Breakfast is Served at Restaurants of Niagara

Author: Don Fraser

 

Restaurants of Niagara members have tasted, and spoken. Thousands are taking notes!

 

Close to 70,000 continually-engaged members are sharing on-point places to eat and drink in Niagara. This is your go-to site, and everything is on the table.

 

There are so many niches: Residents and travellers to this beautiful region love their breakfast corners, those reliable takeouts, scrumptious cabbage-rolls and idyllic places for groups to wine and dine at, to name but a few… it’s a cornucopia out there!

 

Meanwhile, the linked Facebook group “Restaurants of Niagara” by WhenInNiagara.com is swiftly approaching the 70,000-member mark.

 

There is nothing comparable for gastronomic advice and discoveries in the area, all provided by locals, visitors and business owners.

 

Here, we choose one of many appetizing public threads that caught our eye: That perfect breakfast or brunch, after a coffee and a yawn… with friends in mind, for a bite and some gossip.

 

Below is a short and random sample of your recommendations and restaurant-owner pitches, so bon appetit! To stay current on other places to discover, please follow the When In Niagara Facebook Page and visit our other blog posts.

 

 

Eager Beaver, Niagara Falls

Sandy Horvat-McIntyre

Eager Beaver is doing breakfast on the weekends! Best eggs benny ever  service was awesome!

 

 

Dohboy’s Diner- St. Catharines

Tiffany Olah-Scott

Had breakfast today at our favourite place!!   

Huge portions. Delicious food. Great service.

Fresh bread, smoky flavored bacon & the best home fries!

And even got two cute donuts for the kids!

Check it out! — at Dohboy’s Diner.

 

 

 

The Breakfast Beacon, Fort Erie

Courtney Lucas

 Are you ready to kickstart this weekend? What are you having today? Are you trying something new? Don’t forget to stop by the Breakfast Beacon. We have A little bit of everything to satisfy your craving. Banana bread French toast… Classic breakfast… 5 different eggs Benedict’s….Homemade hamburgers… Rubens and the list goes on! See you soon.

 

 

 

Hi-Lite Restaurant, Niagara Falls

Wendy Marie

Hi-Lite Restaurant another delicious breakfast  my favourite place on a Saturday morning  

 

 

 

Bruce’s 2×4 Diner, Wainfleet

Helen Romagnoli Kotrus

Stopped by the ”new” Bruce’s 2 x 4 for breakfast this morning on the corner of Hwy 24 and River Road outside of Wainfleet. We’ve been coming to this restaurant for years but were not sure what to expect with the change in ownership. Wow! We were pleasantly surprised! Quite possibly the best eggs Benny I’ve ever had! They are served on biscuits instead of English muffins and came poached exactly the way I asked.

 

 

 

Small-Batch Cheese Creamery Offers a Slice of Niagara’s Bounty

Author: Don Fraser

 

The Niagara Peninsula is a renowned wine region, married with superior culinary experiences that are buoyed by local produce and delicacies.

 

Upper Canada Cheese Company joined this scene as a premium small-batch, cheese-making creamery and artisan-food boutique.

 

Located in Jordan Station, the creamery approaches the Niagara Escarpment and is near to the Comfort Family Farm in St. Anns, whose Guernsey cow single-herd provides milk for its award-winning, luscious and high-protein product.

 

 

Founding Partner Wayne Philbrick, who grew up on a Niagara peach farm, was an early enthusiast of Niagara’s bounty. A purchase of tasty cheese on a trip to Quebec inspired a project working with milk produced by the Guernsey herd.

 

“This really started as a passion for Wayne,” said Upper Canada Cheese Co. General Manager Jennifer Hart. “He was trying to get back to basics, with good-quality local cheese with superb taste and texture. He knew about terroir and how the cow’s milk changes, depending on the seasons and the forage.”

 

After experimenting with different 100% Guernsey milk versions, by 2005, Upper Canada Cheese Co. was founded with two well-received cheeses— Niagara Gold Cheese and Comfort Cream. Their expanded lineup of handcrafted products now includes goat’s-milk offerings, with the agri-business remaining Niagara’s only dedicated creamery.

 

“People come to Niagara to experience these fantastic wineries, breweries, cideries —  all the fruits and vegetables we grow and the restaurants we have,” Hart explained. “So the concept here, is to be an intrinsic part of this culture.’”

