West Street Willy’s Eatery – Goderich

Eating dinner and finding a good restaurant while travelling can be a challenge, but thankfully the internet and sites with reviews like Trip Advisor, take away some of the guesswork. If you’re old school, like Cathryn and I, you talk to real people who live in the area and ask them for recommendations or advice.

This type of interpersonal communication paid off for us while dining at the Part II Bistro in Downtown Goderich. We asked our waiter, who was local, to recommend something in the area that was a good place for breakfast. He suggested West Street Willy’s, that was only a hop, skip and a jump away, just off the town square. We’d read great dinner reviews for the restaurant but it was closed that night.

Taking the advice we’d received, we stopped for breakfast at Willy’s before heading further north. The patio out front looked inviting but the weather was a tad cool that morning, and it was that time of season for those pesky bees.

The interior décor was nothing fancy, kind of a cross between small town diner and a cozy dining room in a country home. The breakfast menu was daunting – two pages full of creative dishes – everything from peanut butter, bananas and bacon on French Toast, to Eggs Benny and something called Pete’s Big Mess. The latter caught my eye first, but I opted for the Morning After Poutine. My mess contained crispy home fries, bacon, sausage, peameal, onions, tomatoes, cheese curds, chipotle and hollandaise, topped with two eggs the way you like them.

More concerned about her cholesterol, Cathryn ordered the West Street Benny – grilled, marinated portabella mushrooms and spinach, topped with the usual Benny goodies. Hers was $13 and mine was $15, both large portions and filling. Service was excellent and our waitress was friendlier than your local Avon lady. My only complaint is that we couldn’t stay for dinner.

If your not satisfied with our recommendation of this restaurant, perhaps you’ll take the advice from the TV show, You’ve Gotta Eat Here, who featured Willy’s about three years ago.

Cathryn and I both loved West Street Willy’s Eatery and give it a 10 out of 10.

Part II Bistro – Goderich

On our recent Tobermory trip, for a change of scenery, Cathryn and I decided to take the back roads up north – getting off the highway when we could, and following Lake Huron’s eastern shoreline. Knowing the six hour ride would take us longer, we booked a room in Goderich to make it a two-day trip. On the first day we stopped in Grand Bend to stretch our legs and see what is new. The beach resort town was bustling, with plenty of new places to get your favorite junk food, and a complete makeover of the old Colonial Hotel is in progress.

Cathryn barely remembered being to Goderich years ago, so we drove down to the waterfront and along the public beach. The old CPR Train Station has been meticulously restored and relocated there and converted into a restaurant. New since my last visit is a wooden boardwalk with exercise stations, running the full 1.5 km length of the beach.

For dinner we sought out the Part II Bistro, on the main square – more like an octagon loop that surrounds the court house, with a half dozen streets as spokes, radiating from the center. It was Tuesday, and to our disappointment many restaurants in town were closed for the night. Part II Bistro was open and had rave reviews so that’s where we went. They have a beautiful patio out front that offers a great view of the town square, but the weather and seasonal bees had us reserve a table inside.

I can best describe the décor as eclectic, with tables partitioned for privacy and Covid reasons. They had a nice selection of local craft beers and a descent wine list. We sampled both. A picture of our appetizer wouldn’t do it justice – look up Gnudi on their menu – ricotta, parmesan and garlic formed into soft pillows, with a semolina flower crust set on a slowly simmered IPA, basil tomato reduction. Yes, it was a savory and delicious as it sounds.

Cathryn saw a lamb shank on the menu so there was no decision for her. I was torn between the Sacchietti Pasta and the Greek chicken, but was in need of a good carb fix and chose the latter. Stuffed egg pasta filled with mushrooms and black truffles, tossed with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, woodland mushrooms, spinach, onions and garlic. Finished with cream and herbed infused olive oil and topped with parmesan cheese. OMG! Need I say more? The little pasta pouches made for the best I’ve ever had.

The Lamb Shank was braised perfectly in Moroccan influences of cumin, cinnamon and cardamom, set on Israeli couscous with ratatouille vegetables, topped with it’s own braising reduction. Cathryn barely had to coax the meat off the bone, which I secretly think she wanted to suck on.

Dessert was mostly for me, she only wanted a bite. I selected the peanut butter chocolate cheesecake, of course. The picture tells the story, and it tasted even better than it looks.

