It’s hard to know where to look first upon walking into one of Jungle Jim’s two-dozen locations. Nearly every inch of wall space overflows with such safari-themed accoutrements as palm fronts, bamboo poles, colored lights, and a tiki bar. Although the restaurant aims to transport families to an exotic tropical wonderland, the huge menu is stuffed with familiar favorites designed to appeal to nearly every kind of diner. Chicken panini wraps and zesty buffalo wings swing quickly from the kitchen, but for more ceremonious occasions there are also a number of upscale, steakhouse-style options. A favorite is the St. Louis-style Rhino Ribs, a heft half-rack made sticky with honey garlic or barbecue sauce. Alongside such decadence, the special Slim Jim menu showcases entrees with 550 calories or fewer, such as pan-seared tiger shrimp and grilled chicken salad. Kids can dig into smaller portions on their own menu—which, once they’ve decided between alfredo pasta and animal-shaped chicken nuggets, they can fold into a tiki-style mask.
Built in 1928, the renovated passenger car that now serves as Tatamagouche Railway Dining Car whisked travellers to and fro on the Canadian National Railway. These days, it stays stationary while taste buds do all the travelling during lunches and dinners every summer and autumn. The kitchen specializes in steak and seafood entrees—such as lemon-dill salmon—that complement the veggies and edible, pesticide-free flowers grown in the restaurant's private garden. The dining car is part of the Train Station Inn at the 19th-century Tatamagouche Station, whose other railways cars now serve as bed-and-breakfast suites.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 11–25
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Seafood chowder
Alcohol: Full bar
Delivery/Takeout Available: Takeout only
Outdoor Seating: No
Executive Chef Erwin Palo grew up in the Philippines and spent years honing his culinary skills while working in Hong Kong and Japan, before moving on to the Westin Nova Scotian and the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. Along the way, he also managed to find time to snag a total of 38 medals from various culinary competitions.
Today, Chef Palo puts his award-winning skills on display
at the Holiday Inn Harbourview's Cafe 101, where his eye-catching global cuisine highlights local produce. But despite the artistic flourish and high-quality ingredients, his food manages to remain accessible. Dinner is just as likely to feature forest mushroom flatbread with mozzarella and brie, garlic, and olive oil drizzle, as it is maple pork tenderloin with bourbon sauce or seared scallops with pea puree. When it comes to special occasions, however, Chef Palo never fails to dazzle his patrons, whether by demonstrating his ability to touch his toes, or his skill in molecular gastronomy, which he uses to create dishes like peanut butter and raspberry jam dust on a spoon made of bread.
Every six months, according to The Coast magazine, Chef Stefan Bruchmann begins updating his menu at Nectar Restaurant and Wine Bar. Those seasonal changes have been met with consistent acclaim, including The Coast's honor of "Best Dartmouth Restaurant" five years running. The ever-evolving menu has been known to spotlight mains such as crispy arctic char with a crusted potato
cake, wilted spinach, vine roasted tomatoes and honey mustard vinaigrette and a chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto, havarti, and oyster mushrooms served with a red pepper jam. Chef Stefan combines the secrets and techniques that he garnered from his culinary experiences in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.
Nectar's bartenders match that creativity with a slate of inventive martinis—which includes the garlic-tinged Janes' Bond and the mandarin-kissed Southern Peach—and an extensive wine list. High-backed, white chairs juxtapose the dining room's black floors and tables, creating a striking tableau accented with damask-patterned wallpaper and bright chandeliers. Tucked in the back and upstairs, the patio awaits guests who wish to dine outdoors. Amid this upscale ambiance, the staff hosts themed occasions such as bring-your-own-wine Tuesdays and vegan Wednesdays. On Sundays, Nectar presents live performances from local musicians Daniel Matto, Nadia Moore, and Georges Hebert, who enliven the air with a blend of jazz standards.
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.
