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25 Best Places to Eat (2018)

25 Best Places to Eat (2018)

Introduction by: Alexander Henden

INTRODUCTION

As far as the local dining scene goes, things have never been better. Sure, you could argue that we’re still missing a few pieces, but for a town the size of Halifax, you have to concede that we have it pretty darned good. So let’s say the glass is half full, then, and take stock of just how lucky we are.

From a numbers perspective, this past year doesn’t look all that extraordinary. Some restaurants closed their doors while some new ones opened theirs. Upon closer inspection, the story gets more interesting. These past 12 or so months have seen some fairly significant additions, with two of them having found their way onto our 25 Best Places to Eat for 2018 list (in the top five, no less). A number of others didn’t quite make it, but that’s not to say that they are unimportant. Quite the opposite, in fact. Antojo Tacos + Tequila, The Carleton and Heartwood Hydrostone simply didn’t open early enough to make our October 30, 2017 cut-off. Restaurants like CHKN CHOP, The Canteen, Yeah Yeahs Pizza, Unchained Kitchen and Little C each delivered big, but fell a bit short. Despite this, each of them deserves your attention and each will get some of ours when we publish the 2018 Curated Guide in late April.

Getting back to our list, one thing that stood out this year was just how close positions 16 through 35 were. We’ve always noticed similar patterns in the past, but it was even more observable this year. Those eateries were so close, in fact, that we could have made it the 35 Best Places to Eat and still had a quality list. That was never going to happen, though, so on February 21, 2018, at Garrison Brewing, 10 final-round contenders were eliminated, making room for the final 10 that made it. For the most part, it was simply an issue of consistency. It’s one thing to be able to deliver a memorable dining experience, but it’s a whole other thing to do it night in and night out. Service and ambience also played a role in some of our final decisions. We were looking for the whole package, and not everyone had that, or at least not to the degree that some of the others did.

THE FINAL 25

Tough decisions aside, we find ourselves totally satisfied with the outcome of the process we started back in late October 2017. Twenty-two judges objectively rated over 70 establishments, and those judges had to have visited those establishments in the past 12 months to rate them. We also put in some safeguards to ensure that any conflicts of interest were handled appropriately. The conclusion, in our view, is that our final list is very clean and accurate.

In moving to a rating system for 2018, we were able to rank each establishment from first through twenty-fifth. This was something entirely new for us. A big reason for doing this was to create some excitement, of course, but we also wanted to give special recognition to some of the establishments that were achieving higher levels of performance. What is perhaps most interesting to us is that through this process our judges managed to recognize many smaller establishments like Kitsune Food Co. and Dee Dee’s Ice Cream. Their inclusion on our list shows that good food can come from all kinds of places.

But enough of this. You want to see the list. So let’s get to it, shall we?

LISTING INDEX

$  ENTRÉES UNDER $10
$$  ENTRÉES $10 – $20
$$$  ENTRÉES $20 – $30
$$$$  ENTRÉES $30 AND UP

B  BREAKFAST
BR  BRUNCH
L  LUNCH
D  DINNER

1. THE KITCHEN TABLE (now closed)

2157 Gottingen Street, Halifax
$$$$  D | Tasting Menu

The Kitchen Table stands alone in Halifax as not only the city’s singular fine-dining restaurant but also as the only place offering a daily eight-course tasting menu experience — which is left completely to the chefs’ discretions. Born as an idea in the back of a charcuterie and cheese shop, The Kitchen Table evolved with the relocation of Ratinaud French Cuisine and truly blossomed inside a thoughtfully designed, beautiful space just down the road from the original site. Privileged to operate in a space created with purpose, executive chef Joe MacLellan has elevated and delivered on what is possible at The Kitchen Table, earning repeat customers in a city slow to accept and embrace the delicate style of fine dining that they offer. No easy feat. Ingredients like perfectly cooked squab locally foraged moss and, of course, decadent foie gras easily separate The Kitchen Table from the herd. Every last detail, including the handmade petits fours (which are often duck fat caramels) and tea sourced from dried plants found in nearby woodlands, create an absolutely stunning and unforgettable experience from beginning to end.

“Old country care and service meets new world style and local flavours. The marriage is fabulous. It’s true love.”

