The Culinary Quest
Search & Savour: Make the Lake Huron shoreline the target of your culinary quest. Gastro gems from the Lake and fertile farmland are prepared with creativity, care and flair. Savour the flavours created by local chefs and brewers who bring their unique vision to meals and beverages produced locally. Be sure to share your discoveries on TripAdvisor, a “like” on Facebook or a food porn image with tag on Instagram.
by Lynda Hillman-Raphley
Local chefs bring their unique vision to their menus and independently owned restaurants.
We asked a few local chefs about what inspired them to get into the culinary business, what are their favourite meals, ingredients and kitchen tools they couldn’t do without, their favourite cooking shows and cookbooks and put it all together for you here as inspiration to become a Taste Explorer.
JAMES EDDINGTON – Eddington’s of Exeter
527 Main St. S., Exeter
James Eddington attributes his restaurant’s success to creating consistently flavourful and creative meals using the best of Huron County’s bounty. James knew he wanted to be a chef at a very young age. At just 15 years old, he began working in a restaurant, admiring the cooking creativity and passion that went into making happy diners.
As a global traveller taking and hosting culinary tours, James finds great value in sharing the same passion with other chefs. Focusing on local, regional cuisine has been a constant theme. Although the local food movement is starting to take off, it has always been the driving force in Eddington’s kitchen. A menu that seasonally changes inspires patrons to taste the delicacies our region offers.
He recommends that everyone dining at Eddington’s experience Chef Patrick’s White Squirrel Cheesecake. Not to worry, there’s no squirrel in the cheesecake! It’s named for Exeter’s famous and unique white squirrels.
As for his own favourite dish to make or eat, James is open to anything seasonal. “Anything grown, foraged, farmed or caught locally. Nothing beats the simplicity of a fresh-picked fruit or a late harvest vegetable pulled from the soil.”
The four ingredients necessary in his kitchen are teamwork, dedication, passion and respect. The three kitchen tools he could not work without are a knife, fire and fresh water.
When travelling, James seeks out local, regional cuisine to enjoy a “taste of place,” he says. What would the last meal be? He smiles and answers, “Seconds and thirds!”
James’ favourite cookbooks are Greta Podleski (Yum & Yummer) or any classic French Cook Books. When it comes to a favourite cooking show or celebrity chef, he has no preference.
Eddington’s of Exeter is a unique experience. “We have a personal relationship with our growers and farmers – we work very hard and source the finest ingredients to serve safe and professional “ultra-local cuisine.” Eddington’s is proud to be “truly, farm to table.” James and his team commercially farm 15 acres of rotation crop. The farm boasts 25 varieties of fruits and vegetables served at the restaurant, including exotic apples, plums, quince, kiwis and even Blood Peaches, fresh gardens greens, winter root vegetables, herbs and fresh seasonal berries.
The restaurant offers farm-to-table cuisine and is located in the original Carling Homestead farmhouse (built in the 1870s).
- 3 lbs of Bacon, finely chopped
- 4 large of Onions, fine diced
- 1 1/2 cups of Brown Sugar
- 1 1/2 cups of Water
- 2 cups of Coffee
- 1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar
- In a medium sized pot, render bacon down until 75% cooked. Strain off fat and return to pot.
- Add onions and continue cooking until onions are translucent.
- Add remaining ingredients and simmer until you obtain a thick, jam like consistency.
Pickled Red Onions
- 2 cups of Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup of Red Wine
- 1 cup of Sugar
- 4 large of Red Onions, sliced
- Prepare your onions and place in a heat safe container.
- In a pot combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Once boiled, pour over onions and let sit until cooled.
MIKE GRAVELLE - Midori Sushi
19 Eighty-One Crescent St., Grand Bend
Mike Gravelle, Sous Chef at Midori Sushi, is known as a funny guy, and that helps when you are one of a team in a bustling restaurant kitchen. “Who are you calling chef?” he quips, but then quickly affirms, “I like good sushi. So, I do the best I can to make food I like. And also, I was spending way too much money on it during my university years. I had to figure something out!”