Freshii founder Matthew Corrin built his business on the simple idea that fresh, delicious, and nutritious meals should be accessible and affordable for all. He also wanted to create meals that would be healthy and filling, full of fiber and slow-burning carbs, essential fats, and lean proteins. It's a combination that gives people the energy to blaze through their busy day and still have enough enthusiasm to teach the dog how to pogo stick when they get home.
Staying true to Corrin's vision, Freshii Every Freshii kitchen is stocked with the base ingredients of brown rice, romaine lettuce, field greens, spinach, and rice noodles; toppings such as carrots, broccoli, grilled tofu, and candied walnuts; and an array of dressings and sauces. Using these ingredients, the chefs create bowls, wraps, salads, soups, and burritos for lunch and dinner. During morning hours when the sun is still busy curling its rays, they scramble eggs, serve housemade oatmeal, and top fat-free frozen yogurt with a choice of fruit. Customers can bring their own bowls, and the staff will wash and fill them with fresh ingredients hailing from environmentally responsible farms that fairly compensate their workers.
Today there are Freshii locations in more than 75 cities and 15 countries. In addition to prioritizing health, the shops prioritize being green and eliminate the traditional industry staples of excess packaging and heavy energy consumption.
Siu mai: small pork dumplings. Each has a thin wrapper that needs to be delicately pleated by hand. Easily, they’re one of the most labor-intensive items at Phoenix Restaurant in Chicago, where each weekend this Chinese restaurant serves 80 different varieties of classic dim sum snacks.
This little fact about the siu mai is one of many surprising stories I learn from Eddy, the chef at Phoenix, where he also handles a million other tasks to keep the restaurant running smoothly. When I first came in, he was waving at a group of regulars while on the phone haggling with a seafood vendor.
“What we are serving in this restaurant is what we are eating in Hong Kong. ... It’s very typical,” Eddy says.
In 1996, Phoenix was one of the first restaurants to introduce dim sum to Chicago. Its customer base has grown over the years, and today, even with other dim sum restaurants up and down the block, you’ll find long lines winding out the door on any given Sunday.
Sound intimidating? It doesn't have to be.
Here's our guide to dim-sum dining, with a few tips from Eddy.
On the weekend: order dim sum off a cart
On weekends and special holidays, the wait staff winds traditional dim sum carts around tables, lifting lids off stacked steamer baskets to reveal the enticing contents. Should you see something you like, they leave the basket on your table and put a checkmark on your bill (it’s tallied at the end).
Phoenix is one of the only dim-sum restaurants in Chicago that still uses these carts. When I ask Eddy why they keep them, he says “tradition.” Not only to impress the tourists who come in, but also to let Chinese-American customers share this bit of culture with their kids.
Hot tip: if you want to experience the pushcarts without the crowds, head over on a Saturday, which tends to be less busy than Sundays, Eddy says.
On a weekday: order dim sum off the menu
Cartless weekdays offer a quiet, more peaceful atmosphere for ordering off the paper menu, which you can find near the hostess stand. Don't be intimidated—the menu has pictures; it has numbers; it has names written in both Chinese and English. And best of all, you need only point to what you want to have it brought out from the kitchen.
So what should you get?
“Everyone has their favorites,” Eddy says. The most popular dishes with Westerners are ha gao (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork dumplings mentioned above). Kids gravitate toward the crunchy, easy-to-grip shrimp rolls and sweeter fare, from mango pudding (pictured above) to custard rolls.
Foreign travelers, especially those from Latin America, and adventurous eaters alike seem to love the chicken feet (pictured at bottom-right of top photo), a more exotic dish consisting of skin and tendons. While all these dishes are traditional, the chefs can tweak the recipes to accommodate for special diets or food allergies.
When diners are new to dim sum, Eddy encourages them to experiment. He’ll point out a few of the more popular dishes; if there’s something they don’t end up liking, it can easily be swapped out for something else. This way, by the second or third visit, diners will have a better idea of what they like.
