Canada’s vast expanse has helped preserve its rich architectural history. In cities and rural areas throughout the country, many remarkable bygone structures remain in supreme condition, as if time had forgotten to touch their stone façades and interiors. Canada has commemorated its history as a country since the first official Canada Day in 1868. And many Canadian chefs are honoring this culinary-focused society by preserving it in brick and mortar. Here are a few of our favorite restaurants in reclaimed spaces in Canada located in buildings from the nation’s storied past. Not near any of these interesting spots? We can help you find the right restaurant in your city on OpenTable.com.
The Five Fishermen Restaurant, Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Five Fishermen Restaurant tells one of Canada’s most dramatic architectural tales. This original schoolhouse dating back to the early 1800s was also the famed Halifax Victorian School of Art envisioned by its larger-than-life proprietor Anna Leonowens. She was the former governess to the children of the King of Siam, a story she chronicled that would go on to become plays and films most recognizable as The King and I. Upon her departure to a new space, the Snow family acquired the building and ran the successful John Snow & Co. Funeral Home. The mortuary business received its greatest tragedy when in April 1912 rescue operations out of Halifax responded to the sinking of the R.M.S Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland. John Jacob Astor IV and Charles M. Hayes were among passengers brought to Snows Funeral Home for further arrangements. Today, the building is best known as one of Nova Scotia’s finest restaurants, The Five Fishermen, both for the cuisine and service. Must-try dishes include Nova Scotia seafood chowder, red beet hummus, spiced pork belly tostada, the five fish special with green pea risotto, lobster pot pie, and any whole grilled fish on the menu. Make a reservation at The Fiver Fishermen.
Elora Mill, Elora, Ontario
Mills played an important role in the history of just about every major town through North America, both as the central economic source for residents — or their demise when the mills closed. One of Canada’s finest examples of a historic mill reimagined is the glorious Elora Mill. From the solid limestone foundation constructed between 1851 and 1859 to the fires that devastated it, Elora Mill has survived incredible odds to become NR. Drimmie & Sons’ granary in 1944. It opened as an inn in the 70s but fell prey to the hands of time. In 2010, Pearle Hospitality’s Aaron Ciancone came to its rescue. Just a few months ago, Elora Mill Hotel & Spa opened its doors and is already one of the region’s best places to grab a slice of history and exceptional cuisine. Popular menu items include the lovingly selected cheese course, pan-seared foie gras, roasted pumpkin soup, classic beef carpaccio with arugula, pickled shallots, capers, and toasted hazelnuts, and, in larger plates, bucatini all’Amatriciana with spicy sopressata and Vanden Dool Farms venison. Make a reservation at Elora Mill.
El Santo, New Westminster, British Columbia
In 1902, the Trapp Block building was the crown jewel in Thomas and Samuel Trapp’s New Westminster hardware business. Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places, it is one of the Lower Mainland’s most significant architectural structures with a seven-story terra cotta façade. When the town launched its downtown revitalization program, the building emerged as a fine place for El Santo, one of New Westminster’s most flavorful gathering spots. El Santo is known for locally sourcing many ingredients as part its innovative Mexican cuisine in dishes like wild boar croquettes with pickled blueberries, fermented basil crisps, and corn jus, ling cod or bone marrow tacos, and British Columbia ocean perch pescaito frito. Make a reservation at El Santo.
Chez Muffy, Québec City, Québec
Canada’s vibrant maritime history remains etched in the memories of its citizens who have worked hard to keep it alive for future generations. Within an 1822 warehouse overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Chez Muffy has maintained the original stone walls and wooden beams in this familiar Québec City building. The restaurant is located in the Relais & Chateaux member property the Auberge Saint-Antoine Hotel, named for the hotel’s matriarch, Martha “Muffy” Bate Price. Many of the tasty ingredients arrive directly from the hotel’s nearby Île d’Orléans farm. Diners return time and again for the classic braised, rotisserie and grilled recipes notable in French and Canadian cuisine, like housemade pork sausage with apple spaetzle, Lake Saint Pierre walleye, red deer striploin, and partridge. Diners often stroll through the hotel to view displayed artifacts that date back to the 1600s from an archeological dig that happened during construction. Make a reservation at Chez Muffy.
The Civic at the Broadview Hotel, Toronto, Ontario
More than a century ago, The Broadview Hotel occupied one of Toronto’s gentlemen’s clubs. Today, inspired by the Victorian British Empire era, The Civic evokes the best of the past in present-day fashion. The architecture of this stunner includes the original brick façade with factory glass windows and a stained wood bar, plus an unexpected treasure in the soaring wine cellar. The Civic is known for dishes like the impossibly smooth chicken liver parfait with maple poached cranberries, mushroom and lovage tagliatelle, cocoa and chili-crusted beef rib, and tea-smoked duck breast. Make a reservation at The Civic at the Broadview Hotel.