Right-hand-man to chef-owner Tina Hayter, Mike says his favourite part of being a sushi chef is research and development. Previous restaurants provided him with valuable experience. Mike insists if there is one training principle he follows, it is “Omakase”. The word omakase translates as 'I’ll leave it up to you’, a commonly used word in Japanese restaurants where the customer leaves it to the chef to select and serve seasonal specialities. “Leave it up to me. Just ask.”
One of Mike’s favourites he loves to make is Drunk Noodle (the story goes drunk people try to quench their thirst with these noodles), a spicy tuna, or “any veggie dish my better half makes.”
Three ingredients necessary in Mike’s kitchen are rice, fish sauce and vegetables. A knife, cutting board and alligator food dicer are must-have tools.
When travelling, Mike seeks out “tasty but inexpensive” locations.
Asked to name his favourite cooking show or celebrity chef and why, Mike says, “I think Anthony Bourdain was pretty neat.” Mike says he doesn’t know about Bourdain’s cooking, “but for everything else, those things I appreciated.”
And if you need a reason to visit Midori Sushi, Mike says, “how about because it is delicious. Midori is delightful fusion-type sushi in the nicest backyard I’ve ever played in. Come check it out.”
Midori Sushi is located in the extensively renovated Grand Bend Public School #8 built in 1874.
Sweet Thai Chili Edamame
- 10 oz frozen edamame pods
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus extra to taste if desired)
- 1-2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion to garnish (totally optional!)
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small pot or saucepan.
- Add frozen edamame and cook for 4-5 minutes or until tender.
- Next, add sesame oil to the pot, switching the heat to medium. If the pot is crazy hot, give it a moment to cool to prevent burning the garlic.
- Add your garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Then add the sweet chili sauce followed by your edamame pods, salt and sesame seeds. Toss or stir to coat. If desired, you can garnish the dish with sliced green onion.
- Transfer to a bowl and enjoy while they're hot!
BRITTANY ISCHE – Lizzy's Country Cafe and Catering
109 Main St., Thedford
From dishwasher to chef, Britt has followed a natural progression in the food industry. “My first job as a dishwasher at a local golf course introduced me to the food industry. I was inspired by watching my peers prepare food and also by my parents and their love of food,” she says.
From tasting to eating to preparing food for others, Britt loves everything about the food creation process and is keen on the idea that others enjoy a meal she has prepared.
Her mentor is also the owner and boss, Liz Buzzell. “My relationship with the owner of Lizzy’s Country Café and Catering is amazing. Liz has been a huge mentor and has always encouraged me to explore with food.”
Britt says her favourite menu item is the chicken cordon bleu dinner, served with rice pilaf or garlic mashed and a medley of vegetables. She also delights in her homemade soups. Chef of today’s modern world, Britt searches social media, such as Pinterest, for promising new recipes. Her favourite cooking show “is probably ‘Below Deck’, the cooks put different items together to create different tastes – that inspires the creative in me.”
The four top ingredients Britt has handy are garlic, onions, butter, salt/pepper, and says she cannot work without her cutting board, knives and food processor.
When travelling, Britt seeks out Italian fare, and if she had to select a last meal, it would be pizza!
She takes pleasure in the fact that all the meals at Lizzy’s Country Cafe are homemade and prepared with much passion and that your experience will be that of “warm country charm, fun and friendly, home-cooked meals. Where passion meets food!”
Lizzy’s Country Café and Catering also provides take-out and frozen ready-to-heat and serve meals for home.
Chicken with Cheese and Mushroom Cream Sauce
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/3 cup & 3 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 cups sliced, fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 4 slices Muenster cheese
- Salt & Pepper
- Parsley for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350-degrees fahrenheit and lightly grease a glass baking dish.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper and toss in flour. Shake off excess flour.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of butter, add chicken and brown on both sides. Place in baking dish.
- Add remaining butter to skillet and add the mushrooms, sauteé until browned.
- Stir in remaining flour and cook for one minute. Whisk in chicken broth and cream. Simmer until mixture thickens.
