hop & go fetch it: canada

Provinces are in alphabetical order


The Bruce Hotel
Hop in the car  or truck  and drive an hour and a half through rolling Prairie farms to get to the small town of Bruce and experience the Bruce Hotel's restaurant. You have to reserve ahead but their steak nights are worth it: set prices for medium to gigantic steaks alongside an all-you-can-eat, down-home salad and dessert bar.

Blue Star Diner
You'll have to wait an hour to get a table. It's worth it. Friendly staff at the most perfect modern diner where they take local meat and produce and make it into burgers to dream about. And the meringue and orange curd sundae  oh. We regularly consider driving down from Edmonton just to eat lunch at Blue Star.

Charcut Roast House
A steak house I actually like. Thoughtful meat pairing and one of my favourite appetizers of the year: tuna conserva, lemon pickled potatoes, Aviv's sourdough bread. Great wine list.

Dairy Lane Café
Dairy Lane is tiny cafe tucked into a residential neighbourhood in Calgary. It's so tiny, in fact, that we stood in the hall between the kitchen and the bathroom while we were waiting for a table. We were offered a glass of wine, and there were posters to read, so it wasn't a problem. And it was worth the wait to get into the café. My fried chicken was perfect and Scott loved his burger (complete with gluten-free bun). There are also very friendly staff -- this is the big sister café of Blue Star Diner.

Janice Beaton Fine Cheese
This sweet cheese shop is tucked behind Farm. After we had the Janice Beaton cheese plate at Farm, we knew we needed to check it out. They have a lovely selection of cheeses and special cheeses you can try. On our last trip, we loaded up with cheesy sandwiches, gigandes bean dip, fresh tomatoes, and cheese crisps for a picnic-hike in Kananaskis. Needless to say, it was a delicious picnic-hike. Gluten-free bread and options available.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters
There are a few Phil & Sebastians sprinkled across Calgary. So far, we've tried the locations in Chinook Mall and the Mission neighbourhood. In the Mission, we like to get lunch and an excellent cup of coffee and tea. They bring in sandwiches (including gluten-free) from Sidewalk Citizen and they make a perfectly-sized, reasonably-priced, inspired lunch.

Una Pizza + Wine
Once, we had to wait more than 2 hours to get into Una. And you know what? It was still worth it. Great service, excellent wine, warm sautéed dates to start and hot pizza. Sounds like a good Friday night. P.S. This is Scott's favourite gluten-free pizza.

Bistro Praha
It's an Edmonton institution, but the schnitzel is still fresh and perfect.

Café del Sol
Our favourite Mexican restaurant in Edmonton. It's family run and often feels like you're eating Grandma's cooking. The meat is tender and flavourful and the prices are amazing for good home cooking.

Cavern Cheese Store and Café-Bar
You descend down the stairs into cavern and it feels cozy and like just the place for a glass of wine and trying a new kind of cheese. Also makes an excellent cup of afternoon tea and has helpful, friendly staff to boot.

Corso 32
Corso is simply the best. Everything but everything is inspired and perfect. It's modern Italian food: think hot arancini, parsnip agnolotti, trout with almonds, pink lady apple, black kale and treviso. Think wobbly panna cotta with pistachios and honey grappa for dessert. Although I must say that my favourite is the humble fried Taleggio cheese in buckwheat honey with black pepper. I hear that the chef takes his staff to Italy every year. Eating the food they prepare, I believe it.
*Update from March 2014: On our last visit, we had a salad with old beets that wasn't seasoned properly. It was a big let down. But everything else was still wonderful.

Credo Coffee
My favourite downtown coffee shop. I hear the coffee's amazing, but I'm a tea drinker. And the tea is excellent: steeped properly and strong. Add a warm oatmeal chocolate chip cookie or chewy homemade granola bar and my afternoon suddenly gets much better.

Da Capo Caffe
It's all clean lines and concrete  very European  but somehow, still feels warm. Oh, and Scott says the coffee's good.

Kyoto Japanese Cuisine
Kyoto has a nice atmosphere and decent Japanese food. They also offer gluten-free soy sauce for celiacs.

Mandolin Books and Coffee Company
This is a miniature café tucked into a used bookshop and it's darling. They have a chocolate overdose cookie that is so good I could eat it every day and never overdose. Scott says the americano is very good, too.

