Posted by: Amanda | January 31, 2009

Westcliffe Diner

I made my way up to the Westcliffe Diner at Oxford and Young today in search of a good, cheap burger.  I had read a review of the Westcliffe in The Coast a few months back that said the restaurant served delicious burgers made with homemade patties and was one of the cheapest restaurants in the city.  I personally do not see the point in eating a burger that is not made with a homemade patty and I’m always excited when I hear about a diner that makes their own patties.

The interior of the Westcliffe is basic but comfortable, clean, and unconsciously retro.  One wall displays framed photographs of Halifax and the area, including a lovely picture of the gazebo at the Public Gardens with everything in bloom.  There is a small, old TV near the till that was showing a TV show about cats.  There are only 2 booths in the place and we were lucky to nab one, but there is plenty of other seating.  They have an unusual set-up for ordering.  Each table has a menu propped up in a plastic display case and blank pieces of paper and a pen.  You write down what you want on a piece of paper and bring it up to the counter.  I ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings for $4.25 and Sarah ordered a cheeseburger and fries for $3.50.  We both ordered milkshakes which cost $1.75 each.  We also noted that a grilled cheese sandwich only costs $1.75 and they have a “Homecooked meal special every Thursday!”  After we brought up our order the friendly couple who run the place asked us exactly what we wanted on our burgers.  We asked for lettuce, tomato, relish, ketchup, and mustard.

Our meal was delicious and very filling.  The milkshakes came in large glasses and were a good consistency.  The burger patties were indeed homemade and quite thick.  The onion rings were perfectly crispy.  My only criticism is that the fries were made from packaged frozen fries and were nothing special.

The Westcliffe is open Monday – Saturday, 12-6.  They serve breakfast all day.   Actually, someone made a Facebook page for the Westcliffe that includes their whole menu, so you can check that out for more details.

I will definitely return to the Westcliffe next time I want a good burger and want to get super full for less than $5.

Posted by: dinertuesdays | June 20, 2008

Victoria, BC – June 19, 2008

What happened to Diner Tuesdays? Life in Halifax got very VERY busy. Between finishing university courses, looking for work, cleaning, packing and moving clear across this country our last three diners slipped through the cracks. This is a sin! We need completion! I cannot make any promises, but I will to try to convince one of the Diner Tuesdays correspondents to write up Cousins, Jimmy’s Homestead and the Montreal Grill.

The last couple of months have been a wonderful adventure (although some days I do miss Halifax). One thing that I will share with you is that on my trans-Canada journey I ate in a lot of truly fantastic diners. Canadians should be really proud that one can find a good, hearty and economical all-day breakfast almost anywhere in this country.

More reviews to come soon (I hope)…Thank you for your patience.

Posted by: dinertuesdays | March 31, 2008

The Esquire

The Esquire – March 30th, 2008

Perched on the edge of the Bedford Highway between expanses of apartment buildings and new housing developments the Esquire is a glimpse back in time. The Esquire is an extremely popular spot on a Sunday night. When we arrived at 6pm the restaurant was almost full to capacity with happy customers. There are comfy booths along one wall (all full when we arrived) so we took one of the more central tables. The decor is quintessential old-fashioned Nova Scotia – pictures of schooners, lighthouses, lobsters, sailors in sou’westers and place mats emblazoned with a map of the province.

We quickly spied the words: “world famous milkshakes” on the menu and gleefully ordered one chocolate and one vanilla (oh, the hardships of research!). What came to the table was an astounding amount of cold, creamy, delicious, life affirming beverage. We ended up splitting the contents of the two frosty metal cups between three people and still had two big glasses of milkshake each! Out of the diners that we have visited so far the Esquire is the clear winner in the milkshake department, absolutely the best in HRM in taste and quantity (all yours for a reasonable $3.99). If these milkshakes are not truly”world famous” already, they should be.

They were equally generous with the food that we ordered. The club house took up the whole plate. My burger, with a thick and delicious hand-formed patty was a dizzying size (when I look at the picture I cannot believe that I finished the whole thing!). The hot turkey sandwich was a tower of hot meat, thick bread and gravy with a topping of peas. The bowl of corn chowder (heavy on the potatoes) came with an astonishingly huge roll and not one but three packets of butter. The fries that accompanied three of our four meals were directly out of the deep freeze, but everything else appeared to be made in-house with care. One of our group members commented that the coleslaw (also accompanied three of four meals) was especially tasty. The food was delicious. Our one regret? Between the milkshake and the main courses not one of us had room for a glorious looking slice of pie. We greatly admired a slice of lemon meringue that was delivered to the table next to ours (next time maybe we should stop in for just coffee and dessert).

