Prince Edward Island: A Culinary Treat
By Simon Garneau
An islander with big city experiences and tastes assumes the role of food critic. His guide, from homey family fare to five star cuisine, abounds with delicious surprises.
Some people think Prince Edward Island is at the other end of the world. Now that I live on the Island, I may be tempted to agree, but only in the most positive sense.
Before I moved here, my friend Thomas, from Montreal, kept saying: “You can be sure you’ll have a hard time finding good restaurants in P.E.I.” Good old Thomas, how true to his name! Whatever he may think, apart from Indian food, which is available only once a week at the Farmer’s Market in Charlottetown, I am pleased to inform all of the Thomases of this world that there is very little that I miss here in Prince Edward Island!
Grocery stores have everything and there is a wide range of excellent restaurants, from home-style cooking to fine cuisine. While three or four restaurants are noted for superior quality, only one of them has left indelible memories on my palate, and that is the hotel restaurant of Dalvay by the Sea, by far the best dining venue in the province.
The menu and table d’hôte change regularly, so I will not recommend anything in particular. But let me share with you recollections of a cold blackberry soup, wild mushrooms in puff pastry and beef with star anise, a meal for which I would willingly “walk” a few kilometres on my knees! Dalvay by the Sea is one of those rare places where bad surprises seldom occur. Located in the heart of Prince Edward Island’s National Park, it is also sure to be quiet.
Given the quality of the food served at Dalvay by the Sea, prices are reasonable, but they may not suit everyone’s budget (certainly not mine!). So I suggest four restaurants where you are sure to eat well, without having to dig too deeply in your pockets.
Located on the second level of Confederation Court Mall, the restaurant Piece A Cake is tricky to find from the outside, but if you manage to locate it, I can guarantee you will return.
Piece A Cake does not, as its name suggests, specialize in deserts, although its butterscotch pie with mixed nuts is scrumptious. If you are an amateur of “the other white meat,” you are sure to enjoy the pork tenderloin with pecans. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
Closer to the harbour in Charlottetown is the Merchantman Pub. I’m not sure that “pub” accurately describes this restaurant since it does not serve shepherd’s pie, bangers, mash and other traditional pub foods. On the contrary, the menu offers a wide range of foods and flavours, from Thai to Italian to Cajun. I must recommend their fish and chips tempura. In my humble opinion, it is one of the best on the Island. Which is the other? Be patient, I’ll come back to it later.
Meanwhile, let us move on to Victoria by the Sea, a tourist town that swarms with visitors during the summer and where everything is too expensive… or at least overpriced.
There is, however, one exception and that is the Landmark Café. While this is not a place where you can feed your family for under ten dollars, owner Eugene Sauvé always serves up your money’s worth. Try anything at all – quiche, salad, fish – everything is good, and the bilingual staff is very friendly. And don’t miss the washroom for a peek at Eugene’s fine poster collection.
Most people who come to the Island visit Cavendish, and who can blame them? This place is a must, but when it comes to eating, you’re better off heading to New Glasgow, not too far away.
The Café on the Clyde is particularly welcome in a province where fried food is all too common. Fish cooked in the “green egg” (a round, green barbecue) is particularly delicious. Also worth trying is the more relaxed tea room, to enjoy a better view of the river. It serves a wonderful salmon filet braised on cedar.
If you are intent on eating fried food, head back to Charlottetown where you can satisfy your craving with style. Many simple restaurants in Prince Edward Island offer home-style cooking, but one excels: the Seatreat. This small, unpretentious restaurant is not particularly appealing from the outside, and its menu includes standard fare like hot chicken sandwiches and hamburgers, but it is strongly recommended for its seafood.
While “fish and chips” is often synonymous with overcooked fish, greasy batter and, in some extreme cases, liver attacks, such is not the case at Seatreat. Here the fish is moist, the batter is thin, golden, not too greasy, and even the coleslaw tastes good. As for the best “fish and chips” on the Island, my vote is split between Seatreat and Merchantman Pub. But don’t limit yourself to Seatreat’s fish and chips – all of their fish dishes are cooked to perfection.
Finally, if you have a weakness for lobster, avoid those famous lobster suppers. The cost is too high for the all-you-can-eat fish soup followed by a dry, tiny lobster that could double as a paperweight!
If you want a real, fresh lobster that you can eat right on the wharf, you are better off at Richard’s Seafood Eatery, at overhead Harbour. Fine lobster is served hot or cold. You can even request a female lobster if, like me, you are fond of the eggs.
I hope I have managed to convince the skeptics, the incredulous and other Thomas types: Prince Edward Island may be at the end of the world, but as far as good food is concerned, it is a great place to start.
For more information on Canadian destinations visit the Canadian Tourism Commission.
SMT buses (1800.567.5151) link Moncton, N.B., to many Island cities, notably Summerside and Charlottetown.
A ferry links Wood Islands, P.E.I., to Caribou, N.S. 1888.249.7245 or nfl-bay.com.
For more information on Prince Edward Island call 1888.734.7529 or visit gov.pe.ca/visitorsguide.