We all know Kingston as a beautiful historic city rife with entertainment and culture, but until recently, its culinary prowess has flown relatively under the radar. Did you know the city has one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada? I had no idea, so I decided to check it out and discover where to eat in Kingston. I asked my boyfriend, a former Kingston resident and Queen’s University graduate, if he would act as my unofficial tour guide—needless to say it didn’t take much convincing to get him on board for a gourmet weekend getaway.
Friday Night Dinner
We rolled into Kingston station from Montreal on a windy spring evening and checked into the Delta Waterfront Hotel. True to its name, our room had a spectacular view of where the marina meets Lake Ontario. The best part? We didn’t need to head far to satisfy our dinner cravings as Dianne’s Fish Shack and Smokehouse was right around the corner.
Recommended by John Catucci, everyone’s favourite Food Network host from You Gotta Eat Here, we ordered a little bit of surf and a little bit of turf for dinner: light and crunchy beer battered Baja fish tacos, savoury BBQ brisket tacos, and creamy lobster rolls with a bowl of unctuous chowder. The night was still young and it was Friday after all, so we walked a few blocks over to the trendy and dimly lit Spanish-style tapas bar Tango Nuevo for Chardonnay and Estrella Damm brews.
Breakfast and a Visit from the Town Crier
A full day of gastronomic experiences awaited us on Saturday. We headed out into the crisp, cloudless morning and sat down at Northside Espresso and Kitchen for breakfast. The café was packed, and rightly so. It looks like a Pinterest dream with its white tin walls and ceilings adorned with floral patterns, gorgeous green hanging plants, and pink flowers in vintage medicine bottles, and their menu is a knockout.
With shameless voracity, we ordered a small feast: thick and lightly toasted banana bread with espresso butter, perfectly poached eggs benny with ham hock topped with a rich apple cider hollandaise over potato rostis, sweet potato fritters with pumpkin seeds, a side of berries, and of course, 49th Parallel coffee. How we were going to move around the city or eat anything else that day we did not know.
We took a break from our busy gluttonous itinerary and met with “town crier” Chris Whyman from Tourism Kingston. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who knows the city better than him. Dressed head to toe in traditional period garb, we strolled with Chris through the city center as he pointed out important local establishments like the Town Hall and the public market, as well as iconic businesses like Cooke’s Fine Foods and Coffee which has been in operation since before Confederation.
Most of Kingston’s buildings seem to have been perfectly preserved over the centuries, allowing it to retain the picturesque quality of a faraway time. Like Chris proudly said, Kingston has the charm of a small town with the spirit and bustle of a big city.
Lunch and Art at the Agnes Etherington Center
Alas! It wasn’t long before we resumed our gastronomic escapade and stopped to lunch at Curry Original where we dined on onion bhajis, aromatic chicken biryani, and spicy Bombay Aloo.
Unable to eat anymore —for the time being, anyway— if was time for some culture. We made our way over to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University to check out Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, a temporary exhibit by the incredibly talented Kent Monkman. Through a series of striking paintings, Monkman depicts the dark history of our residential schools, but also champions the unbreakable spirit of Canada’s Indigenous people.
An Evening of Even More Amazing Food
With enough of a break between meals, it was time once again to treat our taste buds – to upscale Italian eats at Casa Domenico. With a glass of Chianti in hand, we looked around at the black and white snapshots on the wall capturing quintessential Italian life trying desperately to decide between all the mouthwatering menu options.
To start, a plate of tender seared scallops and sweet potato garnished with pine nuts and black currant sauce. For the main event, I gave up trying to look graceful as I happily devoured a heaping bowl of lamb bolognaise rigatoni. And because there is always room for dessert, we split a delicious warm chocolate brownie topped with salted caramel ice cream and raspberry sauce (for good measure).
Breakfast and Martello Alley
It’s a well-known fact that Sunday morning is synonymous with brunch. At this point you might think I’d be done with food for a while, but you’d be mistaken. We sat down to some yummy eggs benedict and coffee at Windmill’s.
Next it was off to Martello Alley to browse through some artwork. A true hidden gem, Martello Alley is tucked away behind a restaurant on Wellington Street. In 2015, owner and artist David Dossett reconverted the drab grey outdoor space into a bright, vibrant gallery for local artists to display and sell their work including paintings of Kingston’s landscapes, artisan glass jewelry and photographs of the city’s iconic landmarks.
And after 48 hours of a true epicurean extravaganza, it was time to roll ourselves onto the train and head back home to Montreal.
Top image: ©Northside Espresso and Kitchen