– JOHN P. RUDOLPH

2. BAR KISMET

2733 Agricola Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  D | Bar & Restaurant

Bar Kismet is the kind of place Halifax loves to see thrive. Co-owner Jenner Cormier spent years making a name for himself in the mixology scene in Halifax and throughout Canada before meeting chef Annie Brace-Lavoie in Toronto while working together at Bar Raval. Soon enough the pair had their sights set on opening something together back in Halifax, and the idea for Bar Kismet was conceived. Partners in both business and life, the duo launched Bar Kismet just last year after taking careful time selecting the right location and putting in plenty of grueling hours themselves to help get the space ready. Quickly revered by both interior design and food critics, everything has aligned for Bar Kismet to flourish in a short period of time at their smart, hip north end location in Halifax. A summery vibe with clean, light colours and timeless finishing touches creates the perfect atmosphere for Cormier’s sophisticated cocktails and Brace-Lavoie’s gorgeous-yet-simple seafood-forward menu items. In a city that’s often lamented for its ironically less-than-ideal seafood options, the food focus at Bar Kismet is just what Halifax needs.

“Fine, delicate, consistently balanced cuisine. Pure joy on the palate!”

– JULES CHAMBERLAIN, RED DOOR REALTY

3. KITSUNE FOOD CO.

5710 Young Street, Halifax
$  L/D |
 Japanese Take-out

Kitsune Food Co. is killing it on the takeout food front in Halifax. Making it onto the 25 Best Places to Eat list with only four seats in your establishment is pretty impressive. Chef and co-owner Amy Goto found her footing working at — and then owning — Dharma Sushi on Argyle Street for a number of years. She knew her calling was for a smaller, izakaya-style takeout joint, and after working on a few Japanese pop-up nights with the owners of Mother’s Pizza, she developed a relationship that evolved into an offer to use the small garage-like space attached to the back of Mother’s. Goto and partner Eric McIntyre jumped at the opportunity to offer a small but thoughtful menu focused on Japanese takeout and catering. Now Haligonians flock to Kitsune in Halifax’s iconic Hydrostone neighbourhood for the kara-age (Japanese fried chicken), gyoza, sushi and other delicious, carefully prepared Japanese dishes. Goto and McIntyre have been successfully operating this “snack bar” with four stools that overlook the sushi station, drawing in customers to either grab takeout or sit and eat — and that’s pretty cool.

“Fresh, thoughtful and carefully crafted Japanese fare. The best option when ordering is always chef’s choice where you’ll get some of the most inspired sushi in the city.”

– SHANE BEEHAN

4. EDNA

2053 Gottingen Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  BR/D | Restaurant

Since opening in 2013, EDNA (Eat Drink Nourish Always) has received attention year after year for being one of the best places to eat in Halifax — and even Canada. So it’s only fitting that it finds a place on our list. Drive by during any of EDNA’s peak hours and you will see a lineup of loyal, die-hard customers who swear by the no-reservations restaurant’s eco-trendy and sleek but comfortable interior, as well as its innovative, seasonal menu offering sophistication a touch above the majority of busy restaurants in Halifax. EDNA was one of the first full-on restaurants to include a communal table in their design, and they have uncompromisingly turned some customers on to that dining experience — not always an easy task in Halifax. The local clientele seems to trust owner Jenna Mooers, and not only because of her familial ties to the restaurant industry in Halifax, but because the food is truly delicious. Small but very well put together dinner and weekend brunch menus have Haligonians lining up and waiting for tables on the regular — something that many never thought you’d see here. It’s so worth it.

“Avant-garde restaurant and bar with exceptional local seafood dishes, comfort food with panache and one of the best brunches in the city.”

– LIA RINALDO, DEVOUR! THE FOOD FILM FEST

5. THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT

15 Kings Wharf Pl. # 104, Dartmouth
$$-$$$  BR/D | Bar & Restaurant

The Watch That Ends the Night blasted onto the Halifax dining scene in 2017 with a much-anticipated opening, well-known chef and design that nobody had seen before. Inspired by a 1958 novel of the same name, The Watch That Ends the Night has whimsical written all over it — from the dreamy cocktails to the clean mid-century furnishings to the leafy plants that complement a space that somehow achieves a clean and tidy aesthetic that makes your imagination run wild. Owned by Bethany and Joe Gurba, the cocktail bar and restaurant live in the second floor of a chic, modern condo building in Dartmouth overlooking the Halifax harbour. Chef Mark Gray was brought on board early, and pre-opening rumblings of the project made every self-proclaimed food and drink lover in the Halifax area excited. Here, Gray indulges himself with a focus on everchanging mix-and-match boards, offering items like beautiful seafood rillette and mousse, gravlax, charcuterie, and pâtés — all made in-house — along with cheeses and pickled and fermented vegetables. There is a small selection of medium-to-large plates, so appetizers, dinner and drinks are absolutely doable. Everything on offer is complemented by beautiful cocktails.

