photo above features a Pattyshack Wednesday Burger from The Combine
16 Destination Restaurants in Rural Ontario
Looking for a great road trip idea? Feeling like taking off for the day and heading to eat somewhere memorable? Well have we found some places for you! Check out these unforgettable dining experiences just waiting for you to discover in rural Ontario. You may be wondering just exactly what a destination restaurant is? Well, in our books, it’s a restaurant that makes you want to jump in to your car for a drive just to check it out. Or, a destination restaurant could be the kind of place that you organize an entire trip around. Sometimes it the special menu, or a certain atmosphere, or sometimes something you’ve heard that makes you just want to find out what everybody’s talking about. Here are 16 Ruralist approved destination restaurants that are sure to surprise and delight you when you visit.
Bistro 54, Perth – This adorable tiny 36 seat bistro is family owned and operated. Locally, Bistro 54 is legendary for its excellent Italian menu. An extensive homemade pasta menu and savoury meat menu will boggle your mind. This dining destination does not take reservations, rather has two dinner seatings: 5:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Wilno Tavern, Wilno – Nestled in the gentle hills of the Madawaska Valley, on the eastern edge of Algonquin Park, the Wilno Tavern Restaurant has been offering exceptional hospitality for over 100 years. This historic pub features hearty Polish fare, celebrating the heritage of Wilno’s early pioneer families, as well as a traditional Canadian menu. The tavern is equally famous for vibrant entertainment – Tuesday Nite Blues Jam, as well as rock, country, jazz or folk bands on weekends. The traditional Polish Food Buffet, served every Saturday and Sunday from May to October, features jumbo pierogies and cabbage rolls made in their kitchens, as well as pickled herring (sledzie), polish sausage and sauerkraut, spiced red cabbage plus much more!
The Combine, Simcoe – Owners Ryan and Jennifer have built a restaurant in their home. The Combine menu is built with local bounty and the restaurant features a handmade brick oven and lovely garden and patio. This Norfolk county favourite is a known for their ‘back yard to table’ cuisine coming right from their own garden. It’s hard to describe the charm and atmosphere in words, you just have to experience it for yourself!
The Church Restaurant and Belfry, Stratford – Enjoy a fine dining experience in a beautifully renovated church. The Church Restaurant takes great pride in the quality of the dining experience and has received the coveted Four Diamond award from AAA/CAA for the past nine years. The Chef’s approach to modern French cuisine accents subtle flavours. His creative flair and the use of finest local and international ingredients is an adventure in itself. The a la carte menu evolves seasonally taking advantage of the abundant supply of local artisan farmers produce. PLEASE NOTE: As of June 2015 The Church restaurant is under new ownership and will be closed for renovations. It is an extraordinary venue and we’re eager to hear your reviews of the new Revival House.
Thyme on 21, Goderich – Enjoy a casual dining atmosphere in a historic home in Goderich. Thyme on 21 is your destination for good food and excellent service. With a menu that is distinctly their own, Thyme on 21 presents mouth-watering steak, lobster and souffle in a way that will have you coming back for more. We love the rustic yet refined atmosphere of the restaurant that is divided in several intimate dining rooms to allows guests a peaceful and private atmosphere.
sixthirtynine, Woodstock – Located at 639 Peel St., sixthirtynine is a 30 seat restaurant which offers a local seasonal menu as well as Chef’s table and tasting menu’s available upon request. Intimate and intensely fresh, this restaurant is a true destination in Oxford County. sixthirtynine does not have a website, but you can find them on Facebook here.
Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips, Port Elgin – Made from Grandpa Verral’s 1955 secret batter recipe, a family secret for over 50 years, Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Lord Elgin Fish & Chips was recently voted one of Canada’s Best Fish & Chips in a nation wide survey by Canadian Living in 2013. With a commitment to making over 90% of their products, including the coleslaw, tartar sauce and famous chowder, fresh from scratch remains a constant. Lord Elgin’s Fish and Chips aims to simply make the best Fish & Chip experience in the land.
Hasai, Singhampton – Featuring dim-sum and wood-fired pizza, Haisai is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch and dinner. Eigensenn farm is the primary source of ingredients for Haisai dishes along with the bounty from the waters and forests of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment. Haisai uses locally raised and foraged ingredients as much as possible. Whether stinging nettle & potato soup, Eigensinn Farm pork Gyoza or wood fired pizza, their dishes feature seasonal flavors and textures both familiar and strange. At Haisai, the process of raising, growing and sourcing, fresh, local and organic ingredients, converting them into fine cuisine and serving it in reasonably priced dishes is their passion. As unique as the food, so too is the atmosphere of the restaurant. The interior and exterior are constructed and decorated using found and recycled materials. Every stick of furniture is unique and individually constructed by Michael Stadtlander and his friends.
