BOSJ 2008: Food & Drink

Best Restaurant ◆ Best Local Employer ◆ Best Sandwich ◆ Best New Restaurant ◆ Best Pizza ◆ Best Restaurant When Someone Else is Paying ◆ Best Restaurant for a Quick Bite ◆ Best Restaurant for a First Date ◆ Best International Restaurant ◆ Best Breakfast ◆ Best Fish & Chips ◆ Best Place to Feed Your Sweet Tooth ◆ Best Vegetarian Option at a Non-Vegetarian Restaurant ◆ Best Cup of Coffee ◆ Best Place for People Watching ◆ Best Beer


Julia Bloomquist, co-owner of The Sprout

BEST RESTAURANT
The Sprout

364 Duckworth Street (579-5485)

When my wife first asked if I’d like to go to a vegetarian restaurant with her while we were dating, I thought to myself… “okay, clearly this woman has no idea how much I love meat and hate vegetables, but I’m gonna play it cool and say ‘yes, I love vegetaria.’”

Well, thank God I did. Not only is The Sprout a wonderful place to eat (I’m there close to three times a week now) but the people who run it are amongst the kindest folks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in St. John’s. To watch Julia and Marina interact with their staff makes me long for the day when I can have that kind of relationship with an employer. The atmosphere is so gentle and relaxing that there are times when you feel like you’re at home… only home has a dull reek of patchouli, and a couple more people with dreadlocks than you’re used to. DS

Runner up: The Keg
Other: Tangled up in Blue, Sun Sushi, Get Stuffed, The Casbah, India Gate, and, um, Breen’s Convenience.

BEST LOCAL EMPLOYER
Julia Bloomquist & Marina Schiralli-Earle
The Sprout – 364 Duckworth Street (579-5485)

See Best Restaurant

Runner up: Rob Collins (Hava Java) “We loves our Poppy!”
Other: Dave Hopley, MUN, Government of Newfoundland, “Mara at Tangled cos she plays the Pixies and makes me laugh.”

BEST SANDWICH
The Sprout

364 Duckworth Street (579-5485)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Bravocado. DP

Runner up: Subway just barely beat out Breen’s on this one—by one vote.
Other: Manna Bakery, Hava Java, and the classic Big Mary.


Meg O’Dea, Pi head chef

BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Pi

10 King’s Road (726-2000)

Pi’s head chef, Meg O’Dea, the mastermind behind Giovanni Cabot’s crazy-good pizza, is a full-on culinary ninja—a single bite of her perfectly soft, sweet and chewy pizza dough will convince you of that. “Nobody knows that dough recipe. It’s only me,” she tells me. “There are so many factors that go into it—it depends on the sea level, air pressure, whether it snows and if the temperature suddenly drops. I basically have to study the weather channel every day before I go to work.” From there, it’s pretty much Gouda cheese on, Gouda cheese off. SS

Runner up: Yellow Belly
Other: Tangled up in Blue, Bacalao, The Hungry Heart Café and The Vault.

BEST PIZZA
Pi

10 King’s Road (726-2000)

See Best New Restaurant

Runner up: Venice Pizzeria
Other: Stoggers, Big Bite (specifically “cold” Big Bite) and Hobo’s (“$3 special”).

BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING
The Vault Restaurant and Champagne Bar

291 Water Street (738-5200)

Got a rich uncle in town for the holidays? If you do, you should suggest he take you and all of your friends to The Vault. This restaurant is so unbelievably chic and hip I thought they’d ask me to leave before I placed an order. Last Valentine’s Day I took my wife Lynn there for supper. We ordered two main courses. I had pork with something I didn’t understand underneath it, and the wife had steak with something we couldn’t pronounce beside it. Along with our main course we ordered an appetizer, two desserts, one glass of wine, and two glasses of Diet Coke. As we were eating we joked around trying to guess the price of the meal. We settled on $135, figuring that was outrageous enough for what we ordered. Man, were we wrong. The bill came to over $220, plus tip. Turns out a Diet Coke costs about six fifty. In hindsight, I kinda wish they had thrown us out. …Just kidding. The food was absolutely incredible, the atmosphere was spectacular (it felt like a movie set, only without all the rude yelling and passive-aggressive bickering.) With somebody else firmly behind the wheel of payment, there isn’t a better restaurant in town. DS

Runner up: The Keg
Other: Atlantica, Basho, Bianca’s, pretty much anywhere.

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A QUICK BITE
Mustang Sally’s

7 Queen Street (754-9727)

Mustang Sally’s is home to the tastiest wraps and nachos offered in the city, but the orders have been put on hold since the restaurant’s been bumped from its location on Queen Street. ‘Stang lovers will have to hold tight until 2009, when Mustang’s will re-open in a new home on the downtown strip. Until then, feel free to reminisce on their Facebook group, “I LOVE MUSTANG SALLY’S!!!” SB

Runner up: The Sprout
Other: Bagel Café, International Flavours, McDonalds, and Subway.

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A FIRST DATE
Sun Sushi

186 Duckworth Street (726-8688)

Sun Sushi has a special place in my heart, and not just for serving its excellent tempura shrimp, curry bowls and miso soup. It also happens to be the location of one of my first dates with my fiancé. While you might not think that words said over BBQ eel would be a good foundation for a relationship, I’m here to attest that they are. For love, like sushi, is perfect with a hint of wasabi. Or maybe that doesn’t make sense. AC

Runner up: The Sprout
Other: Tangled up in Blue, The Casbah, and Get Stuffed.