“Classy and inviting decor. An ever-changing menu that keeps you asking “what’s next?”

– MISSY SEARL, CURATED DREAM TEAM

6. STUDIO EAST FOOD + DRINK

6021 Cunard Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  D | Asian Fusion

Studio East Food + Drink is the love child of Asian fusion duo Ray Bear and Saronn Pov. Located in the up-and-coming foodie haven of Halifax’s west end, the restaurant perfectly fuses Bear’s formal chef background and perfected techniques with Pov’s Cambodian heritage and genuine love of food. Working together in both the kitchen and dining room, Bear and Pov oversee every aspect of this busy neighbourhood joint. Filled with personality from top to bottom, Studio East quickly made a name for itself after breaking onto the scene in 2015 and filling a noticeable gap in the approachable, everyday Asian fusion dining space in Halifax. Offering fun tiki-style cocktails within their bar program, Studio East has become known as a comfortable, full-service dining experience for fans of Asian fusion, promising mouth-watering flavours on every visit. Superstar dishes like the Ultimate Ramen Bowl, Japanese Fried Chicken and Love the Burger have won over locals who keep going back again and again. With a track record like Bear’s, you can be sure that it’s never going to get boring.

“Taking fusion cuisine to new heights and an over-the-top cocktail menu by award-winning mixologists. Tiki Wednesdays are a must!”

– LIA RINALDO, DEVOUR! THE FOOD FILM FEST

7. THE NOODLE GUY

964 Highway 358, Port Williams
$-$$  L/D | Local Eatery

A restaurant specializing in fresh handmade artisanal pasta is exactly what you would not expect tucked away in unassuming Port Williams, a neighbouring town to Wolfville. The Noodle Guy, already extremely popular with local Valley folk, has begun to make a name for itself around the province as a sought-out destination for pasta and good times in general. The colourful chalkboard menu outlines a handful of pasta dishes in the $12 range plus a daily soup and wrap. The inventive, locally inspired pasta features sometimes sound like this: black currant and wild boar ravioli in a blueberry-thyme cream sauce. Yup. A totally unpretentious stop for a quick and very affordable bite, The Noodle Guy always delivers on fresh, delicious food. Whether it be for the namesake noodles, Friday burger night or regular jam sessions, The Noodle Guy has created both a cozy, welcoming experience full of rural Nova Scotia charm and surprisingly tasty food to boot. Local beers, wines and ciders are available in the dining room. You can also get a taste of The Noodle Guy at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market every Saturday, where owner Ross Patterson himself serves freshly prepared pasta dishes.

“Exquisite, made-from-scratch fresh pasta, sauces, and more. Big city quality, small town prices. The ravioli alone is worth the drive!”

– KELLY NEIL, FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER

8. DEE DEE’S ICE CREAM

5668 Cornwallis Street, Halifax
$  L/D | Take-out Ice Cream

Known for offering the perplexing and totally awesome combination of killer ice cream and amazing burritos, Dee Dee’s Ice Cream has fostered somewhat of a cult following in Halifax. Located on a very quiet street corner in Halifax’s trendy north end, Dee Dee’s is a place where you can stop for a quick and affordable lunch, baked goods, coffee, or a scoop or three or a whole tub of handmade, small-batch ice cream. With a kiosk at Peggys Cove, Dee Dee’s is busy winning over thousands of tourists every summer as well as catering to long-time fans in the north end. Incredible flavours like banana cardamom, Mexican chocolate, raspberry passionfruit sorbet, curry cashew and pumpkin spice appeal to a wide array of ice cream aficionados. With a commitment to using local and sustainable ingredients, Dee Dee’s has earned major street cred in Halifax. Plus, owner Ditta Kasdan goes out of her way to have vegan options. No wonder everyone loves this place.