- Pour mushroom sauce over chicken and top with cheese.
- Cover dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and broil until cheese is golden and bubbly.
- Garnish with parsley and serve.
LANH PHAM – Hessenland Inn
72981 Bluewater Hwy., St. Joseph
Lanh Pham has always worked in a kitchen, even as a teenager. He loves serving delicious food and giving people an opportunity to experience new foods.
“At age 15, I enjoyed my time in the kitchen more than I enjoyed school. I was mostly self-inspired; I grew up always eating the same meals, and working in a kitchen allows you to make and try new things.” Today, Lanh is living his dream to be in a busy kitchen as sous chef to Frank Ihrig, chef and co-owner with wife Liz of Hessenland Inn.
He credits his first job as his compass that gave direction to his future. “Head chef Wade took lots of time to teach me and showed everyone new methods of doing things. He was very calm and instructive even on the busiest nights,” recalls Lanh.
At Hessenland, Lanh declares, “all our food is delicious and well-executed,” but he has a soft spot for their featured desserts and recommends guests not leave without trying something! “It is always seasonally inspired, out of the box, creative, and delicious.” Similarly, he does not have a specific dish as a favourite to make but really enjoys making desserts and pastries.
Lahn’s must-have ingredients are salt, sugar, flour and water. Tools they cannot work without are positivity, passion and knowledge.
When travelling, Lanh seeks formal and unique restaurants and says there are too many foods and meal choices to select just one last meal.
Lanh’s favourite cookbook is Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz and he likes celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay because he is “entertaining, serious, and passionate.”
Hessenland Inn is “warm and inviting”, says Lanh. “Our German heritage will always be a part of the menu, in addition to local and seasonally inspired fare. Hessenland is a hidden gem in Huron County,” he says, “Guten Appetit / Enjoy your meal!”
Deconstructed Citrus Tart
Short Bread Crust
- 40g butter
- 25g sugar
- 45g all purpose flour
- vanilla extract
- In a bowl, mix together butter and vanilla until creamy.
- Add sugar and mix until well combined.
- Slowly fold in to the flour. Shape the dough into a log shape and wrap it in cling wrap. Place in fridge for one hour.
- After an hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- Cut dough into slices that are approximately 0.5cm thick and place on a baking sheet spaced 2cm apart.
- Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool.
- 4 egg yolks
- 270g sugar
- 280ml water
- 60g butter
- 70ml lemon juice
- 38g cornstarch
1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a bowl.
2. Place water in a pan and stir in the cornstarch sugar mixture. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved.
3. Slowly heat the water mixture stirring continuously until mixture comes to a simmer and begins to thicken, approximately 10 minutes.
4. Take off the heat, add lemon juice and temper the cornstarch with the egg yolks.
ERRYN SHEPHARD - F.I.N.E. A Restaurant
42 Ontario St. S., Grand Bend
“We will look after you.” It is as simple as that for Erryn Shephard, chef and owner of F.I.N.E A Restaurant. “You can never tell where your life will take you,” says Erryn, as she recounts she began working at the very popular Flears Bakery on Grand Bend’s strip when she was just 13 years old and has never looked back.
Erryn says she just kind of fell into the role of chef. It was never something she set her mind to, “it just happened over time.” She loves the action-packed days in the kitchen and how every day is different. With the help of her talented team, including chef Ben Sandwith, she operates a successful, fine-tuned restaurant.
It was her employers at the Little Inn in Bayfield who sealed, or should we say ‘red sealed’, her fate. When they told Erryn about the Culinary Apprenticeship Program at Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, it was the inspiration she needed. The three-year program teaches apprentices skills through a mix of lectures, demos, practicals, and hands-on rotations in various venues and outlets on the hotel’s property. From not knowing what she wanted for her future, her apprenticeship at Greenbrier became the foundation of Erryn’s culinary future and love of cooking.
Some gastronomic favourites at F.I.N.E., for customers and Erryn, are the Crab Crostinis and, of course, the breadsticks. For herself, Erryn confirms, “it has to be the pot roast.”
