An American in Halifax: Exploring the City’s Dining Scene

Boston-based travel writer Paul Kandarian spent four days in Nova Scotia’s capital, absorbing its arts, history, dining and nightlife


To eat or not to eat, that is not the question in Halifax. Where not to eat, that’s the question here.

Walking around the city’s hilly streets fires up a man’s appetite, not to mention thirst, the latter easily slaked in the endless bars in this marvelous, liquor-laced city.

The sheer preponderance of wickedly good food of all culinary stripe also lurks around every historic corner, making my already sluggish decision something more of a delightful chore.

Fish and Chips for the Ages

For lunch one day, I opted for the Red Stag Tavern in the Keith Brewery, where I’d taken the tour. The tavern is glorious and fun, with tartan-wearing waitstaffers. My waiter told me Red Stag had Nova Scotia’s best fish and chips.

C’mon, laddie, I’m from Boston, you expect me to believe that, do ya now?

My bad. He was absolutely right. Thick, moist, crunchy, this was hands down the best ever. And the seafood chowder to go with it, brimming with shrimp, clams and scallops, beat anything Boston ever served me, too.

Inside the Economy Shoe Shop

What’s not to love about a place named the Economy Shoe Shop? It’s a dark, multi-leveled place with just the slightest hint of snoot in the waitstaff.

The name comes not from the place once selling shoes, but a sign the owners got from an old shoe store over on Barrington Street.

It is a place of worn plank floors, rough-hewn beamed ceilings and for some reason, trees inside, fake I’m guessing (when I say it’s dark in there, it’s dark in there) with leaves and limbs all over. Made me feel like I was camping out.

No matter, the food was pretty good, my shrimp and chicken carbonara a decent dish for 16 bucks. I sat alone by an alcove, staring at me from which was a rendering of the Mona Lisa.

Hit the Lower Deck

Wandered over to the Lower Deck on the waterfront, where you can eat upstairs or down and be glad in either place, both having their own ambience, upper being water views, lower being a classic, woody Halifax bar.

I went upstairs, had a killer burger and Alexander Keith beer, and when I got back to my car, my dessert was yet another instance of legendary Halifax friendliness: The garage attendant, noting the short time I’d been gone, waved me through without paying.

Julien’s Patisserie and Café

I checked out Hydrostone Market one day, and reveled in the offerings at Julien’s Patisserie and Café, sipping coffee outside and munching the most delectable cheese croissant I’ve ever had the pleasure of crumbing up into my lap.

Chatted up a young lady outside with a very active pooch, and where staffers inside, noting her reluctance to leave the pup alone, took her order in a shout and brought it to her on the sidewalk. Nice touch, that.

Familiar Faces

Dinner at the Wooden Monkey one night brought me face to face with the city’s wonderful connectivity; here I saw a musician, Ben Kaplan, a bearded, affable sort who I’d seen in his interpreter’s job on the Keith Brewery Tour.

I had a beer upstairs and ate communally down; the place was jammed so I took a seat with a pair of travelling friends and the resulting conversation of our life experience was most rewarding.

Oh, and the organic, macrobiotic and local food was insanely good.

Halifax’s Signature Dish

I am absolutely chagrined to say I never sampled a donair, the curious Halifax concoction that’s a variation on the traditional Greek gyro, only with beef instead of lamb and a sweet sauce (donair sauce, natch) in lieu of tzatziki.

It really does fill me with shame that I didn’t get to try a donair. But I was so stuffed from all my other dining, I just couldn’t.

I did find it most interesting that at Pizza Corner, the intersect of Blowers and Grafton, you have the European Food Shop on one corner touting “Original Donairs!” and on the other KOD – The King of Donairs.

No idea which is better but my guess is both. I’ll just have to come back for another visit to experience the delight of donairs.

If yoo hungry in Halifax, you’re just not trying hard enough, because you can’t go wrong no matter where you go.

My best advice: Chew faster. So much food, so little time.

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