“For me, Dee Dee’s is that magical place in the north end where sparks and rainbows are shooting off the building and the best ice cream is found inside.”

– ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED MAGAZINE

9. SUZUKI RESTAURANT

1579 Dresden Row, Halifax
$$  L/D | Japanese Restaurant

Aside from excellent sushi, Suzuki Restaurant is known for its unique private rooms, traditional dining space with floor seats and mysterious location down an alley off Dresden Row in downtown Halifax. Highly talked about by sushi lovers all over the city for years, the food lives up to the atmosphere, with an extensive offering of nigiri, sashimi, maki and fusion rolls typical to Japanese restaurants in Halifax — but of higher quality and consistency. Suzuki doesn’t hold back. The menu boasts a very robust offering of delicious items in addition to traditional sushi, including a standout sushi pizza, kara-age, deep-fried soft-shell crab, a delightful selection of noodles and satisfying combinations of sushi and sashimi (think sashimi rice bowls). The namesake Suzuki Roll features shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, cucumber and spicy sauce, and does not disappoint. With so many options for middle-of-the-road sushi in Halifax, the consistency of Suzuki’s food and genuinely friendly service have kept it floating near the top in a sea of Japanese restaurants.

“I love how Suzuki is literally a hidden gem, the entrance in a hard-to-find alley. Whenever I’m eating there I feel privy to amazing Halifax sushi knowledge.”

– LAURA OAKLEY, FOOD WRITER

10. LITTLE OAK BAR

1475 Lower Water Street, Halifax
$$  D | Bar & Restaurant

After taking a long look at the food and beverage landscape in Halifax, Rachel Knox, Mike Hase and chef Ludovic Eveno recognized what was lacking and did us all a huge favour when they opened Little Oak Bar in the summer of 2016. In what feels like a hybrid between trendy wine bar (full on with a very sleek and very visible glass-walled cellar) and hole-in-the-wall gem of a bar you’d find in a city much larger than Halifax, you’ll discover a chalkboard menu that doesn’t feel tired. On the contrary, Little Oak is serving up delicate seafood and tasty small plates that are the perfect accompaniment to the highly sophisticated and joyfully novel wine and spirits program offered here. Seafood options like Thai marinated mussels and buttery scallop ceviche are exactly what you want and need in a space like Little Oak. The unpredictable menu can offer up anything from classic beef tartare to handmade braised rabbit ravioli to Indian-inspired lamb curry. Creativity from the kitchen is easily matched by the skillset of sommelier Nicole Raufeisen, whose impeccable choices and knowledge take this concept to the next level.

“Great wine and fabulous atmosphere. A parade of delight from the kitchen!

– JULES CHAMBERLAIN, RED DOOR REALTY

11 (tied). THE BROOKLYN WAREHOUSE

2795 Windsor Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  L/D | Restaurant

Opened a decade ago, The Brooklyn Warehouse was, some might say, before its time in Halifax. Venturing to open a restaurant in the quieter west end part of the city in a residential neighbourhood, George and Leo Christakos brought a first taste of hipster-ish dining to Halifax — and Halifax was never quite the same again. It was all so very Brooklyn: everchanging chalkboard menus and a small, eclectic space where people would have to go out of their way to find it. But the food, service and interior spoke for itself, and since the very beginning, The Brooklyn Warehouse has offered an unbeatable vibe, super-local menu inspired by the seasons and an open-minded attitude toward growth and change that has kept it top of mind for locals. Even in its tenth year, The Brooklyn Warehouse is absolutely still a go-to experience for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the food, wine, cider and beer of Nova Scotia. And with a new wine program that guarantees no more than a $15 markup on bottles of wine, you’re bound to have a great time.

“The cosiest neighbourhood bistro featuring an extensive chalkboard seasonal menu that changes daily and a curated wine list with the lowest markup in town.”

