Chinese food Barrie

Just a short hour’s drive north on Highway 400 from Toronto, the city of Barrie has rapidly expanded to become a tourist hotspot itself with a wealth of things to see and do, not least its waterfront area on Kempenfelt Bay which continues to draw people in their droves. With such expansion typically comes an influx of new places to eat, and Barrie is no exception in that respect with a raft of restaurants, coffee shops and takeout spots seemingly popping up everywhere, meaning residents and visitors alike are now spoiled for choice.

In terms of that firm favourite, Chinese cuisine, the city can offer multiple eateries from tiny family-owned and run takeaway places to large all-you-can-eat strip mall restaurants. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are our favourite Chinese eateries in the city of Barrie:

  • Mandarinlarge, welcoming, with seemingly endless amounts of Chinese food mixed with an impressive selection of other cuisines, the Mandarin is the top dog in the city if you’re looking for an award-winning buffet. So popular it has branched out across Ontario, the eatery is famed for its one hundred strong selection of dishes, with choices such as sushi and prime rib, plus a grill counter, soup and salad bars and a raft of desserts, a frozen yoghurt station and even an ice cream sundae bar. A very full stomach is guaranteed here.
  • Dragon Wokwith two locations in Barrie, Dragon Wok is doing very nicely indeed and it is easy to see why: they serve tasty, unpretentious Chinese food in generous portions at excellent prices. Dishes are fresh and made to order, with eat-in or take out and home delivery available. People who eat here become very loyal customers, which is always a good sign.
  • Sakana Houseon the eastern fringe of the city but well worth the trip, Sakana House boasts a lovely interior of contemporary Japanese décor and a comprehensive selection of dishes to ensure diners won’t leave feeling anything less than satisfied. Choose between all-you-can-eat or a la carte options, as well as takeout from an extensive menu that includes everything from sushi rolls to Chinese Chow Mein. Has recently opened a second location in Barrie, underlining how popular the brand is with locals and tourists.
  • Yang’s Chinese Restaurantout in the Barrie ‘burbs of Letitia Heights, Yang’s doesn’t look like much from the outside, tucked as it is in the middle of a small strip mall. Inside, however, is a little gem, with an open kitchen area where you can see food being freshly prepared and an inviting atmosphere in the – admittedly cosy – dining area if you decide to stay and eat. Take out, eat-in, order for delivery – the food is plentiful and the prices superb.
  • Asian Onefast, fresh and available for takeout or home delivery – as well as a tiny ‘eat-in’ area if you want to devour your food on-site – Asian One is another precious entry in Barrie’s list of best Asian food outlets. Located in the southwestern suburb of Holly, its menu boasts a huge selection of Chinese favourites along with a smattering of Thai dishes, ‘family dinners’ and party specials.
  • Lee’s Kitchen Chinese & Thai Cuisineanother Chinese/Thai hybrid eatery, Lee’s Kitchen can be found near Bayfield Mall just north of downtown Barrie. An unassuming redbrick exterior hides a neat, compact restaurant and takeaway with friendly service, great value meals and an impressively large menu, featuring everything from Combo Dinners to Cantonese specialities and even bubble tea. Always busy, which is a good sign for a food outlet.
  • C K Chinese Foodnestled among a whole host of takeaway places and restaurants on Bayfield Street, a short drive north of Kempenfelt Bay, C K Chinese Food has been part of the Barrie Asian food scene for many years. Not the biggest or flashiest – it’s housed in a squat stretch of businesses opposite a Pizza Hut – but what it does is provide tasty Asian food that is generous in its portions and easy on the wallet. C K does delivery, takeout and offers a (quite tiny) eating area, as well as catering, offering something close to four successful decades of experience serving Asian cuisine to the city.
  • Chef Chan Barriefound just south of the bay off Minet’s Point, Chef Chan is a family-owned and run Barrie staple and known for its fresh, flavoursome dishes. Their food is described as ‘Asian Fusion’, with a menu that includes Pad Thai, wing choices and the usual Chinese favourites such as Chop Suey, along with Family Dinner choices, Lunch Combos and group specials. Delivery and takeout are available, with both described as speedy and efficient.
  • Qing’s Cuisinesitting out on the southern edge of Barrie, Qing’s is definitely worth making the trip down Huron Road for its simple yet elegant interior and the quality Asian food it serves to hungry customers. Opened in 2014, the restaurant offers eat-in, takeout and delivery, and has twice won Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor. The menu is crammed with favourite and specials and leans heavily towards Chinese and Thai dishes such as Tom Yum soup, Pad Thai, Mongolian Beef and an impressive list of seafood and veggie options.
  • Asia Woksimple, tasty dishes eaten diner-style is the order of the day at Asia Wok, an eatery and takeout place situated just off Highway 400 north of downtown Barrie. There are no airs and graces here, but what you will find is classic Chinese cuisine served with a warm smile in this family-run restaurant. Freshly made, MSG-free, and open for close to fifteen years, Asia Wok is a great little place to fill up on Asian food.
  • Mei’s Daily Foodanother restaurant situated in a small commercial plaza, this time off Barrie’s Bell Farm Road, Mei’s Daily Food offers authentic Chinese cuisine to eat in or take away. The interior is simple yet casual and welcoming, while the food ranges from tasty portions of chicken balls to the more exotic spicy lobster. And if you’re looking for something earlier in the morning, they also offer a selection of Canadian breakfasts!
  • Dragon RestaurantThe Dragon has been serving Barrie’s finest since 1985 and is still going strong today. An unmissable grey-and-redbrick low slung slab at the junction of Essa Road and Burton Avenue if offers a good-sized restaurant area packed with tables and banquettes if you choose to eat at one of the one hundred available seats, and its menu is bursting at the seams with Asian goodness. Everything from Szechuan, Cantonese and Chinese favourites can be found on the huge a la carte menu, while the famed all-you-can-eat buffet is on offer as both an eat-in or take out option. Normal menu takeout and delivery service are also available, making the Dragon Restaurant an ever-popular choice.
  • Sizzling Woka no-frills addition to this list, Sizzling Wok is a tiny restaurant offering a huge choice of Chinese food from its location south of Kempenfelt Bay. Welcoming staff and freshly made food compensate for a very small eating area, and the Sizzling Wok offers takeout and delivery services, with a whole host of choices for hungry patrons: party specials, combos, family dinners and chef’s specialities complement the usual list of traditional Chinese favourites available to Barrie residents.

Hopefully, these will give you some ideas next time you are looking for Chinese food in Barrie.




Places to east near Canada’s Wonderland.

Wonder Mountain at Canada's Wonderland

Canada’s first major theme park, Canada’s Wonderland opened its doors in 1981. Today it continues to thrill locals and tourists alike with its amazing attractions, from seventeen rollercoasters – the second-highest number in the world, and including its newest addition, the scream-inducing Yukon Striker – to the enormous Splash Works water park and a whole host of rides, stalls, shows and events spread across its massive three hundred acre site. The scale of Wonderland is something to behold: more than two hundred attractions are within its walls, bringing in almost four million visitors every year.

Tucked amongst the suburban sprawl of Vaughan, Canada’s Wonderland is a short forty-kilometre drive north of Toronto’s downtown that’s pretty easy to get to. It’s easily accessible from Highway 400 and boasts excellent links whether you’re travelling by car (Wonderland offers ample spaces for guests), York Region Transit buses or via one of TTC’s choices – for example, you can take the TTC to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station and hail a cab or Uber from here to the park – as well as riding the Go Train to Maple GO Train Station which is just a short hop from Wonderland itself. For visitors flying into Toronto, there are accessible car routes from Pearson airport, as well as for US tourists travelling north from the United States.

