Pete Ate P.E.I.

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck
Unless you are talking about tacos in Mexico, it is very seldom that we choose destinations based on food. I, on one hand, tend to view food mostly as sustenance. I could regularly eat toast with peanut butter for dinner and be quite satisfied. Pete, on the other hand, has a deeper appreciation. He adores most everything, attempts a greater variety when he cooks, and more fully respects the art of cuisine.So as much as this trip was about connecting with a part of our country we know little of – for Pete it was also largely about the food. He’s a seafood lover who does not get to indulge often (given that a mere whiff of it can cause me to flee in the opposite direction). In Prince Edward Island, a reputed hotspot for exquisite cuisine featuring everything from the sea, he was in a consistent state of salivation.

Pete, with rampant enthusiasm, ate heartily in search of the best restaurants in P.E.I. It’s a fairly small province, so he covered the known culinary treasures with gusto and intense satisfaction. I tagged along, of course, steering him towards places with more diverse menus whenever I could, but sustaining on plates of chicken fingers when a seaside shack serving of fish and chips was his heart’s desire. Not a day went by when he didn’t consume at least some sort of fish or seafood. (If you can believe it, by the end of our entire trip, he declared himself lobstered-out. Prior to our trip, I didn’t think that was possible for him, but that just speaks volumes towards his concerted effort to taste and test them all. He was determined.)

When we weren’t exploring side-roads in search of the best beaches in P.E.I., we were scouring online reviews and pestering locals for their tips on the finest places to eat. We were overwhelmingly impressed and eager to share our finds with you. And we must first start by sharing that place Pete returned to over and over.

We scoured online reviews and pestered locals for their tips on the finest restaurants in PEI.

Dave’s Lobster

Admittedly, Pete first discovered Dave’s when in Saint John, New Brunswick, but because the small chain was actually started in Charlottetown, all credit must be given here. In his quest to find the best lobster roll in the Maritimes (he really ate SO many), Dave’s handily won out over the rest. As he says: the minimal yet flavourful dressing (so many other places use far too much) allowed for the true taste of the lobster to shine through.

Dave's Lobster - Lobster Roll
Dave's Lobster - T-Shirts
Dave's Lobster - Lobster Tacos

Lobster taco!

The Chip Shack

This one, I added to the list. Sitting in a bitty bright red shack near the Charlottetown harbour you’ll find the best french fry you may ever eat, along with the eccentric owner whose quest is to make the best in the world. There is no doubt that the quality of ingredients is there – the humble potato is a big part of P.E.I.’s economy, producing 30% of Canada’s intake alone. Taking one of the best exports of the province and perfecting its method of cooking fresh in front of you makes this as much a cultural experience as it does a culinary one.

Charlottetown - Best Fries
Charlottetown Chips
Chip Shack - Lobster Poutine

Lobster poutine

Hopyard

So, part of the appeal of this place comes from its musical offering – order a meal but also choose from a selection of vinyl to hear some vintage tunes with dinner. Add in some truly whimsical fusion food (Pad Thai poutine!), an impressive selection of craft beers, and a little table dancing (so we’re told, we never stayed long enough to find out), and this place isn’t just a restaurant, it could be a regular hangout.

We ordered up some bahn mi tacos with a side of Fleetwood Mac. The menu changes frequently; we wish we had the luxury of a longer stretch of time in order to try it again.

Hopyard - Bahn Mi Tacos

Bahn Mi Tacos

Hopyard Vinyl
Hopyard - Pad Thai Poutine

Pad Thai Poutine

Inn at Bay Fortune

We honestly had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when an evening at the Inn at Bay Fortune was presented to us. Yes, we had heard of Chef Michael Smith, but never expected that the opportunity to feast at his Inn was so attainable.

It started outside, with an array of food and drink stations scattered across the yards. We snacked on grilled tenderloin with chimmichuri and local sausage made from the pigs on the farm, ate oysters shucked by Chef’s hand (well, Pete did that), and even sat at a table where Daniel Day Lewis himself had dined recently. We were treated to a full six course meal starting with a humble bread board (which we all squealed over, until the Chef himself actually came by to say: “It’s just bread, people”)! We ate until we were truly ready to burst but still could not stop ourselves. And as it was served family style, we enjoyed company with people from all over Canada for several hours. It was, without a doubt, the most exquisite culinary experience either of us have ever had. (Maybe becoming food bloggers wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all if we could be guaranteed this all of the time.)