The Salted Vine, Squamish, British Columbia
The Salted Vine’s contemporary farmhouse décor is a thoughtful homage to the pioneering spirit and work ethic of early Squamish residents back when it was a railway terminus and logging outpost. In what has become the connective tissue linking Vancouver and Whistler, Squamish‘s oldest building dating back to 1910 houses The Salted Vine. Natural light pouring through the dining room illuminates the red and grey color combination and sliding barn door behind the bar. Timber remains a focus of the décor in reclaimed poplar wall panels, tables, and maple serving platters custom-milled, cut, and finished by Paradise Valley’s Raven Timberworks. A few of The Salted Vine’s many swoon-worthy menu items include twice-baked Avonlea cheddar soufflé, sunchoke risotto, tortiglioni spicy chorizo ragu, slow-cooked pork belly, and ling cod. Make a reservation at The Salted Vine.
Wildebeest, Vancouver, British Columbia
The carnivorous paradise of Wildebeest is located in a refurbished 19th-century building in the city’s historic Gastown district. In a nod to classic butchery, it is famed throughout the region for hearty proteins prepared in elegant fashion. During the holidays expect to find classics like smoked goose breast and leg terrine and lamb belly with alluring garnishes. Dishes such as roasted elk loin with crispy potato terrine, pickled and roasted winter vegetables, rosemary oil, and dark chocolate jus feel right at home in this multi-level, open kitchen concept space with banquette seating, cocktail bar, and lounge. Make a reservation at Wildebeest.
Madison’s Grill in the Union Bank Inn, Edmonton, Alberta
The year was 1910 when the Union Bank of Canada building was the centerpiece of the town. Inside this stronghold of historic structures is now one of Edmonton’s most charming boutique hotels and eateries in the only pre-1914 era bank building that remains on Jasper Avenue. The exterior of Madison’s Grill is recognizable by the Bedford limestone base and red pressed local brick, while the inside tells a tale of elegance and service in white columns, a fireplace, and rounded windows framing the dining room. Madison’s Grill draws diners in search of lobster truffle fettuccini, scallops and lamb shank, chevre-stuffed pork loin, prosciutto chicken forestiere wrapped with creamed leeks, and red wine-braised rabbit with confit fingerling potato Lyonnaise. Make a reservation at Madison’s Grill.
Deane House, Calgary, Alberta
In a stunning update to one of Calgary’s historic homes, to dine at Deane’s House is to be surrounded by lush interiors that evoke Canada’s hearty outdoors (think enormous antler chandeliers) and serene gardens located on the grounds. Superintendent of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police Captain Richard Burton Deane commissioned this Victorian treasure when he was stationed at Fort Calgary in 1906. Dishes like bison tartare with juniper aioli, beef cheek perogies, lamb sirloin, and duck confit reflect the use of peak seasonal ingredients from the region, including Spatchcock chicken which serves two. Make a reservation at Deane House.
Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill, Toronto, Ontario
At first glance, the oyster bar at Pure Spirits takes center stage. But a closer look reveals the historic surroundings of the Toronto’s Distillery District. From these rooms rolled whiskey barrels destined for far-away places during the Prohibition era. Fresh fish and oysters flown in daily draw crowds for dishes like east coast swordfish ceviche, twice-cooked lamb riblets with anticucho-tamarind glaze, pastas, organic British Columbia chinook salmon, and crispy fried smelts. The mainstay diners clamor to eat is the scalloped potato pie, prepared with black cod, scallops, shrimp, smoked haddock, vegetables, and parsnip veloute in a potato gruyere crust. Make a reservation at Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill.
River Café, Calgary, Alberta
A scenic fishing hub on the Bow River accessible by bridge is home to River Café in Prince’s Island Park. One of Canada’s loveliest settings is also home to ash-roasted winter squash soup, red lentil hummus, pine mushroom roasted eggplant, rainbow trout, and pork chop with roasted parsnip and black kale. Do not leave without sampling River Café’s house-churned butter, sourdough bread and Vancouver Island Fleur de Sel. Make a reservation at River Café.
Archeo, Toronto, Ontario
An old carpentry shop is now Archeo, where remnants of Gooderham and Worts remain. Reclaimed, 150-year-old timber is the hallmark of this open space with high ceilings and concrete floors. The exposed brick walls lend an industrial vibe to Archeo; however, it’s anything but cold. Diners return for roasted eggplant soup, Ontario poached pear and apple with seabuckthorn and quince, the Archeo meatball appetizer, and large plates like braised beef short rib, agnolotti with East coast lobster, salsify, and lonzino, and sea bream. Make a reservation at Archeo.
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Photo credits: Auberge Saint-Antoine (Chez Muffy); Anne Edgar Photography (Elora).