own one day, but being on the defence led to dark days for Hynam-Smith, who credits Jensen with helping him stay the course.

She’s had a lot to do with pushing me through tough times and sticking with me through tough times in the industry,” he said. “(Dispatch) is also her vision.”

Still, it would be nine years, one cookbook, one downtown revitalization, and Jensen selling a lot of art before the couple would open Dispatch in an old movie theatre on a stretch of St. Paul Street that hadn’t gotten the same TLC as other parts of St. Catharines’ core during its reimagining by private and public investors.

The couple opened Dispatch in 2019 with lofty goals: be a living wage employer — they are — and get on enRoute Magazine’s list of best new restaurants in Canada. Last fall, the magazine ranked Dispatch ninth in the country for its detail-oriented menu rooted in a closed-loop approach to cooking that emphasizes reducing waste.

Hynam-Smith leads the kitchen while Jensen handles marketing in addition to holding down a full-time job with a local digital creative agency.

Their efforts have turned heads at national and international media outlets, including Condé Nast Traveler, which sent a reporter to cover the rebirth of St. Catharines and the role of risk takers like Hynam-Smith and Jensen in the city’s makeover.

As a result, people from all over the world have taken a seat at a Dispatch table, bringing high expectations with them. Hynam-Smith and Jensen are keen to host them in this former industrial, mid-sized Ontario city sandwiched between bucolic vineyards and orchards.

“Our goal is to attract people and make people go ‘Holy shit, St. Catharines, who knew?’ We love when people come down here and look outside and say ‘We can’t believe this is St. Catharines.’ That’s huge,” Hynam-Smith said.

“All we want is for this city to succeed,” he added. “We want to be part of rebuilding a sense of pride. That’s all we want.”

 

 

• • • • •

CONTACT/VISIT

Dispatch
Website: https://dispatchrestaurant.com
386 St Paul St, St. Catharines, ON L2R 3N2

Justin Duc & Scott White

Coming home to roost at oddBird

Justin Duc and Scott White want to eat certain foods when they go out.

“If there’s paté or tortière on the menu and something else, I’m getting that,” Duc said.

“With extra baguette,” White interjected.

But until the chefs opened their oddBird bistro in downtown St. Catharines in 2017, they had to head to Hamilton for such meals. There was no place in Niagara the business partners could wear track pants to dine on a fried chicken sandwich while sitting next to a couple on a milestone date eating lobster funnel.

They decided to fix that when they took over a former — and oh, so tiny — shuttered burger joint next to the city’s main hockey arena. There, they opened the kind of place where they like to spend their days off and that served the sort of food they wanted to eat.
Foie gras in various forms would get prominence on an ever-changing chalkboard menu. So, too, would the fruit grown on Duc’s family farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or the vegetables from the market garden tended by his brother, Jeff, along with anything else the duo wanted to cook.

And, of course, despite the hole-in-the-wall size of the place, there would be plenty of room for the track pants-wearing, Pabst-drinking patrons and the lobster funnel-eating crowd.

“It’s everything we wanted, and more,” White said.

It wasn’t a clear path for oddBird to take flight, though.

White didn’t grow up always wanting to be a chef. At 23, the Niagara Falls native was working in a local casino when he decided he wanted to try cooking as a profession.

“I told my mom and she said ‘Why? You never cook anything,’ ” White recalled.

He was undeterred. White landed an apprenticeship at Niagara Parks’ Elements on the Falls, followed by more training at Niagara College’s Benchmark restaurant. There were stints at Ravine Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, then Rise Above, St. Catharines’ vegan restaurant, where he mastered cooking without butter before further fine-tuning his skills with omnivorous chef Cory Linkson at AG Inspired Cuisine in Niagara Falls.

Next came stints at Martin Picard’s renowned Au Pied de Cochon and Normand Laprise’s Toqué! in Montreal — dream gigs for an aspiring chef.

“It was quite different because it was something I didn’t know,” White said about cooking. “It seemed like a really transferable skill and I really enjoyed it. I’m still learning. You’re never really a master of it and that’s cool.”

Meanwhile, back in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Duc didn’t want to work on the family farm one summer as a teen so his father, Ray, marched him over to a rental house on the property occupied by a chef at Peller Estates.

“He said ‘Justin needs a job,’ ” Duc recalled. Peller, it turned out, needed a dishwasher.

Duc stayed for a year before moving on to the dish pit at Zees Grill in Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake. There he met wine country chef Ross Midgley and became his protégé for the next 10 years.