Erryn’s kitchen favours shallots, garlic, bay leaf and beef jus as key ingredients. Favourite tools of the trade include a must-have serrated knife, melon baller and a special French spatula her whole team loves.
When travelling, Erryn loves to sample fine dining restaurants. It’s here, she says she can “pick up ideas to tweak for my own customers at home.”
Favourite celebrity chef is Jamie Oliver. Erryn says “he is fresh and on it” and also loves his cookbooks, as well as The Silver Palate Cookbook and the Greenbrier Hotel.
For 17 years, F.I.N.E. A Restaurant has been one of the area’s finest dining establishments, but it’s also a place Erryn likes her guests to feel at home. “It is cozy and comfortable, and the food is fresh and local. We will look after you,” she says, adding, “leave your problems at the door and let us take care of you.”
PAT CHURCH – Widder Station Golf, Grill & Tap House
8395 Decker Rd., Thedford
Executive Chef Pat Church has always had a passion for food. “When we create something from nothing to something extraordinary and people love our creation,” that passion “is explainable; it just is,” he says.
Pat apprenticed under the sixth-ranked chef in the world, Chef Dave Ryan, Captain of Team Canada’s National Culinary Team (Dave Ryan is the holder of an Olympic Culinary Grand Gold medal, the highest recognition in world national culinary competition).
“I wanted to be him, and he showed me the love of food and taught me everything I know,” says Pat.
When dining at Widder Station, Pat encourages “everyone to try the WonTon Nachos and Steak Bites.” His favourite meals to cook include any kind of seafood or beef. Garlic, onions, cilantro, and fresh basil are essential ingredients in his kitchen, and top tools include knives, mixers and food processors.
When travelling, Pat seeks out farm-to-table restaurants. He laughing boasts his favourite cookbook is “the one I’m in! Only in Saskatchewan: Recipes and Stories from the Province’s Best-Loved Eateries.” Pat hails from Western Canada.
He says, “Widder is the Canadian Yellowstone! It reminds me of home in Alberta! I invite everyone to come here and taste what we’ve been creating,” at this Golf, Grill and Tap House in Thedford.
Under Pat’s culinary leadership, Widder Station restaurants (The Tap House and Widder Flats) “cook 100% from scratch. Our own cuts of meat, house-made sauces and more!”
Pat’s favourite celebrity chef is Chef Ramsey, “because he can pull anything out of you, and makes you love and appreciate your food.”
LEEANN POWERS - Completely Rooted
135 Ontario St. S., Grand Bend
Completely Rooted is a take-out food service and preparation area located within the same building as The Lake Hound, offering delicious vegan, raw vegan, gluten-free food using local and organic ingredients. Running this health-focused operation is chef and owner LeeAnn Powers.
LeeAnn’s inspiration for moving away from traditional foods to menus of vegan, raw and gluten-free offerings was “realizing how great I could feel, and noticing the difference in my own endurance and recovery when I was training for marathons.”
On a trip to New York City with her daughter in 2011, LeeAnn was inspired by her “first raw vegan dining experience. That was the main inspiration and drive to bring delicious plant-based, gluten-free food to our community. I want other people to experience how good they can feel” simply by changing what they eat. “That’s what I love about being a chef,” she says, “making beautiful and delicious food that makes people feel good.” She also loves working with like-minded and high energy teammates.
LeeAnn’s cooking progression started with Aunt Gussie’s Country Dining, which many area visitors will remember as a popular family-friendly restaurant. On her return from New York City, LeeAnn spent the next few years experimenting with ingredients and gaining feedback on various recipes from the community. “Aside from playing around in my own kitchen,” says LeeAnn, “I would say I took great inspiration from working with raw vegan chefs during training in Ecuador, Martha’s Vineyard and Costa Rica.”
Her must-have healthy, take-out menu items include Raw Vegan Lasagna and Carrot Zucchini Muffins, and she loves to make nutty tacos and smoothie bowls.
In LeeAnn’s kitchen, you will always find cashews, greens, legumes, ginger and turmeric and her favourite kitchen tools are a dehydrator, Vitamix and food processor.