 

Upper Canada Cheese Co.’s business includes a wholesale part; distributing to groceries, specialty stores and restaurants. It also has a ‘cellar door’, where visitors can come and taste the cheeses and view it being made by hand.

 

 

An enticing main boutique, located on 4159 Jordan Rd., sells their cheeses as well as gift boxes, and charcuterie-friendly table treats like honey, jams, breads and crackers, olives, meats and seafood — most of it locally, or Canadian sourced. A selection of hand-crafted kitchen-oriented giftware is also displayed.

 

Upper Canada Cheese Co. has also started an online shipping service, whose coverage area includes Southern Ontario, Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, with a quarterly cheese subscription available.

 

Even after 17 years in business, the shop and creamery site can still be a happy and unexpected discovery for people, laughs Hart. “Sometimes, visitors and customers tell us: ‘I didn’t know you were here, or ‘We just saw it, stopped to check it out, and had no idea how great Upper Canada Cheese was.’

 

“So there are still people finding us, and they’re really glad they landed here,” she said. “Every great wine region needs delicious locally-made cheese as part of the complement.”

 

For more information, please visit uppercanadacheese.com

 

 

 

All Signs Point to The Pizzeria

The Pizzeria

6175 Dunn Street, Niagara Falls

 

Call it a message from the universe, or perhaps it was opportunity knocking in its usual low-key way.

 

Whatever it was, it caught the attention of Michelle MacKinnon during a break while walking 100 kilometres through Niagara in summer 2020 to raise money for the Kidney March.

 

Michelle’s route took her past the Niagara Falls strip mall that once housed her family’s pizzeria. It’s where her husband, Dave, served as a pizzaiolo for 17 years until 2012, and where the couple’s boys, David and Andrew, grew up and worked their first jobs before David, 18, died of kidney failure.

 

Dave joined Michelle for her time out at the plaza and noticed the space that had sustained their family for so many years was once again vacant. He suggested re-opening a pizzeria there.

 

 

The pandemic had taken its toll on Dave’s other startup business out of town. Michelle, herself, had had already been sick with COVID-19 and was hesitant to return to the Montessori school where she taught.

 

So, with the help of business partners Derek Thompson, Chris Gleis and Dean Fox of Factor Forms, the couple moved back into their old, familiar space, launching The Pizzeria later that year.

 

“It is very strange how we ended up back there,” Michelle said. “We had to reinvent ourselves in a way we were familiar with. You can sit back and say ‘Oh, poor me. We’ve lost so much because of the pandemic’ but that has never been an outlook we have been willing to take. You either sink or swim. Thankfully, we’ve been swimming.”

 

 


 

 


 

 

That’s because Dave is serious about pizza. All that experience racked up over the years has made him a pie pro, and he’s not afraid to say it. Mostly, he just loves his job.

 

“We make an awesome pizza,” Dave said. “We’ve been around a long time. I really do enjoy the environment.”

 

And people really do enjoy his pizza, which Michelle also helps with when she wraps her day as a private, home school Montessori teacher.

 

Together, they focus on quality over quantity, offering a small selection of specialty pizzas, including their flagship Works pie, which features the classic combination of pepperoni, mushrooms, bacon, green pepper, onions, green olives and extra cheese. A Meat Lovers with pepperoni, bacon, ham, sausage and extra cheese also beckons.

 

But so do the creative chicken shawarma, Philly cheese steak, bacon double cheeseburger, barbecue chicken and buffalo chicken ’zas.

 

 

All Pizzeria pies, available with regular, gluten-free or cauliflower crusts, are dressed in homemade sauce and blanketed in Brick cheese before being decked out with toppings.

 

The menu is rounded out by all of pizza’s trusty sidekicks, including garlic bread, Mozzarella sticks, fries, onion rings, and, of course, chicken wings.

 

Those focused offerings are for good reason: keeping customers happy.

 

“The reason we do that is because we’re good at (those pizzas),” Michelle said. “You don’t have your hands in too many pies. There are too many opportunities to make mistakes, otherwise, so let’s do one thing right.”

 

It’s working. With the help of the Restaurants of Niagara Facebook page, the couple reached those hungry to support local businesses when they first opened The Pizzeria. At the same time, the group, and the customers it brought them, satisfied their own craving for connection with their community.

