4 posts tagged with “restaurants”

  • Last of the Strip Mall Gems: Readers’ Choices

    A spread at Hibachi Café in St. Catharines.

    Strip Mall Gems is a series of Eating Niagara, my column that runs in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune. This is my final instalment in the series and includes readers’ choices.

    It was about a year ago at this time that I walked into a burrito joint in a Niagara Falls strip mall, looking for lunch.

    I was there on chef Michael Olson’s recommendation and held out high hopes for my sweet potato wrap at a place that was nothing if not intriguing. It was Don Wong’s Mexican Asian Food Mart.

    How could I not be curious?

    As I waited for my order, I learned that owners Cyndi Wong-Lorenzo and Attilio Lorenzo had only been open three weeks. They moved to the region from Toronto, beckoned by a pace of life more meandering than big-city maniacal.

    Niagara Falls, where Lorenzo grew up, promised to be the perfect place to raise the couple’s own family. Their new takeout venture, a more multicultural riff on what they were doing in Toronto, would enable them to do it.

    As I took my first few bites of burrito, filled with generous pieces of sweet potato and splotches of guacamole, I wondered how many people were like these two, pinning their hopes on a shoebox space in those bastions of mundane urban architecture we call The Strip Mall.

    And how many of us just drive by, thinking ‘One day I’ll stop in’ or ‘I wonder if that place is any good?’

    My strip mall gems series was born at that moment.

    This past year, I stretched my freelancer’s bank balance and my waistline to tell the stories of some of Niagara’s dining treasures; some fancy, some no frills.

    They were stories of chefs trading in round-the-clock jobs in other people’s kitchens to put their own stamp on breakfast and lunch, and have time at night for their families.

    They were tales of people with plum day jobs packing them in to take a chance on a dream. Of new Canadians who longed for a taste of home and when they couldn’t find it, invited us to their tables to share their experiences and become part of their new communities through food.

    Read the rest of the story

    Labels , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category Food Finds

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Strip Mall Gems: Spiice Chinese Express

    Hot and sour noodle soup at Spiice Chinese Express.

    Strip Mall Gems is a series of Eating Niagara, my column that runs in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    Richard Lin is deliberate in his choice of words when I ask for a cup of tea.

    “Would you like some Chinese-Chinese tea?” he offers me, his eyes widening in anticipation of my answer.

    His repetition of Chinese makes it clear that the black and red blend of steeped leaves we’re about to drink isn’t watered down by Canadian influence. It’s the real thing — tea that’s authentically Chinese, like everything else on the menu at Spiice Chinese Express in St. Catharines’ south end.

    That means if you’re looking for hot and sour noodle soup made with traditional potato glass noodles, fermented vegetables, black “Chinese-Chinese” vinegar for kick and enough chili oil to coat your tongue and make your brow glisten, you’re in the right spot.

    Ditto for wonton soup with dumplings bursting with shrimp and pork, punchy Ma Po Tofu, rich braised eggplant, cumin-spiced chicken kidney or Szechuan pork lung in chili sauce.

    Read the rest of the story

    Labels , , , , , , , ,
    Category Food Finds

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Strip Mall Gems: Tide and Vine Oyster House

    Kat Steeves and Mike Langley, owners of the Tide and Vine Oyster House.

    Strip Mall Gems is a series of Eating Niagara, my column that runs in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    It’s the kind of foreshadowing you wouldn’t expect of a youth spent eating pizza and hanging out at the local strip mall.

    But regularly sinking his teeth into a slice of Volcano pizza at the corner of Portage and O’Neill in Niagara Falls came full circle for Mike Langley when he and wife Kat Steeves opened Niagara’s first oyster house in his former haunt nearly two years ago.

    Ever since, Tide and Vine has become a favourite meeting place for bivalve-loving locals and tourists — and at the very least, an indication of a future swoon-worthy meal if not a career — with every shell shucked.

    That’s exactly how the couple envisioned it when they opened in 2014.

    Read the rest of the story

    Labels , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category Food Finds

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • The Eating Niagara December listicle: A few of my favourite things

    My notebooks abound with all kinds of bits and pieces of information. It’s not enough to warrant a standalone post but still worth more than a simple tweet with a shelf life of 30 seconds. So, I’m starting the Eating Niagara Listicle, an occasional roundup of all things that might be of interest. And if they’re not, well, I’ll just watch and weep as my bounce rate goes up. So without further ado, the listicle.

    Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category Beyond Niagara, Food Finds, Reviews

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest