A Taste of Waterloo Region’s rural restaurants

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Falling leaves and an awe-inspiring palette of colours – evidence that fall is here, and it’s time for restaurants to switch up their menus to include deeper, richer flavours and warm, comforting dishes that fend off the cold and wet.

If you look at map of Waterloo Region, you can imagine that “hugging” Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo are the rural – and farming – Townships of Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot and North Dumfries.

Recently, Taste the Countryside took place in Waterloo Region. It featured special menu packages and prix fixe pricing that gave diners a chance to, well, taste the countryside and all that the harvest flavours offer as interpreted by our township’s rural restaurants and chefs.

While Taste the Countryside has wrapped for 2022 (head’s up – watch for the spring edition of Taste the Countryside in March 2023!), here are some restaurants, chefs and dishes to consider from Township food purveyors, brewers, producers and restaurants.

Anticipating porky goodness
Imperial Market & Eatery, New Hamburg 

Fall is the time for the menu flip, says Clan Gathering of Restaurants executive chef Kris Foisy, and a dish for Taste the Countryside could be included at Imperial Market, he says.

“It was a good testing ground for our bangers and mash,” says Foisy. “It’s a pub staple. You can go many directions with pork in Woolwich.”

There could also be a new schnitzel with new toppings and pickles, a staple at Imperial. Foisy says look a possible future play on a meatball sandwich too. “We like great tasting food that’s fun and hits the warming notes for this season.”

Hilltop Acres turkey burger
Chef Duff at RiverSong, St. Jacobs 

Menus change frequently at RiverSong, so visit soon to take advantage of maple and squash soup, fresh pies in season (pumpkin and apple), and chef Bruce Duff’s turkey burger with poultry from Hilltop Acres.

“It’s thyme, ground onion, salt and pepper, some Dijon and just a few breadcrumbs. The turkey really shines,” Duff says.

The RiverSong Café lunch menu includes a couple of soups and sandwiches (with home-made bread), salads and pizzas made in-house.

Duff also prepares “Three Sisters” soup (as available), which is sold frozen for take-home: it’s an homage to the Indigenous farmers and cooks of the Haudenosaunee Nation who gave us the crops of corn (maize), squash and beans.

By the way, Duff put together a delicious porchetta for this year’s “Taste the Countryside” harvest dinner. I have my fingers crossed that a version of it shows up on a future menu.

Local pretzels, warm cheese dip and beer
Rural Roots Brewing Company, Elmira 

As the name implies, this Elmira brewer is all about its rural roots when it comes to the food it serves.

According to manager Krysta Cronin, the soft, warm pretzels from Grainharvest Breadhouse are perfect with a hot cheese dip.

“The dip is made by Elmira’s Never Enough Thyme Catering using bacon and our ‘Yes Honey Cream Ale,’” says Cronin. “It’s always on our menu and one of the most popular items. It’s a nice comfort food to share. People have even been known to drink it like a thick soup.”

Jamie Cornelius of Never Enough Thyme makes the dip with local Eby Manor Golden Guernsey milk and sharp cheddar.

“The flavours come from sauteed onions and garlic, and smokey paprika,” says Cornelius. “That gets caramelized, and we add the beer. It’s super cheesy, salty and smokey. A tasty combo for sure.”

And I’d add perfect with a Rural Roots pint.


Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino. 


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