 

Those early days running The Pizzeria could last 18 hours, including prep and keeping up with orders. Soon after opening, The Pizzeria expanded into a neighbouring space to give customers more room to wait for their pickup orders. Post-pandemic, it holds the promise of becoming a dining room.

 


 

 


 

 

Still, the couple’s impact on their community goes beyond feeding people. They also operate the David Gregory MacKinnon Memorial Foundation, whose mission is education for families affected by kidney disease, and fundraising for scholarships and medical support.

 

Thompson, Gleis and Fox have similar philanthropic views. In 2020, The Pizzeria and Factor Forms donated $100,000-worth of toys to local charities supporting children. A year later, they bested that and gave $128,000 — all of it thanks to heeding the signs on that summer day two years ago.

 

 

“It all came together perfectly in an imperfect situation,” Michelle said about The Pizzeria. “We have a great staff that’s like family. We’re a team and I enjoy going to work. I love it.”

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

Budapest Bakeshop: This NOTL Bakery is Smokin’

Budapest Bakeshop

118 Queen St., Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

Move over, MacGyver. When given a beer can and a coat hanger, Anett and Todd Kane can work wonders, too. They can build an entire bakery.

 

 

The Kanes are the owners of Budapest Bakeshop, a carb-filled destination on Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake that specializes in Hungarian chimney cakes — Kürtoskalács as they’re called in Anett’s native Hungary.

 

They’re made of long strands of sweet, yeasted dough twisted around a dowel and baked on a rotisserie. When they come out of the oven, the dowel is removed, producing a hollow, golden-brown cake, steaming hot like a chimney, that’s pulled apart to eat.

 

 

Although the Kanes use specialized equipment to turn out the flagship food at Budapest Bakeshop, the idea for their business, which beckons lineups that wind around the building, started by coiling dough around beer cans and using coat hangers to rotate them over a grill in their backyard.

 

Friends praised their creations, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. That response lit a fire in both Anett and Todd to open a venue dedicated to a treat that had all the nostalgia of Anett’s childhood wrapped up within it.

 

 

“We just kind of got to a breaking point and said, ‘Let’s go all in,’ ” Todd said. “It was ‘OK, this is good food. We have to get it out to people.’ ”

 

The question was where to do it.

 

The Kanes were living in Buffalo when they decided to take the plunge. Their hometown seemed like a no-brainer. The Queen City has a reputation as a food city, particularly recently.

 

 



 

 

But every time they mentioned a bakery and cake in the same sentence, people would think wedding or birthday cakes.

 

They looked across the river instead. Anett is a Canadian citizen and Niagara-on-the-Lake seemed like a natural choice for the Kanes, who often vacationed there, and knew the crowds the town could attract.

 

Anett moved here first while Todd commuted, worked through his immigration process and stayed with their eldest daughter in Buffalo while she finished Grade 1.

 

 

 

By April 2019, they opened Budapest Bakeshop. People came. They ordered the classic cinnamon and sugar versions, those lined with nutella and nuts or one of the many other sweet takes on the menu.

 

Savoury versions are filled with sausage or coated in cheese. There are even sandwiches served on chimney cakes sliced down the middle and stuffed with cold cuts and vegetable toppings.

 

 

The couple and their staff baked non-stop from 6 a.m. to late in the afternoon, bringing to life ideas Anett jotted down in notebooks, inspired by the couple’s favourite foods from Buffalo and Niagara.

 

“We bake everything fresh daily,” Anett said. “Nothing is frozen. We make dough multiple times a day.”

 

 

Then came the pandemic. After taking 17 days to regroup, the Kanes got back to it, continuing to build a smokin’ business that brought joy to visitors in dark times.

 

“Niagara-on-the-Lake is a great tourist town but there’s also a great local population,” Todd said. “All the locals came out and just started to support us.”

 

It helped that they could reach many of those people on Restaurants of Niagara, the Facebook group behind When in Niagara.

 

 



 

 

“(COVID) just hit the Niagara region and that’s when we started posting on Restaurants of Niagara — when it had 3,000 people and jumped to 10,000 and then 20,000,” Todd said.

 

Today there are over 60,000 followers of the page, and many others of the Budapest Bakeshop.