And don't forget the tea
At dim sum, the tea is equally important to the food. Phoenix serves three different types: green tea, white tea, and brown tea. “Each one has its own usage,” Eddy says. While we talk, we drink jasmine tea, which is good for getting rid of toxins.
You can show your dim sum know-how by obeying proper tea etiquette. When your teapot is out of water, prop the lid off to the side. This signals to the wait staff that you need more hot water.
Eddy pours more tea and tells me to tap my fingers lightly against the table when the cup is nearly full. “When your friend or host fills your tea, this means ‘thank you’,” he says. “It’s part of the custom.”
Photos by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon
I had no idea what to expect upon arriving at Elizabeth, the Michelin Star winner from Chef Iliana Regan. But an unmarked, unremarkable storefront between a tire shop and a sporting-goods store certainly wasn’t it. With few exceptions (Schwa, most notably), Chicago’s upper-echelon restaurants boast exteriors that match their illustrious River North and Restaurant Row addresses.
But as it turns out, Regan has no taste for that sort of superficial flash. She dons no chef’s whites. She displays no awards. She does not raise her voice to the Gordon Ramsay–level roar or even the Rachael Ray-ish rollick that TV cameras eat up.
Instead, this northwest Indiana native quietly built her reputation as someone who hunts for frogs and spears them herself. Someone who has suffered tick bites and poison-ivy rashes foraging for wild flora. Someone who has penned an essay on intensity for Lucky Peach and once themed an Elizabeth tasting menu after those violent and visceral A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
So yeah, I was kinda terrified to eat her food.
I’d never done a tasting menu before. And I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as a picky eater, but I’m not a particularly adventurous one either, particularly when it comes to meat. (I can barely look at plated octopus without shivering.) I’d heard that Regan once served edible ants. Which are, like, bugs.
My nerves were calmed upon walking into Elizabeth, though. Austere yet charming, the whitewashed space was accented by light fixtures made from bare tree branches; dining chairs draped with faux-fur slipcovers; a chef’s counter armed with Elder Scrolls and Vikings Funko Pop! dolls. It was all in support of the season’s menu theme: vikings.
There were two options: land or sea. Or, as the first in a delightful succession of servers explained it, “Imagine a viking ship has reached the shore. One group goes on land to look for food, the other into the sea.” My friend Erin and I opted to order one of each to share and, despite my trepidation of certain meats, placed no restrictions on what we would eat. (You can arrange for some allergies and dietary needs in advance.) We wanted to go all in.
After the amuse-bouche—a surprisingly complex roasted whey carrot dressed with goat’s-milk cheese and edible flowers—came our first courses. The land dish was … a bowl of rocks. The server assured me the top “rock” was actually a baked potato coated in edible clay. But it was very convincing as a rock, so I bit in with trepidation. As Erin ate the rest, dipping it into the cheese and butter puddings it was served with, I forked into her langoustine with lingonberries. (Pro tip: don’t try to tear off the claw without looking. You will stab your finger on a spine.) So far, so very good.
As the servers continued to weave their culinary narrative, I realized there was an unmentioned character in their tale—Elizabeth itself. The restaurant is small, seating about 16 or so, and the kitchen is wide open. It was impossible not to get caught up in what was happening back there, particularly when sous chefs were wielding brûlée torches and “plating” on gorgeous pieces of handmade pottery. And the line between front and back of house was practically nonexistent. One moment, you’d see someone in the kitchen stirring and slicing; the next they’d be presenting your next course or clearing your table. (Chef Regan included.)
This created an unexpected intimacy, one that removed any hesitation when asking about a particular dish. It’s clear the teammates take a deep yet quiet pride in their collective work. They spoke warmly about where ingredients came from, excitedly about the preparation techniques used. They always used “we” or “our,” never “me” or “Chef Regan.” (Again, Chef Regan included.)
