I am a regular visitor to Canada. I love the vast expanse of it. The people, the calm, the lakes and forests, the cities with the quickly expanding and inspiring culinary scene. Excellent cocktails, terrific Canadian wines, a booming craft booze scene and lovely restaurants and bars to sample them. Canada is an excellent place for a road trip, especially a culinary one.
A Culinary Road Trip of New Brunswick Starting in Saint John
New Brunswick was the scene of my most recent Culinary Road Trip, packed with snow crab and lobster, lush produce from the farmlands and foraged seaweeds and sea greens from the seashore. It is one of four of Canada’s Atlantic provinces on the east coast. 83% of New Brunswick is under forest, and the cities are small by international standards. It is a perfect relaxed spot for a break and to unwind. I flew into Saint John via Halifax, Nova Scotia. A short flight in a small plane with excellent views of the landscape below brought me to Canada’s oldest incorporated city. I started my culinary road trip here.
New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada with English and French being commonly spoken. The indigenous population has been established there since 7000BC (at the time of European contact these included the Mi’kmaq, the Maliseet, and the Passamaquoddy). Populations arrived from Europe from the 1600s included French, British and Irish. The city of Miramichi claims to be the Irish capital of Canada and was one of the points of arrival for many of Ireland’s coffin ships during the famine. It is home to a large Irish Festival now every year. New Brunswick was almost called New Ireland at one point until it was vetoed by King George III. Which, of course it was.
Where to Eat and Drink in Saint John and What to Do
Breakfast at Slocum and Ferris
A bagel with smoked salmon and eggs is the popular order here but I had witnessed the massive waving bags of deep burgundy dulse for sale like creatures from the sea deep. So, I asked if they could make me a dulse and egg one.
I adore dulse (called dillisk in Ireland), a flavourful seaweed that crisps when it fries. I had my first chat with a local here. An elderly man who started the conversation by asking where I was from, and then immediately switching to tales of all of his childhood friends with Irish parents and how you could eat off of all of their kitchen floors they were so clean. Which instantly took me to memories of my grandmother who was born to Irish parents in Manhattan New York many years ago. A superb start to the day.
Saint John City Market
After your breakfast at Slocum and Ferris head straight to the lady selling enormous bags of dulse. Stock up on your dulse to snack on your road trip here, and also get extra to take home as I did. It is sold in two forms, crisp and soft, dictated by how it is dried. You know I am always all about the crisp.
This colourful coffee shop is the best spot in town for your morning coffee. There are excellent pastries and bites too.
Rogue Coffee, 36 Grannan St, Saint John, NB E2L 2C5, Canada
Saint John Alehouse
Lunch at the sun-soaked terrace of Saint John Alehouse was a smorgasboard of local products. Lots of seafood for me. There is plenty of craft beer to try with a regularly changing beer menu. On my visit there was a stage across the road with live music. Super pleasant and a must for beer fans looking for a tasty local bite sourced and made with care.
Bigtide Brewing Co
All heart and flavour and homemade crisps, Bigtide Brewing Co is a well established brew pub in the heart of Saint John. We stopped here to sample a selection of their beers but it warrants a night of its own if you can afford the time. Brewer Wendy Papadopoulos, a former scientist, has been brewing beer for 25 years.
Bigtide were the fifth brewery in New Brunswick and at the time of my visit (in 2018) there were 40. They only use New Brunswick hops and make lots of interesting beers including a Blood Orange IPA on my visit. The homemade crisps? Order two portions. At least. I would also have ordered the fried pierogi if I had any room at all. There is a vast food menu to accompany the beer there.
Italian By Night
A big bright bustling spot with excellent Italian food. The menu is rich with house-made pastas, pizzas and classic Italian dishes. Gluten-free Italian bronze died pastas are available by request. I loved the Affetati e Sottaceti della Casa, a selection of Italian imported cured meats, cheeses, house olives, preserves, honey comb and house made breads. With prosecco on the side of course.
Port City Royal
Dinner at Port City Royal is a must when in Saint John. A well executed and exciting menu focused around locally sourced products, and excellent cocktails too. Smoked pork loin chop with split peas, asparagus and onion vinaigrette was sublime. I can never resist fiddleheads on a menu, and my first experience of them was in New Brunswick many years ago when I foraged for them. This was my first introduction to fried clams, which New Brunswickers are quite rightly obsessed with. Butter curry poutine sounds like a death row dish worth tucking into also!
Uncork Saint John Food & Drink Tour with Uncorked New Brunswick
Uncork Saint John Food & Drink Tour is an excellent and super social introduction to the city. Gilliane and her team of guides are rich with local knowledge and experience and are super friendly to boot. Highly recommended.
Tours run Wed-Sat at 3pm and cost $74 CAD + 15% sales tax.
While in Saint John you may also like to
Visit the New Brunswick Museum to explore the remarkable geology of the region and learn about whales and other sea creatures as well as the human history.
Visit the Skywalk Observation Platform above the reversing falls, so called because of the effect of the tidal rapids. The difference between high and low tide is (roughly) the height of a 5 storey building and it is incredible to see.
A stroll around Saint John will introduce to the many artworks and sculptures of local John Hooper. Very beautiful.
With thanks to Tourism New Brunswick who sponsored my trip. All editorial is my own.