Service was just a tad slow, but like everywhere else these days the restaurant is having difficulty in finding wait staff. They did a great job with what they had and Cathryn and I eagerly give Part II Bistro a 10 out of 10.

Harbour House Waterfront Eatery

My personal chef, Cathryn, wasn’t sure what to serve for dinner last night so I suggested we try the new Harbour House Waterfront Eatery (old Lilly Kazilly’s) on Riverside Drive at the City Marina. It was Tuesday and I messaged the restaurant to ask if I needed reservations. The response (on Facebook) said it was a good idea so I requested a covered table on the patio, in the shade. I was told it wouldn’t be a problem.

We experience a bit of confusion at the hostess desk while the couple in front of us tried to select a table where they wouldn’t be attacked by bees. Then they had to wait for their friend who forgot his mask. When our turn came the young lady asked where we’d like to sit and I repeated my earlier request for the patio in the shade. We were led to a tiny little table outside the covered deck, with an umbrella that only shaded half. Cathryn had to continually adjust her chair to avoid having the sun in her face. I didn’t bother to ask for another seat since the patio area was packed and business was brisk.

Service was a bit slow but we waited patiently, understanding that the patio is huge and they were really busy. We ordered a couple of draft beers while we looked over the menus. I found it odd how 4 or 5 dishes were listed as coming soon – something our inexperienced waitress wasn’t aware of when she accepted an order from the table beside us. She later returned with the bad news for the man, and delivered our slightly chilled beers. Cathryn complained and our server said she’d check with the bar.

Our waitress returned with the same beers -now even warmer. I had taken a couple sips of mine, she offered a story about how the kegs froze and they had to warm them us before they could cool them again. I kept my beer and Cathryn considered a glass of wine, until she saw the $14 price tag for a 9oz glass. They didn’t have the seltzer she asked for and settled for another. We used the glass of ice that came with it to chill our water.

We decided to share some appies, sample the menu, and started with Oysters Rockefeller and Mussels in a garlic wine sauce. The mussels were okay but I found all the garlic in one clump inside one of the shells and most of the onions in another, as if they were tossed in as an afterthought. (Not the one’s pictured on left) The oysters were dry and tasteless, probably the worst we’ve ever had. We asked for a bowl of Lobster Bisque but were told they were out and just starting to make more.

For a seafood restaurant right on the lake, I was a bit surprised they didn’t offer Pickerel. We ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna, which came with a side salad. The vinaigrette dressing was too bitter for me but the tuna was delicious. A huge serving that was cut in two pieces, was perfectly seared and encrusted in toasted poppy seeds, with fresh avocado and roasted tomatoes. It was a bit pricey at $32 but a large enough serving for us to share and be satisfied. The tuna was the highlight and best part of our experience.

And right in the middle of tuna heaven an AC/DC song started blaring over the sound system. It took a few minutes before the corrected the problem, so much for dinner music. Our bill came to $109, a bit steep I thought for 2 appetizers, 2 drinks and 1 entrée (she didn’t charge me for my diet coke because of the warm beer). So there you have it…the majority of reviews for this place have been favorable; perhaps we just hit an off night. There is much room for improvement in our opinion. We both rated it a 6 out of 10.

Chowder Wars – Gibsons & Sechelt, B.C.

One of the things Cathryn and I were most looking forward to while visiting the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia was the seafood. Having sampled our share on the east coast a few years ago, we wanted to see how the west coast fared. After a short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver to Landale, we drove directly to Gibsons to kill some time while we waited to check into our Airbnb.

We took a quick look at the Persephone and Molly’s from the old Beachcomber TV series days and strolled out onto the pier. Our thirst for craft beer and hunger for fresh seafood cut our walk short. We headed to the closest and most scenic patio on the pier, Gramma’s Pub. The place was a bit weathered but we were distracted by the beautiful harbor view.

The menu covered all the bases and we each found a likeable local brew to toast our first stop on the Sunshine Coast. Things took a quick turn when Cathryn announced it was our first time in Gibson’s Landing, and she asked what was the best local fare. The waitress was greeted with two blank stares when she started describing their nachos and potato skins.

