If the world of live show production and ‘show biz’ in general does not pan out, I would wish for a career as a travel critic. After years of traveling, I have seen the good, bad and ugly in restaurants, hotels and attractions. With that in mind, I have taken it upon myself to ensure whenever possible we ‘eat well’. If one can have ‘fun in the process’ and ‘eat well’ all of a sudden work becomes better and more worthwhile. Over the last two weeks I shared many good meals with a variety of friends, colleagues, new acquaintances and even family.
This backstage post is not the forum for full length restaurant reviews but after criss crossing North America for the last two weeks it is a good place to highlight some of the top meals I had along the way. If you ever find yourself around Regina, Edmonton, Cleveland or Ottawa here are some places worth checking out.
1. La Bodega- Regina
We discovered this Spanish Tapas style place in the winter months when their patio ice bar was in full swing. It hit the mark then so it was time to head back with some others. This time we all went for the Chef’s tasting menu. The tapas and extensive martini selection are the definite highlights. In fact the main course (bison) was the weakest part of the meal. We will be back!
2. Red Ox Inn- Edmonton
Another place we had discovered before. At Grey Cup 2010, we ventured to this cozy, intimate restaurant and have since recommended it to others. This time were in town for the Sarah McLachlan Barefoot in the Backyard event so had almost a week to find some good Edmonton fare. The outstanding service and unique local menu were fantastic.
3. Padmanadi- Edmonton
Padmanadi was an unusual choice for us for a couple of reasons. First of all it is not licensed and secondly it is vegetarian. Nevertheless, we walked north from downtown in an area that was not so pleasant. That did not deter us as we know good food can be found in many places. There were three of us who were all hungry so we shared the ‘dinner of four’ and almost polished it off. The theme is Asian and the Hot and Sour Soup and Ginger (faux) Beef were highlights. Since it was not licensed we did not linger long but it is certainly worth checking out.
4. Canteen- Edmonton
After a successful event and load out, we had time for one more Edmonton meal. It was either going to be a good Alberta steak or a unique restaurant in downtown. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday most of downtown was shut. We had our heart set on Tres Carnales but no luck. We then toyed with the idea of Ruth’s Chris for a steak but were informed by our helpful hotel lobby bartender that their beef was US not Albertan. So, she suggested we venture out to the 124th Street area. I’ve always wanted to go to this area so happily jumped in the production vehicle and headed west. Once there, we cruised the street and after some lively discussion settled on Canteen. Usually, I do some research before settling in on a place but this time we relied on the exterior vibe. We were not disappointed and we got some outstanding Alberta beef short ribs. It turns out this new restaurant is owned by the same people who own Red Ox Inn, so our time in Edmonton had come full circle.
5. Lola Bistro- Cleveland
Surprisingly, there is no direct flight from Cleveland to Edmonton. So, after a long travel day it was once again time to ‘eat well’. This meal took some advance planning and reservations as Lola Bistro is very popular. It is Iron Chef America, Micheal Symon’s, hometown restaurant. It did not disappoint. We will be speaking of the lamb heart, pork chops and great wine for a while. The only quibble was the room is quite loud but since it was a Monday night it cleared out fairly early. All in all, a great start to our time in Cleveland.
6. The Black Pig- Cleveland
Day two in Cleveland saw us get some local recommendations. Everyone said head over to the Market Square area. The first challenge was finding a cab. It turns out that is not an easy feat in Cleveland. Once we got to the area we wandered around and scouted out some of the places that were recommended. The Black Pig looked good and in we went. It has a casual, old feel that is very welcoming. The menu is diverse and had many local options. Glad we made it out there and it would be nice to explore this area further.
7. Pot-Au-Feu- Wakefield
After our short stay in Cleveland, it was time to head to Ottawa for a series of meetings. Day One happened to fall on my birthday so I managed to join some family who live in town for an nice night out in the country side of Quebec. We headed out over the Gatineau Hills to the quaint village of Wakefield. Once there we headed over to the old train station which is now Pot-au-Feu. Quite a change after a week of urban meals to sit outside on a deck looking over the trees just starting to change their colours with the covered bridge in the distance. It was an amazing setting as the sun set. Thankfully the food lived up to the setting. I had a craving for salmon and their feature hit the spot.
8. Black Tomato- Ottawa
One final meal in the heart of Ottawa. We knew it would be good as we scoured the menu and came across our favourite beer, Beau’s Lugtread. Black Tomato has a lively and historic atmosphere. The menu is one of those places where it is hard to choose but it seemed everyone at our table was happy.