The Marc
Fine dining in Edmonton seems to also have jacked-up prices (hello, oil money!) and food that doesn't meet those prices. But not at the Marc. It's a lovely restaurant that has both a casual and sophisticated air . . . and the food is all quality with very reasonable prices. I ate some of the best arctic char of my life there. The service is also perfect. This is our go-to good restaurant.

Rge Rd
That stands for Range Road. The food is sourced from local farms and the chef knows what he is doing every dish feels inspired and tasty. The Grizzly Gouda and potato perogy in white onion cream with bacon and warm dill slaw might just blow your mind. Also, a lovely, cozy room.

Rosso Pizzeria
The best pizza in Edmonton. Order the Salsiccia with teleggio cheese, homemade fennel sausage and roasted peppers. I dream about this pizza. They also have an excellent cheese and charcuterie board to start.

The meat is so tender and flavourful  and generous! This Mexican-inspired spot has lovely, warm tortillas and some of the best potatoes I've ever eaten (apparently, they're cooked in the meat drippings). A great casual spot with excellent service to boot.

Sequel Café
Need a ham sandwich for lunch? Sequel is your place I couldn't make it better myself.

Sushi Wasabi
Oh, Sushi Wasabi, how we love you. From the pastel Japanese decor to the warm towels they bring to start, it's like going back to Japan. But best of all, of course, is the food. The fish melts in your mouth and the chefs obviously know what they're doing. We have loved everything we've ordered. Our favourite right now is the aburi salmon nigiri.

Swiss 2 Go
We discovered this little sandwich shop in our first week in Edmonton . . . and we will now drive across town to visit it. I am addicted to the Italian Bride sandwich (so called because of a great circle of soft bocconcini) on a pretzel bun with prosciutto so thick I always think I can't eat it all. But somehow, I always can. Their soup is often gluten-free and they always have gluten-free potato salad (among others).

Syphay Restaurant
We had been looking for good Thai food in Edmonton . . . and it only took us five months to find Syphay. We will be back  soon. For now, I can tell you that the summer rolls were fresh, the red curry was complex and creamy and the pad ped goong had the cutest little round eggplants. Everything tasted fresh and bright and like I could eat it every night for the rest of my life. It's a humble place, although the service is excellent, and we had a very filling dinner (with leftovers) for a very reasonable price.

Transcend Coffee
When I first visited Edmonton, I stopped by Transcend to grab coffee while waiting for a brunch spot to open up at Sugar Bowl, I knew I needed to come back and spend some quality time here. The light was streaming in through the big front windows and my husband gave me a very good review of his Americano. So I braved the cold wind and walked over the next day, just before lunch. Turns out, Transcend is a great place for a light lunch with soups and light pastries. Also, try the cookies  I last had a white chocolate cardamom cookie that was just right with my big leaf yunnan tea.

Tres Carnales Taqueria
Tres Carnales says they offer "Tacos for the people!" It's true. Gooey rajas con crema, al pastor, pollo asado tacos  they all make a lively quick dinner, just a block and a half from my work!

Coco's Cafe
It can be mighty hard to find what we call a "hippy café" in Alberta. It seems to be more about dinners and big-box chain restaurants here. But Jasper is only a few kilometres away from British Columbia, so I guess the hippies made the trek. Coco's is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch: the coffee and tea are great and the food is tasty and interesting. We tried orange risotto balls, a spicy tomato cream soup and the breakfast bagel (which can be gluten-free) piled high with scrambled eggs, lox and avocado. One note: Scott didn't love his burrito, but we liked everything else so much the three times we visited that I still want to give Coco's a stellar review. And if you want to know what I mean by "hippy cafe," think indy music posters, an excessive amount of vegan options and the owners' baby sleeping in a crib in the corner. Update: we once had avocado that wasn't ripe at Coco's. Stay away from the avocado.

Kimchi House Korean Restaurant
Right, so you might not expect to find really good Korean food in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. But, people, I'm here to tell you that we loved this Korean food. We had japchae (a festive noodle dishes with little slivers of beef and vegetables) and some kind of spicy beef bulgogi soup that was just the right thing on a cold winter's day. And the kimchi  well, I'd say it was definitely good enough to name the restaurant after. I am now longing to go back to Jasper because I want more of this excellent Korean food.