– LIA RINALDO, DEVOUR! THE FOOD FILM FEST

11 (tied). SALVATORE’S PIZZAIOLO

5541 Young Street, Halifax
$$  L/D | Pizzeria

It’s not so often that a place lives up to localized hype like Salvatore’s Pizzaiolo Trattoria does. Whether it’s their hilariously uncompromising delivery service (usually a two-hour wait time) or the torturous experience of hovering for a table on a busy night while smelling and seeing other pizzas go by, Salvatore’s hurts so good . . . and we keep going back again and again and again. All necessary evils aside, Salvatore’s is a prize in the city’s north end. With fantastic service, Sal’s keeps countless loyal customers happy on the regular with their unbeatable thin-crust pizzas and hearty hero sandwiches. Sal’s is the kinda joint where everyone has a go-to pizza order, whether it’s The Original, with its garlic-infused olive oil, house tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs (you can never go wrong), or the suggested combinations that work well with The Original (no more than three additional toppings please), or the speciality bianco (white) pizzas. It’s hard to stray from either your regular order or from going to Salvatore’s in the first place.

“A Hydrostone staple, Salvatore’s sets the bar high when it comes to gourmet pizza in Halifax. That Tutto Carne is a beast!”

– JOSH RANKIN, LIFE OF BURGERS

13. FIELD GUIDE

2076 Gottingen Street, Halifax
$$  D | Bar & Restaurant

Field Guide has been a leader in the Halifax cocktail revolution since opening on Gottingen Street in 2013. Launched by young entrepreneurial duo Ceilidh Sutherland and chef Dan Vorstermans, this north end cocktail bar was a breath of fresh air when it opened five years ago. The owners have made sure to always keep a stellar lead bartender in tow who keeps coming to the table with a seasonally-inspired, ultra-creative bar program. A limited chalkboard menu of clever small plates, cheese and charcuterie includes the famed donair steam buns, pork carnitas tacos and more sophisticated items like sautéed chicken hearts with cremini mushrooms and pickled ramps. It’s the overall experience of a night with friends at Field Guide that keeps this small but mighty cocktail bar relevant in 2018 — a time when competition is stiff in Halifax. Field Guide is a place where the bartender will happily visit a table to discuss a customer’s preferences for an off-menu creation or run through the differences between tequilas añejos. And it’s that kind of intimacy that makes the difference.

“Creative food that is delicious and well presented, cocktail heaven.

– JOHN P. RUDOLPH

14. OBLADEE – A WINE BAR

1600 Barrington Street, Halifax
$$  D | Wine Bar

Obladee continues to shine as Halifax’s only self-proclaimed wine bar, but the lack of competition has never meant that it’s done anything less than excellent. The wine list is as extensive and all-encompassing as one would expect, easily readable, and separated by stylistic qualities with a healthy number of by-the-glass options. The carefully curated food menu — always designed with the wine list in mind — changes up seasonally and offers stellar cheese and charcuterie boards. Plus, the kitchen is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. But it’s not just food and drink that make a great wine bar. Obladee has a wonderful combination of seating arrangements, whether it’s ponied up at the bar (where all the action is), at a communal high-top table, at the intimate low-level seating near the back or at the coveted front-window nooks. There’s always a seat to suit your wine-drinking mood. The adaptability of the space along with knowledgeable and personable service has earned Obladee a very established following in Halifax. And because it’s located in the heart of downtown, it’s the perfect place to begin, end or spend your entire night.

“I’ve been smitten since the day it opened and a regular still! I love it!!

– JULES CHAMBERLAIN, RED DOOR REALTY

15. INDOCHINE BANH MI

1551 South Park Street, Halifax
$  L/D | Vietnamese Take-out

The banh mi craze was slow to come to Halifax, and while a handful of Asian restaurants had the Vietnamese sandwich included in their repertoire, no one was really promoting it front and centre — until Indochine showed up. Inspired by her travels through southeast Asia, owner Liz Smith got working on opening a fast-casual banh mi shop with a focus on healthy, locally-sourced ingredients. Indochine Banh Mi has been a hit with every lover of Vietnamese food since it opened its doors, serving up not only the classic sandwich but also pho, bun (rice noodle bowls), bubble tea and fusion tacos. Last year it introduced the “phorrito”, a tortilla filled with rice, herbs, green onion, hoisin, sriracha and your choice of tofu, chicken or beef. Indochine is known for having an excellent selection of vegetarian and vegan options, including marinated bulgogi tofu tacos (the best), lentil pâté and super-hearty veggie balls as a protein option for your banh mi. The food is always packed full of bright, fresh Vietnamese flavours and varying levels of heat depending on your preference.

“Fast, fresh, and healthy Vietnamese recipes made from scratch. Eat-in or take-out you have to try the fusion salad.”

