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THE 25 BEST LIST 2019 ($$$-$$$$)

THE 25 BEST LIST 2019 ($$$-$$$$)

Introduction

Intro by Alexander Henden, write-ups by Laura Oakley

For the first of two 25 Best lists, we feature establishments with average entrée prices above $20. In some cases, you will see restaurants that don’t quite fit that mould – those with small plates programs, where, at the end of the night, your bill can mirror that of a high-end eatery. It is that spirit WE honour.

Dollars aside, what this year’s winners have in common is quality. Though sometimes referred to as special occasion dining, we feel there’s more to it than just that.

At one end of the spectrum are now-closed Fleur de Sel and newly-opened Bessie North House. Both focus on tasting menus (though Fleur de Sel was also known for à la carte), where diners pay a flat fee for a preset multicourse experience. Available drink pairings are also a must, as this type of dining is best approached without reservation. Though you definitely need to make one to get a table.

Next up are restaurants like Le Caveau, The Watch That Ends the Night, Little Oak, and Lincoln Street Food. Each offers traditional à la carte menus as their mainstay. It’s worth noting, though, that each hosts special dinners throughout the year. Usually held monthly, featuring a preset tasting menu offered with a limited number of available seatings. More often than not, these dinners are collaborations with other chefs and/or producers, making them truly unique.

Small plates programs are quite the trend right now. In some places, like Spain, it is just how people eat, but for us in Halifax, it is relatively new. Here, places like Bar Kismet, Field Guide, Highwayman, and The Ostrich Club  – you could include Little Oak and The Watch That Ends the Night too – feature extensive wine and cocktail lists alongside small plates for brilliant pairings. 

Taking a more traditional approach, while offering experiences comparable to the above small plates destinations, are EDNA, The Brooklyn Warehouse, and Eliot & Vine. What’s unique about these three is how each has carved out their own space and become a neighbourhood staple.

Speaking of neighbourhood institutions, Studio East and The Canteen beg a mention — each means so much to their communities, though the rest of the city is pretty taken with them.

The Italian food game in Halifax remains vibrant, with three restaurants finding their way onto this year’s list. Mappatura, La Frasca Cibi & Vini, and Ristorante A Mano are proving Italian cuisine is still relevant and very popular.

Capping off this list is an eclectic mix. Chives (farm-to-table pioneer and local icon), Gio (fabulous destination eatery in downtown Halifax), Efendy Turkish and Mediterranean Grill (THE place for Turkish food in the city), Black Sheep (fabulous bar and eatery), Primal Kitchen + Bar (aka meat lover’s paradise), The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar (people still love a great steak), and Stories (one of the city’s most romantic dining destinations). 

There’s no way around it, we’ve got it good. Congrats to all 25 who made this year’s list. The restaurant business is hard work and those who excel deserve recognition.

Now, onto the list!

Index

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

B  BREAKFAST  ·  BR  BRUNCH  ·  L  LUNCH  ·  D  DINNER

#1 – BAR KISMET

2733 AGRICOLA STREET, HALIFAX 
$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT & COCKTAIL BAR

Photo by Riley Smith

Bar Kismet continues to thrive in Halifax’s hotbed of foodie action — the North End. Carving itself out as the go-to destination for thoughtful and gorgeous seafood-focused small plates and consistently stellar cocktails, Bar Kismet’s popularity doesn’t seem even close to wavering. Co-owners Annie Brace-Lavoie and Jenner Cormier have secured their positions as food and drink figures in the city, staying committed to Bar Kismet’s opening concept, and continually killin’ it. The past year has seen Bar Kismet’s community of regulars continue to grow. The comfortable, clean, and light interior create the perfect atmosphere to push this small, stylish restaurant to become a not-so-hidden neighbourhood gem. In the fast-growing and (arguably) trendiest neighbourhood in Halifax, Bar Kismet is here to stay. The food continues to be a shining beacon in an oceanside city that often struggles to showcase its seafood — wowing customers time and again with delightful presentation and taste.

“As far as dining in Halifax goes, Bar Kismet is the unequivocal top of the mountain.”

ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED FOOD & DRINK MAGAZINE


#2 – BESSIE NORTH HOUSE

23 BESSIE NORTH ROAD, CANNING 
$$$$  D ∙ FARM-TO-TABLE RESTAURANT

Photo by Applehead Studios

Bessie North House opened in 2018 with fervent applause from the local food-loving community. Owners Dave Smart and Susan Meldrum Smart embarked on a labour of love when they purchased a 130-year-old farmhouse and five acres of land in Canning (an hour outside Halifax in the province’s agricultural centre, the Annapolis Valley). The couple had cultivated a collective of supporters during previous years working in the food and wine industries in both Halifax and Wolfville, and from the Kickstarter campaign launched during the renovation phase for Bessie North House. The plan was to grow things, renovate the house, and eventually turn it into a farm-to-table experience. Now open seasonally, Bessie North House is a culinary destination in a striking part of Nova Scotia. Guests book the seven-course tasting menu (sourced both on-site and from nearby farms) by reservation only. Open select hours from February 1 to mid-December, you can be sure everything is on-point with Dave in the kitchen and Susan running front-of-house.

“Impeccable service and beautiful plating in a stunning century-old farmhouse. Every bite is a testament to their uncompromising commitment to the farm-to-table ethos.”

JILL CHAPPELL, JILL CHAPPELL MEDIA


#3 – FLEUR DE SEL

53 MONTAGUE STREET, LUNENBURG (NOW CLOSED) 
$$$$  D ∙ FINE DINING

Photo by Riley Smith

Much to our dismay, Fleur de Sel wrapped its final operating season in 2018 after 15 years. Housed in a historic property and tucked into the absolutely stunning postcard surroundings of old town Lunenburg, Fleur de Sel was an iconic dining destination on the province’s picturesque South Shore that consistently garnered national attention. Trend-setting from its launch, Fleur de Sel introduced Nova Scotia clientele to dishes like foie gras and house-made charcuterie.  A seasonal operation that offered both a la carte and tasting menus, Fleur de Sel was owned — and operated by — chef Martin Ruiz Salvador and his wife Sylvie, who – throughout the years – opened five other restaurants, plus an inn, all in downtown Lunenburg. Exceptionally high-level food prepared with flawless French technique and beautiful use of local ingredients won Fleur de Sel award after award — including being named one of the top 50 restaurants in the country. They will be missed. 

“Their doors may now be closed, but the impact of this fine dining icon in Lunenburg will be felt for many years to come.”

ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED FOOD & DRINK MAGAZINE


#4 – EDNA

2053 GOTTINGEN STREET, HALIFAX 
$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT & BAR

Photo by Phototype

Six years in, EDNA (Eat Drink Nourish Always) continues to receive attention for being one of the best places to eat, not only in Halifax but Canada-wide. What makes EDNA continue to shine in a neighbourhood bursting with restaurants, cocktail bars, and cafés? An ever-growing legion of devoted patrons who swear by the restaurant’s modern, eco-trendy interior and innovative, seasonal menus that offer dishes consistently crafted with creativity and skill. The local clientele continues to trust owner Jenna Mooers — not only because of her family ties to Halifax restaurant royalty — but because the food, simply put, is delicious. Weekend brunch at EDNA still has Haligonians milling about outside with their coffee mugs, eagerly waiting for tables, as they’ve stuck with a no-reservations policy since 2013. The one-page menu has always offered oysters, cheese, and charcuterie, plus a handful each of starters and mains — mastering that delicate balance between inventive and non-intimidating, with a commitment to showcasing local, sustainable products.

“Consistency is a mark of greatness and EDNA never fails with their food, service and atmosphere.”

SHANE BEEHAN, BARTENDER/WRITER/EATER


#5 – Le Caveau Restaurant

11611 NOVA SCOTIA TRUNK 1, GRAND PRÉ 
$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ FINE DINING

Named one of the 20 World’s Best Winery Restaurants by Wine Access Magazine in 2012, Le Caveau Restaurant consistently delivers an intimate experience, nestled inside a vineyard in Nova Scotia’s stunning Annapolis Valley. Located at Domaine de Grand Pré winery, Le Caveau operates seasonally as a full-service restaurant and throughout the year for special events. Chef, author, and owner Jason Lynch sources 80% of the ingredients from nearby farms, launching an exciting new menu each spring. Le Caveau is known as a destination for both cozy dinners and casual lunches and is a great venue to start or end your wine tour experience in the Annapolis Valley. Their impressively refined dinner menu has showcased local game like boar, venison, and goose, while their lunch and Sunday brunch menus are usually more relaxed. Wines by the glass are sourced from the vineyard, while the bottle list offers an extensive international collection. And they have a lovely stone terrace for al fresco dining options.