Oka Sushi
Tucked in the basement of the sprawling Jasper Park Lodge, you might almost miss this little sushi bar. But you shouldn't. With just 18 seats, mostly pulled up to the bar, it's a cozy little spot with amazing sushi Oka makes right in front of you. Just get what he suggests. Oh, and make sure your reserve well ahead of time.

British Columbia

Cobble Hill
Drumroaster makes some of the best coffee we have ever had. It’s in a little area called Cobble Hill, and we make sure to stop for coffee whenever we’re driving up Island. The café is always friendly and full of people, and you can see into the glass room where the giant roaster roasts those perfect beans. I could use many superlatives, but I’ve decided to settle for the adjectives Drumroaster itself uses to describe the coffee: delicious, fresh, genuine, fantastic, humble, good-looking, stubborn, warm, stylistic, knowledgeable, confident, artistic, awesome.

Zocalo Café and Gallery 
I think of Zocalo as the epitomy of West Coast life. You walk into a big, sunny room with wide wooden floor boards – probably harvested 100 years ago from trees growing nearby. There are all kinds of different people and possibly a homeless man playing guitar in the corner. You walk up the counter and ask if there's anything gluten-free for your husband, and the server says they can make everything gluten-free, even pizza and sandwiches. You order a regular chicken club sandwich while your husband orders his gluten-free, your dad orders the special, and you are all happy.

Dark Side Chocolates
All the chocolates at Dark Side are made with organic, fair-trade chocolate and they have a lovely, artisan feel. I feel I could eat a lot more of the salted chocolate caramel I (sadly) had to split with Scott. Take me back!

Tarbell's Deli
Cumberland is nestled up to the mountains in the Comox Valley, inland from the ocean. Tarbell's is a sweet little cafe on the main stretch. It looks like it has a nice little patio alongside it and I must go back in the summer to test it out. All I know is that the food inside is just what you want for lunch – any time of year. They offer freshly-made sandwiches that are gourmet and tasty. They got me at "we make our roastbeef here" and that's what I had; with tomato jam and balsamic onions and light and chewy bread, it was heaven.

Bacchus Books and Café
Golden is a small town on the British Columbia side of the Rocky Mountains. If you happen to be driving through, as we were, this is the perfect place to stop for lunch. Full of new and used books, and a little café upstairs with delicious soups and bowls of things (most of them gluten-free).

Bouchons Bistro
It is almost physically impossible for me to go to Kelowna and not eat at Bouchons. This is a casual French bistro where the food and wine are excellent. The wait staff are professional and attentive, but not stuffy. Their table d’hôte is very reasonable, and they are usually willing to adjust it if necessary to make it gluten-free. *Update summer 2010: After years of excellent service at Bouchons, they gave me an old salmon. When I complained, they said I just didn't like the flavour of wild salmon. Not true. We eat it every week at home. Anyway, I don't want to take Bouchons off after all the good experiences, but can't recommend it with my whole heart anymore . . .

Naramata (Okanagan Valley)
If you go to Naramata for an afternoon of wine tasting at the many vineyards, you’ll need to have a good lunch first. Lake Breeze Vineyards fits the bill: casual, patio dining with a sophisticated menu using local ingredients and friendly service. Our duck, halibut, scallops, prawns, squid and crab were cooked perfectly. I had a glass of the 2009 Bench White and it was a lovely patio sipping wine.

McLean's Specialty Foods
When my friend Marsha said, "How about Scottish food for lunch?" I was intrigued. McLean's didn't let me down. It's a deli and British import store with a sunny little section at the front set aside for lunch tables. My sandwich was perfect lunch fare: chewy bread, tasty smoked turkey and Havarti cheese. It came with a cup of split pea and ham soup that made me want to go back to Scotland and eat my lunch in pubs again every day. We also tried – very appropriately – their homemade Nanaimo bar. I have simple praise for the bar: it lived up to its name.

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks makes some of the best cheese on Vancouver Island. I especially love the Rathtrevor and Qualicum Spice. I also just discovered that it’s worth visiting. It’s not only a dairy farm and artisan cheese producer, it’s also a destination for families. You can watch the cheese makers in action, meet the cows and pigs, walk around the fields, eat ice cream, and sample as much cheese as you want. That’s my kind of taste testing! I have seen their cheeses sold in smaller grocery stores aound Vancouver Island and in Vancouver.

