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There are so many wonderful things about living in the Waterloo Region, not the least of which is the wide variety of fabulous options we have when we’d rather dine out than stay home and slave over the stove. Across the region you’ll find restaurants, cafes and bars that serve up food from almost every corner of the globe, and to suit every palette, even a very picky one.
And while the locals know this, now the rest of the country, and indeed the world, do too. Opentable is global restaurant reservation and review site that has become a go-to for gourmets everywhere. Recently the folks at Opentable began compiling and publishing their picks for ‘best neighbourhood gems’ in the various countries they serve. For Canada they narrowed it down to 150. And, believe it or not a whopping eight of the eateries on the list can be found in Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.
The top 150 were chosen based upon more than 480,000 restaurant reviews by verified OpenTable diners for more than 2,000 restaurants across the country. Interested to see which dining hotspots from our area made the cut? So were we, so here’s a look.
Aberfoyle Mill Restaurant, Guelph
Charming, romantic, rustic, there are plenty of words you can use for the old mill building that has housed the Aberfoyle Mill Restaurant since 1966. The structure itself actually dates back to 1859, and one of the perks of dining there today is that you can dine amid decor that is so filled with artifacts and antiques that it is considered one of the countries largest personal collections of Canadiana.
The other big perk of course is the food. The menu combines traditional Canadian favorites with some rather innovative modern twists. The steak offerings are amazing, but you should also consider the seafood selections, especially the salmon. For those who don’t do meat there is even a separate menu available that offers more than the standard veggie burger.
Bloom at Conestoga
If you have never considered dining at a culinary school then Bloom should change your mind. Located on campus at Conestoga in Waterloo, the restaurant is staffed by students who get to put their classroom training into practice by creating and serving 3 and 4 course meals in an upscale real restaurant environment.
Because this is essentially a living classroom, the culinary delights on offer are very varied. It varies every semester, as the students literally cook their curriculum for guests. But whatever is on offer you can be assured you’ll enjoy some fabulous food at rather reasonable prices.
Borealis Grille and Bar, Kitchener
The restaurant uses the tagline ‘Obsessively Local’ and it really is, as all of the ingredients used to create what are some marvelous meals are sourced as locally as possible. The dishes on offer range from fresh, organic salads to juicy burgers to more exotic seasonal fare (elk tacos anyone?) and there is something to suit every taste and every dietary need, especially if you eat gluten or meat free.
Also worth noting is the great selection of Ontario brewed beers and wines on offer. If you don’t think that Ontario can produce wine on a par with the French and the Italians then a few glasses from the wine menu at Borealis should certainly change your mind!
Bread Bar: Earth to Table, Guelph
The Earth to Table movement has become a worldwide trend, and it is done to great effect at this charming eatery. The menu, of course, varies according to what is in season, so it’s possible to visit many times and try something new every time. Some things are a constant though; fabulous fresh salads, scrumptious sandwiches and some very tasty, and different, pizzas. And if you are fond of a weekend brunch their Sunday special is great, as it’s $30/person for all you can eat plus two boozy drinks and the food available is amazing.
King Street Trio, Waterloo
This is a relatively new hotspot that has quickly gained a great reputation for itself. The decor is great, the staff are very nice and the menu, which is designed to showcase the best in modern Canadian cuisine is extensive and exciting.
There is a big focus on the steak – the good stuff, AAA Ontario raised and hand cut – but there’s also plenty to please those with less carnivorous tastes. The seafood is excellent, especially the king crab, and the selection of wines and beers is extensive. The restaurant also stages some great cookery demonstrations and wine tastings, something to keep in mind if you are looking for a bit of a different night out.
Miijidaa Cafe and Bistro, Guelph
This casual yet classy cafe is another great example of Canadian cuisine being showcased on a daily basis. The menus draw from the cuisines of the First Nations, the English, the French and then the modern Ontario based culinary innovators. If you are looking to eat light there’s plenty on offer – even just a side of fries is actually pretty special as they are garlic aioli and delicious and heartier dinner fare is varied and always fresh.
Speaking of dinner, the restaurant hosts a weekly Wednesday Night Date Night, which offers two mains and one shared plate for just $49 for two, with scrumptious choices available like seared wild salmon, braised beef cheeks and beer battered fish and chips.
PJ’s Restaurant in the Atrium, Guelph (University of Guelph)
It’s a testament to the talent of our local culinary students that not just one but two student run eateries made this prestigious list. Here, the menu literally changes every day, according to what’s on the classroom schedule for the day, but whatever is on on offer it’s great value. Unfortunately it’s only open during term time, but when it is you are in for a treat, especially if you try their weekend brunch menu.
Sole Restaurant and Wine Bar
If you love the Mediterranean but have no time for a vacation, a visit to Sole will transport you there for a few hours at least. The bright, sunny and colourful decor uplifts your spirits as soon as you walk in and the food is equally nourishing and cheering.
As you might expect at an eatery that specialises in Mediterranean dishes the seafoods and pastas are amazing but the meat dishes are very good too. Serious meat lovers will especially enjoy Prime Rib Sundays, which offers diners the chance to indulge in some of the best AAA local prime rib you’ll ever have!