The price? Most of our meals were around the $12 mark…but, they provided us with almost a liter of ice cream each! Also nice to note – the Esquire has a motel across the street – so if you eat too much you can get a room and sleep it off. It is worth the drive to Bedford.

Esquire exteriorHot Turkey TowerMilkshakeMonster BurgerCorn Chowder

Posted by: dinertuesdays | March 6, 2008

Mary’s Place

Mary’s Place – February 23, 2008

Yes, I’ve been meaning to write this visit up for almost two weeks. February 23rd was a Saturday. Ever since the Pyramid Cafe and Mollyz closed, Mary’s Place has been the weekend breakfast place in the North End. It is busy, busy! We had intended to visit Mary’s at the start of February, but found that there was not enough space to accommodate our group (6 people) and we weren’t prepared to wait in the cold. We timed this visit a bit later to avoid the peak breakfast/brunch rush. When we arrived the restaurant was full, but in a comfortable-thriving-business-kind-of-way.

The waitresses were friendly and kind (as we came through the door one of them was making a sandwich for a local fellow who was hungry and down on his luck). They had two cups of coffee poured for us within minutes of being seated. The coffee was nothing special but, the service was good.

Is Mary’s Place really a diner? This is up for debate. Mary’s has cozy booths, the menu is full of diner classics, there is even a chrome pie keeper…it feels like a diner….but, still I hesitate. It is a diner with a twist. The twist is the wide array of absolutely delicious Syrian specials on offer. At Mary’s you can get standard all day breakfast fare: two eggs (over hard), pan fries, toast. However, you can also add things like hummus or the most gorgeous falafel you ever tasted (small, rolled in sesame seeds). That’s what I did. Shannon skipped the classic breakfast all together and went for a completely Middle Eastern plate. There was a bit of confusion about exactly which items were to be included in the selection (Shannon’s stuffed grape leaves were slow arriving). Overall, the food was tasty and satisfying. The price was reasonable. Our combined total was well under $20.

One of the best parts about our brunch at Mary’s was that on the way home we saw the ad for the Atlantic Dog Expo at the Halifax Forum. This turned out to be the best $2 that I have spent in Halifax all year (see picture of pug puppy below). Thanks Mary’s!

marys_interior.jpgMixed PlateAll Day BreakfastPug

Posted by: dinertuesdays | January 30, 2008

John`s Lunch Exterior

John’s Lunch – January 25th, 2008

It was a frozen winter afternoon in Halifax. We took the Woodside Ferry, a new and thrilling experience for the entire party (even the native Bluenoser). John’s Lunch is located very close to the Ferry Terminal – a fact that was most welcome as we made our way through the bitter cold.

John’s Lunch is cozy and welcoming. There are several booths along the wall, and more in the back, designed to fit four adults comfortably. As we were a party of five, we decided to sit along the counter. It turned out to be a great choice. The kitchen at John’s is a bustling hive of frying, grilling and serving. It is fun to watch. The staff are very friendly (and funny) and kept us well entertained while we waited for our food. I must say I liked their sass and some of the regular customers chimed in too which added to the fun, friendly atmosphere.  John (I assume?) took a shine to Shannon and kept giving her free samples of things whenever she mused loudly, “What do halibut tips taste like?”

John’s is known for their seafood. They have a wonderful selection: haddock, haddock tips, calamari, scallops, shrimp…and clams. The clam strips are legendary (and they did not disappoint). To start, Amanda ordered a milkshake. The metal cup was not provided but the milkshake was thick and delicious and later they noticed that her glass was low and refilled it. As seafood is the specialty at John’s, we all ordered fish or clams and chips. The breading was light and crisp, not too greasy. A word of warning, the portions were enormous. Too big for one person really and overflowing off of the plate (see picture). My advice is to go to John’s Lunch hungry or think about splitting an order with a friend. Although, when I couldn’t finish my meal the waitress helpfully offered reheating tips…leading me to believe people leave with doggy bags on a regular basis.

Shannon was the only one of our group who had enough room to sample desert. She ordered the rice pudding, which was creamy and heavily spiced with cinnamon. The little taste that Shannon offered was very nice.  John (?) gave us all lollypops as we were leaving – a nice touch!

The “peak hours only” Woodside Ferry schedule made getting to John’s and back to Halifax a bit rushed…the last ferry back is at 6:05pm. Still it was definitely worth the trip to Dartmouth. Fantastic! So who makes the best fish and chips in HRM? Willman’s Fried Foods is really great and so is John’s…perhaps someday soon we will have to re-sample both and name a winner. Please feel free to cast a vote if you have a favourite.