So now you know what Canada’s Wonderland has to offer, where it is and how to get there, what are you going to eat when you arrive? Enjoying all those attractions can be hungry work, after all, so here we take a look at what’s available to eat before, during and after your adrenaline-filled visit to one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions…


Pre-park Fill-Ups

Early riser? Can’t wait to load up on pancakes and get going as soon as the park gates open? If you need fuel before stepping foot inside Wonderland, there are numerous eateries dotted around the outskirts of the park that provide excellent breakfasts, guaranteeing you at least a few hours uninterrupted ride time before lunch. Here’s our list of pre-park haunts:

  • Boom Breakfast – just southwest of Wonderland and close enough to hear the screams from early-morning rollercoaster riders, Boom Breakfast is a fast-growing enterprise, and the Vaughan location is its newest – and largest. Great for groups, families and kids (their motto is ‘Where friends and food collide’), Boom’s menu is an extensive mashup of smoothies, salads, burgers and more, as well as the all-important breakfast choices – from omelettes to salmon and cream cheese ‘breakwiches’ to the Boom Power plate, there’s enough here to ensure you’re raring to hit those rides.
  • Sunset Grill – when a restaurant has survived more than three decades in the restaurant business you know they are doing something right, and the Sunset Grill is doing it very right indeed. With its first eatery opening in 1985, this ever-popular breakfast place has several franchises across the region, with the Rutherford Road branch closest to Wonderland. Wood-panelled, bright and welcoming, the Sunset offers a huge variety of meals including pancakes, waffles, omelettes and French toasts, with its Famous All-Day Breakfast the star of a very packed show.
  • Denny’s – a long-running diner chain is known to many across Canada and the US, Denny’s does what it says on the tin and provides a relaxed, casual foodie experience and offers a raft of much-loved classics. The Vaughan branch sits just southeast of Canada’s Wonderland, and amongst its lengthy menu of mains, desserts, sides and drinks, there are an awe-inspiring selection of breakfasts plates, including poutine, Belgian waffles, Philly cheesesteak omelettes, sizzling skillets and even a T-bone steak affair, all of which are available around the clock.
  • Cora – two miles south of the park lies Cora, whose owner – the redoubtable Cora Tsouflidou – has been in the breakfast business for more than thirty years, and it shows. With a considerable number of branches across the area, Cora provides hearty plates of comfort food with a smile, typically amongst sunny, colourful decor within its restaurants. A full belly is guaranteed when you eat here, with some huge breakfast platters available along with excellent fruit offerings.
  • Symposium Cafe Restaurant & Lounge – opened in 2015, this latest addition to Symposium’s fast-expanding portfolio of restaurants is just five hundred metres from Wonderland and is as packed with food choices as the park is with thrill rides. Open from morning ‘til late every day of the week, it is a relaxed and relaxing spot for casual dining, and its breakfasts will really hit the spot. Symposium’s ‘early bird’ is served from 8 am to 11 am, while its all-day offer runs until 4 pm, with the latter offering a huge selection of juices, omelettes, French toasts and waffles, as well as gourmet options (including fillet of beef medallions) and Benedicts.


As you would expect given its size and popularity, Canada’s Wonderland offers a huge range of restaurants and fast food places inside its walls, from Subway to Pizza Pizza and a whole host of others, including International Buffets, Pretzel & Beer Bars and a large choice of dessert stalls and diners. Coupled with the park’s ‘Dining Plans’ and ‘Meal Deals’ you’re never going to miss out on a bite to eat if the fancy takes you. As we all know, however, prices can be a little steeper once you’re inside any type of park or centre. Instead, especially if you’ve arrived later in the day and need something to eat before entering, it’s just as enjoyable to grab lunch from one of the myriad eateries that dot the streets and ‘burbs around Wonderland itself. Often they are cheaper, sometimes healthier, and quite a lot of the time far more enjoyable while offering that something a little bit different. Here’s a handful to whet your appetite:

  • Zona Caffé – a little tucked away beneath the glassy office block of Mackenzie Health Urgent Care Centre on Jane Street, southeast of Wonderland, Zona Caffé is a sleek, contemporary café owned and run by Lina and Silvano DeRocchis. At Zona, the emphasis is on traditional Italian fare, with authentic dishes via a hot table and a pride-of-place Victoria Arduino espresso machine serving patrons. Breakfast-wise there’s everything from breakfast bagels to ham and cheese omelette pizzas, while a whole host of Italian favourites such as hot sandwiches, Paninis and risotto round out the alternative choices.
  • Ichiki Japanese & Thai Restaurant – another eatery within spitting distance of the theme park’s gates, Ichiki Japanese & Thai is a hip, thoroughly welcoming space decked out in dark woods and black leather, with an impressively comprehensive menu. With a choice of a la carte or All You Can Eat – niftily ordered via an iPad at your table – diners can enjoy more than two dozen appetizers and noodle dishes, a large choice of sushi and sashimi, plus speciality rolls, combos and enormous party trays guaranteed to fill a group of empty stomachs prior to venturing into Wonderland.
  • Bamiyan Kabob – located just across the road from Wonderland’s large parking areas, this Afghani restaurant sits amongst a clutch of other businesses in a nondescript strip mall but don’t let that put you off. Inside its walls, the Bamiyan chefs rustle up authentic, fresh and delicious Afghan cuisine, and the restaurant is still growing in popularity – there are now seven branches across the GTA. Wraps, kabobs, kabob dinners – rammed with rice, salads, and naan bread – as well as a smattering of desserts means you can stock up before walking across to the park.
  • Pizza Depot – like Bamiyan above, Pizza Depot is within walking distance of Wonderland’s entrance gates so is ideal for loading up on pies before you ride. Found at the end of a row of businesses on Jane Street, it’s a blink and you’ll miss it place if you’re speeding by, but it’s worth dropping in to check out its selection of meat, veggie and international pizzas, chicken wings – with over fifty flavours – and burgers, plus salads, sides and loaves of bread. There’s plenty here for those who like it fast and enjoyable, just like those rollercoasters. There’s no indoor seating though, just takeout.
  • Eli’s Table – just a few doors down from the aforementioned Pizza Depot, Eli’s Table looks an unassuming eatery from the outside, but this family-owned and operated restaurant serves up excellent Mediterranean cuisine and is an instant hit with whoever eats here. There are salads, cheese and chicken burgers if you want them, but the stars of the show are the homemade, authentic shawarmas, souvlakis and falafel dishes that customers are falling over themselves to praise and which the owner clearly – and rightly – takes pride in serving.
  • Champion Doner – if you like fast food but are looking for something different to McDonald’s then Champion is another restaurant serving super-tasty grab and go food that you can fill up on before enjoying what Wonderland has to offer. Fresh, tasty Mediterranean cuisine, huge portions, and choices such as shawarmas, doners kebabs, platters, wraps, salads, desserts including baklava and a ton of delicious sides such as tzatziki and hummus – plus the option to eat in or take away – mean Champion is one of the go-to places in Vaughan.
  • Kelseys Original Roadhouse – just northeast of the park, Kelseys is something of a Canadian staple and almost guaranteed to satisfy with its selection of belly-warming favourites. Burly burgers, steaks, ‘fall off the bone’ ribs, a fish selection plus a cornucopia of pasta picks, salads, sides, wings and dips are on offer for hungry Wonderlanders, meaning you can load up on lunch so you’re ready to hit the attractions straight away.

Post-Wonderland eats

Once you’re done thrill-seeking for the day it can often be the case that you need to refuel before heading home, so luckily the streets around Wonderland are jam-packed with places to top you up with food and drink. Here’s our selection of eateries – plus a rather unique bar – to enjoy post-park so your journey home is a content one:

  • Sal’s Caribbean Grill House – Caribbean and Canadian fusion food is the order of the day at Sal’s, found just west of Wonderland in a small strip mall on Weston Road. Offering something a little different, the eatery has a full menu of Caribbean and West Indian dishes such as goat and shrimp served on beds of rice, along with an array of appetisers, salads, soups and mains that include jerk wraps, braised oxtail and pan-fried red snapper. Eat-in or take out your choice of rich, flavourful food.
  • Dave and Busters – aways south of the park where Highway 400 meets the 407 at the centre of Vaughan, Dave and Buster’s is perfectly placed for a stop-off once you’re done for the day at Wonderland and is conveniently close to Highway 407 TTC subway station for plenty of transit connections. A sports bar on steroids, Dave and Buster’s interior is a cavern of neon, music and wall-mounted televisions where the whole family can relax and choose from an enormous selection of food and drink favourites: there’s everything here from cocktails and beers to ‘Shareable’ and ‘Snackable’ platters, sliders, burgers, steaks and ribs, and so much more.
  • Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar – across the 400 from Dave and Buster’s, the Vaughan branch of Scaddabush Italian Kitchen & Bar sits amongst dozens of other restaurants and stores in the enormous retail development on Colossus Drive. A stylish interior, outdoor seating plus an extensive menu of Italian-inspired main dishes such as chicken Parmesan and crusted Pacific snapper, along with a solid clutch of pizzas and pasta, make this a worthwhile stop before you head home.
  • St. Louis Bar & Grill – taking up a prime spot across the street from Canada’s Wonderland, the St. Louis Bar & Grill is a diner-cum-sports-bar that has no pretensions other than to make sure you’re full of hearty favourites when you leave. Casual, comfortable and with a smattering of widescreen televisions showing games, you can stuff yourself with wings, tacos, poutines, ribs and plenty more here.
  • Zafferano Ristorante – just a couple of miles south of the park, Zafferano is a family-owned and run restaurant where you’ll be made to feel right at home. With lovely décor and a relaxing ambience, the food just adds to the overall feel of sitting in an authentic upscale eatery somewhere in Italy – there’s something for everyone here with their varied and creative menu, offering much-loved Italian classics along with a good selection of inventive dishes that are a twist on the traditional.
  • Astoria Shish Kebob House – there are times when, post-rollercoasters, all you need is a filling, delicious hand-to-mouth wrap of Greek goodness, and this is where the Astoria comes in. Tucked a little out of the way in a small mall where Highway 73 meets the 400, it’s worth making the trip due to the great choice of dishes and takeaways, including mixed grills, seafood favourites, sandwiches, sides and salads, as well as those all-important staples, the souvlakis and stuffed pita bread.
  • JR Sports Bar & Grill – a new kid on the block having opened in 2018, JR Sports Bar & Grill is aiming for the top and describes itself as ‘one of Ontario’s top sports bars’. Located around two and a half miles south of the park and just off Highway 400, the eatery is bright and spacious with an open-plan interior making it ideal for families and large groups that like a bit of noise and plenty of atmospheres – plus the novelty hookah pipes available to patrons. Food is the usual hearty fare of bar favourites such as wings, burgers, pizzas and kabobs, along with a good choice of appetisers, sides, salads and desserts.
  • Tandoori Time – one of the top twenty restaurants in the area, Tandoori Time can be found tucked away in Norwood Plaza, just a few hundred metres east of Wonderland’s parking areas. Serving up delicious halal Pakistani and Indian cuisine, this eatery may be on the small side, but it has some serious credentials, including numerous awards for its food. Dine-in or take out from the extensive choice of dishes, including kebabs, curries, fish meals and biryanis, as well as the full complement of sides, desserts and drinks to wash it all down.
  • The Keg – situated just off Highway 73 and a short drive south from the theme park, The Keg Steakhouse & Bar is plush and welcoming, and ideal if you fancy dropping in with a large group of friends or family. Logs of dark wood, lots of low lighting, and lots of delicious shellfish and aged beef sirloins mean The Keg will not disappoint if you’re looking for something casual yet thoroughly enjoyable.
  • Canyon Creek Chophouse – another foodie option in the commercial sprawl south of Wonderland, Canyon Creek Chophouse is an upscale steakhouse chain restaurant serving up some terrific dishes and a relaxed, relaxing vibe amongst its wood-heavy interior décor. Eat-in or take it home with you, the menu offers some mouth-watering options, including ‘Carved and Crafted’ items such as steak frites or filet & lobster, ‘Signature Aged Prime Rib’, ‘Handhelds’ (or high-end sandwiches), as well as starters, sharing plates, green dishes, ‘Craft Your Own’ steak meals, plus desserts and drinks.
  • Green Dragon CVR – a niche eatery, but for those who enjoy sipping on fantastic craft beers while riding through the landscapes of Red Dead Redemption II, this is the place to go. Literally down the street from the park, Green Dragon is ‘Vaughan’s first video game bar’, a small-but-perfectly-formed stop off where you can hang with friends, relax on sofas, and either buy or play a massive selection of video games while enjoying excellent, locally-brewed craft beer. It’s like being at home before you’ve even arrived there.

Just for Kids

Overdosed on one of the park’s ‘Meal Deals’ and don’t need to eat, but your children are still – somehow, despite all those chicken wings they devoured at lunch – crying out for food? The good news is there are a ton of well-known fast food places around Wonderland for a quick and easy fix for the youngsters. McDonald’s are well represented in the area, as you would expect, with at least four restaurants within a few miles of the park, while eateries such as Hero Certified Burgers, A&W, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s are handily placed for a stop-off if you need something quick. If it’s something to eat before you enter Wonderland, breakfasts are also served at the majority of the aforementioned big-name chains, while a large number of our restaurant choices also serve something for the little ones in the form of separate kids’ menus.

Places to stay

As you would expect in the suburb of a major metropolis, Vaughan and its nearby areas possess an impressive choice of hotels and places to stay, so if your Wonderland visit morphs from a one day visit to a three-day weekend mini-vacation, you’re not going to spend it sleeping in your car. Aloft and Novotel both have hotels just south of the park, while the Hilton and Marriott Residence are a little further towards the junction of Highways 400 and 407, but there are numerous locations towards the centre of Vaughan. Wonderland itself offers a ‘vacation package’, which provides entry to the park plus a choice of nearby hotels, so if it’s a two-day visit with an overnight stay, for example, both your needs are catered for.

Photo: Jeremy Thompson / Flickr

Barrie Restaurants Guide

Hugging the western curve of Lake Simcoe, Barrie is often thought of as ‘just’ a bedroom community for the nearby metropolis of Toronto, but that is to do this fast-growing city a disservice. In recent decades Barrie has become a vibrant, bustling place to live and work in its own right, with a booming tourist industry – thanks in part to the fantastic waterfront on Kempenfelt Bay – and a whole host of dining experiences designed to satisfy even the most demanding of palates.

Barrie now offers hundreds of exciting eateries, from old names that that have been serving family favourites for years, to funky new ethnic experiences, as well as a huge selection of impressive fine dining establishments, steakhouses, pubs and hidden gems that cater for any and all diets in what is a relaxed and inviting Ontarian city. Here we look at some of the best Barrie restaurants to get your taste buds tingling.



Inside The North

Fine Dining & A Little Romance

Like most modern cities, Barrie is home to a pretty wide selection of restaurants that offer something a little more upmarket in terms of food, ambience and even understated opulence.

  • Michael & Marion’s – a warm, intimate atmosphere with perfect lighting and a roaring fireplace just add to the sense of elegance and occasion in this downtown Barrie staple. Michael & Marion’s boasts an extensive menu in upscale surroundings and is perfect for a romantic evening with a loved one.
  • The North – Within spitting distance of the city’s marina, The North restaurant is cosy, classy and serves delicious, creative food with the emphasis on seafood, steaks and smaller taster plates.
  • Painters Hall Bistro – Intimate and refined, Painters Hall is an ideal spot for a quiet get-together with friends or business associates, or to wine and dine your partner with its exquisite choice of progressive Canadian cuisine.
  • Urban Dish Grill & Wine Bar – located south of the bay, the Urban Dish Grill is an upmarket yet inviting space resplendent with dark woods and cream decor, creating a relaxing ambience for patrons as they dine on some excellent local fare.