During that time and at his parents’ behest, he also studied business at Brock University. But Duc knew his career path would lead to chef’s whites, not business suits.

“When I graduated from business school, I realized all I knew how to do was cook,” he said.

White became obsessed with seafood in Montreal and made a shortlist of restaurants he wanted to work when he returned to Niagara in 2016. He landed at Tide and Vine Oyster House in Niagara Falls where a chef with a business degree also happened to cook.

Duc and White hit it off, and within six months of meeting, they were making plans to open their own place.

Opening oddBird

“We wanted to take food in directions we couldn’t do at Tide and Vine,” Duc said.

Their initial idea was to open something small, staffed entirely by them — with that other necessary prerequisite:

“We wanted it to be a place we would go and hang out,”

Duc explained.

They would have easily modified blackboard menus to keep waste to a minimum. In addition to food they enjoyed eating, Duc and White would offer dishes that challenged them behind the burner: lamb’s brains, horse heart, Wagyu beef, a bumper crop of zucchini from Jeff’s garden, often cooked with a French influence.

When its offal on offer, they’ll serve it in a familiar situation, like sweetbreads with Buffalo sauce and bleu cheese, before doing a more classical French preparation.

“We both push ourselves,” White said. “We’re at the point of always trying to learn something new and modifying it to work for the menu.”

They promote their menus on social media, and if they forget to update the blackboard in the restaurant itself, patrons remind them of what they showcased online and ask for it anyway. There are some mainstays that never get erased, including the salmon tartare and fried chicken, however just as there are some foods, like chicken breast, which will never be featured.

Duc and White also opened oddBird in the only Niagara city they were sure the concept would fly. Downtown St. Catharines was on an upswing thanks to significant investment from the city that beckoned crowds to the core. The true test of the oddBird business plan came when Bolete, run by chef Andrew McLeod, opened a few blocks down on St. Paul Street.

“I would say Bolete was the turning point for downtown St. Catharines,” Duc said. “Wellington Court was here and has always been amazing… but if something like Bolete can work, we thought we can make a go of this.”

They have. Two years in, locals flock to oddBird for lunch and dinner. The bistro has become so popular, its initial staff of two have grown to 15. Duc and White marvel as diners gush over their Buffalo sweetbreads.

“I don’t think it would have taken off anywhere else in the region,” Duc added. “And Niagara makes this possible as well because of the farm and the wineries.”

The appreciation for what they do is so strong, the duo are opening an offshoot one block away on nearby King Street. oddBar will serve pizza and wings in a space with a skate park feel. At twice the size of the mothership oddBird, it will also boast such chef luxuries as a walk-in fridge and a larger line in the kitchen.

With their December opening looming, Duc and White admit it’s a bit of an odd feeling taking stock of their success.

“It’s still very surreal,” Duc said about the second location. “It’s very surreal we (even) have one place. It’s terrifying.”

 

• • • • •

52 St Paul St, St. Catharines, ON L2R 3M2
(905) 322-4043

CONTACT

OddBird
Phone: (905) 322-4043
Website: https://oddbird.ca/
52 St Paul St, St. Catharines, ON L2R 3M2

Andrew McLeod

Andrew McLeod

Take a seat with a view of the kitchen at Bolete and chances are you’ll see chef and owner Andrew McLeod wearing a button-up shirt with the sleeves casually rolled up, jeans and a canvas apron to protect from the hazards of the job.

There are no starched and pressed chef’s whites, no towering, pleated hats. And yet, it was those formalities of kitchen life that captured McLeod’s attention as a teenager while dining at Toronto’s iconic Canoe, ultimately inspiring him to pursue a career behind the burner.

“I remember seeing the chefs with all their tall Bragard hats. I thought it was awesome,” McLeod recalled. “Everyone knew their jobs and what they were doing. It was just a really gorgeous room and I thought I’d like to explore that. It was a cool thing to watch.”

Now McLeod and his chef Jayde Burton are the ones to watch as they cook at Bolete, creating elegant dishes inspired by the seasons in an entirely casual atmosphere.

“Just the way the kitchen is set up, we want it to appear like we’re cooking in our house,” McLeod said. “It’s just like a house party. Everyone wants to be in the kitchen. It’s just where everyone ends up.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A great photo taken last evening by one of our amazing guests.

