There was a time when hitting the road in Newfoundland meant eating nothing but death-defying deep-fried fare like Fish’n’Chips & Fries’n’Gravy; a veritable buffet of beige for days on end. These days, things are a little less grim, and a lot more delicious and locally focussed.
Here are 5 of a growing number of rural restaurants revitalizing the vibrancy of food being served around the bay. There are plenty of others being skipped over here, like Sea Salt & Thyme in Brigus, for example, or The Twine Loft in Trinity, or Two Whales Cafe in Port Rexton.
Hell, you could do a food crawl in Bonavista at this point (Neil’s Yard, Bonavista Social Club, Boreal Diner, Saucy Mouth Food Truck, and more)
Black Spruce (Gros Morne)
Bettina Lori and partner Herbert Schumacher are originally from Switzerland. They fell in so love with Gros Morne National Park, they moved there, and opened Neddie’s Harbour Inn. For the last 7 years, the Inn’s restaurant, The Black Spruce, has been run by an award-winning chef and cookbook author, Jason Lynch. The menu boasts making everything in-house, and using local and sustainably harvested food, much of which come from a garden on the property, and the fish plant in Rocky Harbour.
Sea buckthorn panna cotta; Salt roasted beets with a citrus vinaigrette, spiced granola, and local honey; Figgy Duff with molasses and sea buckthorn ice cream; Handmade cavatelli with seasonal ingredients.
Canvas Cove Bistro (Twillingate)
The Reluctant Chef was one of the best restaurants in St. John’s history. It’s sorely missed, but its founder and one of its chefs, Tony Butt & Chef Michael Boyd, are now running this spot in Twillingate (which serves the fabulous beer made up the road at Split Rock Brewery). In their own words, they “offer an inspired take on traditional, fresh seafood and local ingredients.”
Pan-fried cod with chimi-butter and smoked turnip, pickled beets, and savoury porridge; Seal Rigatoni with fresh dill, parmesan, chopped pickle, tossed in a dijon & shallot cream sauce; Smoked capelin on a marinated kale and sunflower seed salad; “Newfoundland Ploughan’s,” which is a charcuterie board from the sea (ceviches, preserved fish, tartars, dips, etc).
Fork (Witless Bay)
Most nights, The Irish Loop Café in Witless Bay is taken over by Kayla O’Brien and Kyle Puddester’s popular spot, Fork. Prior to Fork, Puddester was a sous chef at Blue on Water, and O’Brien worked at both Portabello’s and Exile. Asking the owners of the café if they could use it at night was no harder than asking a favour of a friend – Kayla grew up working as a waitress at Irish Loop Café.
The menu here changes constantly, so they can serve whatever’s fresh and in-season and in-hand, and the food is consistently vibrant and modern. A lot of the ingredients come from Witless Bay; sometimes that even includes salt they make themselves from the sea out front.
Scallop ceviche with strawberry, jalapeno, and mint; Placentia Bay scallops with compressed watermelon, cucumber, almonds, and prosciutto; Dandelion pesto and duck breast with confit granola and wildflower honey.
Fisher’s Loft (Port Rexton)
The Fisher’s Loft is a stunning property; it feels like a commune you’d never want to leave, and an Instagrammer’s paradise. Fisher’s Loft is home to a perfect inn, conference centre, and gardening operation drawn on by its restaurant.
The menu is dictated by what’s fresh in their garden and greenhouse, whatever fish is in season and available from the local market, and whatever forageables like berries and mushrooms are ripe for the picking in the area (Port Rexton is particularly well-known for its partridgeberries). They do 4-course meals, $65 dollars a head, twice nightly (5:15 & 7:30), and serve breakfast.
Sorrel soup with black pepper crème fraîche; Panko crusted halibut with citrus rice and asparagus; Cod with roasted leeks, potato purée, and sesame brown butter;
Grate’s Cove Studios (Grate’s Cove)
A Cajun-Newfoundland fusion that, in their own words, “explores the abundance of top quality seafoods readily available, as well as the bounty of berries, mushrooms, and other wild delights that inhabit the misleadingly labeled ‘barrens.’”
Owners Terrence and Courtney Howell met while teaching in Korea; he’s from Newfoundland and she from Louisiana, hence the Cajun-Newfoundland fusion. After 4 years of working together on disaster relief in Louisiana, Post Hurricane Katrina, they fled The States for small-town Newfoundland in an old car that ran on vegetable oil, and bought an old school house in Grate’s Cove, which they converted it into a complex to house all their passions. You can sleep at Grate’s Cove Studio, check out its art gallery, or even take a cooking class here. They also offer take-out picnic boxes for folks looking to explore the area.
Seafood gumbo; Creole BBQ & ginger calamari; Dijon molasses sausage burger; Lobster pie; Snow crab etouffee.