The first thing we do when we arrive in Sault Ste Marie is decide where to eat. With an itinerary full of hiking and beach hopping from Agawa Canyon to Pancake Bay, we want a taste of place that satisfies our cravings and reflects the culture of the city.
It all starts with breakfast. Local, fresh and apparently, “badass,” The Breakfast Pig has wow factor. It’s hard to make a choice when we want everything on the menu. Generously portioned and gently priced, we begin with a PB & Daaamn of fluffy French toast layered with peanut butter and strawberry rhubarb jam. But wait! It’s also topped with tender and crunchy beer-battered chicken thighs; and the chicken is drizzled with peanut butter and a spicy maple syrup that’s like a round-house kick to my palate. This dish is the mic drop, but to be sure, we’re also piqued by the Turkish Eggs. Warm in-house baked sourdough is brushed with a zesty garlic and herb-infused Greek yoghurt, and crowned with perfectly poached eggs lavished in a piquant chili and paprika butter.
The Canal District is a hub of activity. From here we can walk over the St Marys River to Whitefish Island or take the train to Agawa Canyon. Concerts, shows and events, as well as wood-oven fired pizzas, curated coffee and house-made gelato, make this a go-to hot spot for any visit to the Soo. The Mill Steakhouse and Wine offers more than sizzling steaks. A tantalizing Maple Fennel Lamb Sirloin is a succulent portion with a tinge of sweetness and herbaceous notes of coriander, fennel and a lacquer of chimichurri. Almond Crusted Salmon is delicately seasoned and crisped within a nutty crunch that envelopes a light but meaty fish accompanied by a melange of perfectly cooked vegetables.
Sault Ste Marie is blessed with a number of classic Italian restaurants. Giovanni’s is one that is open seven days a week and its conviviality is what we hope for at the end of a long day. Amidst a flavour-forward menu of pastas and grilled meats to satisfy every craving, the Lake Superior Pickerel stands out as a real local taste fresh from lake. This kitchen knows what it is doing and how to handle such quality. Lightly crisped and splashed with lemon, this substantial fish offers a true taste of Northern Ontario.
For Canadians, an “offer you can’t refuse” must include a doughnut. At Burger Don we indulge in a two-burger stack with sharp cheddar and crispy-sweet maple-glazed bacon, enveloped within a grilled honey dripped doughnut. This is sinful indulgence, but it is ridiculously good!
Locals flock to Ernie’s Coffee Shop. The menu is seasonal, but our eyes are glued to the chalkboard for the daily inspirations of the chef. Squash crostini with chili oil, sage and house-made ricotta or thinly sliced kohlrabi and cucumber, enlivened with red onion, dill and feta reflect the sophistication and passion of the chef to make fresh ingredients sing. 24-hour brined, pressure-fried chicken and delicate pan-seared lake trout leaning on a sublime crunchy potato stack are simply wholesome lip-smacking goodness. Pair the evening with a vibrant Pisco Elderflower Sour and you won’t want to leave.
Each new wave of immigration brings something new to the table. Georgie’s Shawarma has enriched Sault Ste Marie with authentic Syrian cuisine. Here we discover the most scrumptious falafel fritters west of the Middle East. Blended with herbs and ground spices they crown a thick, garlicy, lemony hummus. Shawarmas of oh-so-tender slow-roasted chicken thighs, brushed with garlic sauce, pickled cucumber and pomegranate molasses, served with warm saj bread are just so delectable, and completely satisfy our flavour-cravings.
An eclectic new arrival on the scene is Peace Restaurant. With an ethos of harmonizing ingredients into one dish and bringing people together at one table, this kitchen elevates the local palate with inventive savoury dishes like Pork and Kimchi Poutine and Chinese 5-spice Ravioli with butternut squash, ricotta, sage and toasted pumpkin seeds. Flavours abound with dishes like Charred Curry Miso Cauliflower bedazzled with a potpourri of nuts, dried currants, herbs and creamy yogurt, and an umami-rich Hoisin-Braised Short Rib with lemon gremolata. No stone is left unturned as we indulge in a decadent flourless chocolate torte accented with toasted hazelnuts and orange zest that we pair with a Hazelnut Expresso Martini with wow-factor. Just try to only order one.
As eyes turn to Northern Ontario, so too do palates. Endless tourism opportunities for outdoor adventures demand an exciting local restaurant scene. The new dining mosaic in Sault Ste Marie is disarmingly delicious.