A post shared by Bolete (@boleteon) on

It’s where McLeod, who grew up in Whitby, found himself as a 15-year-old in need of a job. The aspiring culinarian took a gig washing dishes at a small Italian restaurant, and eventually worked his way into cooking. It wasn’t fine dining — McLeod was a short-order cook — but he learned to be fast and efficient, skills that would prove essential when what started as just a pay cheque morphed into a career after that fateful dinner at Canoe.

McLeod headed to cooking school at George Brown College. He stood out among his classmates, some of whom had no idea how to hold a chef’s knife never mind ever setting foot in a professional kitchen. It was the dawning of the age of the celebrity chef, brought about by the polished cooking shows on TV, and those drawn to culinary school by the prospect of fame rather than a passion for food saw their 15 minutes evaporate before the clock even started ticking.

“It was interesting to see. Then they found out it wasn’t what they expected, like on the cooking shows. They were dropping like flies,” McLeod recalled.

After graduation, McLeod stayed in Toronto, testing his skills as a newly minted cook at La Bodega, a highly rated French bistro on Baldwin Street. McLeod didn’t stay relegated to the entry-level garde manger, responsible for creating salads and cold dishes. He got to do dessert, trying his hand at classics like crème brulée, and had opportunities to practise butchery.

He also learned — perhaps the hard way — not to make mistakes. McLeod’s roommate was the restaurant’s chef. “If I did something wrong at work, I’d hear about it all night at home, so that pushed me to do everything right,” McLeod said.

From there, he graduated to coveted posts at the high-volume Auberge du Pommier in the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant family. There he worked under one of Canada’s most celebrated chefs, Jason Bangerter. They were intense jobs, but McLeod, set on being an executive chef, was keen to push himself professionally in those early days.

He was also eager to learn, so when he got thirsty for more than a cursory knowledge of pairing food and wine in 2005, McLeod, then 27, took to the Queen Elizabeth Way. His first few interviews at winery restaurants didn’t go as hoped. But then he knocked on the door at Peller Estates where Chef Jason Parsons, a fellow alumnus of an Oliver & Bonacini restaurant in Toronto, hired McLeod as sous chef. It was a busy job that he did and loved for six years, not only for the education in winemaking it provided, but also for everything else Niagara taught him. There were the farms producing stone fruit and vegetables, opportunities to raise animals, and a collaborative spirit among chefs in the region. And Parsons was the ultimate leader after which McLeod could model himself — constantly checking in on the morale of his kitchen staff.

“There are a million things you can get your hands into here,” he said. “We didn’t have access (in Toronto) to the products you have here. You can’t get in your car and be two minutes away from vegetables or beekeeping.”

McLeod has immersed himself in every opportunity to learn about food and wine production that has come his way in Niagara, either in those early days or since opening Bolete in 2016. He’s spent time with beekeepers at Rosewood Estates Winery in Beamsville, and has willingly stepped into the pen with Paul Harber at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery to learn more about raising pigs.

Executive chef jobs presented themselves after Peller Estates but they took McLeod away from the region. He helmed the kitchen at Edgewater Manor in Stoney Creek, then at the landmark Spencer’s on the Waterfront in Burlington.

But being a boy from the ‘burbs in Toronto, McLeod didn’t want to hang around Burlington. He loved St. Catharines, being close to vineyards, and market gardens. He also dreamt of owning a restaurant.

He searched for a time before finding Bolete’s home on a stretch of St. Paul Street that was the epicentre of downtown revitalization in St. Catharines. Other restaurants serving beautiful, thoughtful food were opening along the artery and yet no one was stepping on anyone’s toes, McLeod noted.

All of those relationships he cultivated along the way are apparent at Bolete today, be it on the wine list, dominated by world-class Niagara vintages, or the roster of artists in residence whose work has hung on Bolete’s walls over the years.

And, of course, a menu that takes its cues from what’s available in Niagara, complemented by ingredients, such as East Coast oysters or Prince Edward Island beef, from elsewhere in Canada.

The spectacle of Burton and McLeod at work — even without those Bragard hats — makes the experience all the better.

“I love being here on a Saturday night, taking plates over to a table, saying ‘Hi’, telling people what we’re doing,” McLeod said. “I don’t like to create a pretentious atmosphere… . It’s more about making people feel comfortable and at home.”

Tiffany Mayer, My Niagara Profiles

• • • • •

CONTACT

Bolete Restaurant
Phone: 905.641.9559
Website: bolete.ca
176 St. Paul St., St. Catharines, ON, Canada L2R 3M2

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