Tag Archives: restaurants

10 Best Comfort Food Spots from ‘You Gotta Eat Here!’

Do you ever get jealous of John Catucci? I mean, I certainly do; traipsing around North America, diving into unique and tasty food, and getting all of those tried-and-true recipes to boot? You’re a lucky man, Catucci!

Here are 10 You Gotta Eat Here! restaurants from coast-to-coast that are even more delicious when it’s cold outside and you’re looking for some down-home comfort food.

2 Doors Down (Halifax, NS) 
Good ol’ comfort food with a little refinement is something everyone can appreciate, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at this popular joint in downtown Halifax. The classic cheeseburger is quality through and through with a house-made “processed” cheese slice, tangy pickles and a big, juicy patty sandwiched between a pillowy sesame seed bun. Then there’s the more unique interpretations of popular classics like a Korean-inspired gnocchi, and mac ‘n cheese that’s loaded up with kale, roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts, oh, and lots of cheese, too!

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2 Doors Down

Calabash Bistro (Vancouver, BC) 
Caribbean spices like nutmeg and cinnamon are coupled with the heat from spicy scotch bonnet peppers, resulting in a residual heat that may overwhelm your taste buds at first — but will settle down to a gentle warming that will make you feel cozy and satisfied. The oxtail stew with fried coconut dumplings, or classic the Jamaican meat patties are good examples of the comfort food fare you can find at Vancouver’s premier Caribbean eatery.

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Calabash Bistro

EE Burritos (Saskatoon, SK)
It’s no secret that it gets cold in Saskatchewan starting mid November — like bone-chilling, wear-a-snowsuit-to-work sort of cold. So why not shake off the snow and warm up at this lively Latino eatery, with a big bowl of pozole soup or the beef flauta (think jumbo-sized taquito), or maybe a side of refried beans for good measure.

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EE Burritos

Murray Street Kitchen (Ottawa, ON)
This nose-to-tail spot in the country’s capital is known for its meat-heavy menu, house-made charcuterie and bold, cozy flavours. More adventurous eaters can find comfort in a plate of braised ox tongue with cheese curd creamed corn, while Murray’s ode to Newfoundland, “Dan’s Beef” — a mix of cured, smoked and braised beef shank, cabbage and veggies, with bone marrow “buttered” garlic toast — would be just right for, well, just about anyone.

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Murray Street Kitchen

Naina’s (Calgary, AB)
A go-to restaurant in Calgary for grilled cheese sandwiches, poutine and Naina’s famous stuffed burgers, it should come as no surprise that the comfort level of these plates of food are off the charts. Order up a big burger topped with pulled pork, barbecue sauce and mozzarella cheese to see what all the cool kids have been raving about.

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Naina’s

Rock Lobster (Toronto, ON)
As the name implies, lobster is the name of the game at Matt Dean Preddit’s duo of restaurants in Toronto. As satisfying as lobster rolls are, they’re more of a warm-weather sort of meal, so stick to the rich and creamy dishes like the lobster cheese dip, lobster mac ‘n cheese or lobster poutine. Too much lobster, you say? I say, there’s no such thing.

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Rock Lobster

Saint John Ale House (Saint John, NB)
There’s a double whammy of Food Network Canada show history here as you’ll find one of Top Chef Canada’s most charismatic and bubbly chefs, Jesse Vergen running the kitchen. Being a family man, Vergen makes sure there’s plenty to choose from for kids, like chicken fingers (with local chicken meat, no pre-packaged frozen strips here) or grilled cheese, while adults can look forward to things like warm rock crab and cream cheese dip, pork sausages with mashed potatoes, braised cabbage and more.

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Saint John Ale House

Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque (Windsor, ON)
Pulled pork sandwiches, smoky, fall-off-the-bone smoked ribs and cornbread are just a few of the Southern-style dishes you can sink your teeth into at this family-friendly joint. Swing by midday any weekday for some Southern-inspired lunch with such fare as smoked meatloaf, waffle fries, collard greens and their specialty, the pulled pork sundae.