 

 

“It makes me very proud,” Anett said. “Right now, I have tears in my eyes. All the response we’re getting from people, all the emails and messages, all the Hungarian people coming in from Toronto and Niagara and all over — it’s amazing how much they love our food.”

 

Get in touch: budapestbakeshop.com; @budapestbakeshop on Facebook and Instagram

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

Carl’s Wine Club – Building a Community of Canadian Wine Lovers

Carl and Mira Boucher know wine is best enjoyed with others.

 

But how do you bring people together to tipple in an era of physical distancing?

 

If you’re the Bouchers, you do it by breaking out a web cam and emailing invitations to join them online for a glass.

 

 

That’s exactly what they did on July 1, 2020, at the height of first pandemic lockdown, when they launched Carl’s Wine Club. It’s the first Canadian direct-to-consumer wine club and online forum bringing together oenophiles from coast to coast to discover and grow their appreciation for vintages produced north of the 49th parallel.

 

“That was the only way we could talk about wine,” Carl said. “Everything was online.”

 

No surprise, the couple weren’t alone in wanting to connect over a glass. When Carl’s Wine Club launched on Canada Day nearly two years ago it had 1,000 members. Today, Carl’s Wine Club is 6,000 strong and growing.

 

The reason is Carl’s love of wine, having been an industry consultant for more than 25 years. Most of that time, however, was spent focusing on international vintages.

 

 

It wasn’t until 2015, when he was hired by a major Canadian airline to revamp its wine program, that he learned Canada’s vintners could hold their own in winemaking.

 

“That’s when I got to learn about Canadian wine and got into Canadian wine, and realized we had some really great stuff happening,” Carl said.

 

 

Seeing his passion for Canada’s wine scene, Mira encouraged him to take it online and host wine virtual wine tastings. That took a little more convincing, however.

 

Carl knows tasting wine is an emotional and sensory experience. Doing something virtual seemed to take away from that.

 

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual wine tastings were the only real option.

 

Enter Carl’s Wine Club, an accessible wine forum with no membership fee.

 

 

They would invite others to meet with them weekly on Facebook to discuss a different Canadian wine each time. Members would also receive a newsletter with the story of the grapes and the vintner teasing out the best in them in that week’s bottle.

 

Tapping into Carl’s industry connections, the couple also offered featured wines, custom mixed tasting packs, early releases and special editions at winery-direct pricing or with free shipping, and with no commitment to buy.

 

 



 

 

“At the end of the day, we wanted to reach out to people to teach them wine doesn’t have to be pretentious, it doesn’t have to be complex, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable,” Carl said.

 

So far, it’s working. People are joining meetings and sharing their favourite finds in the Facebook group in between, including some who were once skeptical of Canadian wine’s merits.

 

“Some share ‘I’ll never get into Canadian wine, it’s not at that level yet,’ ” Mira said. “Then we’ll see a post they just had this wine from Niagara or this wine from British Columbia. There’s just that switch.”

 

“They get their first order and they’re convinced,” Carl added. “They see the quality.”

 

That quality carries over to the special edition Carl’s Wine Club red. Only 100 cases of this approachable blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were produced by Niagara’s Bella Terra Vineyards, of which When in Niagara founder Marcel Morgenstern is a partner.

 

 

Those who purchase a Carl’s Wine Club curated tasting pack with signup also get invited to join a private VIP Facebook group for additional tastings, and to share notes and stories.

 

Most importantly, they get to enjoy wine together — as it was meant to be.

 

“It feels like we’ve all become friends,” Carl said about the group. “We know who likes Syrah. We know who likes Chardonnay. It’s feels like we have lots of family.”

 

 

 

Join Carl’s Wine Club for free and discover more world-class Canadian wines!  https://www.carlswineclub.com/jointheclub

 

 

Follow Carl’s Wine Club on Facebook and Instagram @CarlsWineClub

 

 

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

 

Your Farm Gate – A Hub For Community, Local Food

Your Farm Gate

3822 Dominion Rd., Ridgeway

 

At 400 square feet of retail space, ‘Your Farm Gate’ looks small. But this chef-focused, chef-run butcher shop in Ridgeway is mighty.

 

 

That’s because of owner and culinarian Shawn Murphy’s dedication to Your Farm Gate’s MO: “It was always about being a hub for local food.”

