2016 Update: Considering this post has consistently been my most viewed for the past two years, it’s time for an update. Like all cities, some of my favourite St. John’s restaurants have shuttered, some spots I don’t like anymore, and some of my favourites-to-be are just opening their doors.
Enjoy the delicious amendments.
I’ve lived away from St. John’s almost four years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a list of tried and true eateries warming my heart and filling my belly every time I visit home. Despite its small size and population, St. John’s has a thriving culinary scene; from old school fish and chips, to award winning high-end dining, the city boasts an impressive variety of establishments that will feed your heart and soul to satisfy even the most snooty foodie from the mainland.
Here are in no particular order, are my favourite spots to have a feed in St. John’s.
Piatto is the best pizza place in town. I wrote a review on the Halifax location for Eat In Eat Out magazine years ago, and all the praise I gave is even more deserved for their original St. John’s location! The atmosphere of this VPN certified restaurant is great, the service awesome, and the Napolitano style pizzas, salads, and desserts are enough to make me drool just writing this.
Since I first wrote this, Piatto has become a doughful empire, with locations in Moncton, Charlottetown, a seasonal summer location in Cavendish, P.E.I. and another brand new location in St.John’s.
Must Try: The Salvatore with roasted red peppers and caramelized onions is my favourite. Meat lovers will drool over the Siciliani, and the Pacchi di Prosciutto antipasti is to die for.
377 Duckworth Street, (709) 726-0909, piattopizzeria.com
The Bagel Cafe
I might get some flack for this selection (people either love or hate this place) but their bagel sandwiches keep me coming back to this quirky spot on Water Street: It is the go-to for me and the girls for lunch catch-ups! The Bagel Cafe is great the morning after a night George Street, or for a lunch with a friend. The coffee is overpriced, the service is below mediocre, and the decor is beyond eclectic and over the top, but oh, the everything bagel sandwiches and french fries are drool worthy!
Must Try: The Canadian Chicken with breaded chicken, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, AND cream cheese is my fave at this spot.
246 Duckworth Street, (709) 739-4470, thebagelcafe.ca
*Note: avoid this place for dinner, it’s meh, breakfast/brunch only!
The Adelaide Oyster House
This place is packed to the gills every day, partly because it’s so damn good, but also because it’s one of a kind in St.John’s. The music is loud, the crowd is fun and this is the go-to place for oysters, tacos and small plates in the city.
Read about my very first experience at the oyster house here.
Must Try: The menu changes on the regular, but you’ll always want to have oysters that come from all over the country and the world.
334 Water Street, (709) 722-7222, theadelaideoyster.ca
Okay, I admit I’m biased when it comes to this restaurant —I worked there for years — but it seriously has some of the best food in the city and after working there for ages, I still want to eat there on the regular. Located in a beautiful 3-story heritage building, this restaurant is as comfortable as it is delicious. The service is great, the booze flows, and the menu is an amazing combination of comfort food, Newfoundland favourites, and high end dishes. Get Stuffed never disappoints.
Must Try: EVERYTHING, but in reality the Cheese n’ Doo, Brie Bundles and the Stuffed Pork are not to be missed.
190 Duckworth Street, (709) 757-2480
Eating in the main room of Raymond’s is as breathtaking as the food is unforgettable with its majestic view of St. John’s harbour. Chef Jeremy Charles is a force to be reckoned with, with an innovative elevation of Newfoundland cuisine. This place is quickly becoming known around the world as one of the best (It’s been continuously was voted number 1 in Canada by Vacay.ca for three years). I have also eaten many times in the equally stunning and slightly more casual bar area and believe me, the food is just as tasty.
Must Try: Anything to do with seafood is recommended, but there isn’t much on this menu that isn’t delicious; do the tasting menu if you have the time and money.
95 Water Street, (709) 579-5800, raymondsrestaurant.com
The Merchant Tavern
Since writing the original post, the Jeremys of Raymond’s have established another restaurant cornerstone with a more casual atmosphere but equally delicious food.
You can read all about my brunch there this past winter here.
Must Try: For brunch, you just have to get the Eggs Benedict, and for dinner, just about anything, but the Ricotta Cavatelli with Newfoundland Lamb gets my vote.
291 Water Street, (709) 722-5050, themerchanttavern.ca
Fixed Coffee & Bakery
Fixed is a great spot in downtown St.John’s for a coffee, a sandwich, and a chat. This place opened right before I moved away from the city four years ago, and I am so happy to have watched it grow and remain one of my favourite must-spots every time I go home. They now have another location on Harvey Road and other pop-ups in the city; they also host pop-up restaurants from their downtown location featuring fare from pho to tacos.
The sunny disposition of the establishment and the owners is refreshing, and the food is local, seasonal, and fresh. From soups to sandwiches to fish tacos, this places serves up the goods.
Must Try: The menu changes frequently depending on what’s fresh and local. One of my favourites is the Prosciutto Bagel Sandwich with fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade. Their lattes are awesome.
183 Duckworth Street, (709) 576-7797, fixedcoffee.com
Situated in a 18th-century cottage in Quidi Vidi, this restaurant is as popular and authetic as as you can get in St. John’s. Chef Todd Perrin is all about the Newfoundland ingredients and experience; from annual seal suppers to weekly lobster boils in the summer and Sunday afternoon kitchen parties this place is loved by locals and mainlanders alike.
Read all about my brunch experience at Mallard Cottage here (yes, another brunch review).
Must Try: The dessert table at brunch takes the cake at Mallard Cottage with a large selection of homemade goodies for one low price.
8 Barrows Road, (709) 237-7314, mallardcottage.ca
Ches’s Fish & Chips
This is a classic St. John’s establishment. Open for over 75 years now Ches’s Fish & Chips serves up some of the most delicious Fi & Chi (that’s Fish & Chips for you mainlanders) in the city. There are several locations in St. John’s and across the province, but the original is on Freshwater.
Must Try: The Two Piece Fi & Chi, with dressing and gravy on your fries (trust me). This is also my go to for Chicken Fingers and Chips. That batter is tried and true; you could batter an iPhone with Ches’ and I would munch down happily.
9 Freshwater Road, (709) 726-2373, chessfishandchips.ca
Sprouted from a small pop-up of a vegetarian restaurant, this restaurant now stands on it’s own in the downtown area. From falafel to kebab, this place nails Middle Eastern flavours. The menu for this place has expanded since I first reviewed it a couple years ago right after it opened, but the shawarma is still tops in my books.
Read about my delicious visit to Mohammed Ali’s here.
Must Try: The falafel is so freaking delicious here I can’t even explain; perfectly crispy on the outside, savoury on the inside, I could have eaten two orders by myself.
177 Duckworth Street, (709) 754-8313, mohamed-ali.ca
To those no longer with us…
Aqua Kitchen & Bar
Mark McCrowe closed the doors to all his restaurants this past fall to the surprise and sadness of many. I loved both Aqua and the Club (I wrote a review in 2013) and am keeping this note here as a post-mortem honourable mention.
One of two restaurants owned by Chef Mark McCrowe, Aqua Kitchen & Bar serves up eclectic dishes made from local and seasonal ingredients; this place is always a sure bet for delicious twists on classic Newfoundland and international fare. I love the atmosphere of this place, it’s cool yet comfortable with sleek furniture and funky artwork. Aqua is great for lunch, dinner, and they have a great selection of small plates for a snack and a cocktail.
Must Try: My favourite is the Southern Fried Chicken with Lobster Mac n’ Cheese, or snack on the delicious Fish Tacos with avocado lime cream and pico de gallo.