By Michael Lowe
It seems like an eternity since we were able to enjoy a bite to eat at outdoor patios around Niagara.
With Stage One of the re-opening of Ontario, my first visit is to Reif Estate Winery. It also marks the return of a much-loved burger master to the food scene.
It was almost seven years ago that I first tasted the freshly ground beef burgers made by Winston Easey at his restaurant, The Guilty Burger. After seeing on social media that he had returned to provide the food service at Reif Estate Winery, I headed out the same day to treat myself, both to sipping wine on a winery patio, and to Easey’s delicious dishes.
Arriving just as service had begun, I learned that Easey had just left but was introduced to his wife Penny (at left in photo above), who would be running the show. After selecting the fruit-forward, easy drinking Cabernet Gamay Merlot blend from the menu, I settled in at a table in the beautiful Sensory Garden (Photos below)
The menu at Reif includes three sandwich selections at $12 in addition to the four burger choices priced at $15. There are also three pizza options ranging from $15 to $18, along with a charcuterie and cheese board, and a “Vegan Delight.” I opted for the classic Guilty Burger, which is topped with bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce and drizzled with house sauce. All burgers feature double patties of ground beef brisket and all sandwiches and burgers are served with potato salad.
Be forewarned, these are some of the most juicy burgers around. Thankfully, plenty of napkins are provided. The Guilty Burger (left- photo above) is a favourite of mine due to the smoky bacon and cheddar combination and the rich flavour of the ground brisket. The potato salad (right photo, above) is tossed in a vinaigrette style dressing featuring fresh dill, making it a perfect patio lunch side dish. For dessert, it’s hard to resist a cupcake. I ended my lunch with a Black Forest cupcake (photo below) made by Penny’s daughter. The Amara’s cupcake is priced at $2 and is the lightest, not-too-sweet treat and just right for someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot of sweets.
This first visit was a delight. So much so that I returned on Father’s Day with my wife and her parents. This time Winston Easey (photo below) was at the helm doing what he does best — flipping burgers on the flat-top for hungry guests.
This time we dig in to the “Porker” burger, topped with smoked cheddar and jerk pulled pork and the vegetarian sandwich with eggplant, roasted red peppers, spinach, ricotta cheese and pesto (photos below). Both will make you very happy indeed. We dine and sip wine under the canopy of ivy relishing in the chance to eat out again, and hoping to do more of what we’ve missed over the last year and a half.
Reservations to dine outdoors is highly recommended and can be made here or by calling the winery. The outdoor kitchen is open from 11 am, weather permitting.
Reif Estate Winery
15608 Niagara Parkway