 

 

Murphy does that by specializing in whole animal butchery, using everything he can at the meat counter he operates or in the dishes he makes in the 1,700 square feet of production space behind the scenes.

 

Murphy’s focus is on sourcing local, Ontario and Canadian products from producers who have as much passion and purpose as he does to change foodways and help people eat more conscientiously.

 

 

Murphy’s secret is to buy direct from farmers, including chicken from Fenwood Farms in Ancaster, lamb from Beverly Creek Farms in Millgrove, pork from Linton Pasture Pork  in Walton, and beef from Penokean Hills Farm in Sault Ste. Marie for his whole animal butchery program and boxed beef from Atlantic Beef, a farmer-owned co-operative in PEI.

 

What Murphy learns in his quest for quality from his suppliers, who also work with Canada’s most highly rated restaurants, he shares with his customers at Your Farm Gate.

 

 



 

 

“I can usually tell by looking at pork, for example, I know through the taste, how it’s raised,” Murphy said. “The quality (of Linton Pasture Pork) stands above and beyond.”

 

Those relationships Murphy nurtures also result in competitive prices at Your Farm Gate while ensuring producers, not middlemen, get the profits.

 

 

Given Murphy’s niche as a whole animal butcher, Your Farm Gate is the local source for any cut, even a rare bone-in pork belly. But as those lesser-known cuts grow their fan base, Murphy uses his skills in the kitchen to turn them into well-known dishes.

 

Mixed cuts of beef, or chicken and leeks, get wrapped in ethereal pastry made using pork lard, Sterling butter and flour from 1847 Stone Milling.

 

Staying true to his Irish roots, Murphy makes room on his focused menu for a classic sausage roll using his own banger recipe. There are fresh lasagnas to be had, too.

 

 

Come summer, it’s not uncommon to find Murphy firing up the grill outdoors. Again, it’s another way to use up some of those cuts that aren’t yet household names. But it also serves as a gateway to conversation, questions and education.

 

“I wanted to sell the best product but not to be a stuffy place. It’s just fun,” he said.

 

 

Your Farm Gate also offers fresh produce brought in from local farms, including certified organic Chez Nous in Ridgeway and Calico Farms in Wainfleet, and fruit from Haist Farms in Fonthill. Also a green thumb, Murphy offers his own homegrown tomatoes, sold fresh or in his seasonal tomato ricotta tart.

 

When local produce is scarce, like at this time of year, Murphy relies on Lococo’s, a Niagara specialty grocer and supplier, to keep shelves stocked.

 

“It seems like a lot going on but it’s no different than a Longo’s serving you a sandwich and then selling you canned goods and other food,” Murphy said about Your Farm Gate’s broad offerings.

 

 



 

 

And it’s about connecting the dots, he added. Come in for meat, grab a ready-made sauce and some veggies, and dinner is almost served.

 

Over the three years Murphy has operated in Ridgeway, his list of customers has grown because they know shopping at Your Farm Gate isn’t a mere transaction. With Murphy, they can engage in heady conversations about food systems, turn to him for guidance on how to prepare a dish, or partake in some convivial banter with the man himself.

 

 

“It’s very much an educational experience for people who don’t know and a familiar experience for those who do,” Murphy said. “We try to have as much fun as possible.”

 

 

Get in Touch: yourfarmgate.ca, @yourfarmgate on Instagram

 

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

MELTwich: Niagara’s Cheesy New Hot Spot

It might seem a stretch to see a link between grilled cheese sandwiches and tending bar, but Sean Norman can connect the dots.

 

Norman co-owns MELTwich Food Co., a purveyor of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and other dishes shining a well-deserved spotlight on melted cheese, with his wife Leah in Niagara Falls.

 

 

Once upon a time, however, Norman was mixing drinks behind a bar in Port Credit, where he met a VIP in the world of cheesy comfort classics.

 

It was entrepreneur Tom Mavrou, who’d opened his own restaurant in the early 2010s called Melt.

The specialty was grilled cheese sandwiches and Mavrou’s knack for showing the versatility of this flagship comfort food made Melt a hot spot. Soon after, he opened a second location in Toronto.

 

 

One name change later, MELTwich was born, as was a plan to start franchising in 2015.

 

No stranger to the restaurant business, Norman watched the MELTwich chain spread like molten cheddar between two slices of grilled bread as he operated his own catering business and wine bar.




