If last year’s haul of industry awards is anything to go by, Halifax’s food and drink scene continues to put our coastal city on the map. That doesn’t show any signs of slowing in 2024, even as the region reels from the loss of several beloved haunts in 2023. The good news? More palate-pleasing options are on the way—and some new restaurants are coming sooner than you think.
Here at The Coast, we’ve got you covered with seven new eateries to spark your appetite all year long:
Kohinoor (2103 Gottingen Street)
Based in the former Hopyard on Gottingen Street, chef and co-owner Dinu Mathew and his friends-turned-business partners are planning an Indian bar/restaurant that will bring something “a little bit different” to a city in short supply of late-night South Asian cuisine. Kohinoor will be open 11am-11pm on weekdays and until 1am on weekends, with “live music and everything,” Mathew says. Its menu will reflect, in part, the southern Indian dishes Mathew grew up with before moving to Canada in 2010 and eventually settling in Halifax in 2012—offerings like Kerala porotta, a layered flatbread served with curry; or Chettinad masala, marinated overnight and served with peppers and onions.
It’s not the first restaurant venture for the group: Mathew and friends Tinu Matthews, Tony Abraham and Jinu Samuel opened Spice Hub Indian Kitchen in Westphal in November 2020, hoping to fill a void in the semi-rural community’s food scene.
“It’s mostly north Indian restaurants [here in Halifax], so we want to introduce some of our stuff from south India, too,” Mathew told The Chronicle Herald in 2020.
That bet has paid off. Despite opening Spice Hub in the first year of COVID-19, the foursome say they received an “overwhelming” community response—along with regulars repeatedly asking when they would open a restaurant on the Halifax side of the harbour. Enter Kohinoor, named for one of the world’s largest cut diamonds (and a part of the Crown Jewels).
It’s not far off from opening, either: This past week, new signage went up outside the restaurant.
“We were hoping to open right before Christmas, but that didn’t happen,” Mathew tells The Coast. “We’re still waiting on a couple more documents… but hopefully we can get our full permit this week and get [the restaurant] open this month.”
The Empanada Shop (1532 Granville Street)
If you’ve paid a visit to the bustling ground floor of the Halifax Brewery Market in the past year and a half, chances are you’ve met Gabriel Behar and Veronica Catalan. Their Saturday morning food stall, festooned with a Chilean flag and signs advertising “authentically Chilean” cuisine, has a strong claim as the best place in Halifax to find homemade empanadas since it opened in 2022. And it’s maybe the only place to find that magic salsa known as pebre: A blend of coriander, chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic and aji chili peppers that brings just the right amount of heat to any dish. Catalan and Behar have sold plenty of both since moving to Halifax from southern Ontario—their empanadas, filled with everything from beef, to pear, to corn. (The recipes come from Catalan’s Santiago-raised grandmother, Coca.)
Now, the two are preparing to open their own brick-and-mortar location of The Empanada Shop, just up the street from the weekend market where they’ve earned their name. They’ve signed a lease on the Granville Street side of the former Freemasons Hall (below 2 Doors Down), in what used to be Kee Heong Cantonese Bakery & Dim Sum. It’s an exciting time, Behar says. He’s been prepping by taking an intensive self-employment program through startup nonprofit CEED.
“We’re looking forward to it,” he tells The Coast. “We’ve encountered people from New Brunswick—Moncton, Fredericton—and even Charlottetown, and they like that we’re opening [here].”
The space isn’t an especially large one—the focus will be on take-out meals, as opposed to dine-in service, Behar says—but it will allow them to bake and serve out their empanadas six days a week, instead of only one. Plus, they can serve coffee and tea, along with a dessert option or two.
The plan is to open by “middle of February,” Behar tells The Coast. Lunchtime and afternoon service will take priority as they get a sense for their customers’ appetites. Plus, they’ll continue to set up their stand at the Brewery Market.