Bruce Wine Bar and Kitchen, Thornbury – Bruce Wine Bar Kitchen is a unique eatery with an award-winning wine list and a Feast Ontario designation for a focus on sustainable, quality food, crafted in-house. You will also find a full-scale restaurant with seasonal menus, the best Neapolitan-style pizza north of the GTA, and on Fridays an impressive roster of independent Canadian musicians not to be missed! Tucked away in the alley behind the TD Bank, this unique eatery features two venues in one.
Alphorn Restaurant, Collingwood – If you enjoy a fun family atmosphere then you simply MUST check this place out! Entering the Alphorn Restaurant is like taking a mini vacation to the heart of the swiss alps. Everything about this restaurant is authentic. Located on highway 26 halfway between the town of Collingwood and the Blue Mountain Ski Resort, their specialty is wienerschnitzel. Also very popular is their cheese and beef fondue, trout, chicken, steaks, and traditional Swiss appetizers such as raclette, buednerfleisch, and hearts of palm salad. The Alphorn has been at this location since the early 1980s and has become a local landmark over the years, made especially famous by their unique birthday celebrations. I’m fairly sure you’ll find out what that’s all about on your first visit.
Ted’s Range Road Diner, Meaford – Get ready for a wild game bonanza at Ted’s Range Road Diner. From elk, venison, caribou and quail to emu and bison, they have a fantastic selection that will be sure to impress you. No need for a menu as everything is posted on blackboards on the walls along with the prices. Head to Ted’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner or enjoy the bands that play every Wednesday – they even offer free cab rides back to Meaford! This restaurant is all about good food and fun and we think it’s a fantastic road trip destination.
Mono Cliffs Inn, Mono Centre – Mono Cliffs Inn has built a solid reputation as a “treasure in the country”, “worth the drive” and “favourite spot for family celebrations”. In addition to their customers’ wonderful words, the Cliffs has received several awards and commendations from across the region, including Trip Advisor and Headwaters Tourism. Situated in one of the most scenic stretches of the Bruce Trail, next to the Mono Cliffs Provincial Park the Inn has become a mecca for lovers of food and Australian Wines. Chef Van de Hock is dedicated to the local food movement and creates his menus by season and availability of local products. He is proud to serve up only the freshest made from scratch items on the ever-changing chalkboard menu. He relies on local farmers, producers and the Mono Cliffs own farm just up the road to provide the best local ingredients available by season.
The Tremont Cafe, Collingwood – Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, The Tremont Cafe was a recommended “must-do” restaurant by a trusted foodie friend a few years ago. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed! What makes this restaurant a destination is their weekend brunch, featuring classic french fare as well as their beautiful dinner menu. You will also find the building as delightful as the food, the beautiful crisp white restaurant interior makes your dining experience feel completely transportive and the street view in the front is a lovely place to watch the world go by. People are known to rave about the burgers here, so I would suggest you give them a try. Tremont Cafe is featured as our post image for this Ruralist story.
Benchmark Restaurant, Niagara-on-the-Lake – Do you want to try something new? If so, Benchmark is just the place for you! This student run restaurant is part of the Niagara College Culinary school and serves gourmet fare in their 100 seat fine dining teaching restaurant. Every Saturday evening the students and chefs prepare a special Four Course Table D’Hote Menu for only $50 +taxes and gratuities – the students will also pair each course with NC Wine for an additional $15 per person +taxes and gratuities. If you go for lunch try the “Trust Us” menu, which features the chef’s daily selection, and is presented to diners as a surprise. We’re certain you will not be disappointed! Reservations are definitely recommended.
Lake House Restaurant, Vineland – Fine dining in an old Niagara home with views of Lake Ontario, with fireplace in its main room, or tables in its sunroom or outdoor patio. The Lake House Restaurant features European Mediterranean cuisine, including such specialties as gourmet, thin-crust pizzas, magnificent risotto and pasta dishes as well as the signature Prime Rib and rack of lamb. Originally, the government granted the land where Lake House currently stands to Colonel J. Butler for his contribution to the war. The Moyer family purchased the property in 1862 and built what is now known as Lake House Restaurant in 1867. Much of the natural charm of the house has been maintained with all of its original woodwork, exposed brick and three fireplaces still intact. A beautiful sunroom has been added onto the house, overlooking the lake. Lake House was said to have been one of the first stops for the ‘Underground Railway’ for slaves escaping from the United States to Canada. The slaves were fed and hidden here until they could be sent to safer areas. Enjoy spectacular views of Lake Ontario from the picturesque dining room.
Memphis Fire BBQ, Winona – Professionally trained Chefs Steve and Lori Popp bring together great southern barbeque, 50′s drive-in classics, regional and international comfort food greats created with integrity, passion, care – and all made from scratch! Memphis Fire Barbeque Company offers fresh hot barbeque classics like pulled pork sandwiches, brisket entrees, and the best burgers known to man, including their famous “Sneaky Cheese”. From real hard ice cream milkshakes, authentic fountain floats, and coney fries, Memphis Fire Barbeque Company is sure to please not only the children, but bring back fond memories to the young at heart.
**Post image features Tremont Cafe in Collingwood