So you're looking for good food in cottage country but aren't ready for fine dining and definitely don't want to pay high-end resort prices. Is there such a thing? You bet. Just check out these spots all around Ontario.
The Painted Peppercorn (172 Main, Picton), 613-476-8225 Here's something new in Picton, a cozy café - consistently packed at lunch - offering a menu stressing local produce. You don't often come across a small-town eatery serving spinach and cheddar pie, with a walnut crust no less. The atmosphere is brightened by local artists' work on the walls.
Georgian Bay/Grey County/Lake Huron/Owen Sound
TED'S RANGE ROAD DINER (2 km north of Hwy 26 on the Meaford Tank Range Road), 519-538-1788, www.meaford.com/rrdiner.htm This one-of-a-kind spot is a steel Quonset hut in the middle of a cow pasture. Sounds like a must-miss until you hear about the super breakfasts and game burgers, including caribou, buffalo, elk and emu. Ted's got game in a stir-fry, too. Closed Tuesdays.
FANCY'S FISH AND CHIPS (5 Bell Farm Road, Barrie), 705-728-9594, www.fancysfishandchips.com If you're gonna ingest those trans fats, you might as well do it courtesy of people with plenty of experience. The Fancy family have been in the business for over 50 years, operating fry-up stops in Toronto and cottage country. But everything isn't old-school and deep-fried. Check out the raw oysters and the crab cakes.
FRESH KUTZ MARKET AND GRILL (195 Wellington, Bracebridge), 705-646-2106 The thing about great places with reasonably priced food: the locals know all about them, so it's not easy finding parking at the mall where you'll find this eatery. Look for seafood chowder and fresh fish delivered directly from T.O. and well priced lunch specials ($7.25 for grilled chicken on a bun with fries and soup). And there's an open kitchen - chef Dave Mann doesn't mind if you keep an eye on him. Caution: closed Sundays.
YORK STREET KITCHEN (41 York, Stratford), 519-273-7041, www.yorkstreetkitchen.com Eight years ago this Stratford haunt was just a takeout window on the street offering design-your-own sandwiches. It's bloomed since into a funky, wild lime-green-painted sit-down spot that offers excellent soups and grilled sandwich specials, all ultra-fresh. Killer butter tarts, too. Yes, you can still design your own s'wich.
The Epicurean Café (84 Queen, Niagara-on-the-Lake), 905-468-0288, www.epicurean.ca It's not often you can recommend an eatery that operates cafeteria-style, but a terrific setting and totally fresh fare at decent prices make the Epicurean a desirable destination. Grab a grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper and chèvre sandwich and settle in on the patio under the giant butternut tree. We're talking lunch here; sit-down dinner service is pricey.
Check NOW's August Hot Summer Guide (out July 28) for our picks of cool bakeries, ice cream haunts and other sweet spots.