Treetop Tapas and Grill at Tigh-Na-Mara
This is the first time I've ever eaten a meal in a bathrobe. In fact, the bath robe is the required attire for eating lunch at Treetop. My friend had just treated me to their mineral pool and we talked so much that we worked up quite the appetite for lunch. We had the endless tapas, which were tasty and  – thank goodness – not too healthy and absolutely the perfect thing with a glass of wine, looking out over the arbutus, fir and cedar treetops of the resort.

Salt Spring Island
I had read about Bruce’s Kitchen before I ate there: a chef moves from Ottawa to Salt Spring Island and opens a restaurant to showcase local produce and meat . . . That was all I needed to know. Bruce’s Kitchen is right beside the busy Salt Spring Island farmers’ market. After I stocked up on garlic at the market, we sat down for lunch. As we ate the market plate, we could picture everything grown very close by: plump roasted cherry tomatoes, new white potatoes, fresh dill, various greens, seared albacore tuna. I couldn’t imagine a better lunch. We are now planning another trip to Salt Spring solely to try dinner at Bruce’s Kitchen.  The restaurant is always open for lunch, but only serves a set dinner on Fridays.

Shawnigan Lake (near Victoria)
This is a gem of a restaurant, tucked away in little Shawnigan Lake, just up the Malahat from Victoria. It’s now in a renovated old farm house on Unsworth Vineyard and it's a lovely location for a restaurant. Dinners and lunch are excellent and the chef uses as many local ingredients – even local sea salt! – as he can. (He seemed pained when he told us he had to use lemons that weren't local.) For my celiac husband, they provide homemade chickpea biscuits to start and are happy to adapt the menu for him. Definitely worth the drive out to Shawnigan Lake.

Sidney is a very touristy town, but Fish on 5th feels like a place the locals would frequent: good service, great fish and reasonable prices. It’s full of whimsy: everything from the menus to the fish wrap to the tilting vases on the tables tells a story. And the fish, chips and salads are mouth-watering. If there’s a line up, it’s worth the wait.

Tofino is definitely the place to eat seafood. When our server at Shelter came over to tell us about the various dishes, he kept saying, "This was just caught at 3 this afternoon. This just came in on the boat at 5 . . . " We tried the ceviche, the salmon, and a whole crab poached to perfection. It was all amazing: fresh and perfectly cooked. 

The Birds & the Beets
This is my favourite kind of lunch place: lots of wood, coffee brewing, fresh sandwiches made on homemade sourdough bread ... My albacore tuna sandwich was outstanding, and so was my double-chocolate cookie. They also sell loaves of bread and have a small local flower selection.

The place in Vancouver for dinner, a drink, dessert . . . They do it all so well. It definitely meets its quota of trendy customers, but the servers are friendly and knowledgeable and happy to help you navigate their excellent menu and wine and beer list. The restaurant describes itself as having Belgian cuisine. What does that mean? Judging from Chambar, I’d say innovative, fresh, local and – of course – moule frites. They are always happy to adjust savories and desserts to make them gluten-free.

I went to Fable in Kitsilano when it was a mere fledgeling of a restaurant. A few weeks old, with a couple small kinks in the service to work out, the food was great. We had the "canned tuna" to start (description: "the best canned tuna you'll ever eat." How helpful). It came in a jar and actually was amazing, seasoned and mixed with small pieces of potato and spread on crispy bread. After that, our salmon was perfect and the dessert selection with pairs of homemade cookies was lovely.

Floata Seafood Restaurant 
Our friend Virginia, who is from Hong Kong, takes us here for dim sum. Indeed, it really is like leaving Canada and being in Asia. It's gigantic: apparently, it seats 1,000 people. There is a big screen that (oddly enough) shows the whole restaurant when someone walks into the foyer from the parkade, and servers bustle everywhere with carts and carts of dim sum. It is also very, very good. The best dim sum I've had since I was actually in Hong Kong.

I always think of the Gallery Café as a secret oasis in downtown Vancouver. I like to sit outside on the terraced patio with flowers and classical music for lunch and pretend to be much more sophisticated than I really am. The food is interesting (but not amazing), and quite reasonable because it’s served cafeteria style. However, it's the atmosphere and the brownies that keep me coming back.

