The local food movement has inspired a wave of restaurants, cafés and diners that specialize in featuring homegrown ingredients in their creations. This food trend has taken a firm hold in Waterloo Region, which has the benefit of vibrant urban centres literally surrounded by lush rural areas that provide a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, fruit and meat options for the chef’s menu. These menus feature everything from homemade hamburgers paired with Ontario craft beers to ethnic eateries that bring the foods of the world to Waterloo Region.
“The food experience in Waterloo is an embarrassment of riches,” says Minto Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of Waterloo Region Tourism. “There has been a real renaissance that has redefined the food culture in the region, whether you are in the heart of Kitchener or exploring the rich farmland in the rural areas.”
While this trend has resulted in dozens of sandwich shops, burger joints, pizzerias, cafés and international restaurants opening across Waterloo, the region has seen the evolution of distinct “food boroughs” with clusters of talented chefs creating unique plates that have mouths watering.
Centre City Kitchener. There is a perfect blend of upscale casual dining and take-out venues in downtown Kitchener. The Duke Food Block boasts Indian, Chinese, North American and Italian cuisine. Juice bars, pho restaurants, Turkish eats and perhaps the best sushi in the region can be found here.
Kingsdale. A neighbourhood in southeast Kitchener, it is home to The Bent Elbow, which has perhaps Waterloo’s most extensive beer selection. The Charcoal Steak House has been serving up prime cuts of beef for 60 years. Arguably the best veal parmigiano sandwich you will find in southwestern Ontario can be had at Nostra Cucina.
Uptown Waterloo. Craft beer and a fresh take on roadhouse eats are on at Abe Erb (named for the founder of Waterloo) and Beertown. Uptown 21 will satisfy your taste for local and seasonal ingredients. The Bauer Kitchen is a vegetarian and juice-bar restaurant, and the area is also home to the region’s premier chocolatier, Ambrosia Pastry Co.
King at University. What else do you expect in an area with a lot of university students but great little burger places, some shawarma, chicken wings, a poutinerie and a burrito joint? With a diverse Southeast Asian menu, Bhima’s Warung may be the most unique restaurant in the Waterloo region.
Bridgeport Village. Craving some barbecue with a side of live blues music? The Lancaster Smokehouse is your place. Or how about Montreal style bagels and thin-crust pizza in a wood-burning oven at City Café and Bakery? For some ethnic diversity, have exceptional tapas at Public Kitchen & Bar on Lancaster Street West, or check out Kypreos for souvlaki and fried halloumi cheese.
The Belmont Village. The emergence of stellar new restaurants has helped the revitalization of this community. Causal upscale dining at Janet Lynn’s Bistro, bubble tea at Thia Bistro, Taja Indian for Southeast Asian flair and Casa Rugantino for some Italian. Sate your appetite for raw foods at Rawlicious or pop into the unique Berlin Bicycle Café, a combination eatery and bike shop.
Highland-Belmont Neighbourhood. A hub of international fare. Afghani food at Chopan Kabob. Middle Eastern and African at Kishki World Foods. A hidden gem for shawarma and gyros is Highland Halal and Shawarma. There is also a Portuguese baker, El Salvadoran restaurant and Ethiopian eatery, as well as the Canadian Pub and Pizzeria.
Pioneer Tower. A historic area where Pennsylvania Dutch settlers first arrived in Waterloo, the go-to here is the local food experts at Borealis Grille. It also boasts a pierogi house, Indian restaurants, all-you-can-eat sushi, Chinese buffets, pho soup at a Viet-Thai place and more local food at the aptly named The Locator.
Cambridge. There is a food revival happening in Cambridge. On the upper end, it is home to Waterloo’s fine-dining jewel Langdon Hall and the picturesque Cambridge Mill on the bank of the Grand River. But it also boasts rustic Italian restaurants, pubs for casual dining, cafés featuring Ontario craft beers and places offering shareable plates. Just off Franklin Boulevard is Little Louie’s Burger Joint and Soupery, which you may have caught on an episode of the Food Network’s You Gotta Eat Here!
County Fare. The Heidelberg Restaurant and Tavern in Wellesley is one of Ontario’s original brew pubs. Enjoy a ribeye steak that looks like it belongs on the plate of Fred Flintstone at the Nith River Chop House, also in Wellesley. The Historic Village of St. Jacobs offers delicious homemade offerings at Jacobs Grill and the Stone Crock.