BEST INTERNATIONAL RESTAURANT
International Flavours

4 Quidi Vidi Road (738-4636)

Talat Mian opened International Flavours back in 1996, and has built a strong, devoted following by serving delicious and consistent food, inspired by her native Pakistan. The wonderful food is complimented by the laid back atmosphere, and the fact that Talat knows just about all of her customers by name. “I’m just so happy that people voted for us!” says Talat. “Business is good and steady… I’m blessed to have such great customers.” These days, faced with so many decisions each day, going to a place like International Flavours is all the more relaxing, since all you have to do is choose: meat or veg? AP

Runner up: India Gate
Other: Sun Sushi, and Afghan Restaurant.

BEST BREAKFAST
Cora’s

Atlantic Place (722-6720)

At Cora’s, breakfast means something entirely different than it does at home. See, when you or I say “breakfast”, chances are we are talking about a couple of eggs, some pieces of toast… maybe some bacon. But Cora’s equates breakfast with something far, far more fanciful and dream-like. It’s as though you’re steering your plate through a sweet river of maple syrup, and you are fighting off delicious pancake-people using your fork. It’s snowing whipped cream, your life jacket is made of fresh fruit, and your helmet is half an eggshell. If you were to go to Cora’s for your first breakfast ever, you’re likely to come out with a skewed view of foodstuffs—and of reality in general. AC/EL

Runner up: Bagel Café
Other: Blue on Water, Tangled, The Sprout, “pickled herring, lettuce and yoghurt,” and “hungover bacon in my kitchen.”

BEST FISH & CHIPS
Ches’s Fish & Chips

Various locations

Do you even need me to tell you why Ches’ is so good? Try the jumbo wings and chips, man; I swear, it puts most fast food joints to shame with its sheer deliciousness. Ches’ is very much the golden standard of Newfoundland owned and operated restaurants in the city. Unlike your McDonalds’ or your KFCs, Ches’ has no sauce or magical recipe to hide. We can guess what the Ches’ secret ingredients are: a little bit of love and a reasonable amount of lard. Am I right? AC

Runner up: Duke of Duckworth
Other: Leo’s, By the Beach, and numerous establishments on the highway.

BEST PLACE TO FEED YOUR SWEET TOOTH
Bulk Barn

390 Topsail Road (745-7010)

Despite all the shops and restaurants offering ornate, rich and gigantic desserts, desserts so potent that patrons need to be wheeled out on a gurney, you guys are mainlining it at the Bulk Barn. Chocolate-croissant bread pudding, so-and-so fancy cheesecake? “Pshaw! Skip the middle man and head for the barrels of chocolate-covered almonds, Hershey’s kisses, jelly beans and sour cream ‘n onion rings,” you say. And I salute you, whole-heartedly. All hail the mighty Barn. SS

Runner up: Moo Moo’s
Other: Coffee Matters, Auntie Crae’s, “Bonavista Buffet dessert table”

BEST VEGETARIAN OPTION AT A NON-VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
India Gate

286 Duckworth Street (753-6006)

I have a friend who spent many unfortunate years thinking she didn’t like curries. One miraculous day she tried Rogan Josh, and her tastebuds alit and now she wants to eat at India Gate all the time. Moreover, India Gate is a place where both carnivore and herbivore alike can peacefully coexist. Their weekday lunch buffet ($13.95) always has several vegetarian dishes on offer, and their evening menu has a handy vegetarian section filled with dreamy descriptions of friendly plant-based dishes: look for words like palak (spinach), aloo (potatoes), chana (chickpeas), baigan (eggplant), mattar (peas), and paneer (cheese). EM

Runner up: Tangled up in Blue
Other: International Flavours, Montana’s, Bagel Café, “veggie burger from Celtic Hearth before it was discontinued,” and “salad.”


Various Hava Java staffers, plus a few others.

BEST CUP OF COFFEE
Hava Java

216 Water Street (753-5282)

Hava Java has cemented itself as the place to go amid the many coffee shops downtown. Is it the location? The coffee? The service? Or is it because a Cure CD plays every day and no one can resist the dulcet tones of Robert Smith? Let’s face it, it’s all of these things (maybe not the Cure part, though), which is why I’m as usually by most weeks. If my experience is anything to go by, you’re guaranteed to see everybody you’ve ever met up to and including your second grade French immersion teacher. AC

Runner up: Coffee Matters
Other: Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Coffee & Company, Jumping Bean, and “brought from home.”

BEST PLACE FOR PEOPLE WATCHING
Hava Java

216 Water Street (753-5282)

See Best Cup of Coffee

Runner up: Avalon Mall
Other: ”Atlantic Place (for the silly gymbots jogging against the plate glass),” “Village Mall food court. Wow – just wow. It’s really scary and exciting,” “George Street on a summer evening,” “Grapevine window with a cocktail,” and “court house steps.”

BEST BEER
India

As one reviewer on beeradvocate.com puts is: “Some might not rate it as high as I did, but you obviously don’t know what it would mean to be on the wrong side of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.” Many have tried to articulate the reasons for it’s wild popularity: is it the sweetness? The design? One bartender claims that the success is that years ago it was usually the only beer left in the bar at the end of a long night, so, naturally, the bartenders started drinking it after their shifts, and people caught on quickly from there. Cheers! AP

Runner up: Storm
Other: Quidi Vidi, Yellow Belly, Black Horse, Blue Star, and other beers with and without colours in their names.

Photos by Mark Bennett