With my mouth still agape, I asked about the seafood on the menu. She said they were out of almost all their seafood – quite an unbelievable statement to me since we’d just seen a guy down on the dock selling fresh fish and prawns. Cathryn prayed that the calamari was local (I knew better) and I ordered the seafood chowder. The squid was the previously frozen stuff I expected, but my chowder was pretty damn good – creamy, the way I like it, with a variety of seafood. My only complaint was the tails on the shrimp and mussels still in the shell, I had to stick my fingers in the hot chowder to de-shell.

My next bowl of chowder was at the Black Fish Pub, in Gibsons, where we met some friends for lunch. It was a clam chowder that was loaded with clams and spices but not quite creamy enough for me. They had lots of other seafood on their menu and Cathryn had a niece piece of sockeye salmon. The craft beer was excellent too.

My third bowl of chowder was consumed at the Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt. We had just been to the beach and seeing mussel shells scattered all along the water’s edge, steered our stomachs to the restaurant. We were not disappointed by the fabulous waterfront view, local craft beer, and seafood. Cathryn had a bowl of mussels in a creamy garlic and onion sauce and and did the seafood chowder. Bowl number three was the tastiest yet, but the small bits of seafood were well hidden by the larger chunks of potatoes.

Stealing some mussels from my wife’s plate added to my creamy chowder treat which was lip-smacking good when I used my garlic toast to soak up every last drop.

We’re off to Nanaimo next and I’m sure the chowder wasr will continue. We already know what will be for dessert.

The Cook’s Shop Redux

Where in Windsor can you find a restaurant with excellent food and service that’s been around for 40 years? The answer is the new old Cook’s Shop Restaurant. Spencer Dawson, took the reigns when the former owner retired from the business he started in 1980. The cozy dining room and Italian menu remain mostly the same, with a few minor changes to both. The old meat display case is gone but the natural stone walls and romantic setting remains the same.

The new owner introduced himself to Cathryn and I, taking the time to explain how he strived to keep fan-favorites on the menu, and brought in a few new recipes handed down by his grandmother. Her homemade bread was the first thing to knock our socks off – a sliced loaf that was crispy golden on the outside and a cornbread texture on the inside, served with a soft herb butter. The wine list covers all bases and quite reasonably priced.

We talked about Dawson’s idol, Lino, the previous owner, who just happened to grace us with his presence moments later. We were lucky enough to chat with both men and capture a few photos of the two most passionate restaurant owners I’ve ever met. Our Caesar salads were delivered on their departure from our table, the original recipe that Dawson said he had to retain in order to prevent a riot.

I forgot about the Escargot – large and tender snails served on a bed of mushrooms sautéed in garlic butter and served in phyllo pastry. We had time for another slice of bread before the salad. Our waiter, Moe, was Johnny-on-the-spot and never far from our table. I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara, with double smoked bacon, and asked to have it on the creamy side. Yep, more sauce to soak up with the bread. It was one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

Cathryn ordered the Rack of Lamb, four thick portions stacked over a pea and mushroom risotto. Sitting on my hands was all I could do to resist snatching some while she was away from the table. It was juicy, tender, and cooked to perfection. Sadly, we couldn’t finish the last two pieces of bread. Our meals were quite generous in size.

Although we were both stuffed, I needed a pieced of cheesecake. They had two and I went for the salted caramel. Not too rich, it had the perfect combination of sweet and saltiness. We both loved every part of our meal and enjoyed the experience of meeting both the old and new regime. Giving the Cook’s Shop a 10 out of 10 was a no-brainer.

Watch for Dawson’s future plans, while he renovates the whole building, possibly adding another restaurant and living quarters above that.

Five Guys Friday

As many of you know, living with my wife, Cathryn, is like living with a personal chef. There’s good and bad that goes along with that. Obviously the good part is that she cooks and serves me gourmet meals almost every night of the week.

The bad part of having a live-in chef is that we don’t go out to restaurants as often as we did when we were dating and sampling food and wine across the county. Add to that our dietary constraints and we rarely get to visit fast food restaurants or eat junk food.

Once a month, I treat myself to a cheat day and basically eat whatever the hell I want. I had been craving a fresh grilled hamburger for quite a while, so yesterday I treated my chef and took her out to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. We now have one in Windsor, just south of the Devonshire Mall.

What a treat! Because of Covid rules we had to eat in the car, but I brought along cloth napkins and plastic lap trays for a touch of parking lot class. We brought our own drinks too so I was a bit surprised by the $26 bill for two cheeseburgers and one order of fries. Granted the burgers were double-deckers and there were enough fries for three people.

