While on our recent 30-day tour of Maine and The Maritime provinces of Canada, we had several experiences that modified the list of the superlative entrées that makes up our moveable feast known as “The Best I Ever Had.”
In Corner Brook on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, on a fjord that becomes the Bay of Islands of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Best Coast Café is practically hidden away on a side street. Finding it was complicated because we no longer trusted our GPS mapping system. As we headed farther out there (way up north, way out east, two time zones east of NYC), Google Maps and Waze became more and more erratic to the point that by the time we arrived in Corner Brook on our way back to the Nova Scotia ferry, we didn’t believe everything we were told. Sometimes when Miss Google announced “you have arrived” it was nowhere. We tracked and backtracked and asked directions and suddenly there The Best Coast Cafe was at the end of our noses. The careful search paid off for that was the best restaurant meal that we found on our trip. Tanne had the Chicken and Fennel Salad and I had Scallop and Bacon Pasta. It was fresh and perfectly seasoned, and the service was excellent. If you are ever out there and search online for it you will find that the name is unique – no need to add a location to your search. It is one of a kind as far as the search engines know.
They describe themselves as “specializing in great breakfast, brunch, and lunch with a touch of healthy gourmet.” We would say more than a touch. We loved it.
After an earlier (2012) sojourn on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, I declared that the best seafood chowder I had ever had could be found at a particular home owned and operated café in Whycocomagh on the shore of the Bras d’Or Lake, and it was true at the time. In 2017 I again sampled that chowder and it was still wonderful, but I discovered competition just up the shoreline at the Clean Wave Restaurant at Whatmatcook, owned by the Mi’kmaq First Nation. Charlene’s chowder for breakfast in 2012 was the best I ever had at the time, but I can now no longer say that with certainty. On this most recent trip I was on the trail of chowder, and had chowder from Ogunquit, Maine to Cape Spear and Cape Bonavista in northeast Newfoundland, and I can say now that the best I ever had can be found on the Trans Canada Highway on the western shore of Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, at both Charlene’s and the Clean Wave. This Cape Breton chowder typically contains Haddock, Crab, Scallops, Lobster and Shrimp, no potatoes, in a creamy buttery base that might include pureed root vegetables but seems to be dairy.
Just up the Trans Canada Highway, toward Baddeck, in the village of Nyanza, we found Big Spruce Brewing – “. . . certified organic, . . . unfiltered, unpasteurized, unbelievably good beer . . .” and we are in unqualified agreement with that claim. We had a couple of growlers of the “Cereal Killer” Oatmeal Stout (not in one sitting) and it was the best beer that we found north of Asheville, North Carolina, and that includes the breweries on the Bonavista Peninsula, at St. John’s, in Portland, and at Bar Harbor.
Charlene’s, the Clean Wave Restaurant, and Big Spruce Brewing are all located on a 15-mile stretch of the TCH a few miles south of Baddeck – a convergence zone of great food and drink.