Back in 2003, when Hurricane Juan left Nova Scotians stranded for a few days, Lil MacPherson grew concerned about food security. She noticed that there were few local options in their relative isolation, and that much of their food was shipped from far away with little environmental concern for how it was produced. This discovery inspired her to start supporting nearby farmers and purveyors in the hopes of strengthening Nova Scotia's foodscape. But she didn't want to stop there—she wanted the rest of her home province to embrace sustainability, too.
The Wooden Monkey, a restaurant devoted to the local culinary culture, was the next step in her journey. Under the guidance of partners Christine Bower and Matthew Gass, The Wooden Monkey in Halifax and Dartmouth shine a spotlight on the work of local food producers. The menu is MSG free, and the drink menu has no artificial ingredients. Getting to know the suppliers and the people who grow their food is very important to the folks at The Wooden Monkey. In fact, every meat in the kitchen has been sourced from Nova Scotia: lamb from Nothumberlamb is used for the lamb burger, and the rustic chicken dinner is made from Pasture Hills poultry.
The Monkey isn't just for meat-eaters, however. The staff also prepares an abundance of vegan and vegetarian options, including plates of gingered tofu served over organic quinoa-rice noodles. In fact, the menu is conscious of several dietary restrictions, including Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and nut allergies.
Serving craft beers from Alexander Keith's brewery and endless pours of Nova Scotian hospitality, The Lower Deck keeps Halifax humming with live music and a pub menu anchored by local seafood. Read on for a rundown of The Lower Deck’s locations:
Waterfront: Several generations of Halifax musicians have gotten their start at The Lower Deck's original pub, which opened in 1974.The pub curates a menu featuring burgers made from Alberta beef. And, in keeping with its location beside Woodside Ferry Terminla, there’s also plenty of local seafood.
Clayton Park: Though not as close to the water as the aptly named Waterfront location, The Lower Deck Bar & Grill serves a similar menu. The Clayton Park spot also hosts a variety of live entertainment on weekends, when many diners could use a lullaby while they nap after Saturday and Sunday brunch.
Red Stag Tavern: Located in the solid granite building that houses Alexander Keith's Brewery—one of the oldest operating breweries in North America—Red Stag Tavern serves its own brand of pub food in an historic (and hospitable, considering the rooftop patio) setting.
The Pub Club Sandwich at Your Father's Moustache is so good that The Coast retired the category of Best Clubhouse Sandwich from its annual awards, convinced that no other sandwich could ever top it. After ten straight wins and being in business for over 25 years, the website also inducted the sandwich into its Hall of Fame, where it will forever glitter alongside the restaurant's other award-winning dishes.
In addition to the club sandwich, guests can peruse a recently revamped menu, which spotlights over 63 dishes such as a peppercorn-ranch burger and a flame-grilled meat loaf. No matter what they wind up ordering, it's sure to pair perfectly with any one of the eatery's three craft beers, which were created exclusively for YFM by Brewmaster Greg Nash from the Rockbottom Brewpub downstairs.
The juicy burgers are made of real Angus beef and the creamy seafood chowder follows the recipe of owner Brad Hartlin's grandmother, but the main menu attraction at Bubba Ray's Sports Bar might just be the wings. Routinely lauded as the city's best by reporters from The Coast, the plump wings are served breaded, boneless, or spicy with a choice of more than 60 sauces and 10 dry rubs. One of the sauce selections—the legendary Death sauce—is so spicy that the restaurant requires diners to sign a waiver or thumb-wrestle the toughest busboy before sampling it.
Diners share baskets of wings and pitchers of draft beers out in the expansive dining room, where colourful sports jerseys dangle from the ceiling. Others engage in games of hockey foosball, pausing occasionally to steal glances at the sports playing on the bar’s 70 flat-screen TVs.
At Brenton Grill & Wine Bar, you'll find a near bottomless stockpile of cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric in the kitchen. The chefs can't afford to run out—the spices are central to Persian cuisine, adding flavor to dishes ranging from chicken and lamb kebabs to a baked eggplant that's sauteed with veggies and cooked with a freshly cracked egg on top.
To honor the cosmopolitan influences that shaped Persian cooking from the start, however, the team also whips up delicacies from around the world. That means they make everything from a hearty, Mediterranean falafel wrap to French profiteroles. The wine list pulls from all over the world, too, featuring Italian and Californian wines, plus nationless wines fermented on the high seas.