These Halifax restaurants were voted among Canada’s best | Food | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Chef de cuisine Jamie MacAulay (left) and chef Anthony Walsh are the duo behind the culinary vision at Drift.

These Halifax restaurants were voted among Canada’s best

A national ranking of Canada’s best bars and restaurants is giving high praise to Halifax’s food scene.

Call your “from away” friends and relatives and tell them there’s proof of what you’ve been saying for years: Halifax’s bar and restaurant scene is pretty damn good—and it’s not just oysters and lobster.

Halifax’s food scene is earning rave reviews in this year’s Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants list, an annual ranking of the top eateries and bars in the country, as voted by a panel of 130 food writers, critics, chefs and other industry professionals. Four restaurants in our region cracked the top 100: Bar Kismet (12th), Drift (57th), Bicycle Thief (64th) and Café Lunette (74th). Halifax also scored more Best New Restaurant entries than any other Canadian city, with three in the top 10: Café Lunette (5th), Fawn (7th) and Peacock (9th).

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Jessica Emin / The Coast
Clockwise from top left: raw albacore, confit tomato and yuzu kosho; chicken liver, cipollinis and vincotto; treviso and bagna cauda, all from Bar Kismet.

The double-honours came as a “surreal” surprise to Vanessa Bélanger, head chef at the Parisian-inspired Café Lunette, which opened in Halifax’s Queen’s Marque development in March 2022.

“I knew it was gonna be a really fun and cool adventure, but I didn’t realize how successful everything would be,” Bélanger says, speaking by phone with The Coast. Two-and-a-half years of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had left her guarded about the industry’s future: “Opening this restaurant at a time when we weren’t sure what was gonna happen to restaurants, I think it was super hard to see how we were going to do.”

(As it turns out, they would do just fine: The Coast’s readers also selected Café Lunette as Halifax’s Best New Restaurant in 2022’s Best of Halifax Readers Choice Awards.)

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Martin Bauman / The Coast
The Coast’s readers named Café Lunette the Best New Restaurant in Halifax in 2022.

The team behind Café Lunette, Halifax’s Freehand Hospitality, fared especially well in the annual Canada-wide awards: The group is also behind nominees Peacock and Drift, the latter of which chef Anthony Walsh describes as a “culinary love letter” to Nova Scotia and the East Coast.

“It’s a combination of using what’s local and showcasing what we have here, as well as incorporating some traditional dishes from the Maritimes without elevating it past the point of not being recognized,” Drift’s chef de cuisine Jamie MacAulay, who was behind past Halifax restaurants Water and Bone and Coda Ramen, told The Coast in 2021. “You should be able to sit down and be like, ‘It’s a hodge podge.’ Not, ‘It’s a “hodge podge”’ with air quotes.”

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The Coast
The Newfoundland bluefin tuna tartare at Drift is topped with flavourful ingredients like crispy black olives, dried tomatoes, pepperoni from Brothers Meats and Delicatessen and spicy ‘nduja sausage.

Dartmouth’s Dear Friend earns renown for cocktails

Halifax’s restaurants weren’t the only ones to score national recognition: Dear Friend, Stillwell and The Narrows ranked 16th, 38th and 49th, respectively, on Canada’s 100 Best Bars list.

To co-owner Matt Boyle, the secret to Dear Friend is its signature cocktails:

“The bar team who creates them puts a lot of time and effort into thinking about ingredients that inspire them,” he told The Coast after winning 2022’s Best of Halifax Reader’s Choice Award for best cocktails. Boyle credits “seasonally fresh and local terroir” with influencing Dear Friend’s drinks list, which the cocktail bar rotates up to five times a year—“so it’s always really fresh for the guests and something new that they can look forward to.”

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James Maclean
At Dear Friend in Dartmouth, oyster happy hour lets your worries slip away.

If you go: Try head bartender Patrick Fulgencio’s Ube Fiasco: A Filipino-inspired cocktail with Bombay Sapphire gin, crushed ice, almond and lemon.

—With files from Kaija Jussinoja and Chris Stoodley

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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