Inn at Bay Fortune - Michael Smith

Chef Michael Smith

Inn at Bay Fortune - Sausage Station
Inn at Bay Fortune - Chimichurri Beef
Inn at Bay Fortune - Just Bread

It’s just bread, people!

Rick’s Fish and Chips

From dining at the table of one of Canada’s best chefs to a humble fish shack, Rick’s was one of the first mentioned to us, situated near St. Peter’s Bay and Greenwich Prince Edward Island National Park. Yes, I relied on my ol’ standby chicken fingers at this stop, while Pete tucked into two pieces of haddock and pile of fries, served pseudo-old-timey style on staged newspaper. He found his first piece of fish slightly chewy but the second one worthy of every piece of praise it earns.

Rick's Fish and Chips - St. Peter's PEI

Blue Mussel Cafe

I have a few photos just like this one, with Pete’s smiling face above a bowl of fresh mussels. While mussels were a frequent and easy appetizer for him (they’re light, just like eating savoury popcorn, he says), this serving in a cafe bearing their name was most memorable. Maybe it was the fact that he sat down to them after a two hour kayak – maybe that is what made them so delectable – but he insists that they were the freshest he had ever eaten. My pasta dish was also impressive, and as always I was grateful for the varied menu.

North Rustico - Blue Mussel Cafe

Point Prim Chowder House

Our last stop in P.E.I., before catching the ferry to Nova Scotia, was at the renowned Point Prim Chowder House. We almost ran out of time to visit but were so glad we didn’t. Not only did it give us the best restaurant view in all of the province, but we were both equally elated in our seafood/non-seafood wares. Pete enjoyed a lobster roll (no surprise), while I devoured a pulled pork grilled cheese and a golden beet salad.

But really, THIS view. The best part.

Point Prim - Chowder House

where we stayed and how to do it

We spent one week of our time in P.E.I. right in the heart of Charlottetown at The Great George. Yes, we had a fabulous and comfortable apartment for the week and were right in the middle of the action, but there were two specific things that made this stay most memorable. For one, fresh chocolate chip cookies EVERY DAY at reception. For two, there always seemed to be people hanging around in period clothing! At times it felt like we had stepped back into the glory days of when the union of Canada was discussed (Charlottetown is considered the birthplace of Canadian confederation). In fact, tours were also available by these costumed folks every day of just the historic hotel grounds. The only slight issue we had with our stay is that there was rarely enough food at breakfast (we seemed to wait every day for fresh stuff to emerge from the kitchen), but overall we could not have asked for a more fitting base from which to enjoy the city and surrounding area.Want to get a good taste of the culinary scene in Charlottetown? This historic/foodie walking tour around the core was on our agenda and well worth the time. Some of the spots noted above were included, and we learned everything from the lifecycle of a lobster to which walking stones Canada’s Founding Fathers strolled along.

This post was produced by us, brought to you by Tourism P.E.I.

25 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Kaye
    September 6 2016

    Oh my goodness! Larry and I spent 8 days on PEI two years ago and loved it! You make me want to go back! We were on the beach at North Rustico. We were so tired from traveling that we just sat and watched the sea for days on end! But we also rode our bikes on some of the many trails and on the beach and we bought and cooked fresh seafood from a nearby market. We went to the Anne of Green Gables house and to the play in Charlottetown. Loved both! I ate as many lobster rolls as I could too! We want to go back, stay in Charlottetown, and have more energy!!! It’s a wonderful place! Thanks for sharing!

    • September 7 2016

      So glad you enjoyed it Kaye!

  • September 6 2016

    Ok wow – all of this food looks amazing! Making me more than a little bit peckish. Though I have to agree with you – that view from the chowder place looks incredible. I could sit and look at a view like that all day, slowly munching my way through as much seafood as I could eat. 🙂
    Katie recently posted..25 Reasons Why New Zealand May Just Be My Favourite Country on Earth (in pictures)

    • September 7 2016

      We had a beautiful breeze while we sat outside and ate our lunch – we LOVED that spot. 🙂

  • Abi Totty
    September 6 2016

    We only opened this June, we would love to have you come visit our quaint little tearoom nestled in the countryside on your next visit !!

