A spontaneous kitchen party is as common in Newfoundland and Labrador as puffins and icebergs. That is to say, very. The down-to-earth folk of this far-Atlantic province with Celtic roots and lilting accents know how to have fun the old-fashioned way — and most of that centers around seafood, Screech rum, and lots of music. For your next adventure in Newfoundland and Labrador, here are The Rock’s culinary hot spots and best watering holes.
Often known as a place that focused on serving up practical dishes like root vegetables and salt cod, St. John’s is now in the midst of a culinary renaissance, driven by boundary-pushing chefs drawing on local catch, game, and traditional homegrown staples. The result? High-end comfort food that’s as surprising as it is inventive.
Dive in at Raymonds, set in a sumptuously decorated 1915 building overlooking the harbor — a chefs’ favorite. Sample meticulously curated meats, seafood, and local produce often foraged by the chef himself and spun into artful riffs on traditional standbys. Some favorites include duck with parsnips and partridge berries or moose heart tartare. The tasting menu is superb, as is the extensive wine list. Don’t miss Bacalao Restaurant’s modern twist on the classic Jiggs Dinner made up of salt beef with root veggies wrapped in a cabbage leaf. Be sure to get a seat by one of the fireplaces in this vintage home-turned restaurants adorned with local artwork.
The aroma of baking bread mingles with salty sea air as you approach Ferryland, a cheery white-and-red 1870 lighthouse perched above the sea. Enjoy a leisurely gourmet picnic on the grassy hillside looking for whales and icebergs in the distance. Everything’s from-scratch including fresh-squeezed lemonade, crab cakes, thick-sliced bread, curried chicken-with-mango sandwiches, and orange crumble squares.
The homespun fare at lovely, rustic Twine Loft Restaurant at Artisan Inn is as memorable as the deck view of picturesque Trinity, setting of “The Shipping News.” Everything on the daily menu comes from nearby: Cod from fishers, rhubarb from the garden, and wild blueberries from the hillside. Watch the chef prepare dinner — cod chowder or honey brown beer-braised lamb shank — in the open-concept kitchen, a former fishing gear storage warehouse, as the sun melts into the waters of Fisher Cove. Two dinner seatings are timed around shows at the local theater.
Traditional done right is the forté of much-acclaimed Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village, a quaint fishing hamlet on the fringe of St. John’s. Expect innovative interpretations of all things local washed down with Canadian wine. The 18th century cottage is just as special: One of North America’s oldest wooden structures, featuring dark woods and brick, homey décor such as antique oil lamps and exposed beams accented with jam-filled Mason jars. Dig into scallops with pork hock, turnip, mustard greens, and roasted fingerling potatoes. The chef posts menus daily on Instagram.
Out of the way
Getting off the beaten path is easy in Labrador, Atlantic Canada’s largest and most northern region. Fish for brook trout and salmon at wilderness fly-in Northern Lights Fishing Lodge on Shaw Lake, dining in the classic log cabin-style lodge on hearty traditional meals and Native Labrador cuisine — and on the shore on your fresh-caught Northern Pike, of course.
In Newfoundland’s Upper Amherst Cove, Bonavista Social Club is a gem. Insiders love this quaint husband-and-wife food production company and dining spot for the seasonal soup, pasta, sandwiches, and salads, wood-fired pizza, and sensational deck views of the bay, all with a nod to the rural culture. Take away picnic goodies, especially the bread, baked fresh daily. If it’s far-flung you’re after, there’s the celebrated Fogo Island Inn. Also extraordinary is Nicole’s Café, a must at this remote outpost. Enjoy the quilt and fishing regalia décor and fearless, fiercely local fare: Pickled turbot, grilled squid salad, molasses-partridge berry jam tart. Crab in the trap? The chef builds a dish around it.
Get to know St. John’s hip side at neighborhood locavore fave, Chinched Bistro. Sip creative happy hour cocktails and nibble farm-to-table tapas and artisanal cheeses with the cool crowd. Dine upstairs or toast glasses at the ground floor lounge. The fact that there’s a Charcuterie of the Month Club says it all.
Meet the Labrador locals
En route to the Torngats? Labrador’s Happy Valley is a former fur-trading hub with a lively bar scene and tiny, Irish-style Mulligan’s Pub (368 Hamilton River Rd.) is always packed. The deck is fun in summer and Mulligan’s usually hosts live music on weekends. Try the pea soup on Saturdays. If you want to meet the locals, this is your spot.
Housed in one of St. John’s oldest buildings dating back to 1725, YellowBelly Brewery & Public House is all reclaimed blond wood and exposed brick. Take a seat in the open-concept space with lots of character for pints of house craft brews — malty Fighting Irish Red and refreshing Wexford Wheat. Billed as “forward-thinking,” the food is tasty, too. Faves include Bavarian pretzels, hand-cut chips, beer-steamed mussels, and wood-fired pizza. Live entertainment is a big draw, including cabaret and trivia nights, and, George Street’s celebrated nightlife is just steps away.
Sit down with a pint or some Screech and strike up a conversation, play pool, or enjoy live music at friendly Walkham’s Gate Pub & Coffee Shop. Up on the hill by the courthouse, this is the gathering place of the windswept Bonavista Peninsula where small-town Newfoundland meets. Walkham’s also serves delicious home-cooked meals like fish and brewis (cod and hard bread), stick-to-your-bones breakfast, and old-style, big-helping desserts like coconut cream pie. If you feel the urge, stand up and dance — you won’t be alone.
Read more about visiting at the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism website.