Obscure Eats: 2012

You know St. John’s food.

You know where to send your CFA relatives for fish and chips. You know which way to stumble when you’re on George Street and you want a decent slice of pizza. You’ve got the city’s burgers, sushi, and veggie options mapped out. But is St. John’s a city without culinary surprises? We took to the streets to find and sample some hidden food in the capital city.

Photos and writing by Mark Jerrett, Jen Squires and Lauren Power.

Kimchi & Sushi

Atlantic Place

749-8078/749-8080. 10am to 8pm daily.

Holy Asian variety! Atlantic Place’s newest addition has a wide assortment that exceeds expectations for a food court lunch counter. Bibimbap, kimchi, sushi, sashimi, bulgogi, and more besides. Craziness! The spring rolls are substantial, held together in fried flour wrappers, rather than crispy rice paper. The cucumber kimchi is sour and a little spicy (with take-home jars available for $9 each). Our advice? Avoid the noodle bowls unless you’re feeling nostalgic for ramen and get sushi! Big and tasty, with far more options than a typical supermarket sushi bar. Bonus: complimentary little bowls of miso with your meal! LP

Mohamad Ali’s

364 Duckworth Street

Friday and Saturday, 11pm – 4am.

Mohamad Ali’s has set up in The Sprout after hours—like the Peach Pit After Dark in 90210 but for Middle Eastern cuisine—and that means late-night eats don’t have to be limited to irradiated pizza and questionable street meat. The wraps (falafel, kebab, hummus) are tasty, but the hidden highlight is the combo platter. The combo platter (falafels, buns, spinach pastry, hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, and a soft drink for $10) is big enough for two, and balances warm and cold, fried and fresh. The spinach pastry gives you your starch fix­—it’s savoury, warm, and chewy. Picky eaters may shy away, but even the mildly adventurous will be rewarded with a slew of tasty Mediterranean snacks. One note: There’s no seating inside, so you might want to grab it while you’re on way home to watch crazy YouTube videos. LP

Inn of Olde

67 Quidi Vidi Village Road

576-2223. Monday – Friday, 12pm-6pm.

Walking into the Inn of Olde is like walking into Pop’s shed—every flat surface is covered with old license plates, badges, jugs, souvenir spoons, a few sewing machines, hockey sticks, oars and other ancient sports memorabilia, all illuminated under Christmas lights. It’s not a manicured nouveau foodie destination. The Inn of Olde is legit. On the daily menu is your choice of chili, turkey soup, or chowder. The chowder’s hearty and seasoned, with chunks of salmon, cod, clams, and potato. The cook is adamant that no flour be used to thicken it up. Served with a buttered bun (plus a beer), all for $12.25. Finish up and go for a stroll around the docks at Quidi Vidi, or up over Cuckhold’s Cove trail, and end up at Signal Hill. LP

Taste East

62 Allandale Road

579-7366. 10am – 9pm daily.

62 Allandale Road is a mysterious place. It’s been a hair salon, a movie rental spot, some strange food things, and we haven’t set foot inside since we were underage jokers buying beer from Allandale Convenience. Once we braced ourselves and opened the door, we were pleasantly surprised by the small grocery store and take-out joint set up on the inside. It smells amazing as soon as you walk in, and they have just about every spice and dry good you would ever want in order to try and recreate the tasty food that they make in store. Serving up Middle Eastern Cuisine, such as samosas, pakoras, curries and desserts, at decent prices, this would be a great place to hit up after an afternoon at the Breezeway when a crusty bun from Mrs. Vanelli’s just isn’t going to cut it. We went around closing time (9pm), and unfortunately some of the items we wanted to try were no longer available for the day, so we went with a falafel wrap ($4.99) with a bag of Teekha Tadka Chulbule chips on the side. The falafel wrap was pretty good, substantial snack, but surprise best treat were the chips! At $1.99, these were sort of like a big bag of spicy and delicious corn twists. SO GOOD! If you decide to try them out, make sure to buy yourself a tin of pop to go with them, you are gonna need it. JS


7 Queen Street

722-3100. Monday – Saturday 6pm – close.

Every once in awhile we all like to spruce ourselves up a bit and go somewhere glamorous for a beer and a fancy treat, right? The downstairs bar area of Chinched is the perfect place for this. They have a light and nicely priced bar menu, serve Quidi Vidi beer, and have an extensive wine list, making this an awesome choice for a casual date, or to go with a small group of friends before you turn yourself into a hot mess on the streets of St. John’s. You can order groups of items off the bar menu and priced at two for $12, three for $17 and four for $22 you really can’t go wrong. Our favourites were the Tomato Frito with Basil Mayo and the Calamari with Chimmichurri. We perched at the bar, had a few beer, and ate some of the best food in St. John’s. Chinched is open at 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and we would recommend making a reservation as the place was booked up about 10 seconds after we walked through the door. JS


183 Duckworth Street
576-7797. Mon & Tue 7am-7pm, Wed-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm.

Tucked away in one of the most idyllic corners of the downtown core, Fixed offers coffee-shop charm with a little extra kick. Though coffee and baked treats may appear at first glance to be the M.O. here—and they certainly excel in that regard—the tapas and beers are what drew us. While sipping our Belgian white and triple-style golden ales, we shared an assorted spread of sourdough bread, vegetables, hummus, olives, and prosciutto-wrapped figs, as well as a delightful caper dip that paired perfectly with smoked salmon and bread. A jar of sweet nuts was just the thing to top it all off, a little dessert that accented the flavour of the beer. Fixed is an ideal place for a mid-day coffee break, but it’s also a great place for sharing early-evening drinks, snacks and conversation with friends. MJ


Churchill Square

579-7000, 4:30pm-10pm daily.