Inside Grilled Cheese

Go Casual

Fancy a meal with friends or family in relaxed surroundings where the service is great, and the food is uniformly excellent? Take a look at these places:

  • Grilled Cheese Social Eatery – small, colourful, funky and dishing up some seriously good food, the Grilled Cheese Social Eatery has – for its size – an extensive menu of wittily named sandwiches along with sides, soups, salads and ice cream floats, and is always a massive hit for anyone who decides to stop by and enjoy an hour or two.
  • Kenzington Burger Bar – for more than a decade, Kenzington has been serving the people of Barrie with mouth-watering gourmet burger combos, bar appetisers and specials. So popular they have branched out into other locations across the city – and beyond, with a food truck coming to you if you can’t make it to them!
  • Grillicious Gourmet Tap & Grill – so close to the bay you could fall into it if you’re not careful, the Grillicious Gourmet Tap & Grill is a casual, smart yet effortlessly relaxed eatery rammed with exposed brick and dark wood, while its menu is packed with crowd-pleasers – everything from jalapeno cream cheese poppers to locally farmed smoked trout can be enjoyed at Grillicious.
  • Symposium Café Restaurant and Lounge – located on the northern fringe of Barrie, Symposium Barrie is a casual, upscale eatery, in the style of a European Cafe, as it opens from breakfast until late and serves everything from early morning omelettes and waffles to burgers, steaks and seafood; along with a licensed cocktail lounge and dedicated late-night full menu offerings. There’s something for everybody here, no matter the time of day.
  • The Works – there are burgers, then there’s The Work’s gourmet burgers – 100% Canadian fresh hand-pressed patties designed to make you drool. The Works is relaxed, inviting and has a menu bursting at the seams with choices of burger patties, sides and poutines, along with shakes, beers and ‘drunken grapes’.
  • The Speakcheasy – evoking a 20s-era speakeasy with its décor and ambience, the Speakcheasy – no groans at the back – is a brilliant basement eatery beneath Barrie’s J’adore Fine Cheese and Chocolate store. Dishes here are heavily cheese-focused, with an array of platters, baguettes and tasting plates, combined with a well-stocked bar and selection of drinks.

Italian Restaurants in Barrie

Italian eateries are omnipresent nowadays, and it is often easy to overlook them when choosing a place to eat – but you simply can’t miss these Italian Barrie restaurants, because they are some of the best of the bunch in the city:

  • Il Buco Ristorante – an eatery so classy it could have comfortably sat in the fine dining section above, Il Buco is not just one of Barrie’s best Italian restaurants, it is one of the city’s best overall. Lake views, excellent pasta and seafood, and a charming atmosphere mean this place is a cut above the rest.
  • Casa Mia Restaurant – a stone’s throw from the marina, Casa Mia screams romance: low lights, casual yet classy, it is warm and inviting, and the food is excellent. Italian favourites and specialities are served alongside several Greek dishes.
  • 147 Italian – modern and stylish with lashing of redbrick and dark leather seating, the 147 sits on Dunlop Street and offers a relaxed dining experience with some seriously tasty Italian dishes. The menu isn’t huge, but it’s a clear case of quality over quantity at this restaurant.
  • PIE Wood Fired Pizza Joint – just across the road from Centennial Beach, PIE is a colourful, bustling pizza parlour where good food and plenty of fun is the name of the game. A staggering choice of pies is available alongside plates of pasta, salads and a raft of starters.

Indian Restaurants

Always a firm favourite amongst diners, Indian food offers a fantastic choice of dishes and flavours, and these Barrie hotspots never fail to deliver on both counts:

  • Taj Bistro – just across the way from Heritage Park and with awesome views of the bay, the Taj boasts chic décor and bountiful dishes of what the owners describe as East Indian cuisine with a ‘tsunami of delicious Indian taste.’
  • Tiffins Curry in a Hurry – small but perfectly formed, Tiffins is cosy and welcoming and serves a wide choice of Indian classics. With its relaxed vibe and walls decked out in authentic ethnic art, the restaurant is often packed – and once you’ve tasted the food, it’ll be easy to see why.
  • Tara Indian Cuisine – another restaurant jostling for space near the waterfront, but its owners need not worry about the competition: Tara is an award-winning eatery and ‘palatial experience’, according to the brothers who co-own and run the establishment. Eighteen years old and still going strong, Tara is one of the best in the city.

Chinese, Japanese, Thai & Sushi Spots in Barrie

There are a host of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Asian or Southeast Asian restaurants and takeaway in Barrie, but we’ve selected some of the best in the city for you to enjoy:

  • Noble Cuisine – a little bit out in the ‘burbs but still worth the short trip, Noble Cuisine has an array of tasty Thai and Japanese sushi dishes on offer, usually for set prices, making it excellent value for money and ideal for a group night out.
  • Sakana House – another out-of-the-way gem, Sakana House sits on Big Bay Point Road to the southwest of Kempenfelt Bay. Make your way here to find Japanese décor with a modern twist, and an a la carte menu full of favourites or an all-you-can-eat option that will guarantee you leave the place feeling very, very full.
  • Pho Mekong – Simple, warm and welcoming, the Pho Mekong restaurant offers – no surprise here – pho dishes, along with a host of other excellent Vietnamese cuisine plus a smattering of Thai offerings.
  • Mandarin Restaurant – big and bold, the Mandarin is a huge block of a building sitting southwest of the bay near Highway 400. Popular for years, with an extensive menu and all-you-can-eat options, this is the place to go if you want generous portions with plenty of flavour.



Sometimes a big slab of red meat with all the trimmings is the only thing that’s going to hit the spot, so here are three of our top tips for Barrie’s carnivores:

  • The Keg Steakhouse & Bar – on the city’s fringes amongst a host of car parking lots and shopping malls, The Keg is a real gem and worth the trip south on the 400. Casual, enjoyable and with frequently excellent food, the emphasis here is on aged beef sirloins and shellfish, and they never disappoint.
  • Baton Rouge Steakhouse & Bar – north of the Kempenfelt on Bayfield Street, the Baton Rouge has been banging out top-notch meat dishes since 1992, so it’s fair to say they know their onions. Sharp, modern décor and a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere make the ‘BR’ – as they like to be called – a firm favourite in the city.
  • Town & Country Steakhouse – a steak and seafood specialist, the Town & Country boasts a sleek and invitingly elegant interior of dark woods and long banquettes, while its food – served for forty-five years and counting – is superb. The original ‘authentic steakhouse’ in Barrie, the restaurant is one for the ‘must visit’ list.

Patios and On Barrie’s Waterfront

The streets around Kempenfelt Bay – especially to the west and north of the water – are bristling with bars, pubs and eateries of all shapes and sizes, so there’s more than enough choice for you to enjoy lunch or an evening meal while enjoying some of the best views the city has to offer.

  • Hooligans – a sports bar, but not just a sports bar, Hooligans’ motto is ‘Eat, Drink, Cheer’ and they certainly have plenty to cheer about with their rooftop patio, which offers the best view of the city and the waterfront you can find in Barrie. Throw in great beers and bar meals, televisions playing the latest sports games, and frequently boisterous, fun-loving crowds, Hooligans is a great night out.
  • The Farmhouse Restaurant – one of the top twenty best restaurants in the city, according to TripAdvisor, The Farmhouse is a glorious converted multi-storey redbrick century home serving farm-fresh comfort food since 2013. The icing on an already tasty cake are the two exterior patios for dining on as you gaze out at the water.
  • Donaleigh’s Irish Public House – an Irish pub, live music, solid grub and a banging atmosphere. What more could you want? Oh yes, there are patios out front and back, meaning the fun and games can spill out into the street for all to enjoy.
  • Flying Monkeys – just off the water and a few hundred metres from Heritage Park, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery offers craft beers brewed on-site, tours of the premises, food and even the option to take home your choice of beverages. Excellent staff, occasional live music and a fabulous atmosphere where it seems like you’re amongst a room full of friends mean this gem is not to be missed.

Sports Bars & Pubs in Barrie

Fun, relaxing, sometimes loud and boisterous yet always enjoyable, sports bars and pubs dot the cityscape of Barrie and offer a fantastic space to wind down after a gruelling week at work. Here are three of the best in the city:

  • The Local Gastropub – come wet your whistle, as they say at The Local Gastropub. Craft beers, gourmet pub food – including poutine to die for – and a raft of beer tasting and community events elevate this place above most of the rest in the city.
  • The Locker Room – Unfussy but great fun for a few hours, The Locker Room Sports Bar and Grill does what it says on the tin, but does it very well indeed. There are no airs and graces here, but the beer is plentiful and the food selection wide and flavourful, making it a favourite amongst Barrie patrons looking for a relaxed evening out.
  • Barnstormer Brewing & Distilling Co. – award-winning and with a brewpub restaurant named in the top 150 in Canada and the best in Barrie itself, the Barnstormer offers house-brewed beers and ales, as well as a selection of pub grub favourites to please the punters.