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Smoke and Spice Southern Barbeque

The Tallest Poppy (Winnipeg, MB)
Since appearing on season one of You Gotta Eat Here!, The Tallest Poppy has relocated to a bigger and better space at the front of the Sherbrook Inn in Winnipeg. The cozy comfort food remains the same though, with big bowls of homemade matzo ball and chicken soup, bison meatloaf and other large plates of goodness that are ready and waiting to warm you up on a chilly night.

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The Tallest Poppy

Topanga Cafe (Vancouver, BC)
Some Mexican food, like tacos and tostadas, doesn’t always have the same charm on a chilly day as they do when you’re soaking up some sun and sipping on a cold beer. So stick with this restaurant’s more comforting dishes like burritos, enchiladas, black bean soup and tamales. A friend told me that their chocolate cake, baked fresh every day, is to die for. Chocolate is comfort 365 days a year, right?

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Topanga Cafe

10 Fast Casual Restaurants You Need to Try in Canada

Describing an establishment as “upscale, fast and casual” doesn’t make the most sense. So, let’s think of this list as fast food joints that go the extra mile in terms of cooking from scratch and making a conscious effort to source quality ingredients. Yes, my friends, the fast casual movement is growing stronger in Canada with each passing week.

Here are 10 great places in Canada that can have you in and out in no time, while getting you still get your money’s worth with a delicious meal.

Ace Burger (Halifax, NS)

Ask anyone on the east coast and they’ll tell you that the fast food giants have certainly got nothing on Halifax’s leading quick service burger spot. Find beauty in their simplicity with Ace’s classic burger and the bacon cheeseburger, or kick convention to the curb and bite into a jerk chicken burger in a cornflake batter with coconut-chili mayo. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

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Banh Mi Boys

Banh Mi Boys (Toronto, ON)

Get your Asian food fix quick, fast and furious-style at this popular sandwich-focused shop with two locations in downtown Toronto. Naturally, there are the standard banh mi fillings like pork and chicken, but go out of the box and be pleasantly surprised with options like lemongrass tofu or an order of kimchi fries.

Go Fish Ocean Emporium (Vancouver, BC)

Head to this food stand to bite into some of the best crispy fish and chips this west coast city has to offer. With sustainability in mind, everything on the menu is fresh and caught with a conscious, which is something we should all appreciate.

Indochine (Halifax, NS)

In a similar vein as Banh Mi Boys and Watercress Express (see below), Indochine harnesses those robust Southeast Asian flavours in a variety of dishes, from noodle bowls and pho to fusion tacos, serving them all up in a quick-service environment. Once your meal is ready to go, head over to the Halifax Public Gardens to soak up the last few days of summer while you enjoy the tasty food.

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Mandy’s via Instagram

Mandy’s (Montreal, QC)

Quebec’s food mecca is well known for its love affair with foie gras, maple syrup and really, anything rich in general, but I think we all know we shouldn’t be eating (generalizing here) poutine, foie gras and smoked meat every day of the week.

Mandy’s is the popular salad bar staple of Montreal, a complete juxtaposition to the formerly mentioned, with a long list of greens-packed, to-go dishes like the Waldorf or smoked meat salad with “slaw” dressing. All right, so maybe the smoked meat is harder to escape than I thought.

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Tacofino via Instagram

Tacofino (Tofino, BC)

There are a few different Tacofino joints in Canada, which you can find in Tofino, Victoria and Vancouver, but nothing beats the one spot that started it all a few years back in one of the most western points of Canada. Technically a food truck, the business is more or less stationary and the menu is pleasantly simple. Freshly caught seafood, chicken or beef, served (mainly) in tacos or burritos.