 

Impressed by the chain’s fast growth and success — and a lover of grilled cheese sandwiches himself — Norman considered putting his own stake in the MELTwich empire. But it wasn’t until the life-changing events of the pandemic that he and Leah finally did it, setting up shop in Niagara Falls’ Stamford neighbourhood.

 

 

Together, they serve food that’s been a balm for many seeking the familiar in an uncertain time.

 

“It’s a cool concept. We loved the food. The appeal is it’s different and unique,” Norman said about the draw to open MELTwich. “And Stamford is a great community. We really want to become that community spot.”

 

 

So far it’s working. Since opening last December, diners of all ages have kept Leah, who operates the store, busy with orders for the Southern-fried Chicken Melt, starring crispy fried chicken blanketed with American and Cheddar cheese, chipotle and buttermilk dill sauces, tomato corn salsa, pickles and lettuce — plant-based version optional.

 

There are tricked out Philly cheese steaks, too, including the Mac & Cheese Steak, an indulgent mash-up of sliced sirloin steak, Mozzarella, grilled mushrooms, onions, mac and cheese and hickory smoked bacon hugged by a brioche bun.

 

 

Burgers — always topped with cheese — and another classic vessel for melted cheese, poutine, are also options.

 

 

While the classic Quebecois combo of fries, gravy and cheese curds is available, so too, are versions topped with mac and cheese and bacon; spicy steak; chicken, bacon and buttermilk dill drizzle; or spicy Nashville chicken.

 

There’s even a dedicated vegan menu, and vegan cheese available to use on anything else. And of course, the creatives in the crowd can use the Classic Melt as a blank canvas to top with their choice of avocado, grilled mushrooms, grilled onion, chicken — fried or grilled — or bacon. Sandwiches can also be dressed with a variety of sauces and fresh veggies.

 

 



 

 

Rounding out the menu are hearty salad bowls for those preferring greens to bread, and grilled cheese’s soul mate, tomato bisque soup.

 

There’s also another dot to connect between grilled cheese sandwiches and libations.

 

“Here’s the best part,” Norman said. “We serve beer. We’ll sell wine because it’s Niagara. But what a great concept. You can come with your kids — they can have a (hand-spun) milkshake. You can have a beer with your Philly cheese steak.”

 

 

That wine list will include vintages from Burnt Ship Bay Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where When in Niagara’s Marcel Morgenstern is a partner.

 

For those who can’t make it in the door, delivery by Uber Eats and Door Dash is available.

 

 

Meanwhile, Norman plans to make MELTwich as much a part of the community as he can. He and Leah have already sponsored a soccer team and are looking for other ways to say thanks to Stamford and Niagara for their support.

 

“We really want to give back,” he said. “We want to be part of the community in a positive way. It’s a tight community.”

 

 

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

Panini and Passion Drive MJ Ingribelli Food Truck

 

 MJ Ingribelli Food Truck

 

6080 McLeod Rd., Niagara Falls

 

 

Churros and coffee were a breakfast staple for Micaela Ingribelli when she lived in Argentina.

 

After the launch of her food truck, MJ Ingribelli, with her husband Joe in Niagara Falls in June 2020, churros and hot chocolate have become an essential for residents of the Cataract City and beyond.

 

 

The Ingribellis make their fried dough-hot beverage combo from scratch every Saturday morning in their roving kitchen. And the pairing, served Saturdays only, has become one of many calling cards for the couple’s venture born out of necessity in the midst of the pandemic.

 

 

“Our vision is to provide high quality food from a food truck,” Micaela said. “People think a food truck is fries and greasy food. No. This is still a proper kitchen. We can do so much more.”

 

Doing so much more was ultimately the inspiration that drove the couple to start a food truck. Joe, a cook for 30 years, and Micaela with her sales and event experience, had been working in a Niagara Falls hotel when the pandemic hit and they were laid off.

 

“We thought if we combine our loves, something will happen,” Micaela recalled.

 

Thoughts turned to a restaurant but the start-up and overhead costs on a food truck were easier to digest. Plus, the takeout-only model of business seemed virtually pandemic-proof.

 

 


SPONSERED AD


 

The couple decided to buy two mobile kitchens: one for catering corporate events and the other, currently parked on McLeod Road at the Service Canada Centre, for lunch and early dinner service Monday to Saturday.