John’s Lunch SignFerryWoodsideClamsMilkshakePuddingFun times

Posted by: Amanda | January 18, 2008

cousins

Cousin’s (on Agricola)

Fans of Halifax diners will know that there are in fact two diners named Cousin’s in Halifax. I have not had the pleasure of visiting the one on Lady Hammond Road but the one on Agricola is only a few blocks from my apartment, so I wandered down there for breakfast last week. My immediate impression of Cousin’s was that it has typical diner decor, with a long counter, except it does not have booths. My friend and I decided to sit at the counter to get the full diner experience. Unfortunately, there was a TV on behind the counter, directly facing us, which I find quite distracting. I asked the waitress to turn it off and she turned the sound off for me. She also immediately gave us the daily paper when we arrived.

The Cousin’s menu is fairly standard, except that it contains some Greek dishes since the restaurant is owned by a nice, older Greek couple. I ordered 2 eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast, which was well-priced at less than $4. My friend ordered a Western omelette. We weren’t sure what “Western” meant, but he decided to take a chance. It ended up containing standard omelette ingredients, like ham and tomatoes. Our breakfasts were edible and filling but not great. The main word I would use to describe them is greasy, and my bacon tasted kind of funny. In fact, when I undressed hours later while getting ready for bed, I noticed that my clothes still smelled like greasy breakfast, so I guess the smell of grease permeated the air at Cousin’s, although I did not notice it when I was in there. I had to hang up my clothes for a day or two before the smell went away.

I will likely return to Cousin’s because it’s close by and has good service and atmosphere, plus I’m curious about the dinner menu and we still need some pictures for the blog, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for the food.

Posted by: dinertuesdays | January 18, 2008

Cozy’s Snack Bar

Cosy’s Snack Bar – January 18th, 2008

Happy New Year! After a very busy (and long) holiday season hiatus Diner Tuesdays is back. We took a look at our diner map and realized that there are so many wonderful establishments in Halifax that need to be experienced. To get the ball rolling we decided to visit Cosy’s Snack Bar (at the corner of Oxford and Liverpool) for breakfast this morning.

Cosy’s feels like it has been around for a long time (we forgot to ask our waitress just how long). At 9:30am it was full of people. Amanda quickly noted that all of the customers, apart from the two of us, were men…including a jovial table of police officers. Cosy’s is well named. It has a cozy, friendly feel. It is a real neighbourhood institution. The decor is not as flamboyant or as characterful as some of the other establishments that we have visited, but it is comfortable. They seem to be big hockey fans, especially the Montreal Canadiens and Team Canada. We took a booth at the back of the diner. It was luxuriously spacious for two – four adults would fit snugly.

The waitress was warmly welcoming. Within minutes of sitting down we had two steaming mugs of coffee in front of us. It didn’t take long to thaw out after our chilly walk up Oxford street.

As usual we tried to order a variety of menu items. There was a lot to choose from including a lovely selection of packaged cereals (you know that I will be back the next time I get a craving for Fruit Loops). We settled on the breakfast bagel and an order of blueberry pancakes. The breakfast bagel was enormous and came with a generous helping or delicious home-fries. Our other dish was a trio of perfectly cooked blueberry pancakes that came with a tupperware jug of syrup. We shared bites back and forth, both of us were impressed with the no-nonsense tastiness of the food. The price was good and the two of left feeling well fed for under $14.

Cosy’s Snack Bar offers a lunch/dinner menu as well with standard diner fare like burgers and meatloaf. The breakfast was delicious, so we may have to return (if time permits) in an afternoon to report on some of their other offerings. Although beware! Cosy’s is open early but, closes at 4pm every afternoon and doesn’t open at all on Sundays.

SignBreakfast BagelPancakesTupperwareDeliciousCozy’s Interior

Posted by: dinertuesdays | September 21, 2007

Willmans Fried Foods Ltd.

Willman’s Fried Foods Ltd – September 18th, 2007

Our apologies for the long silence from Diner Tuesdays. The summer in Halifax is so short and we were busy having so much fun…the blog was neglected. With almost a dozen historic Halifax diners on our list still to be visited we will do our best to file some more reports in the coming months.

We are relaunching Diner Tuesdays with a top-notch diner. Willman’s Fried Foods Ltd. is a North End gem. The diner was established in 1946 (see Halifax: Then and Now for more detail). There is limited eat-in seating consisting of cheerful orange plastic seats and a photographic mural of fish that takes up one whole wall. Willman’s seems to specialize in take-out dining. While we were there a woman came in who has been eating at Willman’s for over 30 years. She lives in the United States but, makes a point of visiting Willman’s whenever she is back in Halifax. She told us that the diner hasn’t changed much since she was a teenager.

As usual we tried to sample a full range of menu items: 2 pieces fish and chips, clam strips and chips and Lucien’s homemade burger. The fish was delicious. The batter is light and not greasy…apparently something that Lucien has been perfecting for many years. The clam strips were excellent. The french fries were fantastic, melt-in-your-mouth, fresh-cut and certainly never frozen. The portions were generous, almost too generous, one felt somewhat guilty at not being able to finish everything that was on the plate (especially because it was all so delectable). Amanda thought that her homemade burger was good, but she regretted not ordering some form of fried seafood as it was obviously Lucien’s specialty, pride and joy.