Healthy Eats

Healthier foods are increasingly popular, and Barrie is no different from any other cosmopolitan city when it comes to boasting a great choice of eateries that offer something a little better for your body. Here are three of our favourites:

  • Boon Burgers – Boon Burgers is a neat little diner-style restaurant just off Heritage Park on Dunlop Street East. Snug but welcoming and with a lovely atmosphere, its menu is crammed with tasty goodies, from poutines to shareable plates to a quite staggering choice of vegan burgers.
  • Fresh-A-Fare – no ordinary sandwich shop, Fresh-A-Fare has two locations in the city – north and south of the bay – and they offer up a tasty, healthy range of scratch-made and home-cooked dishes. Meats are cooked and cured on-site, bread is kneaded and baked there too. Everything that can be made fresh is made fresh – making the place extremely popular.
  • Avocobar – offering ‘guilt-free fast food’, Avocobar is a self-described custom salad shop whose sole mission is to ‘make healthy eating a piece of cake’. Fun, apple-fresh and funky interiors welcome you inside, while the menu offers countless wrap and salad options, along with soups, fruit drinks and more.

Dessert & Coffee

It’s not all stuffing yourself with burgers or sharing combo platters as you stare out over the bay – sometimes it’s just nice to unwind over a coffee and slice of cake as the world slips by. Barrie has lots of fabulous cafés where you can kick back for an hour.

  • Casa Cappuccino – in the heart of downtown and a short walk from Kempenfelt Bay, Casa Cappuccino is a relaxed and relaxing environment of creams and browns to match the large selection of coffees available. Add in specialist tea choices, a raft of desserts such as biscotti, muffins, cakes and tarts, along with occasional live music, open mic nights and a waterfront view, and Casa Cappuccino is the perfect spot for a lazy, friendly afternoon.
  • Chillz Lounge and Swirleez – a dedicated ‘dessert lounge’, Chillz boasts a sleek, ultra-hip interior and offers upscale desserts, drinks and hors d’ oeuvres making it perfect for a good date night or post-cinema stop-off when you don’t want the evening to end just yet.
  • Chavo Crepes – if crepes are your thing, Chavo on Dunlop Street East is the place to go. Compact and frequently busy, its menu offers everything from breakfast specialities such as ham and eggs to an impressive array of sweet and savoury offerings.
  • Bohemia Café – not far from the lakeshore, Bohemia delivers food which has modern twists on old fashioned recipes, and delivers them very well indeed. The restaurant is smart and funky, while the menu offers breakfasts, brunches, Paninis and wraps, as well as desserts and a large selection of hot and cold drinks, all to be enjoyed in a casual, very relaxing atmosphere.

Inside The Ranch nightclub

Barrie Nightclubs & Late Night Bites

The sun has set, you’re not ready to end the day as yet, so where to go in Barrie after dark? Take a look at these places, which are guaranteed to keep you fed and entertained into the small hours:

  • The Ranch – if you want to just let your hair down for a few unpretentious hours, The Ranch will not disappoint. Leave any misgivings at the door and just go with it inside a vast country and western bar, crammed with people on an enormous dance floor beneath a ceiling bedecked with various flags and other memorabilia. Loud crowds, louder music, a mechanical bull ride, and great times to be had late into the night.
  • Queens Nightclub – one of the city’s most popular haunts for late-night lovers for thirty years, Queens is a fun, down-to-earth spot with excellent DJs, fine food and plenty of drinks split over two bars, the ‘Dance’ side and ‘Sports’ side.

Barrie Breakfast Spots

Whether it’s a morning-after-the-night-before hangover cure you’re after, or just a relaxing early morning grazing session as you catch up with a friend, try some of Barrie’s best breakfast spots:

  • Lazy Tulip Café – hip and colourful with a lovely relaxed vibe, the Lazy Tulip Café offers eco-friendly fare in a simply decorated yet wonderfully welcoming space. Sit and chat with friends over breakfast tacos, huevos rancheros or just a latte and veggie focaccia.
  • Stacked Pancake & Breakfast House – a fast-growing name in the local breakfast business – they are opening new branches across Simcoe County – Stacked Pancake does things simple, but incredibly well. Breakfasts and lunches focus on combining quality food with quality service, with a huge choice of dishes as well as drinks to wash it all down.
  • Cora’s Breakfast and Lunch – a bright and cheerful interior provides an inviting space for Cora’s patrons to enjoy the superb breakfasts (and lunches, burgers and wraps!). Something of a local institution, Cora’s has been serving in various guises since 1987 when the owner, Cora Mussely Tsouflidou, opened her first restaurant in Montreal.

Next time you’re in Barrie, give some of these Barrie restaurants a try if you haven’t been there before, or revisit an old favourite.

Photos: Noble Cuisine, Shawn Nicol, Kevin Steingard, The Ranch. All images copyright their respective owners. 

Tips for Enjoying Patio Season Safely

patio season

The patio season is upon us! Only a few times in a year do we get to enjoy the sweet rays of the sun as they caress our skins and brighten our days. The birds, oh! Their musical chairs, and the irresistible smell of something good cooking. Wait, no; it’s something grilling! Indeed, the patio season is upon us! Well, how best would you enjoy this season without every once in a while having to rush to a chemist or confine yourself to your house? Check out the following tips that may just transform your season!

Protection first

You’d want to keep part or all of the sensitive parts of your body safe during this season. As you walk or drive to a patio at any time of the day, remember that your goal is to have a good time. Well, when driving, safety comes first. In this season though, protection comes first!

Eye protection

Your eyes are the most susceptible to even the most harmless-looking rays. Trust me when I tell you that those rays aren’t as harmless as they look! You like to bathe in the rising sun and watch the sunset, don’t you? Better yet, you may find yourself on the road during these times. From the way both the sunrise and sunset rays are low, they get direct contact with your eyes, and you know how discomforting it gets when they hit your eyeballs directly don’t you? Well, this particular season is one of intense sunlight, so get yourself a pair of sunglasses to avoid unnecessary issues.

Skin protection

The overhead sun between 11 AM and 3 PM may be so enticing, especially for a sunbath. Don’t be tempted! You could get your skin scorched, figuratively speaking, and you don’t want to walk around with those sunburns, do you? Enjoy a smooth drink in your favourite patio at a chilled corner with a shade, or better yet, have a hat with you. It could be a better idea to use sunscreen so that you can take a worry-less walk down the road, especially in the afternoons.

Have a good time

Now that your skin and eyes feel protected from the intense sun rays, you can proceed to the order of the day; have some fun! What best way to have fun than to enjoy a grilled chicken or beef outside your house after draining a smooth drink in a patio? This is precisely how you’d want to end your days. Better yet, you could decide to have your favourite novel with you, your legs stretched out on a carefully placed matt and with your dog wagging its tail beside you. Of course, if you’ll do this outside, then you’ll first have to take the precautionary measures. Some may find it just befitting to go on hikes or take visits across the country; whatever pleases your soul!

Hydration is important

As you have fun and enjoy yourself, do not forget that hydration means a lot in this season! With the sun’s heat, comes the need to up your water consumption to facilitate the metabolic processes going on in your body, and keep your body temperatures cool. Well, on the latter, water is underrated. You should be well aware that taking a few glasses of water goes a long way to keep your body temperatures low and cool. You don’t have to keep turning on the fan or going out, especially when you don’t want to. And in case you do go out, remember to carry a bottle of water with you; It’ll come so handy. Also, always remember to take about one to two glasses of water before meals, especially the starchy ones. They usually make you so thirsty, and it’s never a good idea to take water in between meals.

Watch your hygiene

Poor hygiene will make you sick, and the last thing you want in this season is a regular trip to the chemist or your doctor. Why don’t you have fun without having to worry about anything? With the increased heat, dust particles stuff the air every passing second, and these particles often carry around bacteria. If you forget to wash your hands before meals, you’ll most probably wake up with a stomach upset.

Nonetheless, greeting people, especially as you’re having a drink or watching your sport in a patio, is an open invitation to bacteria. Contact with cash and other utensils handled by someone else may also be an invitation to bacteria. As an alternative to washing your hands every additional time, you could carry around antiseptic or antibacterial wet wipes.

Let go once in a while!