My friends Jenn and Jordan took me to this tiny taco bar tucked into Blood Alley in Gastown. It felt like stepping back in time, with MacGyver on T.V. and a pastel neon sign inside proclaiming it was always cocktail time somewhere. The staff were friendly and we had excellent tacos: a little Tex-Mex with true Mexican roots and completely delicious. I'll be back.

Jules Bistro
On a cozy street in Gastown sits the very cozy Jules Bistro. It feels like the kind of French bistro where you could walk in any time and know you'd have a good meal (just try not to sit next to the middle-aged actress whose voice carries across the restaurant. Too many loud actors in Vancouver, if you ask me). The food is sophisticated and the service is excellent. I would recommend the salmon and the Alsatian pizza with bacon and caramelized onions.

Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House
Scott and I were lucky enough to join our Chinese friend's family for dinner at Lin's, so we got all the best dishes and the full big-round-table-with-lots-of-amazing-food experience. The food is Shanghainese, which apparently means they use a darker soya sauce. Whatever they use, it's good. And, the dumplings are made in-house, so you better believe I'll be back.

Medina Café
There too many actors (with their loud voices) here and you might have to wait in a line up outside, but it's worth it. The food is Moroccan-inspired and they do a mean breakfast and lunch. Make sure you save room for a Belgian waffle with raspberry caramel for dessert.  

The RawBar at the Lobby Lounge at the Fairmont Pacific Rim
I rarely wax poetic about Fairmont restaurants, but this is something special. I started with an English Breakfast tea that was properly brewed and came with a complimentary little Madeleine cookie and pot of honey. I was just having tea mid-afternoon while making notes for work, but then I heard the chefs speaking Japanese behind me. I thought I should try a bit of sushi, since I was on the West Coast. My server recommended the black cod roll. It was like butter, in the best possible way.

Terra Breads
This is not for celiacs. This place is full of gluten – sorry. (My celiac husband was able to eat a salad here. He was still hungry afterwards.) But I love it – I think they make some of the best bread in Vancouver. After getting my hair and make-up done, and the veil pinned on my head, I insisted on coming here for lunch on my wedding day. I still dream about their turkey and asiago sandwiches.

Twisted Fork Bistro
The owners of Twisted Fork say they're "freshly in from the hinterlands." In this case, that means Fernie, B.C. Indeed, the restaurant has a cozy, ski-lodge kind of feel, which is a bit surprising since it's on a stretch of Granville Street that is more known for its youth hostels and adult video stores. However, the food and service inside Twisted Fork is sophisticated and delicious. We had the roasted Cornish hen with a barley risotto that I long to eat again.

Zeffirelli's Spaghetti Joint
Robson Street is Vancouver's downtown shopping core. Tourists and locals crowd the sidewalks and pay too much to eat mediocre food at the restaurants squeezed between clothing stores. Who knew all you have to do is walk up to get away from it all? I mean, head up the steep stairs off street level and into Zeffirelli's. It's beautiful room overlooking all the chaos below and the servers are friendly. The food is good and a reasonable price. I ate linguini al granchio and it was lovely -- perfectly-textured pasta with creamy crab and artichoke.

Bengal Lounge at the Empress Hotel
The Empress is a stately old hotel and having dinner in the Bengal Lounge is the best way to enjoy it. The room is all cozy old carpets and tigers skins on the walls, and the food is an excellent Indian buffet with British colonial influences.

Bubby Rose’s Bakery
Bubby’s has tasty gluten-free and gluten baking and lunch-time fare. Try their flourless chocolate torte . . .

Café Fantastico and Fol Epi 
There are three Caffé Fantastico locations in Victoria, but my favourite is in Vic West, because it’s right beside the sublime Fol Epi bakery. Also, this is an ideal spot to watch light industry in action. Seriously, the patio overlooks the inner harbour and there are all kinds of big machines moving gravel and doing their thing. The deep, dark coffee is perfect, and Fol Epi makes the best pain au chocolat I have ever eaten. They are usually sold out by noon. I have been known to call ahead and reserve one. I’m also in love with their whole wheat loaf and yeasted cakes.

