10 of the best restaurants and bars in Halifax’s North End

Lifestyle

Bar Kismet is probably the most exciting restaurant in Halifax right now and a must when visiting the city — Photo courtesy of Jessica Emin

Halifax, Nova Scotia is a popular tourist destination, famous for its plentiful lobster and seafood. However, the best food in this port city is found a short stroll from the tourist joints downtown in its blossoming North End. There you’ll find an amazing food and drink scene with tons of exciting new restaurants and bars that have opened in the past few years.

Here are 10 restaurants that are helping to lead the transformation.

Bar Kismet

Bar Kismet's octopus is slow poached, grilled and tossed in chili oilBar Kismet’s octopus is slow poached, grilled and tossed in chili oil — Photo courtesy of Jessica Emin

After moving to Halifax and seeing seafood served up in the same way at many restaurants, chef Annie Brace-Lavoie wanted to do something different.

“I wanted to bring attention to the fact that we have seafood here that may not be as glamorous as lobster, but to my mind is three times as delicious,” she says. “We try and use some bycatch which would normally just get tossed back in the water, or things that get used as bait, which sounds gross but it is usable and delicious stuff that just comes in smaller amounts, so companies can’t always sell it.”

Talk to any serious food lover in Halifax and they’ll mention Bar Kismet, and many of them will say that the octopus dish is a standout. “We slow poach it, grill it, toss it in paprika chili oil, then serve it with lentils cooked in ginger and turmeric, with crunchy bits of celery,” explains Brace-Lavoie.

Rinaldo’s Italian American Specialties

The hero sub at Rinaldo's is the ultimate comfort foodThe hero sub at Rinaldo’s is the ultimate comfort food — Photo courtesy of Phototype

There are some days when all you want is hearty comfort food and that’s when Rinaldo’s hits the spot. Owned by two brothers, Tony and Sam Rinaldo, this restaurant is known for its handmade pizzas, pastas and hero sandwiches.

They started out selling sandwiches at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and moved into a permanent spot in the North End in July 2017. “We make everything from scratch, including our pastas, and source as many ingredients as possible from local sources,” says Tony Rinaldo. He adds, “I feel like you can’t come here and not order our meatball hero, that’s our main staple.”

The Ostrich Club

Squid ink strozzapreti with butter poached lobster, house made spicy sausage and pangrattato at the Ostrich ClubSquid ink strozzapreti with butter poached lobster, house made spicy sausage and pangrattato at the Ostrich Club — Photo courtesy of Ellie Rideout

The Ostrich Club sits in a row of sweet shops and cafes in the Hydrostone (a micro-‘hood of highly sought after unique and historic stone homes), and serves up luxurious small plates along with a fabulous drinks menu in a really lovely dining room. Sit at the bar for a view of chefs making magic in the kitchen.

Ingredients are locally sourced, as are the beers and ciders. “We are trying to be really conscious about the beverage products we serve. The wine list has a low intervention focus with a lot of wines that are private ordered and new to the city,” explains Nicole Raufeisen, sommelier and manager at the Ostrich Club. “People in this city are very interested in trying wines that they can’t just walk into a store and buy.”

Vandal Doughnuts

The author's son enjoying an Oreo stuffed Cookie Monster doughnut from Vandal DoughnutsThe author’s son enjoying an Oreo stuffed Cookie Monster doughnut from Vandal Doughnuts — Photo courtesy of Lola Augustine Brown

After starting out selling in Gus’ Pub, Vandal Doughnuts recently moved into a standalone premises. They’re still selling out every day (so get there early) and serving up delicious doughnuts with an ever-changing range of flavors. To name a few of their best sellers, try the maple bacon with a fat rasher of bacon on top, Skor twist, or Kit Kat break up bar.

Their cake-y donuts are sweet perfection.