You don’t have to be so contained every time; it could spoil all the fun! 4 PM till the sunset is an excellent time to stretch your feet out in the evening sun and just let the rays sooth into your body through your skin how it feels heavenly! Just to be safe, however, apply a little amount of sunscreen on your body before you stretch out your mat in preparation for the long-awaited sunbath. However, remember that the evening rays especially are not good for your eyes. Therefore, have your sunglasses with you. Besides you could be your favourite drink, a favourite book or even beat pill, booming some cool music.

Enjoy the beautiful season!

To enjoy this patio season, you have to take care of yourself; take care of your body! There’s no fun in getting sick or getting sunburns just when you were out to have a good time. Therefore, watch it and the season will watch you have the best of it. You can never miss fun things to do with your friends and family, and remember to save the chicken fingers for your favourite neighbour! Drive down to your favourite bar and have a cold beer, or better yet, take your MP3 player and go to that patio, get yourself a fruit juice and let the season sink into your soul!

Simcoe Hospitality Awards 2015


The Simcoe Hospitality Awards were off to a marvelous start with Chef Michael Smith in the house. What a wonderful and timely coincidence that Chef Smith was visiting Orillia for a fundraising dinner to benefit the food banks, and that he is a personal friend of Chef Derek Mayes, Executive Chef at the Mariposa Inn where the Third Annual Simcoe County Region ORHMA (Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association) Awards were being held. The evening is a major fundraiser in support of student scholarships for those on a career path in Culinary, Tourism, Hotel and Resort Programs at Georgian College. The industry gathers to pay homage to their own, and while the goal is to raise money, everyone from students to CEOs and guests had a wonderful time tasting and talking. Having a Food Network star in the house, giving impromptu oyster shucking lessons, was the proverbial icing on the cake! Chef Daniel Clements assured me the honoured guest was quite approachable and indeed he was. Chef Smith charmed the room, conversations and photo ops created a buzz of energy in the venue that will long be remembered.


The Culinary Students created the appetizers for the cocktail portion of the evening. Ryan Traversy, a familiar name for many in the restaurant industry in Barrie, was there with Peller Estates, pouring red and white wines for our sipping pleasure.


The dining room was a blast of colour, the charcuterie plate a flash of flavour, our entertaining hosts for the evening were Melanie Case and Will Nash from Rogers TV.


The food stations for the Chefs nominated for the Silver Plate Award were positioned on the periphery of the room; guests, flavours and opinions mingled as we tasted the diverse dishes.

  • Prime Angus California Strip Loin, Caramelized Onion, Aged Cheddar Potato Arrancini, Natural Glace with Currants and Truffles, Handmade Gnocchi, Sweet cherry Heirloom Tomato fennel salad.
  • Duck Confit, Pan Seared Butternut Squash Ravioli, Asparagus Tips & Madeira Jus
  • Juniper Spiced Monkfish, Corn & Wild Rice Pudding, Petit Pois, Shimeji Mushrooms, Pancetta, Port Wine Jus
  • Sous Vide Sadle of Rabbit, Roasted Red Pepper Confit Stuffing, Smoked Fingerling Mash, Broccolini Espuma, Butter Fried Lima Beans & Pearl Onions
  • “BBQ and Bonfire” was a crowd pleaser and proved to be the winner. Presented on a hand sanded board was Slow Braised Back Rib and Frenched Chicken Drumette, twice baked mini red potato with seven year aged white cheddar, Napa cabbage slaw and Blazin’ Kraken Rum Smore.




Dessert was a very rich cheesecake. I am sure I heard the sound of a collective loosening of belt buckles. Ballots and pens were on the table for guests to vote for their favourite dish for the Silver Plate Award. I voted for Chef John K. Cordeaux’s fish dish, it was simply delightful and in my humble opinion stood out in presentation and flavour, a spring plate personified.


It was Chef Erika Brouwer of Elegant Edge Catering who won the Silver Plate Award; my photographer and I captured her on camera, taking a selfie with her award, grinning ear to ear, congrats!

Online voting was done again this year for the majority of awards. Simcoe Hospitality Awards 2015 is on Facebook and has a twitter account @SHawards2015. A tremendous job was done leading up to the event reminding their followers to vote.

The Industry Award Winners were as follows:

Hospitality Manager – Don Buckle – Cranberry Golf Resort and Living Water Resort

Local Chef – Derek Mayes – Grape and Olive Wine and Martini Bistro

Industry Recognition – Helen Cooper – Casino Rama

Food Service and Hospitality Supplier – Kari Smith -Elite Party Rentals

Heart of House – David White – Holiday Inn Barrie Hotel and Conference Centre

The People’s Choice Awards, which were chosen by consumer votes included:

Favourite Server – Lisa Dilworth – Big Chris BBQ

Favourite Bartender – Ryan Zaroski – The Ranch

Favourite Restaurant – Big Chris BBQ

Favourite Accommodations – Casino Rama Hotel

Hospitality & Tourism Ambassador Award – Sara Thorogood, Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn & Conference Centre

Favourite Recreational/Tourism Facility Award – Casino Rama


I am an advocate of local and for independent restaurateurs. I had hoped this would be the year Chef Andre Sanché of Ciboulette et Cie would be recognized for his outstanding support of all things local and for his kitchen mastery.

Chef Michael Smith addressed the room, sharing his philosophy on what it means to be in this industry; “To gather, to prepare and to share”. He elaborated and reiterated, but the simplicity of his message summarizes why we were there. While the organization of the event and the preparation of the food took time, his six simple words said it all. We gathered as a community and shared in a wonderful evening.

I am honoured to have attended this gala event that recognizes the extraordinary abilities in our County; the emerging talents, those that teach them, and the well-seasoned Chefs.

Congratulations to all!


Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Il Buco Ristorante

Music and lighting is soft and flattering. The view of Kempenfelt Bay is stunning and the chalk board assures diners that this venue is event friendly; accommodating communions, confirmations, weddings and baptisms.


As co-owner Enrico Angelucci tells me, the Italian Community in Barrie will have every Sunday booked during the spring and summer months to celebrate joyous family occasions which makes the owners of Il Buco Ristorante very happy! The winter holiday season is another busy time at Il Buco, with family and business Christmas parties booking well in advance to assure their function is accommodated.

The Dunlop Street entrance is somewhat inconspicuous, but there is ample parking and wheelchair accessibility when entering at the rear of the building from the Simcoe Street parking lot.

I suspect that the condo dwellers nearby frequent Il Buco regularly given the location and the view! Enrico Angelucci, his wife Sue Varga and part owner Karl Sawyer have proudly operated from this second floor spot for seven years. They are most ably assisted in the kitchen by international Chef George Silva. With photographer daughter eager to accompany me, we each took a different approach to the menu, as at lunch there is the option of ordering a la carte or enjoying the three course Prix Fixe.

Beef Carpaccio is a favourite of mine and I was pleased to see it makes an appearance here; this thinly sliced rare beef tenderloin is served with mixed greens, drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated fresh Parmigiano cheese. Delicious.


From the three course Prix Fixe, the Classic Caesar Salad was darling daughters choice to start. While substitutions aren’t generally offered, our server, owner Sue Varga, was most accommodating and graciously allowed the switch of gnocchi instead of Penne pasta, in the “Funghi Penne with mushrooms in a rosé sauce”. While the gnocchi is not made in house, it presents with a rich flavourful sauce.

I asked Sue Varga to choose lunch for me, her recommendation of Pork Scaloppini in a lemon white wine sauce with Italian salad was sized well, the light lemon zip of the pork was refreshing. Dessert is included with the Prix Fixe lunch and while I wouldn’t usually have sweets at lunch, Sue strongly suggested that I try the Tiramisu. I am glad I did; the portion size was just right and the coffee flavour a great ending to the meal.


While a working lunch doesn’t lend itself to wine sipping for me, nor does my editor recommend this, the wine list selections complement the foods, although I always like to see more of our fine Ontario VQA wines represented.

I returned to talk with Enrico Angelucci and learnt just how committed he and Sue Varga are to the restaurant. Not many folks would commute from Muskoka to Barrie daily, but they do! When a friend showed them the location, they knew it would be ideal for a restaurant and the daily drive is taken in stride. The family is considering a move south to Barrie, as they have grown attached to the community that supports their restaurant and the waterfront at the doorstep too!