Fernwood Coffee makes my husband’s favourite coffee beans. In fact, I am not allowed to buy him anything other than Fernwood’s Strongback Blend. Fernwood says it created the Strongback Blend for the stonemasons of Fernwood. My husband has considerably less back-breaking work, but says he needs it just the same. The company was started by three locals who wanted to create a successful and sustainable business. The coffee is organic and fair trade certified. You can buy Fernwood Coffee at The Parsonage, their little café. It’s a cozy place to sit with the morning paper, an Americano and an orange-date muffin. Fantastic lunch sandwiches, too, with gluten-free bread if you need it.

Hernande’z Cocina
Great casual food at what the owners call “a democratic price.” (That means cheap to us.) Hernande’z is a dining experience like no other. It’s casual – you eat off butcher paper at tables on the bottom floor of an office building – but the food is homemade and top-notch. The owners call their restaurant an authentic Central American cocina, and have modelled it on their children’s great-grandparents’ market stall in Cojutepeque, El Salvador. Whatever it is, it’s very good! They make gluten-free corn tortillas from scratch, but they do cook them on the same grill as the flour tortillas. My celiac husband is O.K. with this, but I know not all celiacs are . . .

If you’re walking around the inner harbour in Victoria, look for a converted shipping container . . . and head on over for fish and chips. Red Fish Blue Fish serves some fine fish and chips, and is as careful as they can be about their environmental footprint. The fish is grilled or deep-fried to perfection, and you can eat it sitting on a little stool, watching the boats and floatplanes in the inner harbour. All the seafood they serve is sustainable and Ocean Wise certified. 

Sookjai Thai 
It took us almost three years to find good Thai food in Victoria and this is it. Enough said.

Stage Small Plates Wine Bar
My celiac husband and I are addicted to Stage and are doing our very best not to spend all our extra money here. But it’s hard to resist – especially with such tantalizing small plates of charcuterie, local seafood, meat and veggies in a hauntingly-lit old brick building . . . The kitchen is creative and knows how to make the separate parts of each plate sing to each other. Their wine list is extensive, including some of our favourite tiny B.C. wineries, and you can order by the tasting glass. They understand celiacs and have many gluten-free plates. If you visit Victoria, you must eat here.

My husband and I thought we detected a Scandinavian bent to Ulla with the food and the decor. So we asked our server. Turns out, Ulla is the chef's mother's name and she's from Port Alberni (two hours away on Vancouver Island). Whatever it is, it always works. There is a certain thing the chef does with pork loin, celeriac, savoy cabbage, bacon and cheese and I can hardly imagine any food would make me happier. The chocolate cake with rice crispy crunch, hazelnut cream and brittle is also my favourite dessert in Victoria.

Nova Scotia

Agricola Street Brasserie
I love the Agricola Street renaissance. This brasserie is open and modern, yet with an old-fashioned feel. We went early – before going to Shakespeare by the Sea – and pulled up to the bar for $5 glasses of wine before 5:30 p.m. After that, we had an excellent dinner of steak and seafood. Too bad we didn't have time to stay for dessert.

Although it's originally from Prince Edward Island, Cow's is an institution on the Halifax waterfront for good reason. I still think it's the best ice cream in Canada. All flavours are good, but my favourite is mint-chocolate.

Edna is my favourite restaurant in Halifax and I've only been to it once. The daughter of the my former favourite Jane's On The Common opened Edna a couple years ago. You might have to wait a while to get in, but it's worth it. Everything – wine, cheese, charcuterie, scallops, fish, dessert – was well-chosen, inspired and perfect.

Field Guide
We pulled up seats at the bar at Field Guide while we were waiting for a seat at Edna. I knew I'd want wine later, so I asked the bartender to make me something virgin but not too sweet. It had lime and mint and was magic. As good as a real drink. This is also where Scott discovered his love of dark 'n' stormies.

Lion & Bright
The Lion & Bright is exactly the kind of cafe/wine bar I'd like within walking distance of my home. In the daytime, it's the perfect coffee shop with special tables in the middle for "work" and tables on the edge for visiting. In the evening, it becomes a cool and casual wine bar and café. Please, Lion & Bright, move to Edmonton.

Local Source Market
This tiny market opens onto the side of the Lion & Bright. It has dried beans from the Annapolis Valley, my favourite cured local sausage and bacon, local crusty bread, and just the right amount of local fruit and veggies that are in season. In short, I could stop here every Saturday.


