West End Bakery, Guelph

Just had a light lunch at West End Bakery in Guelph: delicious “Jumping’ Jambalya” soup and an Empire cookie. Laurie had a chicken pie and an almond tart; we both had (small) pots of tea. Delicious. Exactly the kind of simple, yet delicious food we’re looking for. Thanks, West End Bakery! Sorry – did I mention that lunch was delicious?!?

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Here at last – OntariosBest.ca

Twenty-four hours ago, my wife Laurie and I were cycling the Guelph to Goderich  Rail Trail between West Montrose and Elmira when a thought popped into my head. To be honest, it had been festering and building for some time, but suddenly it came into full fruition: build a website that mapped the kind of places we love to stop at when we are winding our way through the Ontario countryside: hand-scooped ice cream, tea rooms, bakeries and family-style restaurants. You can find it at OntariosBest.ca.

These places are hard to find! It’s easy to find ads and apps for Timmies and all the fast-food franchises (and we like Timmies – but not all the time). Their jingles remain in our heads for years! But what about the “Mom-and-Pop” places? The ice cream scoopers that support Ontario’s local dairies? The home-style bakeries that are now competing with all the “in-store” bakeries. The restaurants that offer real, home-cooked food and not the pre-prepared-frozen-reheated-and-served meals like so many roadhouses and franchises do. Those places are all about homogenization. I like my rhubarb pie fresh, in season, thank you very much!

Back around Canada Day, Laurie and I spent a few days away at an inn up in Grey County. In its rather pretentious way, dinners started at about $30 – each. While that would’t break the bank, we were looking for better value for our money and, after some searching, found a place just north of Chatsworth: Kettle’s Back Home Cookin’. Wonderful! Last month, we were touring Huronia with my wife’s cousin, searching out the various connections with Samuel de Champlain and the Wendat people as this year is the 400th anniversary of Champlain’s arrival in Ontario. We had a fine lunch at Mum’s Restaurant in Midland. The food was great, as was the service and servers.

The other problem here in Ontario, is finding a good cup of tea. Having lived in Britain for a few years, we came to appreciate how restorative a cup of tea can be after a day of hiking the Bruce Trail or driving around Bruce County. But good cups of tea and their associated tea rooms (with home-style baking, of course) are difficult to find here in Ontario. In England, every small town and village has at least one (as well as a pub, of course!) and if you’re visiting an English Heritage or National Trust property, there is always a tea room there or nearby. I know Ontarions don’t tend to be tea drinkers, but really, there is more to life than coffee and doughnuts. Apple crisp, peach cobbler, date squares, raspberry pie – exactly what good bakeries and tea rooms have and what we need after a day out and about.

It’s these kinds of places we would like to celebrate and put on the map. The easier they are to find – all in one place – the more likely people will visit them, eat and tell their friends about what great places they are. So, celebrate the great home-cooking, baking and hand-scooping we have here in Ontario. And, if you find place that’s not on our map, let us know about it by completing the online form. Bon appetit!