Where I Eat: The Best Restaurants in St. John’s, Newfoundland ￼
My love affair with St. John’s restaurants is no secret, in fact, I’ll scream it to anyone who will listen (I’m even writing a book about the history of restaurants across Canada). And, as the restaurant critic for The Telegram and one of the only restaurant bloggers here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I get regular DMs, emails and queries asking one thing:
What are the best restaurants in St. John’s?
This is a complicated question because there are two types of “best” restaurants. There are the St. John’s restaurants that make all the top 10 lists, and then there are the ones that I frequent on a regular basis, that I turn to when I want a great sandwich, a bowl of Hakka Chow Mein or good scallop ceviche.
One thing certainly isn’t complicated about the best restaurants in St. John’s — the city has a phenomenal food scene — and not just “for its size” as I have previously rhapsodized. We have a great dining scene, period. From a surprisingly large South-East Asian scene to higher-end eateries with nationwide notoriety, it’s a scene I am so very proud to write about.
I wrote my first best restaurants in St. John’s list in 2014 (and another in 2018), but so much has changed in the dining landscape in the past 8 years. A tumble in the oil and gas industry and a global pandemic, not to mention shifting sentiments in the workplace atmosphere and workers’ rights have all managed to change the dining scene here drastically.
While some fantastic restaurants like Raymond’s and Seto have closed (You can read the obituaries I wrote for my favourite restaurants on The Independent here), other favourites reopened after extended closures (I’m looking at you Basho and Classic Cafe), and some new fantastic restaurants have appeared (notably, Portage launched by Raymond’s alumni and Top Chef Canada winner Chef Ross Larkin and his wife Chef Celeste Mah, who’s the best pastry chef in Canada).
So here, in no particular order, is a compilation of my favourite places to eat, drink and eat some more. Here are the best restaurants in St. John’s.
Terre Restaurant & Cafe
Terre Restaurant & Cafe has come into its own since it opened in the ALT Hotel in 2019 and frankly, is the best dining experience in the city. The kitchen puts a spotlight on local ingredients with international influence with dishes like Grilled NL Quail with Tzatziki, Halibut filet with Maitake and sandwort and Sea Urchin dip with housemade chips.
What I always order: The menu changes so frequently that I don’t have a favourite dish, but I recommend you “let the kitchen cook for you.”
Gingergrass Thai & Vietnamese Restaurant
Gingergrass Thai & Vietnamese Restaurant is the only spot in town where you can get a punchy Green Curry, a steaming bowl of Beef Pho and some great Crab Rangoon. Constantly busy, constantly delicious.
What I always order: Northern Thai Curry Noodle Bowl
The Merchant Tavern
While their sister restaurant, world-acclaimed Raymond’s, has gone silent The Merchant Tavern roars as one of the best restaurants in St. John’s. Great pasta, seafood and an epic Smashburger draw back the regulars while the intriguing tasting menu and impressive wine list keep things exciting for returning diners.
What I always order: The Beef Tartare
RJ Pinoy Yum
As the city’s first Filipino restaurant, it sent savoury shockwaves through St. John’s and now the bright yellow and red dining room at RJ Pinoy Yum is filled with loyal regulars dining on Pork Siopao, Chicken Java Yum Rice and Pansit Noodles.
What I always order: The Chicken Wonton Nachos are the sleeper hit of the city
The Adelaide Oyster House
While the bivalves are what get people in the door, it’s the cocktails, tacos and fun vibes that bring people back to The Adelaide Oyster House again and again. For almost a decade I’ve kept coming back for the Kobe Beef Lettuce Wraps and El Caminos.
What I always order: Whatever ceviche is on the menu; currently it’s a Scallop Aguachile Verde with avocado, jalapeno and charred corn.
Indian Pizza House
Pizza joints are a dime a dozen in this city, truly. And with an increasing number of Indian restaurants making, it harder than ever to choose where to get your butter chicken, it makes no wonder that for me, I turn to Indian Pizza House. But not necessarily for the pizza — their Hakka dishes and Indian curries are go-to takeout options for me.
What I always order: Hakka Chow Mein
There’s no shock this mammoth trendsetter is on the list. Mallard Cottage helped put St. John’s on the bucket list of many culinary travelers and has a special place in my heart for its cozy vibes and fantastic wine service. Their sister restaurant (which is also a butcher shop, specialty grocery store and bakery) Waterwest Kitchen and Meats is fantastic for a morning coffee or aperitivo.
What I always order: The Corn-fried Cod Tongues with Mallard Aioli.
Chef Tak Ishiwata opened Basho after learning some tricks from NYC’s Nobu and has been serving up some of the best maki rolls and sushi in St. John’s — in addition to the best steak frites— for more than a decade.
What I always order: The Prosciutto and Melon Sushi Roll with parmesan, balsamic and basil infusion (sounds odd I know, but trust me)
Piatto Pizzeria + Enoteca
With two locations in St. John’s, Piatto is the only VPN-certified pizza joint with fantastic Neapolitan-style pizzas, great Italian wine and cocktails. As of late, they have some delicious handmade pasta too, like Aglio Olio and spaghetti with meatballs.
What I always order: The Stephanie pizza is a city-wide icon, but I go for the Dolce e Fumoso, a white pizza with smoked mozzarella, crispy prosciutto and drizzled with honey.
The Nook & Cannery
Cheers to the new kid on the block! While Chef Amy Anthony is no newbie in the kitchens of St. John’s, her own venture fits well into my list of best St. John’s restaurants — The Nook & Cannery only opened last year but their giant noodle bowls, gorgeous salads, chicken wings and Hawt Messy fries with housemade kimchi, roasted sesame seaweed bits and spicy aioli keep me coming back.
What I always order: The Nook Burger (sometimes black bean, sometimes beef) is a go-to for me.
I won’t lie, had it not been for the last visit to this place, Chinched might not have made the list. After a couple of average meals, I just wasn’t excited about it. Then I had the Squid with Ham Broth and it set me straight! This Bates Hill deli/bistro pumps out their housemade charcuterie like spruce tip mortadella during the day and in the evening serves an ever-changing meat-heavy menu with massive charcuterie boards and their famous Potato-Wrapped Cod.
What I always order: The Crispy Pig Ears (particularly with a cocktail at their famous Happy Hour)
My favourite coffee shop in the city that serves up great espresso drinks and fantastic doughnuts, danishes, morning buns and breakfast sandwiches (my go-to is the Mac Combo on a bun). Toslow also showcases small plates, natural wines and cocktails in the evenings.
What I always order: The Everything Bagel Danish is my favourite, followed by the Spinach Dip Danish, followed by whatever danish is on offer.
Johnny & Mae’s
The Johnny & Mae’s food truck empire has slowly won my heart. First at their inaugural location with their almost-over-the-top burgers piled high with Doritos, onion rings and poutine, then with their third location located in The Wharf at Quidi Vidi with the Red Curry Brisket Birria Tacos.
What I always order: Saucy Chicken Fingers with fries and Texas toast
Do I still have to disclose that I worked here a decade ago? Either way, the regulars keep coming back repeatedly for Get Stuffed’s elevated comfort food, and I’m still very here for the Caesar Salad, hashbrown Casserole and the Brie Bundles.
What I always order: A side of Cheese’n’Doo
3 Sisters Vietnamese Subs
This Water Street Bahn Mi spot is another new-ish addition to the best restaurants in St. John’s, but I’ve become a regular at 3 Sisters Vietnamese Subs, slurping down bubble teas, munching on tofu salad rolls and demolishing countless Vietnamese sandwiches.
What I always order: The Sirloin Sate Beef Bahn Mi