“It’s the way we started this; it’s our baby,” Behar says. “We’re grateful for it.”
Ed’s Take Out (TBD)
File this under the rumours-probably-happening-but-not-yet-certified category: Last May, Halifax ReTales’ Arthur Gaudreau broke the news that long-running Digby fish and chips joint Ed’s Take Out would be expanding into the HRM—and that it would be setting up shop on Wyse Road in Dartmouth.
After almost 70 years, Digby famous Ed’s Take Out is confirmed to be expanding to HRM— Halifax ReTales (@HalifaxReTales) May 16, 2023
Now if my info from 18 months ago is true it will be on Wyse Rd
Founded in 1963, Ed’s has been a fixture of the Annapolis Basin since the late army veteran Ed Francis opened up his humble shop a year after helping his wife, Christina, to launch Christina’s Home Pastries. It is quite likely one of the longest-running Black-owned businesses anywhere in Eastern Canada.
The Coast hasn’t been able to verify where or when, exactly, Ed’s Take Out will open in the HRM. (We’ve reached out to the restaurant and its ownership, but haven’t received a reply as of publication.) But with last year’s closure of John’s Lunch, Ed’s promises to fill a void in Nova Scotian comfort food whenever it arrives.
Chaii Samosa (6430 Quinpool Road)
Muntadhr Naji has long dreamt of opening another samosa shop. The (since-closed) ZamZam Bakery was one of the first businesses the serial restaurateur launched after he arrived in Halifax in 2009. At the time, he came as a refugee from Syria.
“I came with no English, no money,” Naji says, speaking with The Coast in Chaii Samosa, his soon-to-open Quinpool Road restaurant. “Imagine.”
Born and raised in Iraq, Naji has always had an entrepreneurial spirit: “My father was teaching me, my grandfather was teaching me, so I was selling in the street when I was very young,” he told CTV News in 2016. Naji taught himself to cut hair. In Halifax, he baked samosas and sold them wholesale to cafes. He opened a pair of barber shops. Then, he launched a halal burger chain. (Charger Burger now has three locations across Halifax.) That spun off into a halal chicken burger restaurant, Turbo Chicken, that offers gourmet milkshakes on Quinpool near Kline Street.
Still, he dreamt of samosas. Chaii Samosa, Naji’s latest business venture, combines his love of the South Asian and Middle Eastern grab-and-go food with one of his favourite drinks: Karak chai. Brewed strong and thick, with black tea, cardamom and evaporated milk, Naji jokes that he drinks “maybe three litres a day” of the spiced tea.
“I’m very fond of chai,” he tells The Coast. “My dream was to open a chai store.”
Chaii Samosa will offer “many flavours” of chai, Naji says, along with Indian breakfast, tandoori wraps and kulfi (Indian ice cream, more akin to frozen custard). He plans to open the restaurant in mid-January.
Across the street from Turbo Chicken, it will share a parking lot with the burger joint—and also serves as evidence of Naji’s belief in Halifax’s west end.
“If you told me 10 years ago to do business here, I’d have told you, ‘no,’” Naji says. “It wasn’t like this. But now, we’ve got more construction going on, you see more people living around here… Quinpool has become a very good location.”
eatGRK (2200 Windsor Street)
Billed as an “authentic Greek souvlaki and gyro bar,” eatGRK promises it will arrive as an “affordable” addition to the region’s Mediterranean food scene. In the same building as Hair By Bea, next door to the Bluenose Laundromat and two doors down from Rinaldo’s, it’s helmed by restaurateur Georgia Kapetanakis—a longtime Haligonian by way of Milos, Greece—and her husband, Dan MacIntosh. (Kapetanakis also co-owns the Harborside Cafe in beachy Rafina, Greece.)
The concept: Fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and flavours straight from Kapetanakis’s home country. There’ll be Greek fries (patates tiganites), dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper and oregano. Service will mostly centre on takeout and delivery, with a small section of patio seating in the summer months. They’ll be licensed to serve alcohol. Kapetanakis also envisions adding Greek desserts and coffee to the menu.
