by Andrew Coppolino | January 2023
Chefs and restaurateurs, usually because they are busy serving their customers, might have limited time to visit their favourite restaurants, coffee shops and watering holes. So, when time is at a premium, they make their choices for dining out count.
Here are a few selections, suggested by area chefs and restaurateurs, for venues to visit for a few quiet, reflective – and delicious – moments.
Goldie’s Convenience, Kitchener
Annie Street, Red House Uptown
Street, sous chef at the popular Waterloo venue Red House Uptown, says it’s a combination of qualities that make Goldie’s her pick.
“There’s a great selection for wine and sharing plates,” she says.
That could be mussels escabeche, marinated olives or creamy-oozy burrata cheese. But the food and drink are only part of the equation for her.
“The mood at Goldie’s is fantastic,” says Street. “That experience of companionship and sharing makes food that much better.”
271 West Restaurant, Kitchener
Kris Simmons, S & V Uptown
“I look for quiet and casual evenings,” says Simmons, S & V head chef. “It’s a kind of brief get-away. I like to visit 271 West in its new location on Charles Street West. They make some good Italian food, which is perfect for casual and quiet. The pasta is hand-made too.”
La Lola, Cambridge
Aura Hertzog, AURA-LA Pastries + Provisions
It’s the quaint size and authenticity of what’s around her that has Hertzog picking La Lola in Preston, specialists in Spanish food and drink.
“It’s a quick 20-minute drive. The La Lola space is small, and it’s intimate and unpretentious,” she says.
Seating is limited so plan ahead and reserve for a tapas bar menu that might include tortilla de patatas, croquetas, pintxo fuet y queso and a weekly paella.
“The food is made with passion and integrity. The portion sizes are perfect, and the price is right. They source wines from Spain and make their own Sangria authentically. It’s a gem,” according to Hertzog.
Lucero Canteen and Grand Trunk Saloon, Kitchener
Teneile Warren, Comenyam Diaspora Cuisine
For chef, writer and activist Teneile Warren, one go-to for reflective moments together is Lucero from the coffee-lovers that started Show and Tell in downtown Kitchener.
“This new space is our new favourite spot,” says Warren.
“Show and Tell was special to me. It was the first place that felt inviting when I moved here. The staff are like friends.”
About 500 metres away is Warren’s other choice: Grand Trunk Saloon. The superb cocktail bar with a southern U.S.-inspired menu is cozy and comfortable, Warren says.
“This spot is just a perfect vibe for a little fun or a little romance. It has a perfectly crafted atmosphere.”
Trio Restaurant, Waterloo
Nick and Nat Benninger, Fat Sparrow Group
Veteran and serial food entrepreneurs, Nick and Nat Benninger say they “struggle” with date nights.
“We have a tendency to turn it into a work conversation,” says Nick who with Nat has just opened Fat Sparrow Charcuterie in the Fat Sparrow Block in St. Jacobs.
But the conversation, he says, has changed recently.
“We’ve enjoyed a couple of fantastic evenings at Trio. It has absolutely transported us from our work selves into being able to quietly enjoy some of the region’s best food and service. It’s a fantastic momentary get-away,” says Benninger.
S & V Uptown, Waterloo and Easy Pour Wine Bar, Cambridge
Destiny Moser, Cedar Spoon Indigenous Catering
“I have two go-to’s, so it depends on the occasion,” Moser says.
“With S & V, I really like that they incorporate Indigenous foods into their menu. The last time I was there, it was venison. And they’ve had bison too.”
She says that’s great to see, but she adds the whole philosophy of local is important to her in deciding where to go.
“At Easy Pour, they also support other local businesses, and I think there is also a 100-hundred kilometre feeling to the menu,” Moser says.
“It doesn’t matter who I go out with so when I want something special and reflective, it’s one of these two restaurants.”
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.