Pan Chancho Bakery and Café
We would actually time our drives to Toronto to go through Kingston at lunch or dinner time, so we could stop and eat at Pan Chancho. A fun, casual café with lots of interesting food. They always had lots of gluten-free options for my celiac husband.

Beckta Dining and Wine and its sister restaurant, Play Food and Wine
Both restaurants have exceptional food and service. Beckta is more formal and you should give yourself at least three hours to linger over some of the best food and wine you will ever have. Play is a more informal wine and small plates bar with a younger crowd . . . but you could easily linger there, too. Let both restaurants know ahead of time that you need gluten-free food, and they will make sure to let you know your options once you arrive. Once, the chef at Play even baked a loaf of gluten-free bread just for Scott to eat that evening.

Siam Bistro
Siam has great Thai food and is very reasonable. A weeknight staple, but also a great place to go for an inexpensive evening out with friends on the weekend.

Nicastro’s Italian Food Emporium
There are various locations around Ottawa. They carry a good selection of gluten-free corn and rice pasta from Italy. They also have excellent olives and local cheeses from Quebec. If you love cheese, please, I beg you, try le migneron de Charlevoix and Alfred le fermier.

Ristorante La Dolce Vita
A little Italian restaurant tucked below street level in the Italian district. This cozy restaurant always reminds me of eating in one of those New York restaurants only the locals know about. They have gluten-free pizza and pasta, and have had the local celiac association tour their kitchen to make sure there’s no cross-contamination with gluten.

Ahora Mexican Cuisine
Friends brought us to the Mexican restaurant just two days before we left Ottawa. We still mourn the fact that we didn’t discover it sooner, as it is that delicious. And reasonable, to boot! My celiac husband, who has backpacked around Mexico, tells me the food is authentic. Whatever it is, it’s good!

Fraser Café
One of my new favourite restaurants in Ottawa, and I've only been once. I went with two friends and we ordered the blind dinners: the chefs prepared three different dinners to surprise us and we shared them. They were all sublime. The atmosphere at Fraser Café is also lovely and bright with lots of natural light; such a nice change after way too much exposed brick at so many new restaurants.

Thyme & Again
This is actually a catering company that has a lovely little light-filled front section where you can have lunch or tea and treats. They are very good about looking up the ingredients for their foods, and always have a couple main dishes and cookies that are gluten-free.

The atmosphere at Buca is bustling and hip, but the food is quite a few levels above that – without the attitude. Buca doesn't have a menu on its website, so let me tell you some of what we had . . . Fresh-baked knobs of bread glistening in rosemary olive oil. Kale and persimmon salad with Marcona almonds and a dab of chocolate sauce. Beet salad topped with the softest, most tender buffalo mozzarella. Pizza with buffalo meatballs and a drizzle of cream on a light tomato sauce. Sugar pumpkin-filled ravioli with truffle shavings and cream. Tubes of pasta covered in a rich duck-tomato sauce. Dessert tortellini filled with quince, floating on a sea of honey. Gelato: bitter orange, milk and honey, buttered date. Go to Buca.

Delight Chocolate
One of the many lovely little businesses in the Junction on Dundas West, Delight makes makes chocolates that feel homemade — except they taste too good. My favourites were the dark chocolate with smoked sea salt, raspberry and hazelnut. Don't forget to try their caramels and chocolate ice cream, too.

Dineen Coffee Company
Dineen is that rare thing in downtown Toronto — an independent coffee shop. On the morning that I went, it was bustling and felt straight out of a more glamorous past. Definitely worth seeking out.

The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar
My friend Isabelle recommended this neighbourhood coffee shop and I managed to go twice during my short stay in the Junction. It's a block off Dundas West on Annette and surrounded by homes, so it really does feel like a good neighbour — a good neighbour who plies you with excellent tea and a cozy, cheerful living room to watch the world go by.

Konnichiwa Japanese
I wandered into Konnichiwa on a cold November day looking for a hot lunch. It was so snug inside with wooden walls and Japanese posters and specials everywhere. My udon soup, avocado roll and tempura were just right. It's just a couple of blocks away from the Art Gallery of Ontario, so I'm sure I'll be back again.

Mother's Dumplings 
I must admit I was a bit skeptical when a new friend highly recommended going to this restaurant that only served dumplings. But once our dumplings started arriving, I was convinced. They were soft and tender and chewy and juicy. Even now, I'm plotting a trip back to Toronto to eat the pork and chive dumplings again. Dumplings, you complete my life.