It’s a plan ten years in the making, the duo tells The Coast. “We were anticipating having the doors open in 2020, but then COVID came, so we put the brakes on things,” MacIntosh says, speaking by phone.
What you see on Windsor Street today will look quite different come opening, too: The plan is for a new front entrance opening onto the driveway (which currently leads to the hair studio) and facing north up Windsor, with a new facade of windows bringing light into the restaurant.
The target for opening is “hopefully late spring, early summer,” Kapetanakis says. And if all goes well, they already have plans for expansions.
ASIA (1325 Lower Water Street)
We’re still learning more about the under-construction Cunard development on Lower Water Street, but one tidbit was teased in a blog post by Southwest Properties—the company behind the mixed-use condo/commercial project with Build Nova Scotia—back in late June 2022: The owners behind the boardwalk sushi hotspot Sea Smoke are planning to bring “an elevated Asian fusion concept” to the new building, with a menu that will bring “something different from Sea Smoke and different from what you see anywhere in Halifax.” Its name: ASIA.
Restaurateurs Zoey Boosey and Kent Scales are behind the project, which marks their fourth collaboration in Halifax; in addition to Sea Smoke, the two were behind the short-lived Saké restaurant and cocktail bar on Granville Street, as well as the newly-rebranded Vandal Doughnuts. (Scales also owns an array of restaurants in PEI, including Claddagh Oyster House and Olde Dublin Pub in Charlottetown.) Speaking by phone with The Coast, Boosey says the plan is for a “pan-Asian” menu with offerings “from India to Thailand to China.” She and Scales are in final negotiations with a chef who has “worked in lots of very high-end restaurants around the world,” Boosey says, including in Michelin-starred kitchens.
A Haligonian by way of Hertfordshire, UK, Boosey doesn’t hide her ambitions to bring Halifax its first Michelin-starred restaurant one day.
“Coming to Nova Scotia, there’s so much opportunity,” she says. “[You can] really get creative… and now, we’re seeing lots more innovative, interesting restaurants here. People are ready for something more.”
Like the continent the restaurant takes its name from, ASIA promises to be big: It’s set to seat around 180 to 200 guests between two floors of patios and a main dining room. If it delivers on nothing else—an unlikely outcome, given Sea Smoke’s popularity—the scenery promises to be stellar: The restaurant is earmarked for 4,000 square feet of the new Cunard development, with a street entrance on Lower Water and up-close views of Halifax Harbour.
Renovations begin in earnest next month, with a target date of June for opening.
De la Dori (1741 Lower Water Street)
Put this under the probably-happening-but-still-too-early-to-say category: In the former Swanky Burger location at Queen’s Marque (former in the relative sense, that is; it never opened), there’s been a flurry of activity for the first time in months. A new sign above the glass door, sandwiched between Peace by Chocolate and Sapori Italian Street Food, teases the arrival of something called De la Dori. What does that mean? Not a damn clue: The restaurant (it’s gotta be a restaurant, right?) doesn’t trigger any search results in Nova Scotia’s registry of joint stock companies, nor does it come up on social media or elsewhere.
(One eagle-eyed Coast reader, Bruce Bottomley, kindly noted that dori means “road” or “street” in Japanese—which, when combined with the French phrasing of de la, could hint at some kind of French-Japanese fusion.)
It also shares part of a name with Toridori—the still-to-come “love affair with Asia’s diverse repertoire of noodle creations” that happens to have a neighbouring address in the Queen’s Marque development. (That restaurant, like Swanky Burger, has been teased as “coming soon” since 2022.) So: A coincidence? A rebranding? Could be either. We’ve reached out to Freehand Hospitality—which owns Toridori, along with most of the Queen’s Marque restaurants, including Drift, Café Lunette and Bar Sofia—but we have yet to receive a reply.