Tractor Foods (Vancouver, BC)

Skip the subpar salad bar at your local grocer and pay Tractor a visit for all your fresh, vegetable-driven needs. With a long line-up of freshly made salads as colourful as the rainbow, you can have your pick between big bowls of quinoa and roasted mushrooms with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, orzo and feta, and a whole lot more. Fresh produce is arguably the main event here, but carnivores can still be appeased with chicken and steak salads, or sandwich options like roasted pork with apple and fennel slaw.

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Tres Carnales 

Tres Carnales (Edmonton, AB)

One of the original restaurants in Canada to embrace the contemporary taco trend — and also a You Gotta Eat Here! alumnus — Tres Carnales has won numerous accolades, both local and national, when it comes to their taco-making skills. Many people opt to sit down for a quick bite during lunch or dinner, but it’s just as easy to order a well-made Mexican meal to go.

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Took Tuk Thai

Tuk Tuk Thai (Calgary, AB)

Ordering pad Thai at a Thai restaurant is like ordering chicken fried rice when you’re getting Chinese takeout; a staple, but hardly anything ground breaking. Even though this come-and-go eatery on Calgary’s bustling 17th Avenue offers the famous dish, there’s so much more to enjoy on the menu here like the Moo Moo Lemon (barbecued pork shoulder in a chili lime dressing) or fried basa with eggplant. It’s going to be getting cooler soon, so grab a bowl of their beautifully aromatic tom yum soup to go.

One of the many highlights of dining at Tuk Tuk is the actual containers that your food comes in. Remove the sticker on top of the circular take-out box and it unfolds like a flower. Very cool!

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Watercress Express

Watercress Express (Calgary, AB)

Watercressexpress We are blessed to have so many Vietnamese restaurants across our beautiful country. True pho fanatics are always on the lookout for a bowl of noodles and broth, and I’d urge them all to try the sate pho here at Watercress. With a young, formally trained chef running the kitchen, this restaurant serves up everything that is to be expected of a traditional Vietnamese establishment, but with extreme attention to detail. Try a bowl of soup and a side order of the crispy fried wontons and you’ll see what I mean.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

8 Must-Try Poutineries From Coast to Coast

A Canadian classic, poutine is always at the top of our comfort food list. And although there are tons of casual chains offering up plates of cheesy, gravy-soaked fries, here are 8 eateries that add a bit more pizzazz to this iconic dish.

Below Deck Tavern (Calgary, AB) – Good Ol’ Fashioned Poutine
For East Coasters looking for a little taste of home in Western Canada, this is the spot to be. Revel in deliciousness with dishes such as deep-fried pepperoni and cottage pie. But for something a little extra special, opt for Below Deck’s spin on a poutine. They season skinny fries with old bay seasoning and top with the regular curds and gravy. Add on some donair meat while you’re at it.

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Caplansky’s (Toronto, ON) – Smoked Meat Poutine
Food Network Canada personality, Zane Caplansky, has built a big brand for himself in Toronto creating a successful delicatessen-style business. Try his version of the poutine, chock full of quality, kosher smoked meat.

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La Banquise 24th (Montreal, QC) – Hot Dog Poutine
Open 24 hours for all your post-bar, drunken food cravings, this popular spot for poutine in the heart of poutine land — Montreal — serves up more variations on this theme than you can imagine. Naturally, after a hard night out, you’re not always thinking, so skip the brain work and just go for the hot dog option. I mean, who’s counting calories at 3 am?

La Pataterie Hulloise (Gatineau, QC)
Most Ottawans will tell you that if you’re really interested in finding a great poutine, then you need to take a short drive over the river from Ottawa to Gatineau. This no frills spot keeps their offerings simple because sometimes, you just don’t need to mess with a good thing.

Peasant Cookery (Winnipeg, MB)
There’s something nice and homey about this restaurant in the exchange district of downtown Winnipeg. The menu is all about good ol’ home cooked food, but taken up a notch. Crispy fries are topped with curds from a local producer, Bothwell Cheese and a bacon gravy. We’ll order two please.