There is a sign on the wall that proclaims: “We offer Newfie style.” We had to ask what this meant…It turned out to be fries covered in gravy with a summer savoury bread stuffing. It is like poutine with stuffing instead of the cheese curds. Lucien brought us a trial-sized plate. It was an odd combination, but delicious.

Also notable:

Lucien offers four kinds of vinegar: white, malt, cider and wine…he laughingly suggested he could probably find us some balsamic if we wanted it. If Diner Tuesdays had a rating system, Willman’s would receive top marks.

As we were leaving we said: “You know we’ll be back.”

Lucien grinned and replied: “Anytime and we’ll be happy to see you.”

Willman’s InteriorWillman’s MuralWindow Sign

Posted by: dinertuesdays | August 7, 2007

starlite_diner.jpg

 

Starlite Diner (PEI) Roving Correspondent Report

 

This week’s installment is from a correspondent who recently paid a visit to a

Prince Edward Island diner:

 

The Starlite is at the intersection of Route 1A and Water St., it is the first
exit for Summerside. This diner has the great 50s curbside appeal including
giant ice cream cone and neon lights. As you walk in you are faced with a large
jukebox and two period gas pumps (unfortunately no pic). We were seated fairly
quickly at 1:30 it was still busy with the lunch crowd. We got the largest
table in the place, it seemed like a regular booth but for some reason the
table was really wide. Each table had a mini jukebox on which you could select
your songs, for a quarter each. We had a slight hiccup when our juke had some
different information then the big one and I didn’t get to hear “I want
Candy.”

The service was great and soon we had our orders. The burger with bacon looked
really good and the fries were fantastic. I had the grilled cheese which I
always think tastes better cooked on a grill that has been used to cook other
things (burgers, bacon etc). I also had a chocolate milkshake which was huge.
As you can see they chose to forgo a glass all together and just brought the
metal cup with a straw. On the table were the standard condiments but also a
sort of steak spice mixture which we saw people putting on their fries. We
tried it out and it was pretty awesome. I found it interesting that the diner
offered a choice of homemade or frozen fries, I mean who when in the land of
potatoes would choose frozen? The fries were amazing and next time we will
definitely have to try the PEI classic of “Fries with the Works.” Quebec
has the Poutine and PEI has Fries with the Works, it starts with a plate of
fries on top of which you add hamburger meat, peas, and onions and then smother
it all in gravy. Overall it was well worth the visit.

Juke BoxGrilled CheeseMilk ShakeStarlite Burger

Posted by: dinertuesdays | July 30, 2007

Chickenburger Exterior

The Chickenburger – July 26th, 2007

The Chickenburger was founded in 1940 and claims to be the oldest drive-in diner in Canada! It was a very lively place on Thursday night – people were swarming for their grease fixings. The acclaimed chickenburger is a small bun with fried chicken on it. No mayo, no mustard, just chicken and bun. Some customers rave about the chickenburger (Vinny ordered two!) while others turn their noses up at the sloppy mélange of dark and white meat and gristle and grease (Shannon). The milkshake is rated number one in Halifax by the Coast, however we found them to be a bit on the thin side – more like flavoured milk. The onion rings are spectacular. Several of us ordered cheeseburgers, the patties are homemade, with a texture a bit looser and greasier than what one would expect, but not bad. In fact it must have been good because there was no opportunity to photograph the food before it was inhaled.

The décor confirms that this is indeed a landmark diner, complete with juke box, neon lights, bar stools and lots of chrome. There are also picnic tables set up outside. The extra seating is welcome because it is such a popular place. One of the downsides of the popularity of the Chickenburger is the marketing machine that lines the entryway with “Chick Gear” ie hats, hoodies and t-shirts with the Chickenburger logo on them.

Another marvel of the Chickenburger is how the teenage staff manages to unite the diners with their orders. Patrons order their meal at one of the tills on the long horseshoe-shaped counter and have to watch carefully for their order to arrive at the other end of the counter a few minutes later. At one point there was a line of disposable cups on the end of the counter. An exasperated young woman hollered to Lise, pointing at the cups “Your drinks!”…It is a chaotic system, but it seems to work fairly efficiently.

It was worth the drive to Bedford because it was fun to see such a hive of activity around mediocre food. In Diner Tuesdays’ opinion the prices were not on par with quality and portion size. In a way, it is more about the theatre and nostalgia than the good eating.

Jukebox MilkshakeChickenburger SwagInhaledChicken_InteriorThe Chicken Burger Sign

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