-KAYLA SHORT, SHORT PRESENTS

16. STILLWELL BEERGARDEN

5688 Spring Garden Road, Halifax
$  L/D | Seasonal Beer Garden

An innovative use of an undeveloped urban lot tucked away on Halifax’s bustling Spring Garden Road, Stillwell Beergarden opened with much anticipation and public support in the summer of 2016. The beer garden itself is a wonderfully big open space with room to breathe, all while being sandwiched between exterior building walls, creating a fun, edgy, urban space that’s just what Halifax needed. With a huge focus on locally made craft beers, Stillwell Beergarden has no corporate brand anything. A popular hangout for dog owners, this pet-friendly space has a super-chill, relaxed vibe and the kind of communal seating that you’d expect in a beer garden atmosphere. It’s self-serve only here, and that includes the food tokens for chef Joe Martini’s wonderful BBQ flavours. Stillwell’s partnership with Manual Food and Drink Co.’s dairy bar has solidified its position as a hot summer destination whether you’re looking for mile-high cones of house-made soft serve, delicious craft beer or creative BBQ items.

“An impressive lineup of the greatest craft beer around backed up by a selection of food that fits the outdoor setting perfectly.

– JOSH RANKIN, LIFE OF BURGERS

17. BEAVER SAILOR DINER

1820 Hollis Street, Halifax
$  L/D | Asian Restaurant

Beaver Sailor Diner is known as a destination for hand-cut noodles and authentic Chinese dishes in downtown Halifax. Perusing the menu, you’ll notice a fun collection of other Asian-influenced dishes, as owners Yue Su and Ting Jun Han are very keen on changing things up and taking inspiration from their regular travels back home to China. With probably the most adorable branding in Halifax, Beaver Sailor Diner intrigued many locals with the name and promise of house-made noodle dishes when it opened in 2015, and it quickly became a go-to spot for Asian ex-pats living in Halifax. With only 20 seats, expect intimate service from Han (the food is cooked by Su and his mother). Marinated beef tendons, seaweed salad, traditional sago and many other authentic regional dishes have the Chinese population flocking to Beaver Sailor Diner, while the slightly more familiar noodle dishes have earned an enthusiastic following from native Haligonians. Dishes like hot and sour noodles, beef udon, and fried shrimp soba are regularly crushing everyone’s noodle cravings. They have bubble tea but try the drinking yogurt.

“Beaver sailor is a bit of a hidden gem, but the quirky name (and the food!) is unforgettable. Home-made Chinese noodles, fusion fun and Asian desserts are a delightful addition to the Halifax dining scene.”

– LINDSAY NELSON, EAT THIS TOWN

18. FLEUR DE SEL

53 Montague Street, Lunenburg
$$$$  D | Seasonal Tasting Menu

Housed in a historic property and wrapped up in the absolutely stunning and charming surroundings of old town Lunenburg, Fleur de Sel is a fine-dining gem on the province’s picturesque South Shore. A seasonal operation, Fleur de Sel is truly a dining destination, and it offers both a la carte and tasting menus with wine pairings. The restaurant is owned and operated by chef Martin Ruiz Salvador and his wife Sylvie. Open for dinner service only, this is an absolute must while visiting this part of the province. The exceptionally high-level food prepared with flawless French technique and a beautiful use of local ingredients has won Fleur de Sel award after award over the past 14 years, including being named as one of the top 50 restaurants in the country by Maclean’s in 2015. The Fleur de Sel eight-course tasting menu, which incorporates beautiful local ingredients, including seafood that was likely hauled off a boat just down the road, is highly recommended. Vegetarians can rejoice too, as there’s an entire tasting menu at Fleur de Sel dedicated to the cause. For those looking to make a night out of it, there’s also one private guest suite located above the restaurant.

“Creative and inspired fine dining that doesn’t stray too far from classical preparation. Chef Martin Ruiz Salvador is always on the top of his game.”