Il Buco supports local where possible, shopping for produce at Cancilla’s, Flying Monkeys brews are on tap, poultry and eggs from a Stayer producer and my personal fave Local Foods Mart, Enrico fondly referred to as “our emergency store, you need something you run out down there, and most of the time you find it”.

Menu changes are small and subtle as their regular clientele, who tend to come every week or two expect tradition, the “simple plates”. There are four or five specials added to the menu each weekend. “Osso Buco and Chicken Parmigiana will always be offered as people get attached to it.” “The day we stop, people complain”.

“Business is good; it has been growing steady since we opened”. As Enrico Angelucci proudly tells me, Il Buco Ristorante has been named as one of The Best 100 Restaurants in Canada, according to Open Table.

In his own words; “Food is part of life, if you enjoy it with a glass of wine, there is nothing better really to end a day of work, you have a good day, a good meal at night, if everything was good for dinner you go to sleep happy, and a good glass of wine is always good, good wine makes good blood”.
I’ll drink to that!

31 Dunlop Street E. Barrie, Ontario

Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

Canvas and Cabernet

I first ventured into Canvas and Cabernet during the February Blues Festival as it was one of the featured venues. I was captivated by the delightful décor; design credit belongs to Cyndi’s daughter, Madison Taylor, of Madison Taylor Design.


There is an eye-catching clock wall, retro turntable and vinyl collection, sea urchin light fixtures, a delicate chainmail curtain separates the wine bar from the painting class area; all design elements are extraordinary.


The menu beckoned with offerings of charcuterie trays, gourmet cheeses from J’adore, and a wide selection of wines and spirits. I was eager to return, to let my senses explore.


On Sunday afternoons Canvas and Cabernet hosts live jazz music, when Tony Quarrington and Don Francks played recently, I was there.


I met Don Francks when I was a teenager, back in the day when my good judgment was not yet formed. I owed him a thank you.

We chatted before the music started and he said I had to include this story in my review. Being the character that he is, he framed our meeting, decades before, thusly.

“Write that I picked you up, took you home and chastised you for what you did” he said jokingly. To keep this story all ages’ reader friendly I will share that Don Francks taught me a valuable life lesson. I had tried my hand at hitchhiking, he was the one that picked me up, drove me home, lectured me the entire way and threatened to tell my parents. He drove miles out of his way to get me there safely. Lesson learnt. Thank you sir!


That Sunday afternoon spent listening to Tony Quarrington play guitar while our Canadian icon, Don Francks did improvisational jazz singing storytelling was utterly engaging.

The signature charcuterie tray, complete with balsamic bellavitano cheese photographed beautifully and tasted great!

I returned to talk with Cyndi Taylor and learn how this combination of “wine, paint and fun” came to be. Raised on the east coast, Cyndi developed her strong work ethic from her mother, “if you can’t find a job, make one” she taught her. Skilled as a seamstress, with a natural eye for design, this was Cyndi’s first career. Time spent in Calgary introduced her to the restaurant world via an Irish Pub and to her husband, a professional musician. Together they travelled Europe, surrounded with music, food and wine, a delight to the senses. Year spent working in the healing arts of acupuncture and massage therapy helped hone her innate people skills. While a recent trip to California planted the proverbial seed for what would become Canvas and Cabernet.

Reinvention was in Cyndi’s vocabulary long before it became au courant.

Self-described as “ridiculously independent” and a “work horse”, both are great qualities in my opinion. While scouting for a location, she discovered the aforementioned “Expect Great Things” sign, complete with an exceptional view of Kempenfelt Bay, this sealed the deal.

Canvas and Cabernet was lovingly nurtured from design conception to open door reality.

Cyndi shared that the name came from all the inspirational C’s; Cyndi, Chianti, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, Charley (her dog) Cee-Cee (her nick name) = Canvas and Cabernet!

How does it all work you may ask; restaurant customers are welcome to enjoy a panini and salad at lunch, the menu is locally sourced and will change with the seasons.


In the evening may I suggest a glass of wine and a charcuterie tray in the cozy chairs or slide up to the bar and ask them to mix you a specialty drink.

Canvas and Cabernet is the exclusive provider in Barrie of VQA wines from Rancourt Winery at Niagara on the Lake.

Painting is a main course on the menu! Classes are held daily in the afternoons and twice in the evenings for two hour sessions. No experience is necessary for you to create your own masterpiece as a featured artist patiently walks you step by step through the process. Groups are welcome and encouraged. Imagine the fun and comradery for a bridal or baby shower, or gathering together a group of friends for an evening of creative, relaxing fun.


This is a great place for a date night or slide in solo to enjoy the ambiance. The creativity isn’t just happening on the canvas, there are other great events too.

Call ahead to ask about Mad Man Tuesdays, Turn Table Thursdays, or Friday Night Flights when the sommeliers will be in from the Niagara winery to sample varietals with cheese and chocolate pairings. I asked Cyndi to share her vision with my readers: “For me it’s investing in what I love, I am sitting here looking at it, it’s right there, that’s my focus, investing in what I love, that’s my space in Barrie. It’s this view that I have, the warm welcome, it’s the storytelling circle, it’s the homemade presentation of food, that’s the wow factor, it’s like the Maritime kitchen for me in a beautiful way, and I can’t be different than that. I want people to sit and tell stories, I want to sit and listen to old music, to celebrate the past, to look at the future that is very quickly approaching.”

My eye for detail noticed small touches that are greatly appreciated when dining out; individual cloth hand towels in the ladies room, purse hooks at the tables, perfect lighting. It all works.

Expect great things, you will be delighted!

(705) 238 1687 or 705 252 9463(WINE)
72 Dunlop St E
Barrie, ON, L4M 1A4
Written by: Penelope Morrow

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

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The February Blues XVIII


The music extends past the Barrie borders; sending notes and melodies via the Simcoe Public Libraries south to the Innisfil and Bradford branches, and north to Midland. Bundled up and ready to listen, this reviewer, with photographer in tow was excited to explore new venues added to the extensive repertoire of sites. I have personal favourites, artists that leave me awestruck every time by their performances. It is delightful to add to that list and share with readers, knowing that many of the performers will return for the extended summer Blues and Jazz festival, with Simcoe Dining being a sponsor of both events.


With winter blowing into town for the weekend, I kept my route centered on the downtown core, this allowed us to walk to many venues. Stopping into Tara Indian Cuisine we caught a few songs from Carlos Del Junco, he blows a mean harmonica, while accompanied by Jimmy Bowskill on guitar. A quick street crossing was a step back in time, the speakeasy theme at Hudson fit the sway of the Bill Evans Trio. Dipping into Canvas and Cabernet for my first interview of the night with Wayne Buttery was a smooth move. As with every Blues musician I have spoken to, he refers to playing as a “labour of love, if you are doing it for the money you are doing it for the wrong reasons”. Wayne’s inspiration to the Blues came back in the 60’s. “A long ways from the Mississippi Delta. I was walking by the Colonial Tavern in Toronto and I heard the music of James Cotton and Buddy Guy. That’s where it all started. Someone once said I had to get a real job, but I have been fulfilling my life’s dream since then, as a song writer, guitar player and singer.”


Sticky Fingers has a new location on Dunlop Street, this is the showcase venue for the big names. Jack de Keyzer had the opportunity to impress us twice at the festival, at the club with his full band, dance floor filled with couples of all ages bopping to his bluesy style. While he positively owned City Hall rotunda with his amazing one man show, “The Evolution of the Blues Guitar.” A shout out to Jack de Keyzer for sharing his original script with me to read, while I write this review. Dear Jack; you simply must record this epic piece of material, it is a history lesson for the ears that belongs in the collection of all music lovers as a video or audio recording, ‘tis brilliant! You took us on a journey from the “Mississippi Delta Blues of the 1930’s to the psychedelic blues of Jimi Hendrix.”

Allow me to name drop from his music lesson; Robert Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian, T-Bone Walker, BB King, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Freddy King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, Little Richard, Isley Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cream, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Beck.

You brought styles to your strings, from the spirituals to soul, R & B, boogie woogie, swing and funk, then you added a kick of the wah wah pedal too.