Nove Trattoria 
Near Yonge and St. Clair, this cozy neighbourhood restaurant made me wish I actually lived in the neighbourhood and could visit it every week. The staff was very friendly, calling me "bella," and letting me stow my luggage off to the side. (I was meeting friends on the way to the airport.) My mirella pizza was perfect in its simplicity: good tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a chin, crispy-chewy crust. My glass of primitivo red wine was well-priced and just right with my pizza. My friends' gnocchi and pizza were also great. Toronto, when I can I visit again?

Their logo is "north is the new south." That about describes the food, which definitely had a southern flavour when we visited on a cold November Sunday morning. A great cozy neighbourhood spot for waffles and eggs and beans.

The Sweet Gallery
Our friend in Toronto raved about this place so much that we knew we had to try it. We were glad we did. A simple, cozy European café, where they have lovely pastries and light lunches. Some of the pastries are gluten-free, and my celiac husband had a few options for lunch.

Prince Edward Island

Brackley Beach
Shaw's Hotel
When I walked into the dining room at Shaw's, I thought I was on the set of Dirty Dancing. It had that old-timey summer camp feel, and there was even a faded map of Scottish clans on the wall outside the bathroom. But we sat down at a table covered with a white linen table cloth, and, sure enough, the food was top-class. Scott had the best tiny mussels he's ever eaten. My halibut was also excellent, but what I will really remember is my blueberry cobbler. It had teeny-tiny local wild blueberries hot and bubbling into the lightest crust that was somehow a little sweet and a little chewy. Perfect.

There's a reason it's so popular and smells so good. It is. Make sure you get at least one ice cream cone here while you're on the Island.

It might seem funny to go out for German food on PEI, but we had a great lunch here. It's fun to sit in the window and watch Charlottetown walking by.

Receiver Coffee Co.
Our friends recommended Receiver and we only got there just before leaving the Island. Once we got in and saw the sandwiches, we were kicking ourselves that we'd already eaten lunch. Instead, we had to content ourselves with good coffee, tea and a cookie. We'll be back.

Sheltered Harbour Café
We had just done the Greenwich Dunes walk and arrived hungry at Sheltered Harbour well after 1:30 p.m. It was like manna from heaven to sit on the sunny patio watching the working harbour and eating a big plate of fish, chips and veggies. Everything was good, but the fish especially reminded me why I miss living on the east coast. I will go back to Souris just to eat here. Note: they are very gluten-free aware and have lots of options.


Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel – Le Montréalais
If you like a long, leisurely brunch, this is the very best. This is the hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged their bed-in for peace. And now that I’ve eaten brunch there, I know why. They had to stay in their room, but you can go down to the gorgeous restaurant, full of tall windows and columns and leafy plants and extremely attentive professional waiters. You can choose the buffet option, which is the only buffet I have ever seen look this good. I am vehemently anti-buffet, which tells you how good this was for me to recommend. You can also order à la carte.

Wakefield (near Ottawa)
Bistro Rutherford
 One of our favourite places to go for lunch on a Sunday. This is on the other side of the famous Black Sheep Inn. (If it’s not famous to you, the inn is famous for bringing in great musicians to play in a small venue.) The family that runs Bistro Rutherford has a relative with celiac, and makes a conscious decision to thicken their stew with corn flour and have a few safe gluten-free options. They focus on using local food and local food suppliers – the owner will even tell you he’s pouring you water from the local spring as he fills your glass (for free). Very reasonable and great food. And, it has a lovely view of the Gatineau River.


Park Café
This is a neighbourhood coffee shop with everything you might want: a late breakfast, a gluten-free Saskatoon berry scone, a hot cup of tea . . . all in a bright little cafe with different tables and chairs. I wish I lived the kind of life where I could sit here for an hour every morning.

It might be hard to say, but it's sure not hard to eat. I had some of the most inspired, pillow-light gnocchi of my life on May evening – combined with grapes and almonds and other unusual things I wouldn't have expected to love. We've been twice and were delighted with everything both times: think local food (like Lake Diefenbaker trout) mixed with Ukrainian heritage and modern flourishes. Love it.

see also:
hop & go fetch it: United States of America
hop & go fetch it: Europe