By Michael Lowe
My list of the top ten dining experiences in Niagara is a collection of places where I ate 2016 — those that made an impression and/or turned me into a repeat customer.
The lineup should not be viewed as my definitive, Top Ten, best places to eat in Niagara, although, if asked some would likely make that list. A few were written about during the calendar year, but not all. That’s because some are my go-to places when I don’t have to work and just want to enjoy good food. I think they deserve a spot as well. They are in no particular order and, as such, do not represent a ranking of any sort. A link to previous reviews is included where applicable.
Opening in late 2015, my first visit to N’ata Cosa was in January of this year — read article here. A major draw is the wood-oven pizza featuring a crust made from double zero flour (above, top right). Look for light, airy, chewy crust and fresh, high quality toppings. Other dishes include fresh, homemade pastas with scratch-made sauces, steak and seafood and daily lunch and dinner features. N’ata Cosa’s opening is part of a resurgence in downtown dining in the past year.
259 St. Paul Street,
The menu at Zest changes often taking advantage of what’s local and in season or has been preserved for the off-season. Expect top-quality ingredients, well-executed cooking, and layered, highly developed flavours — perhaps with an international twist. Chef Anthony Greco (above, left) is one of the best chefs behind a stove in the region and his passion for exceptional cuisine shows in each dish he creates. Read about my visit to Zest in January 2016 here.
1469 Pelham Street, South, Fonthill
Ravine Vineyard Restaurant
The restaurant serves locally sourced, organic produce and ethically raised animals with an emphasis on sustainable farming practices. A wine focused menu with suggested pairings will help you get the most from your dining experience at Ravine. Service from front-of-the-house staff is among the most attentive, helpful and cheerful you’ll find anywhere.
Read my story on Ravine from April 2016 here.
Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery
1366 York Road,
St. Davids, ON.
905-262-8463 ext. 34
I first experienced Backhouse about a year ago and you can read about that here. But I started this piece by saying this list consists of places visited in 2016. A return visit to Backhouse for lunch last August cemented my views of this jewel of Niagara. It was then that I had one of the best burgers ever. It remains, in my opinion, a restaurant that should be on anyone’s eat-here-before-I-die list. Impeccable flavours and textures, simply composed and artfully cooked dishes featuring the best local, organic ingredients are the signature of Chef Ryan Crawford (at left above).
242 Mary St.,
AG Cuisine at The Sterling Inn
I reviewed AG Cuisine long before my days at Wines In Niagara. It is still posted and you can read it here. This beautiful restaurant is the special place where we enjoyed our engagement dinner. Five years ago when trying to select a venue for our small intimate wedding, focused on great food, AG was a natural candidate. With Chef Cory Linkson in charge I knew attendees would not be disappointed – and they raved about it. In September of this year we returned to celebrate our anniversary (above photos) and again languished in the farm-to-table flavours of the season.
5195 Magdalen Ave.,
Niagara Falls, ON
Bolete stormed onto the dining scene with style, bringing much anticipated cuisine to discerning palates. Chef Andrew McLeod (above, left) has already gained a solid local following and his ever changing menu is designed to keep them coming back. In describing the flavours he creates, one word comes to mind — purity. After attending the soft opening (review here), Bolete has become a favourite lunchtime getaway for me.
176 St. Paul St.,
Coppola’s has become one of my go-to places when I want to sit back, relax, and enjoy great food and service without breaking the bank. Two examples of the value they offer are all-you-can-eat gnocchi on Monday’s and the Thursday date night menu, the latter you can read about here. We are frequent customers on both nights and can’t count the number of times we’ve dined there this year. Steak, seafood, pasta, and pizza – I’ve had them all – without disappointment.
Coppola’s Ristorante & Banquet Facility
203 Carlton St.,
Koutouki Greek Cuisine
Koutouki is another of those restaurants that is a staple on my dining list. I am at Koutouki for traditional Greek food about once a month – so for this year’s total, well, it’s easy math. Everyone I have ever recommended it to reports back favourably. There’s no cutting corners here. Steve Skordas and staff make practically everything from scratch. I even spent some time in the kitchen to see it firsthand. Read about that experience here. It is one of those places that I can feel at home and just enjoy eating. Favourite dishes include the octopus, Moussaka and Bakaliaro (salt cod).
Koutouki Greek Cuisine
5745 Ferry St.
Stephen Treadwell is an icon in Niagara. It’s about three years since I wrote about Treadwell Cuisine, which you can read about here. When deciding where to celebrate a landmark birthday this year, Treadwell Cuisine immediately came to mind. The casual patio is a great place to spend an hour or two on a summer afternoon in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This fall we dropped in for Sunday brunch where overflow patrons are seated in the quaint wine bar next door. Food, as always, was impeccable. Whether it’s a special dinner or just a quick glass of wine, Treadwell will deliver a memorable experience.
114 Queen St.,
Although it’s not a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the Suppermarket is a place that brings the community together. Craft beer, local wines and some great grub make the Suppermarket an easy choice for one of the best of 2016. I just can’t resist smoked brisket from In the Smoke, pizza by Avella’s or tantalizing treats from the sea from Tide & Vine. Running Wednesday evenings from June to October annually, the market features food trucks, local craft brews and wines. Summer without a visit to the market is incomprehensible. It has become a summer event that should not to be missed.
Market at the Village
111 Garrison Village Drive