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The Reef (Vancouver, BC) – Jerk Chicken Poutine
I guarantee that you’ve never had Caribbean jerk in this application before. Sure, the cheese curds and fries are pretty average, but the pulled chicken in this dish is great and the gravy is sweet and spicy with hints of cinnamon. Out of every dish on this list, this bastardization (if you will) of poutine is one of the most interesting.

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Schryer’s Smoked BBQ Shack (Saskatoon, SK) – Smoked Mozza Poutine
I’m still a little shocked there’s not a poutine-inspired perogy dish in my hometown (maybe there is and I’m just out of the loop) and even more shocked that a good poutine is still hard to come by in Saskatoon, but thankfully this top notch barbecue joint is saving the day. If you’ve never had smoked mozzarella, you haven’t lived. Add this gooey delicacy into a poutine equation and you’ve got something really worth forking into.

Willy’s Fresh Cut (Halifax, NS)
Like I mentioned earlier with Below Deck Tavern, donair meat in a poutine is an East Coast favourite and Willy’s can definitely verify that fact. If donair meat isn’t your cup of tea, try Willy’s stuffing poutine, or one with a big helping of pulled pork on top.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

12 Great BBQ Joints in Canada

There isn’t a time of year where a good plate of barbecue doesn’t feel right. Here are a few spots to hit up across Canada where you can find authentic Southern-style barbecue and some smoky, finger-lickin’ good meals.

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Brisket Burnt Ends (left) and Pecan Pie (right) from Barque Smokehouse

Barque Smokehouse (Toronto, ON)

There’s a lot to love about Barque — from their lively yet family-friendly atmosphere and wide array of Southern-inspired dishes that aren’t afraid to step outside the box (try the Cuban corn, that’s grilled and finished with feta and lime). The Sunday night dinners offer up an abundance of barbecued goods perfect for sharing with friends. And their brunch? Well, who could say no to Barque’s spin on eggs benny with cornbread, barbecue hollandaise and beef brisket?

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John Catucci Visits Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse on an Episode of You Gotta Eat Here!

Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse (Calgary, AB)

A Calgary favourite (and You Gotta Eat Here! alum owned), this barbecue spot now has two locations, as well as a stand at the Calgary Farmers’ Market. You can buy all sorts of Big T’s smoked meats like sausages and bacon or, in my opinion, one of the best breakfast sandwiches in the city, topped with brisket, homemade barbecue sauce and all the fixings.

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Burnt End Poutine from Boneheads BBQ

Boneheads BBQ (Halifax, NS)

What do you mean there’s no lobster on the menu? This is Halifax! Some may scream East Coast blasphemy, but I’m sure if we stuffed some pulled chicken or bacon-wrapped jalapeno peppers in their mouths, there wouldn’t be much complaining. Save some room for dessert here, as the lemon lime icebox pie will call out to you like the sirens to Odysseus.

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Pile of Ribs via Bookers Barbecue + Crab Shack

Bookers Barbecue + Crab Shack (Calgary, AB)

Bookers’ fairly extensive menu goes well beyond the sandwich or smoked meat platters, covering everything from appetizers (like deep-fried pickles!) to crab and shrimp boils, and jambalaya. Any Calgarian will tell you that Sunday night is the best day of the week to visit Bookers, where you can opt for either all-you-can-eat crab or ribs.

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Electric Mud via BlogTO

Electric Mud (Toronto, ON)

Sister restaurant to the taco-centric Grand Electric, Mud is all about embracing Southern cuisine and having a little fun with it. Shrimp and grits, pork ribs and smoked sausage links make for a perfectly meaty start here, but don’t forget to order a side of pickled green tomatoes and charred broccoli salad with red eye gravy for something a little less conventional.