 

 

Their MO in both cases was to bring food to the people, given the challenges eating in restaurants the past two years, and with it, their passion for what they do.

 

“We feel love equals food and food equals love,” Micaela said. “We’re making something with our hands. There’s nothing better than that.”

 

 

All that labour turns into those Saturday morning churros. The rest of the week, there are substantial and satisfying panini, which dominate the menu, including MJ Ingribelli’s flagship chicken Parmesan.

 

 

There’s also the Canadian bacon loaded with peameal bacon, Swiss cheese, and tomatoes, and dressed with mayo and mustard. A classic turkey panino decked out with cranberry, Swiss cheese, fresh spinach and tomato, and a vegetarian version filled with roasted red peppers, mozzarella, tomato, spinach and tzatziki round out the sandwich offerings.

 

 

Hot dogs and sausage are offered, too. And on Fridays the couple dishes out fish and chips, the star being fresh haddock loin. All of it is available to in-person orders, by calling ahead or through delivery by Door Dash.

 

The menu has proven a crowd favourite. Still, the couple continue to take their cues from their customers. If someone is hungry for something, they’ll test recipes and try them on the menu.

 

Their efforts are revealed every Thursday with a new special but the same motivation behind it.

 

 

“We’re always thinking of new things we can bring to people. We do it because we enjoying changing it up,” Micaela said.

 

“You’re making people’s day better. Hopefully, with good food and conversation, we’re doing that.”

 

 

Get in touch: mjingrebelli.com, @mj_ingribelli on Instagram

 

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

 

The Scent of a Dining Destination: Welcome to The Indian Aroma Kitchen

The Indian Aroma Kitchen

486 Grantham Ave., Unit 9, Linwell Plaza

 

 

When Kamini and Ravi Srivastava moved to Canada from India in 2019, they came with more than excitement and desire to live closer to their adult children.

 

Kamini came with 25 years of experience in India’s professional kitchens and stores of family recipes passed down to her from her grandmother and mom.

 

 

Eight months later, in the throes of the pandemic, the couple made those precious artifacts the crux of a business plan that converted a former a fried chicken outlet in a sleepy north St. Catharines neighbourhood into a dining destination.

 

The Srivastavas opened The Indian Aroma Kitchen. It’s a dedicated takeout spot specializing in the cuisine of northern India — think vindaloo and aloo gobi, butter chicken and dal ke kebab. They’ve also created a few house specialties, including butter chicken poutine; paneer tikka pizza featuring housemade dough decked out with creamy dal makhani, paneer, tandoori spices and mozzarella cheese; and a variety of wraps stuffed with Mughlai classics, that fuse the flavours of their two homelands.

 

 

“The quality is there, the taste is there and we’re getting great reviews,” Ravi said.

 

There’s a reason for that.

 

Kamini’s experience as a professional chef enabled her to tweak her family recipes to be restaurant-calibre. She was uncompromising in her process, refusing to rush or cut corners to feed what’s been a growing hunger for her food among St. Catharines diners.

 

 

All of her spice blends are made in-house, putting a unique thumbprint on the bases for each dish on the menu.

 

Poultry for the popular butter chicken is marinated for five to six hours while lamb for the chef’s special lamb shank nihari is marinated up to five days then slow-roasted for 12 hours before serving.

 

 

“Indian cooking is all about technique and the way we make things,” Kamini said. “Indian cooking is a long process. It’s an hours-long process but it gives flavour to things.”

 

Since opening The Indian Aroma Kitchen in August 2020, those dishes have become calling cards because of the time and talent Kamini puts into them. So, too, have the chole, a spiced chickpea stew that comforts on the the coldest winter day, aloo gobi that makes the lips and tongue buzz, samosas served with tamarind and coriander chutney, and rich curries, kormas and vindaloos.

 

 

All of it can be capped with Indian sweets, including gulab jamun and kulfi, or washed down with a cooling mango or rose lassi, or warming masala chai.

 

For first-time visitors, the couple recommend an order of butter chicken or aloo gobi, samosas, parathas, including stuffed versions, and either the vegetable or chicken biryani.