  • For such a small place, PEI definitely has some of our favourite spots to eat. Yes,seafood is an obvious choice but the Island has many other great offerings. It’s quite remarkable how many great spots there are to eat in such a small city like Charlottetown and there are always new places popping up too!
    Adam Doolittle/Kate McCallum recently posted..30 AMAZING PLACES IN CANADA I WANT TO VISIT PT. 3

    • September 7 2016

      You are absolutely right – we were blown away with how many fantastic options there were in such a small area.

  • Pabu
    September 7 2016

    You missed out on The Lobster Barn
    Victoria PEI
    AWESOME!!!!

    • September 7 2016

      Oh yes, we did stop there! It was really tasty too.

  • September 7 2016

    Dalene & Pete:

    I’m Dave, the owner of Dave’s Lobster. Thanks so much for nice words (and the beautiful photos)! As you know by being there, we’re pretty focused on one thing, lobster rolls, so it’s pretty important to us that we get it right. It’s always nice to hear when someone really likes them.

    BTW, I can’t tell for certain but I think the employee in the photo is my son, Alex (big kid, 6’5″).

    Let me know when you’re back in the Maritimes. Next lobster rolls are on me!

    Thanks, DAVE

    • September 7 2016

      Dave – all thanks to you for the amazing lobster rolls! And, actually, just after I snapped the photo of your employee, you walked out and we shook your hand. I doubt you will remember us – we were on our food tour with Experience PEI – but Pete did also return that evening for more.

      Thank you so much for sharing our post and your kind words!

  • Wobin White
    September 7 2016

    You definitely forgot the #1 place to eat which is Richards Fish & Chips in Covehead!!

    • September 7 2016

      Will have to try it next time!

  • September 7 2016

    As a former ‘Mainer’ I am quite particular about my lobster rolls (or lobstah rolls, as we call them). This one, from Dave’s looks spot on. Not too much gloopy anything, just lobster on a bun. And Dalene, I understand why mussels are creepy not-popcorn-at-all, but with the right amount of butter and wine, they are fab. Says the girl who travels almost exclusively for food… 🙂

    • September 7 2016

      We have even turned some Maritimers onto Dave’s who hadn’t been there before — so I trust that you would really like them as well!

  • Owen O'Brien
    September 7 2016

    It seems like your food tour of the island only covered Charlottetown and east. You missed several gems like Scapes in borden and fable in bedeque. Open eats in summerside is another great spot. Island stone pub in kensington is one of my favorite spots to frequent. The landing in tyne valley. The places you spoke of are all great point prim is likely the best restaurant on pei but you missed a lot and may need a second trip.

    • September 7 2016

      If only we had more time Owen! 🙂

    • Jim
      July 19 2017

      Stay away from The Landing unless you want a 30 minute wait for a drink, terrible service, a menu that doesn’t carry half the food and a large bill to top it off

  • September 11 2016

    Just yesterday I found out a new great place for fresh seafood here in Barcelona (finally!), but it doesn’t look quite that lobster roll – made me hungry!
    Bruno @ Geeky Explorer recently posted..How To Find Cheap Flights To Anywhere In The World

  • September 13 2016

    I’m going to be perfectly honest with you and say, if I dined at Chef Michael’s restaurant and saw him I would probably cry! I have a few of his cook books and grew up watching his show Chef at Home. I love him !
    Brooklyn @ justbeingbrooklyn recently posted..Looking Back On History- L.M.Montgomery House

  • September 14 2016

    As a tourism operator, glad you enjoyed our island so much! Yes, I agree the food is the best!

  • Oh, how I love me some good seafood! I could plan an entire trip around lobster rolls 😉
    Leigh | Campfires & Concierges recently posted..Four Days in Mexico City

  • Elizabeth
    July 18 2017

    I was in Charlottetown recently on business and had lunch at Hopyard and absolutely loved the food there. It’s a great spot to hang out and enjoy great food and great atmosphere. We are spending a week on the Island in August and can’t wait to try some of the places you mention.

  • Jackie MacNeill Doiron
    July 19 2017

    So sorry you didn’t get a chance to drop into #5 Cafe in the former Presbyterian Church in Murray Harbour. It is amazing!

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