When travelling, LeeAnn looks for vegan restaurants, with plant-based and gluten-free offerings, with raw vegan being her favourite. As the last meal, she says she would want Raw Vegan Lasagna with a Julius (vegan caesar).
Curry Goji Berry Relish
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 red pepper
- 2 dates, pitted & soaked to soften
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup goji berries
- 2 TBSP EVOO
- 1 TBSP orange zest
- 2 tsp curry powder
- Pinch of salt
Mix in a Food Processor - will be chunky.
PATRICK POWERS - The Lake Hound
135 Ontario St. S., Grand Bend
There was never really an Ah-Ha moment for Patrick Powers, owner and long-time chef of The Lake Hound, or even a conscious decision to become a chef. Patrick says he simply “had the good fortune of working with a diverse group of successful restaurateurs. As I developed my skills in the industry, it became apparent this was the life for me. The opportunity to experience new challenges, implement ideas and work with the motley assortment of loveable nuts that restaurants generally attract.”
“I think the greatest lesson I ever learned was to take pride in my team and my restaurant, and I learned that working for John Zizzo and Don Hughs in Waterloo back in the late 1980s.”
“Some excellent reasons to come to The Lake Hound have to be the burgers,” says Patrick, and he personally really enjoys the bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños.
As for a favourite dish, Patrick says he likes to create features like curried vegetables and rice these days.
Indispensable ingredients in Patrick’s kitchen include bacon, potatoes, curry and garlic. Tools always at hand include a French knife, grill and tongs.
When travelling, Patrick seeks out restaurants that make great Mexican or Korean meals. Although as a last meal, he affirms it would have to be a hamburger from the Harmony Lunch restaurant in Waterloo, which served up meals for 90 years.
If he is looking for a good recipe, Patrick says he can “always find it on Google”. His favourite celebrity chef is Anthony Bourdain, and his favourite cookbook is Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.
While the Power’s much-loved Aunt Gussie’s Country Dining restaurant was retired four years ago to morph into an updated and brand refreshed restaurant for today’s diners, Patrick maintains, “The Lake Hound is still the kind of restaurant that meat-eaters and vegans will enjoy.”
Opened in 2020, Whitecaps River Shack (Grand Bend) is nestled beside the harbour on River Road, offering sunset views with locally-sourced freshwater fish and other favourites like ice cream treats. Scoring one of the outdoor deck-dining tables at The Growling Gator (Grand Bend) promises a perfect sunset and people-watching spot to accompany your meal. The Gator’s group- and family-pleasing food and beverage menu will ensure everyone finds something they like. We recommend the dinner-size salads, tasty pasta and huge Pina Coladas.
Across the street, Willie’s Beach Bar and The Tipsy Pelican are not to be outdone. Willie’s, a beach bar and restaurant boasts a patio space doubled in size when full-glass, roll-up garage doors are opened to lake breezes. Along with updated twists on traditional favourites, like Cheese Louise Grilled Cheese platter and Havana Hottie Pulled Pork, with bacon, pickles and cheese on sourdough bread, enjoy creative sand pail drinks. Likewise, The Tipsy Pelican offers creative and modern food and drink offerings in a delightful curated vintage setting. Begin with Mushrooms on Toast or Crab Cakes, followed by a Beet Salad, Butternut Squash Ravioli and a Cheesecake Doughnut accompanied by a Love Buzz!
The deck space of The Hub On The Docks stretches the length of the restaurant and provides a balance of marina views and tree-shaded tables at which to enjoy their famous “funked-up” fries – try poutine or Rippin’ Ranch. Summertime favourites and fresh Lake Huron White Fish and Yellow Perch pair easily with local brewery offerings.
One of our favourite views is from Dave’s Pub & Grill (Oakwood Resort, Grand Bend), which offers a serene golf course view adorned with a water feature. Seated inside or on the deck, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, the ambience is sure to contribute to menu favourites like flat bread pizzas, slow and low braised pot roast on house-made Yorkshire pudding with pan drippings or any of the burger, pasta and appetizer staples.