 

 



 

 

With the help of their son, Pallav, who studied culinary arts at Niagara College, the Srivastavas recently took a pared-down version of their menu on the road with a food truck parked at the Outlet Collection in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They also expanded their headquarters at Linwell Plaza on the corner of Linwell Road and Grantham Avenue to add an ice cream shop.

 

 

Mostly, they’ve endured because of the comfort The Indian Aroma Kitchen has provided diners and the security the couple has offered their staff  — the same crew as when the restaurant opened — during these uncertain times.

 

“It was a really difficult time for us when we opened,” Kamini said. “COVID just started but… we had good customers and wonderful staff — we are like family. And we are here today.”

 

 

 

Get in touch: @theindianaromakitchen on Instagram and Facebook

 

 

 

Author: Tiffany Mayer

Follow her on Instagram: @eatingniagara 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Great Niagara Take-Out Spots According to The Locals

Throughout the pandemic restaurants have had to make a lot of adjustments to accommodate the ongoing restrictions on indoor dining. When the weather was warm, we were able to enjoy a nice meal and drink on the patio, but now that the temperature is dropping that option is not as desirable.

 

Although the brave few will bundle up to bring patio season into January, most people are opting to order take-out from their favourite local restaurants. Ordering take-out is the perfect way to continue to support restaurants during these challenging times!

 

We asked the locals what their go-to spot to order take-out in Niagara is, and here are their answers:

 

 

 

St. Catharines 

 

 

“A spot we love is The Lazy Lizard. They have the best wings I have ever had. The southwest won tons are fantastic. They also have great burritos, burgers and pizzas. You can’t go wrong.” – Glenda McVarish Hall

 

 

 

Brass Monkey Local is definitely a fav. In a household with different diets, Brass Monkey has something for all of us! Best Pub food around with amazing Vegan and Veg options.” – Sarah Marie Yurkiw

 

 

 

“[We] intend to order from 1954 Bourbon & Smoke. They haven’t had their official opening yet, but we were there just before Christmas and loved the food. Since I want to ensure they survive this shutdown before they even got started, we want to support them.” – Douglas J Steele

 

 

 

Big Marco’s panzarotti’s are the best.” – Andrew Gill

 

 

 

“Cats caboose”– Michelle Boese

 

 

 

Fort Erie

 

 

“Tzatziki Time is amazing! Everything is fresh and the portions are huge.” – Brenda Svob

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

Niagara on the lake

 

 

“We’ve been ordering from Sandtrap Pub and Grill in NOTL since the pandemic started. I’m a huge fan of their Spicy Fish pizza, and my wife likes their grilled salmon (served on a mixed greens salad).” – Douglas J Steele

 

 

 

“Bella Terra vineyards! They have their delicious charcuterie take-home boxes available for pick-up. It’s the perfect pairing for an at-home wine tasting night.” – Emily Giroux

 

 

 

“Trius to go.” – Teresa Virgulti

 

 

 

Niagara Falls

 

 

“I love Johnny Rocco’s. I always get the baked chicken penne and hubby gets spaghetti and meatballs. The Arincini is amazing. Salads and bread are top notch as well. Their food is always fantastic!” – Glenda McVarish Hall

 

 

 

Gabriele’s catering in Chippawa” – Joanne McRae

 

 

 

Pita on the run – the wings, chicken bryani and falafel wrap” – Cláudia Schuck

 

 

 

Queen Bean Niagara Falls [for charcuterie and wine]. $35.00 without the wine or $55.00 with the wine.” – Cher A Van Ditelli

 

 

 

“Soup and things – I love the paninis and chicken noodle soup” – Cláudia Schuck

 

 

 

“Chef of India for Indian cuisine” – Ashwani Sharma

 

 

 

Big Mo’s Shawarma – the shawarma, of course” – Cláudia Schuck

 

 

 

Thorold

 

 

Thorold Fish and chips located at 46 Front St. N. Definitely the best fish and chips family owned very very friendly staff.” – Sami J. Sam

 

 

 

Welland

 

“We love Big Daddy’s Pho in Welland, so many great choices you can’t go wrong but some of our favourites are the fresh rolls, pad Thai, and zengchau fried rice. The soup is also amazing!” – Karen Edwards

 

 

 

 

Thank you to everyone who gave us these awesome take-out suggestions! It is so important to continue to support local restaurants during these times. 

 

Think we missed a restaurant that should be on this list? Leave a comment on our Facebook post!