You captured us on the first note and kept us spellbound well past the encore! As February Blues XVIII organizer Robin Munro stated, your talents have been recognized with two Juno’s but you have yet to be nominated for the Order of Canada; it is an honour you deserve!


The Ontario Musicians Association was represented at the rotunda, Jack de Keyzer signed up. The OMA is “a non-profit organization that promotes the spirit of good musicianship through its activities and supports various community causes and charities including No Student Left Out. The OMA is committed to promote and provide a place for fellowship and assistance to musicians, music students and community members who share these values.” A great cause.


Speaking of good musicianship let me segue into some stories about Paul James; actually Paul is the story teller. During our interview I was totally captivated; this man needs to write a book, he has a natural rhythm and cadence on and off stage. He draws me in, first with his gratitude, “that I’m still out there”, then with the tales he tells. “If anything I can contribute maybe I was one of the first guys to do it independently, like when there wasn’t a road, I made a road”. “I was fortunate that I was able to play with a lot of my idols, like Bo Diddley. A lot of guys played with him once or twice but we have played between 1973 and 2006, we maintained a friendship for that long and he took me under his wing and gave me tips and I learnt by playing with him to be an entertainer, not just a musician, I was happy he liked me”.


“Bob Dylan, he invited me to play with him on quite a few occasions, we became friends”. Remember Willy De Ville? Google the name if you don’t, Paul shared he “toured all over Europe with the band Mink De Ville in the early 80’s, met the Rolling Stones too, this new band out of Ireland, known as U2 opened for us”. Jeanne Beker admired his look, as he got “De Villed”. Much Music knocked on his door, crescendo builds, I lean forward in my chair, it is hypnotic, yet Paul James is humble, grateful, and he says he feels very lucky.

He had “good mentors, amazing coincidences, made friends along the way”. “For the longest time I only looked forward but now I am looking back, I look at a picture and the picture will bring back all these stories”.

Paul James, Blues Musician. Trail Maker. Determined. Now I have to convince him to add budding author and storyteller to the long list of achievements beside his name.


By Sunday it was time for soothing sounds and pouring a glass of Lorne Lofsky and Richard Whiteman. He played with Oscar Peterson, became a member of his famed quartet. It was the great Oscar Peterson himself who subsequently helped present Lorne to the international stage.


I asked Lorne about his influences: “You take all the experiences and jumble them up; almost like in a food blender and they all get blended together. I play from a traditional sense and I have come up with some stuff, a unique blend, kind of like a coffee or wine that sounds like me but based on things I have listened to. There is an expression you are what you eat, musicians are “you are what you hear”. You take what you hear and you combine it in different ways and what ultimately comes out is a blending of our influences and it’s a natural organic thing, nothing that’s forced. We are the sum of what we have worked on and all the different musical situations we’ve been in”.

Tradition has me walk from a concert while the last notes are playing, to hold onto the music while I cross the threshold back into the world of other sounds.
The music of the February Blues XVIII, will hold me till the summer Blues and Jazz Festival, see you there!

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography

February Blues Festival 2015 Now On

The 18th edition of the February Blues Festival starts Monday, February second and runs until the 8th. Taking place in venues in Barrie, Midland, Innisfil and Bradford, this annual event features established and up and coming Jazz and Blues greats including: The Paul James Band, The Jack De Keyzer band, Jazz Mandhu, George Oliver, The Brittany Noble Trio, The Boothill Crooners, Shane Cloutier, Caber Toss, Bill Evans Trio and many, many more.

The shows will be taking place in The Royal Canadian Legion, libraries in Barrie, Midland and Innisfil as well as some of the best known live music spots in Barrie including: Sticky Fingers, The British Arms, Donaleighs Irish Public House, Kenzington Burger Bar and many more.


February Blues XVIII Schedule.pdf

Crazy Fox Bistro


Given that Crazy Fox Bistro has graced the city of Barrie with fine meals for thirty years they are entitled to high praise. From the original location on the waterfront where now sits The Farmhouse, to their present perch on Bayfield Street overlooking the bay, Crazy Fox Bistro has a strong following of regulars and a full house of new clientele who consistently return for the great food and the professional service.


Coos and Lawna Uylenbroek spent time in Stanford Connecticut where he was the Chef at a luxury hotel. Fast forward a few years, when the pull to return brought them back home to Canada. With family in Barrie, the urge to settle here was strong. The cincher was seeing how quickly this fabulous city pulled together and got back on its proverbial feet after the hurricane of 1985; they felt Barrie would be a great place to raise their family and grow their business, so they set down roots. Crazy Fox Bistro exudes warmth and welcome; the glowing soft yellow walls, inspired by the owners’ love of a Californian lifestyle, a soothing soundtrack, the open kitchen, it all reaches out to customers in a most inviting fashion. White linens and generous lighting add sparkle to place settings, there is no pretense here, simply comfort and good food.

Darling daughter, aka my photographer and I cozied in on a recent Friday afternoon in the midst of a wicked January snowstorm, seeking said warmth and we were not disappointed.


Dinner at Crazy Fox Bistro is delightful, I have enjoyed many fine meals here, but I recently discovered that lunch is lovely too! Many of the lunch menu items stick around for the dinner hour. As owner Lawna Uylenbroek explained to me, when her husband, Head Chef Coos Uylenbroek wishes to freshen up the menu, they have many “regulars” that request certain menu items stay available. So tweaks are made, or special evening events are planned, phone calls placed to let customers know that “their” special dish will be featured.

They listen to their customers at Crazy Fox Bistro and that is amazing service!


I started my lunch with the Boston Pear salad, which features caramelized warm pear, pistachios, and a poppy seed walnut oil dressing. Beet chips were a vibrant splash of colour against the snowy backdrop of the winter day, the taste was wonderful, I was partial to the crunch of the pistachios and the aforementioned chips.

Darling daughter had inquired about availability of a small side Caesar salad, one of the Crazy Fox Bistro menu classics; served with lemon garlic dressing, herbed croutons, and parmesan. The kitchen was obliging and a mini version was provided for her.

Our server suggested we try the “Bang Bang Shrimp”; they are served with Thai chili sauce on slaw. These are a customer fave and are on the dinner menu also. The side stripe of cilantro was a perfect accompaniment for additional dipping, cilantro and I are good friends.


My main was “Sushi Tuna prepared three ways; Sesame, Cocoa and Crusted pepper seared”, perfect and very photogenic too!

Pasta for the photographer please; “Spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese filled Agnolotti, with rose sauce, basil and parmesan”, a lovely stem of tiny perfect enoki mushrooms on top.


We lingered over lunch, savoured every bite. Our most capable server highly recommended we try dessert, it was the “Cinnamon Flavoured Apple Phyllo Fold”, filled with dried cranberries and almond crumble, with a wee bit of ice cream on the side that tempted me the most.

Sous Chef Michael Forget had just arrived to prep for dinner, and he graciously fired up the oven to create this delicious ending to our luncheon.

We were not the only customers that enjoyed a leisurely lunch, it was delightful to while away the afternoon knowing we wouldn’t be rushed.


While I didn’t imbibe, I perused the wine list; it provides a wide and thoughtful selection of vintages at various price points.

The restaurant is laid out on several levels, the upper dining area is ideal for private parties, and the multi layered design works in favour for unique events. Lawna explained that small weddings are often booked at Crazy Fox Bistro, with the wedding couple taking their vows on the balcony while guests gather on the lower level. The servers have plenty of space for champagne corks to pop! Crazy Fox Bistro participates in the twice yearly food festival that is Barrielicious; this is a great opportunity for those who may be unfamiliar with the restaurant to find a fabulous new favorite place to dine.

When I asked Lawna what message she would like to share with my readers her reply was right to the point and strongly echoes my personal views about supporting local business.

“You don’t have to stand in line somewhere to get a good meal. You can make a reservation and support your independent restaurateurs.”

Crazy Fox Bistro has been a landmark restaurant in Barrie for thirty years; Lawna assures me they aren’t going anywhere. I highly recommend you make this your new favourite restaurant!

Crazy Fox Bistro
135 Bayfield St., Barrie | 705.737.5000

Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and local food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow

Photos by Celeste Morrow-Bailie – CMB Photography