Golf course and water feature views are also enjoyed at the White Squirrel Golf Club’s huge patio and restaurant. Their seasonal menu will not disappoint, while pub classics and old favourites are always available. Start with the charcuterie board to share before moving on to braised beef short ribs or a health conscious protein bowl. Widder Station Golf, Grill & Tap House, as the name suggests, has multiple food and beverage offerings to enjoy from a raised, extended and renovated open air Tap House and patio. Along with Widder’s own Train Wreck brew, sample 17 other local beers and ciders and feast on their famous locally-raised 100% beef burger.
Originally built in 1907, the Beach Street Station (Goderich) is a converted CPR train station relocated to Lake Huron’s shoreline. Sip a “Man About Town” signature cocktail and snack on pomme frites dusted with truffle salt, parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, all while gazing out to the lake from the deck.
A couple of years ago, Aunt Gussie’s Country Diner morphed into The Lake Hound and Completely Rooted (Grand Bend), the newest incarnation of a five-decade, family business legacy. The Lake Hound offers an updated take on family dining, providing traditional favourites alongside vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. Breakfast served daily to noon. Meanwhile, Completely Rooted offers farm-to-table, organic healthy-eating options to the restaurant and for take-out. From fresh organic vegetables to trail mix muffins, power bowls, cheesy kale chips, chocolate banana cashew cheesecake and almond oat hemp energy bites, you can order and pick up enough healthy meal options for the week.
For more than 145 years, The Albion Hotel (Bayfield) has hosted travelers for food, drink and rest and even, some say, a resident ghost. Here, a “taste of the country” features local Cedar Villa Black Angus beef, think 10oz steak smothered in sautéed mushrooms and onions, or perhaps the “Hipster Bowl” is more to your taste with health conscious steamed broccoli and spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, jackfruit, crispy chick peas and other assorted veggies topped with home-made tahini. Enjoy outside dining on one of two patios or inside at the bar and dining room.
Converted 1878 grist and wool mills form part of Benmiller Inn & Spa’s (Benmiller/Goderich) scenic property where The Ivey Dining Room, winner of CAA’s Four Diamonds Award, offers Sunday Brunch year-round. At dinner try Moroccan Lamb Tagine or Beef Wellington.
Located in a renovated 1920s hotel, the Ipperwash Beach Club (Ipperwash) boasts 125 ice cream flavours to complement their extensive menu of starters, salads, burgers, wraps and dinner entrées. Their patio is a mere stone’s throw to the beach.
F.I.N.E. offers patio and indoor dining where you can tempt yourself with roasted cremini mushrooms, crisp parsnips and cambozola cheese over a bed of arugula, move along to a lamb Bolognese, and finish the taste bud extravaganza with ginger crème brulé.
Eddington’s owner, James Eddington, is not just Chef - he’s also tour guide. James has hosted several culinary tours to Tuscany, France and Ireland. While Exeter, Ontario may not offer the same je ne sais quoi, Eddington’s menu still delights with echoes of first-class European cuisine. Try fresh Atlantic salmon with seared jumbo prawns, gnocchi and seasonal greens tossed in saffron butter sauce and finish with White Squirrel cheesecake.
A stay at the lake is not complete without a meal at one of these two fine yet casual dining hotspots.
A frequent question asked of Welcome Centre staff is where to go for more than just a burger. Steps from the beach you’ll find Midori Sushi (Grand Bend) offering Japanese cooked fare and specialty sushi rolls. Our favourites include Dragon Roll made with shrimp and sweet potatoes topped with smoked salmon, and Kamikaze Roll made with salmon, crab, avocado, cucumber, red pepper and cream cheese, battered and fried and topped with sesame and sweet soy!
Hessenland Inn & Schatz Winery (St. Joseph) boasts authentic German cuisine, Mongolian Grill nights and Vineyard Dinners, as well as their own estate wine and beer. Schnitzel, beef rouladen, or house-made garlic and herb Oktoberfest sausage with a side of red cabbage goes well with Hessenland’s Helles beer or their not-too-sweet “Sisters” rosé wine. Be sure to leave room for Christa’s German cheesecake.