“Historic Grand Pre’s shining light—Le Caveau. A setting as truly magnificent as Chef Jason Lynch’s locally sourced creations and wine selection.”

KELLY CLARK, KELLY CLARK FOTOGRAPHY


#6 – The Watch That Ends the Night

15 KINGS WHARF PLACE #104, DARTMOUTH 
$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ COCKTAIL BAR & EATERY

Photo by Phototype

Inspired by a 1958 novel of the same name, The Watch That Ends the Night has whimsy written all over. Owner Mark Gray transitioned from chef to proprietor in 2018, promoting Janie Bogardus to head chef, and she has not disappointed. Bogardus crafted a menu with fun takes on comfort food, while continuing impressive fermentation and curing programs. Dreamy cocktails, clean mid-century furnishings, and leafy plants complement a space that somehow achieves a neat and tidy aesthetic while letting your imagination run free.

“The interior design is delightfully interesting and chef Janie Bogardus is absolutely nailing it with the menus — which change just often enough.”

LAURA OAKLEY, FOOD WRITER


#7 – THE CANTEEN

22 PORTLAND STREET, DARTMOUTH 
$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ RESTAURANT

Photo by Doug Townsend

It’s now hard to imagine Portland Street, or Dartmouth, without The Canteen. After making a move from sandwich shop to a full-service, sit down affair in 2017, chef Renée Lavallee evolved the restaurant into a concept that answered the call for a locally-focused neighbourhood restaurant with consistently delicious food. Great for lunch, dinner, and Saturday brunch, you’ll find simple, well-prepared dishes by a locally renowned chef, in a stylish space. What’s not to love?

“All the classics dialled right up, it’s casual fare at its best. Hard to imagine downtown Dartmouth without The Canteen.”

ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED FOOD & DRINK MAGAZINE


#8 – The Ostrich Club

5529 YOUNG STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ RESTAURANT & BAR

Photo by Jessica Emin

The Ostrich Club turned up on the main drag in the historic Hydrostone neighbourhood in 2018 (from the same ownership team as Little Oak) and brought with it a concept missing from the area. Complementing other food and drink offerings nearby, The Ostrich Club fits in well with its surroundings, offering lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch options focused on inventive small plates, a handful of more robust dishes, and a compelling drink list that spotlights natural wines. 

“Brunch is beautiful; evenings are savoury-sexy! Innovative and delightful; new pleasures every visit!!”

JULES CHAMBERLAIN, RED DOOR REALTY


#9 – Studio East Food + Drink

6021 CUNARD STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  D ∙ ASIAN FUSION RESTAURANT

Photo by Alexander Henden

Studio East Food + Drink is the Asian fusion restaurant that Halifax was waiting for. Located in the up-and-coming foodie haven of Halifax’s West End, it’s filled with personality and quickly made a name for itself as a comfortable, full-service dining experience after appearing on the scene in 2015. Every visit promises mouth-watering flavours and funky tiki-style cocktails.

“Between the Chicken Crisps, Pad Thai Chicken Wings and Calamari Pakora, Studio East creates flavours unlike any other in the city (and those are just appetizers!)”

JOSH RANKIN, LIFE OF BURGERS


#10 – GIO

1725 MARKET STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$$  L/D ∙ HOTEL RESTAURANT

Gio is an ultra-sleek, upscale dining destination housed inside the Prince George Hotel in downtown Halifax. Gio thrives by pairing impeccable service with a menu that’s innovative, but not overly trendy. Finishing touches like fresh interior design and high-end glassware make the entire experience feel polished. While it is the perfect special occasion restaurant, it’s also approachable enough to work into your regular dining repertoire.

“Gio is my go-to for anything celebratory or special, it’s very hard to find service or attention to detail at that level elsewhere.”