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Kitchen Sink Spud from Hogtown Smoke 

Hogtown Smoke (Toronto, ON)

With a bricks and mortar location on Queen Street East, as well as a food truck by the same name roaming the streets, chances are you’ve stumbled by Hogtown more than once this summer. While the food truck can only offer so much on the menu, look to the restaurant to get a more intense barbecue fix with dishes like the Jack Daniels pulled pork grilled cheese, brisket and pulled pork chili and gigantic beef ribs.

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Pig Out Platter from Hogtown Smoke

Le Boucan Smokehouse (Montreal, QC)

If you find yourself in Montreal and craving some smoked meat (not the deli kind that the city is famous for) and whisky, then Le Boucan should be on your dining agenda. Expect to be served fairly traditional barbecue in a hipster-chic environment, with a nice selection of whiskies and bourbons to choose from.

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Lovey’s BBQ via Bake Eat and Grow/Wordpress

Lovey’s BBQ (Winnipeg, MB)

Head to Lovey’s for a casual meal or grab some barbecue to take home for the family. The smoked chicken wings, brisket, pulled pork, farmer’s sausage and “burnt ends” (essentially the really crispy bits found on the edges of a well-smoked brisket), are all available by the pound to go.

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Meat via Eating is the Hard Part

Meat (Edmonton, AB)

Located just off of the busy strip that is Whyte Avenue, this slightly upscale meat-centric restaurant (if the name didn’t tip you off) serves up those big, smoky flavours of the south in a slick-looking room. No matter what you decide to eat, make sure to slather it in their house-made sauces, and wrap your meal up with one of Meat’s popular Bourbon Banana Splits.

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Memphis Blue Barbeque House via Sean’s Adventures in Flavor Town/Wordpress

Memphis Blues Barbeque House (Kelowna, BC)

Okanagan wineries may steal the limelight in this area of the country, but downtown Kelowna has got some gems too. Just a few blocks from the water, you’ll find this busy establishment serving up their take on Southern barbecue with big, messy brisket and pulled pork sandwiches with sides of pit beans. Grab some food to go and enjoy the sunshine on the beach — but remember to bring some napkins with you!

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Re-Up BBQ via Sean’s Adventures in Flavor Town/Wordpress

Re-Up BBQ (New Westminster, BC)

Originally a food cart in downtown Vancouver, Re-up BBQ made quite the name for itself before relocating and upgrading to a food counter/commissary outside of the city centre. Pop by for a big bucket of fried chicken, some Southern sweet tea, house-made cola (say, what?) and much more.

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Schryer’s Smoked BBQ Shack vua Facebook

Schryer’s Smoked BBQ Shack (Saskatoon, SK)

You’ll have to drive through the North industrial area of the city to enjoy these barbecued goods, but once you arrive, you’ll see it was worth the journey. Find anything to fit your appetite here, from pulled pork to smoked chicken and everything in-between, including their signature Schryer’s Fries that are topped with smoked meat, barbecue sauce and slaw.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

12 Farm-to-Table Restaurants Celebrating Canadian Cuisine

This Canada Day we should be celebrating the restaurants highlighting the fresh and local ingredients surrounding them. A hyper-local menu (very similar to local food and is in many ways the same thing) will taste differently on the west coast of Canada compared to the heart of the prairies, but our vast and diverse landscape is what makes this country so great.

Here are 12 must-try restaurants from coast to coast that do right by the farm-to-table approach and serve some pretty tasty food, too.

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Chives Bistro: Crab Cakes

Chives Canadian Bistro (Halifax, NS)

One of the institutions of the Halifax dining scene, Chives Bistro and owner Craig Flinn have always stayed true to the “work with what’s around you” mentality when it comes to their menu. Naturally, you’ll find some fresh East Coast lobster being offered here, but also a ton of local produce, Nova Scotia cheeses and more.