Simply House Grand Bend (Grand Bend) offers take-out only gourmet Chinese and Thai food. Sample Thai Cashew Chicken or Tom Yum Goong (chicken soup with lemongrass, tamarind, lime leaves and more), Thai curries and classic Chinese favourites.
Full service restaurant Exeter Thai Cuisine (Exeter) offers daily lunch and dinner specials and culinary specialties like Crispy Garlic Chilli Chicken or Mango Salmon or Green Chicken Curry with Jasmine Rice along with traditional favourites like Pad Thai (spice level to your liking).
The curry cultural crossover happens at Paddington’s Pub (Grand Bend), with British style chips served with curry sauce. Their Butter Chicken Curry is also a local’s favourite as is their extensive range of local brews.
Grog’s Pub & Grill well known for its homemade pizza dough and unique pizza flavour selections and is doubly famous for their all-you-can-eat fresh PEI mussels steamed in white wine garlic sauce, served as an entrée or appetizer.
Two iconic Canadian foods are available locally. Beavertails (Grand Bend) – the shop and the snack – are uniquely Canadian. A donut-pizza crossbreed snack resembling a beaver tail in shape, beavertails are served warm. Select from 120 toppings; popular options include Nutella, cinnamon sugar and various crushed-up candy bars and icing combos. Enjoy a beavertail with homemade ice cream.
At MacPherson’s Restaurant (Port Franks) discover freshly made butter tarts. For those not in the know, butter tarts are flaky pastry filled with buttery, sugary, maple syrupy filling – some varieties include raisins or nuts. Truly, a Canadian essential and a tiny personal-sized bit of pie heaven.
Fish & Chip aficionados have their favourites, but here are three top local options to get you started.
Paddington’s Pub (Grand Bend) offers Haddock cooked in a British style beer batter that’s light and fluffy and full of flavour. Watch for Thursday Fish & Chips deals.
But it’s Friday you say, okay head over to the White Squirrel Golf Club Restaurant (St. Joseph) and enjoy their one-piece or two-piece beer battered fish and chips.
Out of the Blue Fish & Seafood Market (Bayfield) is known for its wide variety of fish and seafood, fresh and frozen, retail and wholesale. Open year round, they offer freshly caught Perch, Pickerel, Whitefish, Lake Trout and Rainbow Trout and arguably, the best smoked fish on Ontario’s West Coast.
No fuss, no muss! Make a Wish Cakes (Exeter) creates stunning and sensational-tasting custom cakes – think Raspberry Lemonade Cake, Caramel Banana Cake and cupcakes galore!
Catering ranges from hors d’oeuvres to barbecue from Back ‘N Time Catering (Grand Bend), offering hot take-out lunch specials, frozen meal options, and BBQ ready frozen meats.
Pineridge Barbecue Co (Hensall) offers meat choices including chicken, pulled pork, and baby back pork ribs with hot or cold sides. Finish with fruit crisps or a build-your-own sundae bar.
Old-time church supper recipe book favourites, turkey, ham, beef and baked goodies are popular at Jerry Rader’s Homestyle Catering & Market (Zurich).
During the pandemic, MacPherson's Restaurant in Port Franks began offering customer favourites from MacPherson's and Grog's Pub & Grill in frozen, take-home and cook form. This great option still exists for those who'd rather sit in the backyard with a beverage than be inside cooking up a storm.
Farm-fresh foods and locally-produced specialties are plentiful throughout the region. This sampling is just a taste of what you can discover.
From the Earth, Busy Hands & Busy Bees
Family-run Bayfield Berry Farm (Bayfield) grows, processes and sells berries, vegetables and food products at the home market, bakery and café. Pick your own and buy in-season raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and saskatoons. Take home the farm’s bounty in their own homemade jams, sauces, salsas, fruit wines, ciders, wine coolers and schnapps.