LAURA OAKLEY, FOOD WRITER


#11 – The Brooklyn Warehouse

2795 WINDSOR STREET, HALIFAX
$$-$$$  L/D ∙ RESTAURANT

One of the first upscale restaurants to open in the West End more than a decade ago, The Brooklyn Warehouse continues to shine in its residential part of town. The chill vibe, super local menu inspired by the seasons, and open-minded attitude have kept this neighbourhood haunt top of mind for locals. The Brooklyn Warehouse remains a go-to experience for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the food, wine, cider, and beer of Nova Scotia.

“A top 3 lunch destination and farm-to-table icon, the Brooklyn Warehouse is an institution that deserves your love and attention.”


#12 – Mappatura Bistro

5883 SPRING GARDEN ROAD, HALIFAX
$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Photo by Phototype

You’ll find Mappatura Bistro on the quiet end of Spring Garden Road, near the Public Gardens. The interior is a cozy atrium with eye-catching floors and eclectic design touches, and it offers a comfortable warmth — the perfect match for the hearty and familiar Italian food it specializes in. Be sure to experience the thoughtful aperitivo and digestivo programs, along with their selection of food-friendly wines which add to a well-rounded Italian bistro experience.

“This is always my #1 recommendation for pasta, brunch, and fresh, local seafood. It might just be my favourite restaurant in Halifax!”

LINDSAY NELSON, EAT THIS TOWN


#13 – Little Oak

1475 LOWER WATER STREET, HALIFAX
$$  D ∙ BAR & RESTAURANT

Photo by Jessica Emin

Little Oak is a sleek and tiny restaurant-bar nestled away in Bishop’s Landing on the Halifax waterfront. It boasts a small chalkboard menu that continually offers a changing selection of about six small plates, complemented by cheese, charcuterie, and snack-sized options. Flavour and creativity from chef Joe MacLellan match wonderfully with the skills of Little Oak’s general manager and sommelier, Nicole Raufeisen, who’s impeccable choices and knowledge take this concept to a higher plane.

“Their excellent selection of wine by the glass and creative menu give Little Oak that winning combo.”

KAYLA SHORT, SHORT PRESENTS


#14 – Chives

1537 BARRINGTON STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT

Photo by Michael Stack

A long-standing fine dining institution in Halifax, Chives was re-energized in 2018 after completing an interior renovation. Close to 18 years of serving some of the best, locally-sourced, seasonally inspired food in the city hasn’t slowed down the team, who continue to find new ways to impress. As one of the founding restaurants in the local food scene, Chives has continued to innovate. And, where else in Halifax can you dine in a historic bank vault?

“Chives is fantastic for an intimate, heart-warming meal with friends; gourmet Canadian food in a warm and casual atmosphere.”

MICHELLE DOUCETTE, EAST COAST FOOD STORIES


#15 – Highwayman

1673 BARRINGTON STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  D ∙ BAR & RESTAURANT

Photo by Hannah Smith

Highwayman popped up on Barrington Street in 2016, filling an unknown void in downtown with its no-reservations policy, moody, romantic interior, and Spanish-inspired social dining strategy. Whether you’re looking to sample the raw bar, carousel of pintxos, or dig into their larger dishes, everything is designed to be shared, enjoyed, and conversational. The cocktail and wine programs are some of the best in the city — helping Highwayman to achieve a casual sophistication in food, drink, and vibe.

“Amazingly crafted cocktails, to pair with pintxos, tapas, and more. It can be a completely different and satisfying culinary adventure every time you enter their door.”

ARTHUR GAUDREAU, HALIFAX RETALES


#16 – Field Guide

2076 GOTTINGEN STREET, HALIFAX 
$-$$  D ∙ BAR & RESTAURANT

Photo by Kate Tower

Field Guide is now a staple in Halifax’s North End, as one of the first cocktail bars with a chalkboard menu to pop up in the city, more than six years ago. Launched by young entrepreneurial duo Ceilidh Sutherland and chef Dan Vorstermans, Field Guide made sure to keep on a stellar lead bartender who keeps up their seasonally-inspired, ultra-creative bar program. An ever-changing menu of well-executed small plates, cheese, and charcuterie ensures both food and drink are in hand.

“When I’m craving something creative, I head to Field Guide for bold cocktails, unique small plates and a lively atmosphere.”