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Fable Kitchen

Fable Kitchen (Vancouver, BC)

With a name like “Fable” that merges the words “Farm” and “Table” into one, you’d better hope that the restaurant places an emphasis on knowing where their ingredients come from. Top Chef Canada’s Trevor Bird and his kitchen team work with a long list of B.C. producers onshore and offshore, receiving whole halves of beef or lamb and butchering them down in-house. Getting a side of the signature house-made bacon is a must when you’re popping by for brunch on the weekend!

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Farmhouse Tavern

Farmhouse Tavern (Toronto, ON)

When it comes to a meal here, diners looks to a chalkboard with an ever-changing list of options that go along with the season. In terms of libations to enjoy with the hyper-local menu, expect local craft beers and a nice list of VQA wines from the Niagara area.

Fusion Grill (Winnipeg, MB)

Though the name may not really imply it, Fusion Grill’s thought process with food is “local, local, local,” through and through. On the menu you’ll find Manitoba grass-fed beef (a protein that is not overly common in the city), pike, bison and even a variety of cold-pressed canolas used in various dishes that are specific to the Manitoba region.

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Fusion Grill

Langdon Hall (Cambridge, ON)

Hyper local has never looked quite as beautiful as (if you don’t believe me, check out his Instagram right this second: @langdonhallchef) the food coming out of Langdon Hall’s kitchen. If you’re looking to splurge a bit on local, foraged and good quality cuisine, then head to the proper restaurant, but those looking for something a little more casual then Wilks’ Bar on the same property, which has the same mentality but with more approachable fare.

Mallard Cottage (St. John’s NFLD)

Top Chef Canada season one alumnus Todd Perrin embodies Newfoundland cuisine in an old character cottage that (through much blood, sweat and tears) was transformed into a restaurant just outside the heart of St. John’s.
Like Farmhouse Tavern, the menu is ever-changing, but don’t be surprised to see uniquely Newfoundland ingredients like seal or salt beef popping up on the menu. To stay up-to-date with what Perrin is cooking up, check out his Instagram: @mallardcottagechef.

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Mission Hill: Halibut

Mission Hill Winery (Kelowna, BC)

In terms of location, the Okanagan offers one of the best growing seasons in Canada, which also means having access to locally grown produce almost all year round is sort of like a chef’s dream come true. Aside from working closely with a long list of Okanagan producers, the winery restaurant chef Chris Stewart also cares for the large on-site garden that has everything from herbs to peach trees and huckleberries (say, what?). All of these things will end up on the menu at Mission Hill in some shape or form.

It’s also pretty tough to beat the view while dining on the terrace here, especially when the sun begins to set and a light breeze comes up from Lake Okanagan.

Prairie Harvest Cafe (Saskatoon, SK)

I’ve mentioned this cozy Saskatchewan restaurant before because of their great weekend brunch, but one of the main reasons why most Saskatoonians (myself included) love Prairie Harvest is because they work closely with the city’s farmers’ markets to use local products like beef, pork, lake fish like trout and more.

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River Cafe: Fiddlehead Soup

RGE RD (Edmonton, AB)

The name of the restaurant itself is an ode to the country roads (range roads) that you can find in the Prairie Provinces; roads that cross over hundreds of kilometres of farmers’ fields. As it implies, RGE is all about using the best ingredients Alberta has to offer on the plate and showing you how tasty the province can be.

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River Cafe: Octopus Salad

River Cafe (Calgary, AB)

One of the first restaurants in Western Canada to embrace a “local” mentality and definitely the first in Calgary, River Cafe has been a staple of the dining scene since the 1990s. Being around for that long, you’d think the restaurant might have a hard time keeping up with what’s new and trendy, but the food remains as contemporary as ever, and the restaurant continues to be rated as one of the best establishments in the city for years.

