out of town
How often have you wondered where you can get a decent meal in cottage country? Turns out you don't have to stay in T.O. to eat well during the summer. NOW has scoured the regions to discover the best in fine dining.
The Restaurant on the Knoll at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort (West Lake Road, RR #1, Picton), 613-393-2063, 1-800-724-2393, www.isaiahtubbs. com The town of Picton boasts some pretty decent spots, including Currah's Café and Restaurant (252 Main, 613-476-6374). But in cottage country, the waterside view's the thing. We recommend the restaurant at the Isaiah Tubbs Resort overlooking the dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park. Fish specials of the day are featured, and prices - unlike those at some of the other haute spots - aren't out of whack.
Muskoka/Huntsville/ Parry Sound
3 Guys and a Stove (Highway 60, just east of Huntsville), 705-789-1815, www.whoscomingfordinner.com Chef/owner Jeffrey W. Suddaby , host of the cooking show Who's Coming For Dinner (CH Global, Sundays at 9 am), specializes in healthy dining, so this isn't the place for prime rib and cream sauces. But it's a nice change from the predictable fare the big inns are pushing.
THE CHARLES INN (209 Queen, Niagara-on-the-Lake), 905-468-4588, 1-866-556-8883, www.charlesinn.ca NOW's go-to guy for out-of-town theatre, Jon Kaplan, recommends this one in the Shaw fest area, first opened in 1832. The refurbished dining room, helmed by chef William Brunyansky , still boasts the original chandeliers and has a terrific view overlooking the lake. Pay special attention to the farmhouse cheeses.
DOWN THE STREET (30 Ontario, Stratford), 519-273-5886, www.downthestreet.ca The best place to smash the stodgy Stratford stereotype is this hip bar and grill steps away from the Avon Theatre. Check out the frites - they're for real - in the steak-frites combo, and, yes, those familar-looking people sockin' it back at the bar are the same actors you just saw onstage.
Octopus's Garden ( 5198 Line 5 North, RR #1, Hillsdale), 705-835-6591, 1-877-249-2374, www.octopusesgarden.on.ca At this Hillsdale spot you can be sure that all the ingredients in your gazpacho come out of the garden you're looking at. Octopus's hard-working team - they also run a year-round catering business for skiers and cottagers - offers pre-dinner tours through the orchards, where you can sample heirloom fruits and edible flowers, and the place is surrounded by Crown land on three sides so you can eat in the midst of nature - dining in the eco-tourist mode.
THE BENCH BISTRO at EastDell Estates (4041 Locust Lane, Beamsville), 905-563-9463, www.eastdell.com Eat out while taking in a view of rolling vineyards, Lake Ontario and the Toronto skyline - it's one the biggest pleasures at Bench Bistro. And complement your meal with VQA vintages fermented on site. The restaurant is surrounded by over 5 kilometres of nature trails so you can walk off the food you've just stuffed yourself with. Note that on Sundays the dining room's open for brunch but closed for dinner.
Check NOW's July Hot Summer Guide (out June 28) for our picks of funky diners and mid-range eateries.