Its’ nice to custom order whatever toppings you like, including fried caramelized onions, the bun is steamed soft and the cheese is nice and gooey. The meat is freshly grilled and goes nowhere near a microwave oven. If you haven’t tried a burger from these Five Guys, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The Twisted Apron

14570422_1091268287589115_8873685703102609259_nI’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that dining out anywhere these days (during the pandemic) is a challenge. Obstacles include finding a restaurant that is open for business and one that has a deck or patio, if you hope to eat there and not have to take your meal home with you. In considering our limited options, weather also has to be taken into account.

As far as dining out goes, what I miss the most is my weekly breakfast out. Cathryn and I are both good cooks but it’s still nice to get out once in a while, and sit back while someone else prepares your meal. We lucked out on the weather yesterday and took advantage by looking for a place to have breakfast.

We’ve both been to the Twisted Apron on Wyandotte Street in Walkerville, but current world events kept us away for months. On arrival, we were immediately seated at a table in the morning shade, on the patio out front. Their menu isn’t as expansive as it normally is, but we were able to order our own versions of Eggs Benedict.

101037693_2893417674040825_423327361266614272_nThe tables around us quickly filled up and I noticed new arrivals disappeared around the corner of the building. I asked our server if they had another patio in the alley but she said the overflow was using picnic tables in the parkette next door. It’s a great idea that shows how inventive our city’s eateries can be in trying times.

To take advantage of their underused kitchen, the Apron has opened a Pop-up Bakery. We couldn’t leave until scoring a freshly-baked loaf of sourdough bread and an ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie. Both were awesome. It was a card day.

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Our service and food was great, as usual, and I couldn’t help but smile upon leaving – seeing people enjoying their breakfast in the park. In that moment it looked like the world was almost normal.

India 47 Restaurant & Bar

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Are you looking for something different to tingle and tantalize your taste buds, exotic and spicy foods that scream flavour? You have to check out the new India 47 Restaurant & Bar at Lesperance and E.C. Row, in the former Webb’s or Rygate. I don’t know a heck of a lot about authentic Indian food, only having been to a couple other restaurants serving that particular country’s fare, but this new venture caught my attention.

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El Farolito Restaurant – Melaque

El FarolitoI literally stumbled across this place on one of my morning walks and never noticed that it was a full-service restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. El Farolito (The Lantern) is tucked into one corner of the little market stalls in Melaque Centro, one street west and kind of behind Super Hawaii.

It wasn’t until we were sitting in the restaurant having dinner, that we realized that the restaurant used to be in Villa Obregon where Non Solo Pizza is now. The waitress confirmed that they moved two years ago. Friends had recommended El Farolito to us then, but we never got around to visiting.

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The Baked Potato Guy – Melaque

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Warning: Actual Baked Potatoes are more than double this size.

Who’d a thunk you can make a meal for two out of a baked potato. Or better yet, how can someone make any money selling them at 80 Pesos, loaded with butter, sour cream, onions, and any other toppings or sauces you want, like mushrooms, bacon, or even beef.

Leave it to an entrepreneurial Mexican who threw a small barbecue and a couple tables right on the street, in Downtown Melaque (just past the Oxxo and across from Toba’s Wings) on the road to Villa Obregon. I don’t know if the improvised street stand has a name, and have only seen an orange piece of cardboard listing his prices, taped to the wall.

Cathryn and I have either walked or bicycled by the Potato guy in the past, but tonight we finally tried one. Funny thing was, we were having wings at Toba’s and are not fans of their French Fries. We smelled and eyed the cooking potatoes in wonderment. It can’t hurt to ask, right?

When our server took our order, I asked about the possibility of adding a potato from down the street. He smiled and told me the owner was his amigo, and that I should go right ahead and help myself. So, here’s to starting a new trend…or at least making an attempt to bring these two guys together, under one roof.

We dug in and dissected our giant spud, which had to weigh two pounds or more. Looking closer, while digging into the creamy delight, it appeared as though it had been twice cooked – baked first, then whipped with butter and sour cream and onions. It was an awesome mixture, to which we added sauteed mushrooms. It was easily more than enough for the two of us, in addition to our wings, and could probably feed a small family of four as a side dish.

Who the hell needs boring fries?