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Rouge: Tartare 

Rouge (Calgary, AB)

Much like River Cafe, Rouge has long been a leader in the sustainable sourcing food movement in Calgary. A great sourcing ethic paired with one of the largest and most lush backyard gardens in the prairies means you’ve got a culinary experience worth trying. In the summertime, sit on the restaurant’s back patio while you watch Chef Jamie Harling and his kitchen staff pop in and out of the heritage home, picking greens and small vegetables to garnish plates with. Garden-to-table — it really doesn’t get fresher than that.

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The Wolf in the Fog

The Wolf in the Fog (Tofino, BC)

When you’re only a few hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean, it would be a real shame if you didn’t opt for using the beautiful (and sustainable) bounty that’s underneath the waves. The Wolf in the Fog, enRoute’s best new restaurant in Canada for 2014, is big on utilizing local oysters, more meaty underwater delicacies like Humboldt squid, as well as foraged mushrooms from the many forests that surround the beautiful little coastal town that is Tofino.

Dan-Clapson-Avatar Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.

Canada’s Most Creative Burgers from You Gotta Eat Here!

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When you eat as many burgers as I do, you become thankful for the creativity and ingenuity of chefs across Canada.

Canadian restaurants are busy flipping the classic burger on its head. From coast to coast to coast, they take the art of burger making to the next level. As the host of You Gotta Eat Here!, my taste buds are consistently spoiled. How many people can say they’ve been able to sample everything from mac and cheese to chicken balls, chili to oysters and sausage to soft shell crab on top of their burgers? And that’s just a small sampling of the mouth-watering menu options I’ve encountered.

Take a mouth-watering trip through You Gotta Eat Here! burgers from season one and two. Select ‘Caption’ to see burger description. Click on image to get the recipe.

In Season Three we were treated to The Outlandish Oyster Burger at Mile One Eating House in Pemberton, BC. This burger is the best of BC on a bun. Chef Randy Jones takes three big, ocean-fresh oysters and breads them in panko before pan frying them and finishing them off in the oven. Once they’re hot and golden, the oysters are loaded onto a fluffy potato bun smeared with smoky, creamy chipotle mayo and topped with crispy bacon, fresh tomato and lettuce.

The Surf and Turf Burger special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON, is the owner Steve Allen’s tribute to his hometown of Cape Breton, NS. In order to make his signature beef patties, he starts with ground beef and adds hoisin, soy sauce, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha, eggs and diced onions. To build the burger, he spreads house made tartar sauce on a bun, then places the patty down and adds a generous helping of sweet cabbage before finishing with the deep fried lobster tail. For presentation, a beer-battered lobster claw is skewered on top.

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The Surf and Turf Burger Special at Little Louie’s Burger Joint & Soupery in Cambridge, ON

What makes an exceptionally good burger? It’s all about flavour and texture. And it can even be done without the meat. I ate a vegan burger at Boon Burger in Winnipeg — Canada’s first all-vegan burger joint — that was unforgettable.

Shooting for Season Three, I worked with one chef who outdid himself in the number of burger toppings. Erv Salvador at Lucy’s East Side Diner, Vancouver, BC, does an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink hamburger creation that features four, 5 oz. hamburger patties, each covered in melted thick-sliced Canadian cheddar and topped with crisp bacon, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. A thick, crispy onion ring is balanced on top of the mushrooms and the center is filled with homemade chili and topped with a fried egg.

Finally, the chef adds a butterflied smoked sausage and a handful of ultra thin and crisp deep fried onions. The list of tasty treats we sampled goes on, whether it’s the nachos-inspired, The Rebel, at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON or the Country Road Pizza Burger at St. Joachim Diner in Belle River, ON.

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The Rebel Burger at Burger Revolution in Belleville, ON

We live in a massive, diverse country, full of endless possibilities for travel and long road trips. It’s nice to know that you can eat a burger at practically every step of the way and feel like you’re eating something different each time you sit down for a meal. Keep up that kitchen creativity, Canada.

This is an abridged version of a blog post that originally appeared in The Huffington Post Canada. To read John Catucci’s full post go here

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