Enjoy freshly baked goodies from farm-grown ingredients. Jerry Rader Homestyle Catering & Market (Zurich) also offers on-site baked goods, select from more than 26 dessert pies, loaves, muffins and cookies. To avoid disappointment, be sure to buy several packs of cookies, we love Ginger Molasses or Oatmeal Raisin.
Zehr’s Country Market (St. Joseph) offers homemade fruit pies and butter tarts, local honey and maple syrup, as well as Mennonite farm-raised meats and seasonal produce. On a busy Saturday, the pie-baking ladies produce about 350 pies; get there by 10am to get one!
Continuing with sweet, visit Ferguson Apiaries (Hensall) for fresh local honey, bee pollen (rich source of vitamins), homemade honey spreads, butters, sauces, lotions and creams, and an incredible variety of natural beeswax candles.
Fourth-generation-owned Crunican Orchards (Elginfield) grows about a dozen apple varieties to suit every taste, and sells apple cider vinegar, apple cider and much more.
Masse Fruit & Vegetables (St. Joseph) grows everbearing strawberries and sells seasonal produce. Watch Facebook for their strawberry announcements! Juicy-Fruit Orchards & Farm Market (Ipperwash) opens their summer market location right on Highway 21 offering fresh-from -the-family-farm asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, sweet corn, beans, peas, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, melons, garlic, onions, zucchini, broccoli and more. Fall is their apple season and biggest sellers include Royal Gala, Ginger Gold, Northern Spy and Ambrosia.
Home Grown & Raised Right
Since 1948, three generations of the Hayter family have raised premium quality turkeys free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics. They are the only turkey farm in Canada that raises birds and processes their products on-site. At the Hayter’s Farm retail outlet store (Dashwood) you’ll find homemade turkey kabobs, fillets, sausages, roasts, burgers and more, as well as locally grown garlic from The Garlic Box (Hensall). The Garlic Box uses only the best heirloom varietals providing a full, robust, earthy flavour that’s superior to imports. Fresh, chilled or frozen, or turned into sauces, preserves and dressings, look for The Garlic Box display in the middle of the Hayter’s Farm store.
Cedar Villa Angus Farms (Zurich) is run by a fifth and sixth generation father-and-son team. Cows and calves pasture together and are free of added hormones and steroids. Buy roasts, steaks and other beef products directly from the farm online or at local farmers’ markets.
The Whole Pig (Dashwood) is a registered CQA (Certified Quality Auditors) family-farming operation whose pigs are fed grown-on-farm ingredients. Their quality meats supply many local restaurants and are available direct to you from their farm retail store.
Buy locally-raised, in-store-made cold cuts and specialty meats from Metzger’s Meat Products (Hensall), a European-style butcher store. We’ve heard of area visitors heading home with a cooler full of meat after making Metzger’s their final stop before hitting the highway!
Williamson Farms Country Store (Forest) sells pork and beef from its own farms, maple syrup from their sugar bush and a selection of Ontario cheeses along with an extensive gift selection.
Coffee, Tea & Kombucha
Small-batch roasting and grinding key at Shopbike Coffee Roasters (Bayfield); they source organic and fair trade coffee beans; regulars like the tea and hot chocolate here too. Try sippers’ favourites Coffee Americano or a Maple Latte or a Magical Matcha Latte.
Owners of Coastal Coffee Company (Goderich) travel to family-owned coffee growers in Nicaragua, Columbia, Rwanda and Brazil to source top specialty grade beans that are small-batch roasted. The long-standing partnerships with their growers develop into friendships as well. Look for Coastal Coffee at local retailers or order online directly from their website. You could even subscribe to one of their coffee refill services!
Registered Holistic Nutritionists at Culture Shock Kombucha (Grand Bend) brew up phytonutrient, antioxidant, probiotic infused kombucha beverages using local and organic, quality ingredients, including reverse osmosis water. Sample nutritious and delicious Morning Brew Cultured Coffee and various Kombucha flavours including Pear Ginger, Cranberry-Orange, Vintage, Strawberry Basil and Root Beer Kombucha.