– SHANE BEEHAN

19. KRAVE BURGER

5680 Spring Garden Road, Halifax
$  L/D | Burger Joint

Krave Burger is a fast-casual restaurant on Spring Garden Road serving up burgers we all have faith in, day in and day out. When you just want a really good burger with toppings you love, awesome fries and a delicious milkshake (and who doesn’t want that daily?), Krave Burger is the place to go. And for that, its success has been made. It doesn’t hurt that co-owner Matt MacIsaac is also a chef (who grew up on a farm to boot) and that his team doesn’t rest on its laurels. They bring in beef from Atlantic Canada and grind it in house — which is definitely not something you’ll find anyone doing at a fast food joint. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Krave burger, a burger topped with donair meat, chicken or even a veggie burger, Krave has got you covered. They follow it up with stellar sides like mac ’n’ cheese, fries and onion rings, plus there’s beer on tap. But trust us on the milkshake.

“What’s not to love about grass-fed, locally sourced beef!? The rest of their menu! Krave Burger continues to offer great takes on two buns and meat. Mix it up and have some fun; bacon, goat cheese, bacon, egg, and did I say bacon? Slam dunk!

– MISSY SEARL, CURATED DREAM TEAM

20. LE CAVEAU

11611 Nova Scotia Trunk 1, Grand Pré
$$  BR/L/D | Restaurant

Le Caveau Restaurant is nestled inside a striking vineyard in Nova Scotia’s exquisite Annapolis Valley. It was named one of the 20 best winery restaurants in the world by Wine Access Magazine in 2012. Open seasonally as a full-time operation and throughout the year for special events, Le Caveau is located at Domaine de Grand Pré winery. The restaurant is known as a destination for both intimate dinners and more casual lunches, as well as being the perfect place to start or end your wine tour experience while in the region. The impressively refined dinner menu has showcased local game meats like boar, venison and goose, while lunch is meant to be more approachable, offering up burgers and Reuben sandwiches. Sunday brunch is also available. Chef and author Jason Lynch sources 80 per cent of the ingredients from nearby farms, and so the offering changes both seasonally and year-to-year. Wines by the glass are from the vineyard, while the bottle list boasts an extensive international collection. Le Caveau has a charming outdoor stone terrace, al fresco dining options and a beautiful live-edge wood harvest table perfect for special events.

“Elegant and sophisticated food without pretension paired with professional service and a stunning outdoor terrace. One of the finest atmospheres in the province.

– SHANE BEEHAN

21. RINALDO’S ITALIAN AMERICAN SPECIALTIES

2186 Windsor Street, Halifax
$-$$  L/D | Italian American Restaurant

Rinaldo’s Italian American Specialities is the restaurant we didn’t know we needed in Halifax until Sam and Tony Rinaldo made it happen in the spring of 2017. Now we can’t live without it. Expanding on their pop-up concept and farmers’ market stall that served up mouth-watering meatball hero sandwiches, the Rinaldo brothers got to work looking for a permanent location that offered a full-service dining experience complete with cocktails and now even brunch. Hinged on the brothers’ Italian-American heritage and family recipes, there’s no other place quite like it in Halifax. Head to Rinaldo’s for portions that are more on the American than Italian side, a menu full to the brim with every carb imaginable (usually covered in cheese), and a modestly priced wine-by-the-glass list — so basically everything needed for the best cheat day ever. Highlights include the life-changing mozzarella sticks (how far can you stretch yours?), pizza made from the family’s famous dough recipe, fresh pastas and, of course, the meatball hero sandwiches. Go hungry, like, really hungry.

“From heros to pizza, those Rinaldo brothers know how to make a damn good Italian-American meal and they aren’t afraid to show it!

– JOSH RANKIN, LIFE OF BURGERS

22. HIGHWAYMAN

1673 Barrington Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  D | Bar & Restaurant

Inspired by the Spanish tapas and pintxos craze that took over Toronto a few years ago, Highwayman popped up a little unexpectedly smack on Barrington Street right when it needed a little love. (The busy downtown thoroughfare is on the verge of a revival and Highwayman is just the restaurant to take it there.) A no-reservations policy, moody and romantic interior, and super-social dining strategy have helped fill seats night after night at Highwayman since it opened in the spring of 2016. It’s the perfect destination for after-work cocktails, shareable meals with groups of friends or a first Tinder date. Whether you’re looking to hit up the raw bar, sample the carousel of pintxos or dig into some of the larger dishes, everything is designed to be shared, enjoyed and discussed. The staff know their stuff, and the cocktail and wine programs are some of the best in Halifax. Achieving a sort of casual sophistication in both food, drink and vibe, Highwayman is a must-do, especially because being there will help you feel the shift and momentum in the Halifax dining scene.