Arribas used to be our go-to spot after a hard day of classes, and it continued to be our go-to spot after a hard day’s work. With their happy hour prices and FREE! NACHO! BAR!, it was honestly the highlight of an otherwise dreary work week. We were excited about returning to our old haunt, hoping to relive our glory days and gorge ourselves on a nacho feast. However! When we arrived the nacho bar was nowhere to be seen, as it was the first day of their Nacho Bar Menu. They have replaced the bar with a mid-priced, smaller portioned menu, with items like tacos, chili fries, poquitas and nachos, and the Quintanas menu is available at the bar too. Available all evening, items are grouped on the menu as being $3, $4 and $6. We were the first to try their new menu, and, while it is *sniff* no nacho bar, the fish taco ($6) and poquitas were pretty delicious. It’s a festive, low-key place to go for cheap margaritas/Corona and split some nachos when hanging out around Churchill Square. Happy hour runs weekdays from 4:30 to 6:00, after which you should wash it all down with a jug at Big Ben’s. JS

Formosa Tea House

15 Lemarchant Road

579-8973. Most days 12pm-7pm, Wednesday 12pm-5pm, Saturday 3pm-8pm.

When roaming around the fish and chips district of St. John’s and in absolutely no mood for fish and chips, Formosa Tea House is the perfect spot to stop in and have a quick, cheap snack. Newly relocated from Prince Edward Island, this Taiwanese tea house offers items such as dumplings, sushi, buns and rice, all served fresh daily as well as a fancy selection of tea, tea accessories and oriental crafts. You can literally order everything on the menu—along with four items from their ginormous drink menu—for around $40. Eat in or take out, everything is vegan. The eat in location has huge windows facing LeMarchant Road, so it’s fun to order yourself a BBQ bun or two ($1.80), have a delicious lemonade, and watch the world go by. It’s SHOCKINGLY cheap, the owners and staff are lovely, and this is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to eat. Perfect for lunch. Oh, and check out their interesting, to say the least, origin story on their website. MJ

Know some other bastion of hidden local deliciousness? Leave a comment below.


Music Saturday Apr 21

Big Shiny Show (covers of CD series) 10pm, $5, Distortion DJ Lex, DJ OTG, Junctions Freshly Squeezed, GSBM Funky Dory (funk / jam band), CBTG’s North Meets South (NSO Sinfonia) Estonian composer Arvo Pärt & Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos w/ guests Grant Etchegary (bassoon), Caroline Schiller (soprano), Alison Black (violin), Kristina Szutor (piano), under direction […]

11 April 2007

  1. BB · April 11, 2007

    International Flavours as well!

  2. stacey · April 11, 2007

    It would be great if any of these were actually obscure. Please look farther afield.

  3. JB · April 11, 2007

    where would you suggest?

  4. Jackie · April 11, 2007

    Well that’s a little presumptuous… I personally loved this article, and I think the Scope should do more like it! I had never heard of Arribas or Formosa until now. While I’ve bought cooking supplies from Taste East and coffee from Fixed, I never would have thought to go to either place for a bite to eat. I certainly wouldn’t have considered Atlantic Place for sushi! So thanks to Mark, Jen, and Lauren :)

  5. Gordon Gekko · April 11, 2007

    Stacey the fact of the matter is that St. John’s is a small town and finding “obscure” places is not really possible. Plus I think a lot Scope readers tend to be more adventurous eaters to begin with, so surprising us may be a little more difficult. I haven’t tried all of the places on this list but there is not one I haven’t heard of. This is not like Toronto where there are literally far more restaurants (of all different styles, ethnicities, and price ranges) than any person could possibly expect to eat at in one lifetime.

  6. NEWFIE HULK · April 11, 2007


  7. Gordon Gekko · April 11, 2007

    “We went around closing time (9pm), and unfortunately some of the items we wanted to try were no longer available for the day,”

    I need to make a comment about Taste East. Unless they’ve changed since I was last there I don’t think this is an issue of closing time. I tried to get prepared food there several times during normal working hours and they rarely had anything available. Once I was lucky enough to get a samosa, and frankly it was nothing special. Eventually I just stopped going there. This place is primarily a grocery store and not a restaurant. In my opinion International Flavours is a better option, as they are basically the opposite; primarily a restaurant, with some groceries available as an added benefit.

  8. Allie · April 11, 2007

    Great article! I didn’t know about the combo platter at Mohamed Ali’s!

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