MICHELLE DOUCETTE, EAST COAST FOOD STORIES


#17 – Lincoln Street Food

200 LINCOLN STREET, LUNENBURG 
$$$-$$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT

A true market-to-table restaurant, Lincoln Street Food lives on the main drag in historic downtown Lunenburg. A seasonal operation, chef-owner Paolo Colbertaldo is in the kitchen every night serving up seasonal dishes inspired by finds from the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market. The menu has a healthy and sustainable feel, always with thoughtful vegetarian and vegan options  — a very much needed addition to this touristy downtown that can be heavy on the fish and chips.

“A thoughtful menu focused on fresh seafood and local produce. It’s a dinner destination worth making the trek out to Lunenburg for. Just make sure you reserve a table.”

ALEXANDER HENDEN, CURATED FOOD & DRINK MAGAZINE


#18 – Ristorante A Mano

1477 LOWER WATER STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  L/D ∙ ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Photo by Phototype

Ristorante A Mano is a comfortable, classic Italian trattoria on the Halifax Waterfront. The robust all-day menu covers everything from antipasti to fresh pasta to hand-tossed thin-crust pizzas made in their specialty oven. The house-made gelato and other delectable desserts are a must-try. 


#19 – Primal Kitchen + Bar

1463 BRENTON STREET, HALIFAX
$$-$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT

Primal Kitchen continues to tap into Halifax’s meat-loving crowd, specializing in ample, primal cuts expertly prepared to showcase flavour. With a husband and wife duo behind all things culinary (he’s the chef, and she handles pastry) you can be sure care and skill go into everything served.


#20 – EFENDY TURKISH & MEDITERRANEAN GRILL

1569 DRESDEN ROW, HALIFAX
$$-$$$  L/D ∙ TURKISH RESTAURANT

The only Turkish restaurant on the 25 Best list, Efendy serves hearty, authentic fare at reasonable prices in the Spring Garden Road neighbourhood. An unassuming lunch menu offers a variety of kebab and wrap combinations affordable enough to be an everyday affair. Check out the mixed mezze plate.


#21 – The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

1662 BARRINGTON STREET, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$$  L/D ∙ STEAKHOUSE & OYSTER BAR

Duck in on a Friday after work for oysters and bubbles and stay for live piano music and an enormous piece of beef. At The Barrington, classic steakhouse options are plentiful (Chateaubriand, Porter House, Tenderloin); however, so are the alternatives — featuring seafood, chicken, and a handful of vegetarian takes.


#22 – Black Sheep

1569 DRESDEN ROW, HALIFAX 
$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ RESTAURANT & BAR

Black Sheep lives in a quiet location just off Spring Garden Road. Earning its reputation initially as a go-to for brunch seven days a week, it has fully evolved into a destination for dinner too, featuring internationally inspired dishes offered as small plates and full meals. Try the cocktails.


#23 – La Frasca Cibi & Vini

5650 SPRING GARDEN ROAD, HALIFAX 
$$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Inspired by the Friuli region of Italy, La Frasca is a stronghold on the liveliest part of Spring Garden Road. With a menu offering a large selection of pasta, risotto, pizza, and hefty mains, there’s something for everyone — and a pleasantly long list of wines by the glass.


#24 – Stories Fine Dining

5650 SPRING GARDEN ROAD, HALIFAX 
$$$-$$$  BR/L/D ∙ ITALIAN RESTAURANT

You will find Stories inside the historic hotel, The Halliburton. Self-dubbed, “casual fine-dining,” it is a long-standing go-to for special occasions. The somehow all-encompassing six-item entrée selection typically showcases several different proteins, always with game meat or another out-of-the-ordinary item to grab your attention.


#25 – Eliot & Vine

2305 CLIFTON STREET, HALIFAX 
$$$  D ∙ RESTAURANT & WINEBAR

Eliot & Vine is a stylish restaurant in Halifax’s West End with a heavy European influence. A well thought, selective menu boasts impressive entrees (like their 28-hour sous vide lamb shank). For a more intimate experience ask to be seated in the Frolic Room, where the walls are covered in dreamy murals.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

ANTOJO TACOS + TEQUILA (HALIFAX)
BEACH PEA KITCHEN + BAR (LUNENBURG)
LE BISTRO BY LIZ (HALIFAX)
2 DOORS DOWN (HALIFAX)
THE CARLETON (HALIFAX)


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