“All roads lead to the Highwayman when you’re looking for tapas and expertly crafted cocktails. Start with an order of pintxos and a specialty gin & tonic and you’ll soon want the whole menu!”

– LINDSAY NELSON, EAT THIS TOWN

23. EL CHINO SNACK BAR

2398 Robie Street, Halifax
$-$$  D | Bar & Restaurant

El Chino Snack Bar is the place where your two favourite street foods live together in harmony but are not mashing up any time soon into any of that fusion nonsense, thank you very much. If you can locate it (the exterior is a tinted window and there’s limited signage), grab a seat in this micro-sized restaurant in the city’s west end opposite the Halifax Common. Open nights only, El Chino is where locals go to indulge in either Mexican or Chinese snacks like tacos (of course), dumplings (double of course), nachos, fish balls or pork belly baos. That’s almost the entire menu, which is as small as the space. Get there early for a seat near the front, where you can size up the impressive tequila selection behind the bar before ordering a killer margarita. The cocktail list is highly Mexican-inspired and offers a number of delicious options. Plus, you can get a flight of tequila to wash down those tacos that keep disappearing.

“El Chino is this perfect little hideaway with amazing dumplings and tasty pork tacos. A great place to meet up with friends and have a few cocktails.”

– ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED MAGAZINE

24. AGRICOLA STREET BRASSERIE

2540 Agricola Street, Halifax
$$-$$$  D | Restaurant

Some would say that Agricola Street Brasserie has the most beautiful interior design of any restaurant in Halifax, but we try not to make sweeping statements like that in this magazine, so you’ll have to decide for yourself when you go — and you absolutely must go. The Brasserie (as we call it) lives on a very adorable block in the city’s north end, and it’s bookended by a coffee-shop-wine-bar combo and a row of colourful gable-roofed houses. An absolute gem, the Brasserie benefits both from its location in a very residential neighbourhood and being a dining destination just as popular as any you’d find downtown. The stellar cocktail program, amazing happy hour and attention to detail in the kitchen have earned the Brasserie followings from both the drinking and eating crowds. They take great care to do as much as possible in-house, including baking the bread. A recent re-tooling of the menu concept has brought a new focus on hand-made pasta and Atlantic seafood, but it’s still easy to spot, and taste, the French influence.

“Impeccable service, innovative cocktails, superb wine list, outstanding food, and magnificent room. Agricola street brasserie isn’t just a restaurant. It’s an experience.

– KELLY NEIL, FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER

25. BATTERY PARK BEER BAR & EATERY

62 Ochterloney Street, Dartmouth
$-$$  L/D | Beer Bar & Eatery

Battery Park Beer Bar & Eatery really hit their stride last year, choosing to change up the food program by bringing in Ace Burger, toning down the entree options and really hitting the mark on beer-friendly snacks. With 13 rotating beer taps and North Brewing’s beer store just downstairs, Battery Park was, from the get-go, a beer geek’s dream. Now with the more suitable combination of burgers and beers, this downtown Dartmouth joint is unstoppable. Proving that Dartmouth has an appetite for craft beer and, at the same time, filling a gap in the dining scene there, Battery Park has definitely benefited from the residential surroundings, becoming a beloved neighbourhood gathering place for both drinking and eating. Aside from killer burgers, Battery Park takes some cues from the UK pub scene, serving up from-scratch comfort food like meatloaf, curry and chips with mushy peas, and rib roast with Yorkshire pudding. The all-day bar snacks cover all the bases with house-made crackerjack, tacos, pretzel rolls, wings — anything that’d make you wish you had a beer to wash it down with.

“Awesome service, slamming charcuterie, delish burgers and fried chicken (done as well as my momma) and confit wings. It’s my happy place.”

– MISSY SEARL, CURATED DREAM TEAM

RUNNERS-UP

We chose not to announce the 10 runner-up food & drink destinations in our print issue back in March, but we’re doing so now. Here are the 10 that almost made the list (in alphabetical order):

Chives Canadian Bistro
Lincoln Street Food
Morris East
Salt Shaker Deli
Stillwell
Sweet Hereafter Cheescakery
The Canteen
The Kiwi Café
The Old Apothecary
The Union Street

Tatamagouche Brewing

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