Panda Buffet is a haven of possibilities. Several aisles of glass-topped buffet tubs contain over 100 traditional Chinese dishes, from sweet-and-sour chicken to crispy wontons. The eatery, led by manager Vincent Wong, also features a selection of sushi, and diners can seal in all-you-can-eat meals with a layer of ice cream for dessert.
After spending 12 years in the corporate world, Chris Smith decided to relinquish his daily suit and tie to pursue a long-time dream of opening a neighbourhood pub. The Dartmouth native elicited the help of friends, family, and a background in carpentry to design and construct the dining room and secret passageways of Jamieson’s Irish-House & Grill, which opened in September 1999. The menu offers traditional Irish seafood, beef, and chicken dishes culled from world-renowned recipes, including Smithwicks beer-battered fish 'n' chips. A lengthy wooden bar houses more than 50 varieties of Scotch, Irish, or blended whiskey as well as several imported beers, both bottled and on draft.
From its space within the Best Western Plus Chocolate Lake Hotel, Lakeside Grill serves zesty sandwiches, burgers, and other steak and seafood cuisine for lunch and dinner. Garrison-ale back ribs are basted with a sweet beer-barbecue sauce and slow roasted, and lime-infused grilled scallops in tequila cream sauce take care of seafood cravings. At lunch, spicy haddock or philly-steak sandwiches share menu space with specialty burgers such as the Spicy Asian, a handheld helping of ground pork with grilled pineapple, sriracha mayo, and cucumber.
Within a former fish-processing plant now incorporated into the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, The Old Fish Factory Restaurant & Ice House Bar slings seafood culled from the fresh catches of top local suppliers. As guests peer out onto the harbour from the dining room or inhale salty ocean air on the wharf-side patio, they can feast upon homemade seafood chowders or ale-battered fish 'n' chips as well as Canadian rib-eye steaks and vegetarian pastas.
In addition to scenic views and succulent shellfish, a variety of events keeps regulars coming back for seconds. Thursday-night meetings of the Rum Club spark lively conversations about the beloved seafaring libation, and occasional live music enchants guests with toe-tapping rhythms and fiddlers that play with swordfish instead of bows.
Trattoria della Nonna fires up chef Terry Vassallo's extensive menu of traditional Italian dishes, mouthwatering pizzas, and delectable desserts. Warm up esophagi for a multitudinous munchie marathon with grilled lamb riblettes and toasted-barley risotto with double-smoked bacon and thyme ($13) or flash-fried calamari ($12). Wood-fired pizzas are baked in the house's own brick oven, providing a more convenient form of edible two-dimensional art than the lickable Sistine Chapel ceiling. Keep to the classics with a margherita pie ($14), or sample succulent splendour with a calabrese, on which italian sausage, chicken, caramelized onion, fontina, and a sun-dried-tomato pesto assemble before performing a kick line across tongues ($18). Homemade gnocchi doused with quattro formaggio crema headlines the fresh pasta selection and double as miniature pillows for reposing forks ($17). Authentic entrees from land and sea include hazelnut- and herb-crusted rack of lamb with a lamb shoulder ragout ($32) and grilled salmon with crispy prawns ($26). Sample desserts and choose liquid accompaniments from the vast wine menus, featuring pours from regions as local as Gaspereau and as far as New Zealand.
•For $10, you get $20 toward lunch and drinks, valid all day at the downtown location or before 4:30 p.m. at the Flavor 19 location. •For $25, you get $50 toward dinner and drinks, valid after 4 p.m. at the downtown location or after 4:30 p.m. at the Flavor 19 location.
The palate pleasers at The Cat and the Fiddle Café lather tzatziki sauce onto paninis, bake homemade falafels, and employ the bright flavours of tahini, lemon, and feta for a health-oriented menu of Middle Eastern and Lebanese-inspired fare. Seasoned beef stuffs grape leaves, and fluffy couscous and kalamata olives steal the limelight in salads. Tongues that haven’t gotten their passport photos taken can tango with house-roasted chicken or scrambled eggs in whole-wheat wraps that awaken mouths in the morning and silence tummy quakes the afternoon. Patrons taking a coffee break can sip organic fair-trade brews, roasted at home in Nova Scotia, or steep a fair-trade tea bag. Meanwhile, wee ones perfect the art of roasting coffee beans in smokestacks at the toy train table in the 200-square-foot play area.