Taco Lina’s

Who wouldn't want all the tacos at Taco Lina's?Who wouldn’t want all the tacos at Taco Lina’s? — Photo courtesy of Phototype

After taking over the kitchen in Gus’ Pub (a great spot for punk and indie music shows) in November 2018, Taco Lina’s became hands-down the best taco spot in the city. They make their flour tortillas fresh every day and embrace authentic techniques – but not always authentic Mexican ingredients.

Sure, you can get delicious fish tacos and tacos al pastor, but they also come stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken thighs, chicken shawarma or jackfruit. Their carne asada fries pair beautifully with beers and live music.

Real Fake Meats

Real Fake Meats owner Lauren Marshall with one of her donairs - a vegan twist on a local specialtyReal Fake Meats owner Lauren Marshall with one of her donairs – a vegan twist on a local specialty — Photo courtesy of Lola Augustine Brown

Halifax has been buzzing over the opening of its first plant-based butcher shop and deli, Real Fake Meats, which specializes in “veggie meatz and cheeze.” Owner and operator Lauren Marshall was playing around with recipes and recreating meat-free versions of favorite recipes, and realized that other people were interested in eating them, too.

“Our best selling items are our Smokey Maple Faken (plant-based bacon), Veggie Donairs made to order, and most recently our Crunch Wraps, a plant-based take on the Taco Bell classic,” says Marshall. (Donairs are a big deal in Halifax, served with a sweet garlic sauce that makes them coveted outside the city.)

Compass Distillers

Shaking things up at Compass DistillersShaking things up at Compass Distillers — Photo courtesy of Compass Distillers

Located in a funky-looking purpose-built steel tower, Compass Distillers has a bar serving up custom cocktails and delicious appetizers. Distiller Ezra Edelstein describes the vibe there as “warm, intimate and steampunky,” and says that the one cocktail you should definitely sample there is the Aquavit Caesar.

Cocktails are made with booze distilled in house, and should you so desire, you can take a bottle of their tasty spiced rum, summer gin or aquavit home with you.

Chain Yard Urban Cidery and Unchained Kitchen

Tourtiere ravioli with browned butter sage at the Unchained KitchenTourtiere ravioli with browned butter sage at the Unchained Kitchen — Photo courtesy of Lawry Deneau

Housed in what used to be a bank, Chain Yard Urban Cidery has a massive and fun taproom where you can sample delicious ciders made from local apples (something that Nova Scotia grows lots of). With a menu described as Nova Scotian food with a southern accent, you can gorge on savory blue cheese and okra donuts, tourtiere ravioli with browned butter sage, or tempura lobster tail with poblano cheddar étouffée.

HopYard Beer Bar

Superb Korean-inspired food at HopYard, including kicked up chicken and wafflesSuperb Korean-inspired food at HopYard, including kicked up chicken and waffles — Photo courtesy of Lola Augustine Brown

Combo record shop, bar and fab restaurant, HopYard serves up exciting food with a fun menu that changes every couple of weeks. Chef Jane Crawford has lived and worked all over the world, and while one week you might be gorging on Korean flavors, the next might be Caribbean or Italian.

It works, and the food is consistently excellent. Plus, there’s a huge range of local craft beer on tap, and you get to choose what records you want played while you’re there.

Kitsune Food Co

Sushi platter from Kitsune Food CoSushi platter from Kitsune Food Co — Photo courtesy of Kitsune Food Co

The tiniest restaurant in the city, Kitsune Food Co only has four seats and does a roaring trade in takeout. Chef Ami Goto and her partner Eric MacIntyre started Kitsune with a view to offer a limited menu of truly excellent Japanese food. That goal can seem a little unusual at times, as their focus is on local and sustainable ingredients.

“Because we have no staff, everything is prepared and served by the owners with lots of love,” explains Goto. Also, because the place is so tiny, you’re sat in front of their open kitchen as delicious plates of sushi, marinated crispy chicken thighs and other izakaya type dishes are prepared before you. Kitsune also has a great sake menu.

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