Over the next few courses, there were so many charms. An herb-rolled, soft-boiled quail egg served in an actual nest; impossibly chewy seaweed bread darkened by squid ink; a cauliflower-mushroom soup that Erin about died over. I was particularly fond of a course called Barnyard: headcheese dusted with beet powder, paired with a collage of root vegetables and flavored puddings reminiscent of something out of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.
And that’s the thing. Never in my life would I have thought that I’d be fond of headcheese. I would have probably never eaten it if it weren’t for this meal. But it was fun to break out of my culinary comfort zone.
The other surprising thing? How full we were, considering it was a tasting menu. By the time we were served the entree courses—rare lamb medallions wrapped in swiss chard and pickled fish in a sauce of its own bones—we were taking deep breaths between bites. I’m pretty sure they were the only two plates we didn’t completely clean.
We managed to buck up for our “one-and-a-half” dessert courses, as the server put it. (The “half” was a palate-cleansing sorbet.) Our favorite was Under the Sea, a spongy coral-seaweed cake so realistic looking it prompted me to ask the server just how much of it we could eat. “All of it,” she said. We complied.
Maybe, as a writer, I’m just a sucker for a good story. But I was enchanted by Elizabeth, both in backstory and in not knowing what was coming next throughout the culinary adventure. And while I probably won’t be buying headcheese any time soon, I’m excited to see what Chef Regan has up her non-chef’s-whites sleeves next season.
Shop Chef Iliana Regan's tasting-menu experience at Elizabeth Restaurant:
Watch her explain her approach to fine dining:
As useful as WD40 and much more edible, coconut oil is a powerhouse. In fact, just one jar of the stuff can replace several household staples, from kitchen ingredients to baby wipes. Here’s how to substitute it for 16 total items in 3 rooms of the home:
1. Coffee: Coconut oil is a reputed energy booster. Swallowing a spoonful or two in the afternoon can be a healthful alternative to a cuppa.2. Coffee creamer: Emulsified and poured into coffee, it’s much tastier than (and probably just as nutritious as) that bulletproof stuff.3. Butter or oil (when sautéing): Coconut oil’s high smoke point makes it great for cooking on the stovetop, especially at high heat. Try swapping it in when making stir-fries, scrambled eggs, or pancakes, especially if you like a very mild coconut flavor.4. Oil (when baking): The oil imparts a delicious je ne sais quoi to baked goods—even boxed ones. Use it to give from-the-box brownies an upgrade, and you’ll dream about them for days.5. Condiments: Drop it into quinoa or oatmeal for added nutrients and healthy fats. You can also put it on top of sweet potatoes instead of butter!
6. Moisturizer: It works on your body and your face. It’s naturally SPF 4, so it offers a bit of protection from UV rays, too.7. Leave-in conditioner and anti-static agent: Rub a small amount between your hands and smooth them over your hair to control flyaways.8. Lip balm: It soothes sore, chapped lips, and other skin irritations.9. Eye-makeup remover: Rub it between your fingers until it liquefies, smear it on your lids, and wipe it off with a cotton pad.10. Face wash: Add a little water and rub it in your hands until it foams.11. Hand and foot cream: Massage it into cracked knuckles, or slather it onto your soles and stick them into socks for an overnight soak.12. Shaving cream: It’ll give you a smooth shave, plus additional moisture for your skin.
13. Ouchie ointment: Dab it on cuts and scrapes, which will benefit from its antimicrobial properties.14. Anti-itch cream: Coconut oil reduces itching from bug bites, and helps to calm sunburn, eczema, and cradle cap.15. Diaper cream: A layer on baby’s bottom guards against (and soothes) diaper rash flare-ups.16. Baby wipes: Simply mix it with hot water and pour it over a stack of paper towels that you’ve cut in half. Keep the towels in an airtight container so they stay moist.
Check out more coconut-oil coverage:
Oil Pulling Whitens Your Teeth and (Maybe) Makes You Invincible
The Five Best Uses for Coconut Oil You’ve Never Heard Of